My husband returned from a trip to England at the beginning of this week toting a cold. Regardless of consuming large quantities of Airborne tablets (straight up… “Oh, I let them dissolve on my tongue… they fizzle… I ate a whole containerful and bought another one over there… maybe that’s why I’m farting like a horse…”) he managed to catch the cold that everyone seems to be ailing from, including about half of the folks in my office. I’m hoping that this is the strain that I caught middle of August and that I will be spared from a second round.
…coughing, incessant coughing… and some snorting, too
“Are you going to take anything for that?” I ask.
“I dunno what to take… what should I take?” he inquires.
(I dunno… we have a medicine cabinet-ful of potential options… do like I do—and that you invariably make pointed, rather unkind remarks about—and read the fucking labels after you figure out what ails you)
“Well… how do you feel? Is your nose stuffy? Does your throat hurt? Are you achey?”
“Yeah, my nose is stuffy… my throat hurts… I’m coughing… but I’m not achey…”
(Okay… something with a decongestant, an antihistamine but no pain/fever reliever…)
Well, I’d like to say that I have it, but it eludes even me sometimes… As I lay in bed last night, after being awakened by an assault of into-my-face-coughing … uh-oh… I feel another thought bubble coming on… (if I manage to avert the possibility of catching this cold, it will be a fucking miracle)… I wonder why I can’t fall back asleep again, even after Steve leaves the bed to sleep on the LaZboy… my heart’s pounding like nobody’s business. It feels like there’s a rollercoaster in there and my heart muscles are having a grand old time… then I remember… I’ve had altogether TOO much caffeine during the day… a get-me-going morning cup of Peet’s coffee at the office… a cup of coffee at the Daily Grill (my bosses took me to lunch today just ‘cuz)… a glass of Diet Coke with my Indian dinner and the last batch of caffeine consumption was after our Barnes & Noble/Starbucks stop, when I picked up a chai tea latte. I really need to limit myself to one cup… I’ve been doing okay with that.
A new friend—
On the other hand, my Barnes and Noble visit bore fruit… not only of the book variety (yes, I did previously mention that I’m a book whore… that has not changed), but I also made a new acquaintance. During my wandering about the store I meandered into the Eastern Philosophy aisle and was welcomed by a woman sitting in the middle of it, with a collection of Dalai Lama books strewn about her. I couldn’t resist asking her whether she’d heard him speak at the California Governor’s Conference for Women earlier this week.
She said “No! Did you? Did you go to see heem?” (note the French accent)
I said “No, I didn’t go, but it was webcast, and I watched that from my computer at home.”
“What did he speak about?” she asked.
“He is so funny! He made me laugh! He did not share any deep teachings. It was mostly common sense things… general life counseling.” I said.
Noting the accent and never one to deny myself this query…
“Do you speak French?” I asked.
“Yes! I’m from Switzerland.” she replied.
We continued on with our conversation, switching back and forth between French and English, and I discovered that she has been a student of buddhism for about a decade. I am rather new to buddhism. Essentially, the fundamental philosophies are based on the Vedas, the same ancient sanskrit writings that the many facets of hinduism are based upon. I always wonder why one way would be preferable (in a spiritual sense) to another way. The fundaments of all teachings are very similar. It’s when you get into the esotherica that it becomes more complicated and consequently more rewarding and/or taxing on the follower. I’ve always been one to refuse to be mired down by dogma… I can’t imagine how eating with one hand and not the other will make a difference to God… or that I will disgrace myself before God by not covering my head because I am a woman.
I’d never heard the Dalai Lama speak before. He is the funniest person! He had a spritely look about him… a mischievous smile that was infectious. Maria Shriver asked him several questions throughout his forty-five minute address to the crowd, and his replies were simple… common sense. I marvel at our modern-day inability to distill a situation down to its simplest element. We are so bogged down by the “reality” of life that we can’t cut through all the bullshit and find a simple answer to our basic needs.
Fabienne and I talk some more, and she asks me what it is that I am looking for. Quite honestly, I’m not sure. When I left home at eighteen for an ashram, my intention was to become a brahmin… I wanted to wear the string and the priviledge of knowing the gyatri mantra. I wanted liberation from this bodily experience… I wanted off this karma ride. I studied the Bhagavad Gita, the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, attended artis and even performed the Tulasi arti myself on some days. But, during this whole time, something kept gnawing at me. I’d not only adapted the philosophy, I’d adopted the way of life down to the threads (I wore a sari). Living in a Western community, this somehow did not make any sense. Secluded, essentially, from the rest of the population (or “karmis” as non-believers were addressed amongst ourselves), it was not so difficult to uphold the precepts of the philosphy. However, I’d decided that I needed to walk away from that… that if I could not live my life, and find a way to integrate this philosophy into it, then I was not ready to dance among the gopis on Krishna Goloka. So I left.
Last week my Amazon order showed up (yes, there’s the book issue again…) and in it the movie The Little Buddha. Apart from the fact that Keanu plays a role in the movie, and as my son kindly announced to the grocery store last night after seeing the DVD display of A Lake House, “My mom LIKES Keanu…” and then turning to me and saying “Aren’t you going to buy this movie? Don’t you want every Keanu movie?” …to which I replied “No…” I did want to see The Little Buddha. I was delighted with the portrayal of Siddartha. When I’d read about buddhism in my earlier years, I was quite miffed with Siddartha. How could he possibly leave his wife and newborn baby behind to follow the road to enlightenment? I still think that he should have taken responsibility for the raising of his son, though given the cultural circumstances, the child would not have had a whole lot of parental nurturing anyway. So… back to the movie… I watch as Siddartha becomes an ascetic monk, until he comes to the realization, as I did, that we are here in this body for a reason, and we need to deal with it as much as we do with our mind and spirit. It needs to be honored, not ignored. The middle way was born. How profound. Now I must read on, and see if it makes sense to me.
For the longest time I’d been resentful of being here, on this world, in this body. I’ve done just about everything to this body… abused it mercilessly… and yet it is still here. I don’t always like it, and it certainly isn’t the embodiment of perfection, but it’s stuck with me and by this virtue has shown itself to be quite indispensible. While I do imagine that if I was given the choice of getting off the wheel of Samsara, I would choose not to return… but then, perhaps, I would feel a sense of obligation to the world and its souls and want to return, just so that perhaps I can reach the one person who really needs to hear what I have to say.