Thursday, September 17, 2015

Just Do THIS

I’m noticing lately how many of my thoughts pertain to my immediate to-do list: I need to do this, then this, then this, as if I will forget to brush my teeth or have a cup of tea if I don’t remind myself several times. Thus I am oriented not in the present but almost the present—five minutes from now, but that isn’t good enough. Being lost in thoughts about five minutes from now is precisely the same as being lost in thoughts about 40 years from now or 40 years ago. Well, maybe thinking about five minutes from now is slightly more useful than thinking about 40 years hence, but both lack the freshness and vividness of being present in this moment.

I thought of the often-repeated meditation instruction to pay attention to “just this.” And how Ajahn Sumedho uses the formulation “ ___ is like this.” “Back pain is like this.” “Stress is like this.” It occurred to me that I needed another “this” formulation: Just do this. Not, just do this, but just do this.

I also see that there is a usually hidden view underlying my thoughts about what I need to do, namely that something bad will happen if I don’t get it done. That might be true, or it might not.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Exact Procedures Pertaining to Icing

F. often participates in Diamond Dave’s Friday afternoon Internet radio show, at their studio in the Mission, and I sometimes join him for an hour or so. The whole show is three hours long and features a motley collection of poets, musicians, essayists and ad hoc ranters. One Friday late in July, I met F. at the radio station and then we had dinner at El Metate—he had never been there before and liked it—and went on to the soup kitchen for their open mic. A fellow known to both of us came along eating a cupcake and F. exclaimed over the profusion of icing; he doesn’t care for it. “Good,” said the man firmly. “You can keep your hands off it, then.” Later the same man turned up with a cookie and instructed, “You can treat this cookie the same way you treat my icing: stay away from it.”


As my apartment is an insect sanctuary, meaning that none is knowingly harmed, I found myself co-existing with a spider who had made her web on the window nearest my bed. (Are all spiders girls? I’m sure I’ve mentioned that when I was a child, my mother would tell me and my sisters, “Spiders are our friends and sisters.”)

One day there appeared in the web a spider larger than the webowner, and of disturbing appearance, with thickish legs and body, all or mostly a translucent pale yellow, as I recall. The first spider was a regular dark spider, not particularly beefy. Could this other spider have fallen prey to the first? It appeared entirely intact, but when F. blew gently in the direction of the web, the first spider twitched, but the second didn’t: dead.

Yet the next day, the second spider was entirely gone. It seemed unlikely that the first spider could have consumed every fragment of it already, since there were still remnants in the web of other tiny creatures left over from days or weeks before. No, this second spider, employing notable malevolence, had played dead when F. performed his test, and was now elsewhere in my apartment waiting to walk on my eyelid in the night.

I decided the charm of co-existing with a spider had worn off and took it out to a large planter box in front of my apartment building, then wiped the web off the window.

Next I turned my attention to the fruit flies that were swarming out of the compost bin when one lifted the lid to make a deposit and generally hanging around in that area. They didn’t really bother me, but the compost bin is not far from the back door of the apartment under mine, and its inhabitants didn’t like getting a face full of little flying creatures every time they came out of their door, and so installed a chemical bug-killing device.

I offered to see if I could find something less toxic at Rainbow and found a product that was made specifically for this and which initially worked remarkably well, but after a while, the fruit flies were back to being out of control. I’m not sure if this is because not everyone was sprinkling the product on top of his or her compostable materials, as a handsome nearby sign, made and laminated by myself, recommends, or if after a while, the fruit flies got used to the stuff and returned to vigorous reproduction. I told the downstairs neighbors I’d go back to the drawing board and experimented with sprinkling in cinnamon or powdered ginger. This caused the fruit flies to scatter right away, but the next day I would find just as many there as the day before.

A couple of days ago, I soaked two cotton balls with tea tree oil and hung them over the lid of the compost bin and that seems to be working excellently. I can see live things strolling around in there when I open the bin, but no creature comes flying out. As an auxiliary measure, I plan to make a spray of eucalyptus oil, witch hazel and water to leave by the bin.


My three favorite words: vermin, goiter and fritz, as in the TV is on the fritz.


I passed that place the other day where I took the puddle photos and saw it still was a puddle. There must be some sort of drainage issue there that makes the place permanently wet. Maybe I had better keep the exact location to myself in case I have to drink that water someday.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Breaking Together

In the final issue of Inquiring Mind, Larry Yang of the East Bay Meditation Center (in Oakland, a short stroll from the 19th St. BART station, it appears) writes about forming a very diverse sangha. He says a few things that I thought were nicely applicable to romantic relationships, as well, or any kind of relationship: “When differences arise, our conditioned response is to fragment. What would it be like, even in the complexity, even in the injury, even in the harm—to break together rather than to break apart? … We may not have the skills yet, or the awareness, or even the kindness, but that will come if we have that intention of not leaving the room. This is where peace begins.”

And this: “When we work with people who hold different views and/or life experiences, it often takes longer than we think it should and carries more contradictions than we would like. We need to remember that what matters is not what we think or what we like: it is how we are with each other.”

And: “Injuries still occur, but by navigating the suffering over and over again we break through thoughts that we are unable to create a sangha together or that we do not have enough resources to do it or that we are not good enough to deserve it.”