This Place in Which I Ramble

Daily Life and the Great Work

I’ve been practicing Buddhist meditation on and off for the last several years at widely varying levels of intensity. The last two years, my practice has grown especially sparse, and I have been grasping to find a source of energy and motivation to bring myself back to the cushion the way I was with such devotion in years past.

I do find a contributing factor has been the struggle in sorting out my role in my new profession as a nurse, first in prison, now in hospice, both strange environments for someone still so naive to the profession. It’s almost too much to be working toward what often feels like two disparate roles, one as developed spiritual practitioner, the other as competent professional caregiver. I am fully aware this sense is illusory, and these two things have the capability of being entirely complementary and even fused. This was the entire reason I made a career change over to nursing in the first place. But I’ve struggled to escape the feeling that I am being pulled into two directions.

One piece of this is that the medical field itself is not exactly innately supportive of personal development, even if it pretends to be. A lot of this world is merely focused on the hours you are willing to put in and on objective and quantifiable professional development, not abstract, impossible to measure, inner work. Some issues are as simple as I am never off work early enough to make it to a meditation group with consistency, something I usually find to be highly supportive and invigorating to sustaining daily practice. So it is left to me to discover how I can both devote myself to my work in a way that I am meeting external expectations and simultaneously nurturing myself in a way that feeds my ability to care for patients in a holistic, non-selfish manner. 


Though I have not been meditating much as of late, in spite of my New Year’s resolution to resume daily practice, I’ll occasionally pick up and peruse an issue of Tricycle Magazine, perhaps to fuel my intention in whatever mild way it may. One of the more recent issues was an issue focused on death, and given my current profession, this especially intrigued me.

Several of the articles were beautiful and informative, but it was actually an advertisement that drew me in most, given its potential to respond to the struggle I’ve been having over the last two years. I have been going to Vipassana retreats in Marin County at least once every year since I began practicing meditation, but I had never heard of Metta Institute, which offers a failry robust End of Life Practitioner program. It’s comprised of five, five-day silent retreats designed to invigorate one’s practice as a care provider to the terminally ill. Many of the faculty are writers and spiritual teachers I am familiar with and respect greatly, and I’m feeling very excited about one day participating in this program. It actually requires a selective application process, and I would not be able to attend any earlier than some time next year, but its mere existence has managed to snap me back into the reality that it was spiritual work that led me to this profession, and it is spiritual work that will make this career change grow into the selfless vocation I deeply yearn for it to be.


Having this blog sitting in the background barely used has highlighted a broader transition, perhaps confusion, as I belatedly have really begun my adulthood.

As introverted and quiet as I can often be, I have tended to have a highly open, confessional nature in virtually all my exchanges throughout my life, aside from occasional relationships that inexplicably terrified me too much to do so.

And then enter adulthood, in which I am no longer a wandering student, but a professional, working, responsible individual, a wife even, of whom there are expectations.

Certainly, I can post here about the varieties of home-cultured, artisan vegan cheeses I am experimenting with. Or my new knitting projects. Or I could take photographs of my cats and midtown walks. But this all feels unimportant, uninteresting.  This is one of many reasons I’ve stopped social networks that felt a façade of my authentic life.

There is this person now left so sheltered, underexposed. And somehow there is a voice trapped in this strange stage of near-stasis, wanting to emerge, in a less personal, more universal way and not understanding what this would look like.

And all I can say now is there is burgeoning intention absent of any understanding of its ultimate form.

Flight From Death: The Quest for Immortality

I happened upon an interesting documentary last night in my ever-increasing obsession with human death anxiety. Though it perhaps relied excessively on moody shots of cemeteries with sad music playing in the background, it truly did raise some valuable questions. The main idea brought up is based on multidisciplinary research that has found a compelling connection between our fear of death and our sense of separateness and natural inclination toward hostility against those who are different from us. It’s a somewhat obvious idea, but at the same time, a bit groundbreaking given the intensity of our cultural death denial. The suggestion of the researchers to prevent this vicious cycle is to have an upfront acknowledgement and relationship with our death anxiety rather than attempting the impossible task of eliminating the genetically programmed fear altogether. While I appreciate the value of the suggestion, at least in the context of the documentary, it’s a bit abstract for the average person to put into any real practice. I can certainly see the value of an intensive meditation practice to bolster one’s own self-awareness and ability to develop a relationship with this fear. But I also realize that such practices are not appealing to all, and I wonder how as a culture we can begin to make a shift in a broader sense away from our continual, destructive obsession of evading death at the cost of those around us.


Perhaps I Will Blog…

I am not sure of what I will do with this little space here just yet, but it’s been a few years since I’ve blogged. It seems as good a time as any to give it a try once again. I’ve deleted the last remaining remnants of my social networking accounts because of the unsatisfactory, restrictive nature of their formats, not to mention the horrible, ad-centric privacy practices of these services.

Here is a place I hope to say more than a passing comment, post some photos on a better camera than my iPhone and most likely have not a single soul notice.