Welcome to Mondo Samu - Questions and Answers about my self-work.

Mondō: "questions and answers"; a recorded collection of dialogues between a pupil and teacher.
Samu: Work service; meditation in work.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ramblings On Impermanence, Tea and Mindfulness

What a great couple of days I've had! I left yesterday morning and drove to Columbus, GA. (my hometown) where I arrived with no real purpose or plan. I had intended to visit a couple of people there, but having failed to notify them in advance I didn't feel right about it. I decided instead to visit the grave sites of my parents.

First I stopped by my Dad's site where I spent some time listening to some Thelonious Monk (Round Midnight was my Dad's favorite) while I "visited" with him. I haven't been there in over a decade, but when I visit I always play some of his favorite music and hang out and I guess...sort of, commune...with him. Afterward, I went to a place nearby...his favorite donut shop. I bought a single cake donut (his favorite) and enjoyed it immensely. He was a musician and would always stop there on his way in to town after he'd been gone for months, and pick up donuts for us.  I identify the taste of cake donuts with my Dad very closely.  So close that I can summon stunning visual imagery of him with a single bite.  Funny how "emotional eating" can be tricky that way, huh?  Something that tastes amazing, summons amazing good memories...why wouldn't you want to eat a ton?  Bah.  Glad I have gotten a grip on THAT!  And glad they don't have them in Atlanta!   The shop, Veri Best Donuts, has been in Columbus as far back as I can remember. It's a sad looking little dive, but they are true to their name.

After finishing my first donut in months, I headed for my destination of Auburn, AL. but stopped on the way by my Mom's grave site. She's at a different location across town. My Dad passed away over two decades ago, but my Mom passed away just a few years ago. I visited with her for a bit and then continued on my way.

As I drove through my old hometown, I passed by some of the places I lived around town. I also passed by a lot of the businesses that have been there for years. Nothing will drive home the idea of impermanence like visiting your parents graves, and seeing that very physical earthen reminder of just how impermanent life is.

I feel I should mention, in case you are wondering, that I visit with my parents in my walking meditations on nearly a daily basis, but I don't think of them as being "in" the cemeteries. I just think of their graves as a physical connection between the two, or a physical representation I suppose. I point this out because when I go there, I still visit with them the same way I do daily, which is via meditation (or if you prefer, prayer).

Anyhow, as I visited their graves, I kept thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh's words on impermanence: "like a father looking at his children can see himself in his children, can see his continuation in his children. So he is not attached to the idea that his body is the only thing that is him." This is certainly true, as my siblings and I are all very definitely continuations of our parents, and I can see that my daughter is a continuation of my wife and I.

Anyhow, I moved on to Auburn where I attended the Greg Mortenson (author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones in to Schools) lecture. It was really great, and I was very fortunate to sit right up front and then meet him during a book signing held immediately following the lecture. I bought a copy of the childrens story book version for my daughter to get it signed for her and told him my story of why I donate to the CAI every year on my birthday (I'll post the full story some time) and he gave me a copy of the young readers edition to give to my daughter when she is older and he gave me a copy of the Stones in to Schools book and signed it. It was all extremely cool and he is such a genuinely nice and charismatic guy, it's easy to see how his personality has helped him be so well received by the people he has helped. If you haven't read his books, I would really strongly recommend them!

Anyhow, I spent yesterday visiting with friends in the Auburn area. I have a friend who is the Network Admin for the whole place and it was fun to visit the campus and see him.

I kept getting reminders of impermanence all weekend. My parents graves, businesses from my childhood that are utterly gone (buildings and all) and change and growth in these small cities I grew up around. Yet at the same time all the new growth, new life, young people I know such as my friends daughter who attended the lecture with me (which was interesting to see her realize that her 'problems' aren't as bad as they could be as she watched the Afghanistan footage in the lecture and heard the statistics such as most girls being married at 12 years old and having 3-9 kids).

It was all just very interesting and made me really get a sense of "Interbeing" such as Thich Nhat Hanh talks about and it was interesting to view all of this from a little higher elevation, so to speak, so as to see the bigger picture of the impermanence of it all. It kept reminding me of Thich Nhat Hanh's words about the gardener not being upset by a flower that dies and rots because he knows he needs that rotting flower to make compost for the flowers to grow. (I'm grossly paraphrasing here, but you get the point).  I was seeing the loss of the past spread out behind me and the growth of the future learning and growing in front of me.

Bottom line is that the trip was wonderful in countless ways. Even parts that might seem saddening only served to make me happier because I felt like the organic gardener looking at the compost and seeing the beautiful flowers.


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