Monday, September 29, 2008

No Win

I fight a hopeless battle on the strip
A foe I never will defeat—my coach
Each thought, word, deed the butt of clever quip
With each earnest attempt, I earn reproach
Outcome ordained, the deck already stacked
My confidence and will adroitly cracked
Do I not see the exercise has changed?!
Be smart! If you see opening, then leap!
Your acts must be spontaneous, unplanned
But do exactly what I say, don’t sleep!
With weaker opponents I “just compete”
With stronger foes my action’s incomplete
Wrist flops, arm bends, I lag, and miss my cue
Improve! But do not try, no try—just do
If you say you come to practice, come!
Excuses just provoke an Arctic chill
Sore arm, bruised rib, pulled muscle, swollen thumb
Mere lies to hide a most unstable will
But, if I’m honest, I’m forced to admit
The blame for this fiasco lies with me
I brought it on myself, and must submit
Why did I ever say I want my “B”?!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Unbalanced Equation

I never got the hang of algebra

Strangely, later on, I took to Calculus right off, following the soaring arcs of growth. Manipulating limits--I’m all about that.

Statistics tickled me, contradicting common sense, puncturing pretense, promising a glimpse of hidden truth.

But earlier, about eighth grade, I hit a wall. At first, it seemed not bad, solving for a variable or two. Unknown quantities—that’s just life.

But bump that up to three, and I was lost. No clear route to the solution—just the equation standing like a brick wall. I couldn’t see a door, much less the key. I would leap, dodge, batter or negotiate, all to no avail. Ending, bruised and baffled, in a blizzard of paper documenting failed attacks.

My best friend—she could see the answer, obvious and ordinary, waiting at the gate. But how, I asked seeking Cliff Notes for the koan). “It just is” she demurred, “I can’t say how.” And so she shared in my poor grades, but for the opposite sin—arriving on time and in the right place without a mapping of the route.

And now, damn it all, it turns out to be a necessary skill, and not abstract at all. Fencing, work and home, facing off against the one set value, 24 uncompromising hours.

Wrestling with two, I’ll strike a precious truce—adequate practice, a home-cooked meal, and wham, the third collapses, my misleading strength undone by lack of sleep. Or sleep gains ground, and work suffers, scattered on my desk at end of day.

Most often these two vie for time: the household and the blade. Some weeks, I spend more time awake in company of coach than with my spouse. And how to place a value on this “a”, this “b”? The arduous simplicity of practice: the company of seekers, challenges to everything I know or think I know, a life’s work, a constant tempest of the soul. The comforting and mundane tasks of life: the cats fed, bread baked, garden weeded, a decade’s long duet of growth and change unfolding slowly, slowly.

The math is clear—I can’t have both, at least not all of both. And thinking back, I remember that these problems have, in fact, two answers, two stable states, each equally true. There is no balance in between, caught in an unsteady state. So even if the answer comes, if intuition strikes, and it just
is, the answer’s not an answer but a choice.

I never got the hang of algebra...

Friday, September 12, 2008

An Invitation

Step across the line, into the sacred space
Encompassing our practice
Enter a timeless world
Commit to mindfulness, to curiosity

Settle inward, spiral towards the light
That shines within, pretense strips away
Unveiling our true selves
Each perfect as we are, yet striving towards perfection

Then blossom outward
Capturing each sound each scent each touch
Reeling in the world
And cast it back, with confidence and grace