Sunday, December 31, 2006


Periods of transition are frequently difficult to manage. One thing is in the process of passing, whilst another begins to emerge. Letting go, when it’s not yet clear what form the future will take, is not easy. 2006 appears to have been a year of transition. Stepping out from the supportive conditions of a Buddhist Right Livelihood Business and finding work in the harsher, less forgiving light of the secular world. Regular readers of this blog, and most of all my friends in the Dharma, have heard, read or seen what this process has been like for me. Often I experienced an inner conflict, as aspiration and desire for creative freedom, vied with financial anxiety and a need for security. I think, in the end, the latter has won the day, for now at least. My writing and painting have become concentrated evening and weekend activities.

So, as we are on the cusp of 2007, I am tentatively looking forward to whatever may be in store. I’ve been working Full Time at the Crematorium a little over a month. The increased money is very welcome. My work is taking on a consistency and engagement not present when I worked Part Time. I’m learning new things, like how to master the new computer based music system in the Chapels, and how to burn dead bodies effectively. It seems odd when I return home and David asks me what I did today. If I replied literally,’ I burned six pensioners in their sixties, seventies and eighties, two middle aged people, one male, one female, plus a non viable foetus, and cleaned and hovered the chapels, I think that might be unwelcome. Yet, this is what I do most days. If you had asked me this time last year what I’d be doing by 2007, this is not what I would have envisaged at all.

When aspirations hit the fan of reality, one has to be prepared to revise expectations and learn to live each day as it comes. Obviously, there is a personal practice in what I now do for a living. Largely it is in the realm of doing what seems appropriate, sometimes guarding the gates of the senses, at other times making sure I stay in touch with my feelings. My body, as always, remains the best indicator. Back pain and sleep patterns become unpredictable, when I’m not conscious enough of my responses. Occasionally, I do detect horrified anxiety, in amongst my usual day-to-day worry and flurry. This is particularly so if I’ve had a few days working in the Cremation Room. Observing the state of a burning cadaver moving from decaying flesh and bone towards ash, raking out what’s left and placing in a plastic urn or wooden casket, is not an insignificant event and does have an effect. It can alienate you from your feelings, or when you find your forehead frowned in deep furrows, the nature of your responses is all too apparent, it’s in your face. Levels of black, or mordant humour have to be monitored, they’re good indicators of suppressed feelings. Most of the time my feelings appear just neutral, or at least a trifled numbed. Anyway, I digress.

Next year I have a few things to consider. How quickly it will be possible to sort out my bank loan etc. Watch what effect having a decent income has, and not raising my expenditure to match it. Focus on writing and painting as much as I can. David and I need to seriously think about getting a bit bigger flat, if not now, when? Though I meditate now, it’s still erratic, and far from frequent. I need to be more aware, the nature of my resistances, what are they about? I find myself writing quite passionately about practice when I explore a Dogen discourse, but the bum still doesn’t hit the meditation stool with confident assertion. Whilst physical circumstances have had an effect, I know they are just the excuse, not the reason. What I really need is a meditation retreat for burned out meditators, where you try to identify what exactly is up. I’m still experiencing my recurrent back, hip and ankle pain on the left side of my body. I haven’t been able to afford to go see an osteopath this year, but I sense I do need to take a different approach, not just alleviating but resolving, but how? I know these are primarily emotionally based symptoms, but I am no nearer finding what needs to change or be transformed. It appears to be less to do with changing circumstances, (I’ve tried that) and more to do with changing how my body responds to stress. What is that stress anxious about in the first place? Perhaps I should try meditating! That’s enough! enough for one year at least.

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