Winter has resumed here on the West Coast. After a few weeks of glorious sunshine, the rains have returned and with them, the nearly impenetrable fog. However, if there is one thing for certain about the weather, it always changes. Which is true about everything. As my Buddhist sangha chants:
All things are impermanent, they arise and they pass away.
To be in harmony with this truth, brings great happiness.
When we resist change, we create suffering for ourselves, the Buddha taught. We want something else than what is actually happening. I have been attempting to notice this in myself recently. What thoughts arise throughout the day that tempt me toward some other state of being, feeling, or doing than the one I am presently experiencing. For example: There is a lot of construction happening on Butterstone Farm right now and so I often arise to the sounds of whirring power tools and grinding bobcats, rather than the bucolic chirps of birds or the throaty hums of frogs. Of course I would rather be woken by the birds and frogs, however there is not much I can do about it. So how do I choose to see it, and how does my seeing it affect how I feel about it.
I have been watching the same phenomenon as I look in the mirror in the morning. This morning after my shower I stood naked in the bathroom mirror as I put in my contact lenses. I noticed that I was talking to myself and telling myself all the things I don’t like about my body. Wow! That’s crazy. Why would I spend my time telling myself what I don’t like? Of course I’ve been taught to not like my body, to want it to look different than it is. And not only my body, but my clothes, my house, this laptop, my grades in school, the job I have, or don’t have. Parents, teachers, magazine and television advertisements all continually coax me into not liking what is. Not that I mean to blame anyone. It is truly the human condition, this wanting to have, see, look like, be something else.
So I have been practicing noticing the thoughts and not believing them. Instead I attempt to see them as the Buddha saw Mara while sitting under the Bodhi Tree during his pre-enlightenment vigil. I recognize that they are illusions, untruths.
The truth is that I am standing in front of the mirror looking at this fleshy wonder that shelters and contains me. Whoever “me” is. (That is another blog) Whatever this body looks like, it is only the judging, conditioned mind that needs it to look a certain way. Can I be in front of the mirror and see what is there without needing it to be different? Wow. If I can do that, I would be shattering a neurosis that has plagued me for my whole adult life, and further back, into my adolescence. And not only me, but millions of women in North America, and further afield, where the billboards and movies and fashion magazines have wrought havoc on the self-image of girls and woman of all ages.
There are studies that show that girls as young as four years old are aware that their bodies need to look a certain way in order o be praised by society and so they start to make choices based on their feelings of wanting to measure up to the “beauty” standard. I have watched a young 4 year-old girl get dressed for a party, turn around from looking in the mirror and ask me: “Do I look sexy?”
Indeed these standards play with the minds of boys and men too, who may be driven to exercise beyond a normal level of fitness and people of colour, who are encouraged toward lightening their skin. However, no matter where we get our conditioning to want to look like or act like someone else, or to somehow make others look or act differently, what we are all equally suffering from is our inability to accept things as they are.
So when I look at the farm, what am I wanting to see? Perfection, or the natural setting of period films that are set up for days and days to look a certain way? All the flowers nicely in bloom and the grass cut just so and the buildings glinting in the mist? This is home, this natural environment I live and thrive in. Whether my body or the farm, neither is perfect, nor within my total control. There are processes at work here-seasonal, ecological, hormonal- that create the beautiful unruliness of both these infintely varied and variable landscapes.
What I want, what my body and this farm needs, is for me to honour and appreciate the messy creativity and awesome wonder of their aliveness. To wake myself up to being here so that this mist becomes a mystery I can spend days revelling in!!