Saturday, October 8, 2011

Packing the Pillow

In the days of late July after leaving my house in Spenard, I realized that I’d mistakenly donated two feather pillows to the Value Village.  I’d thought I would hang onto them through August and September, but off they went.   When you are traveling, the pillow seems to be the ticket to the restful and familiar bliss.  The travelers walking on the ferry or boarding the plane with the familiar large rectangle of fluffy softness have a strong connection to the object. 
There must be pillows in Thailand.  But as I’m lying in the beginning stages of sleep, I toss and turn, punching and folding the head rest that came with the guest room.   My thoughts swirl around themselves over and over again. Placement letter, work visa, plane ticket, clothing for the classroom, insulin.  The fragments are tumbling around in the laundromat of my brain.   Not the single bulky sleeping bag but the mismatched socks, the worn out t-shirts, the wool sweater I forgot to take from the washer, the underwear that really should be replaced.   A determined gerbil that suddenly stopped  running on the small metal wheel.  Carried with the force of their frenetic energy, the rodent finds himself clenching the small metal bars, whisked around and around again until finally gravity prevails. He starts running again.

When I refused to wait for the Peace Corps and wasn’t accepted at CUSO-VSO in the height of the escalating mania that is springtime in Alaska, I developed a mantra to slow myself down.    Breathe out. I am open to whatever the Universe provides. Breathe in.  I know the Universe will provide. After some time, I would fall asleep rocked by the waves that slipped in and out of the shore with the falling tides of encroaching sleep.

Last weekend at the Tutka Bay Writer’s Retreat,  , I learned a new practice of Buddhist belief, the Metta. This is the loving kindess to self, to others and to the world.  Some see the next step of Metta to be Tonglen, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of exchanging self for the other, holding the pain or suffering that others feel and embracing it in ourselves with a spirit of acceptance and compassion.

The practice of Metta begins with holding your internal self and breathing deep.  May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be strong. May I live with ease.   Then, conjure a loved one.   May you be safe. May  you be happy. May you be strong.  May you  live with ease.   Bring someone who you see in your life but don’t know well.   The checker at Fred’s that often works the self-service stand.  May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be strong. May you live with ease.   Consider someone who irks you or with whom you have friction.  May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be strong. May you live with ease.  Lastly, and my favorite part.  Hold all the beings of the world.  Feel your heart swell with the power of mustering your internal power to wish:    May you be safe.  May you be happy.  May you be strong. May all sentient beings- mineral, plant, animal and human- live with ease.

After practicing this, I’m the center pole of the merry-go-round.  I’m not clinging to the perimeter feeling the dizzying exposure of centrifuge.    I’m connected to the universe.  With this safety, happiness, strength and ease I can feel lulled and fulfilled, rocked in a gentle crib of a wooden boat in a wild anchorage.

The right pillow will come.  No need to bring the ultra-large American style.  Just muster the faith that it all will work out on all counts.  Slow down.  Breathe.

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