Tracing Nothingness with your Mind

Nothing puts life in perspective like illness. This entire week has been a disaster due to a wicked cold that hit on Monday, that kept me in bed almost 90% of the time, and has disabled my voice. I had to cancel parent interviews, supervision of a school dance and the risk management workshop I wanted to attend today. If I were to sum up my status at the moment: useless.

In reality I have been pushing hard for months, meeting every responsibility I had with enthusiasm, seeking out new opportunities for work and travel, and doing a solid job overall. You have to pay the piper somewhere along the line, and I guess it finally caught up with me this week. I know that hard work for me always leads to endless opportunities for meaningful experiences outside of that work, so it pays off at the end of each junket of time. I also know that because of the way I work, I usually end up sick in a corner at the end of it all. There will come a time when I will not be able to push so hard, but while I can, I will.

During my time in sleepy limbo I have been thinking and reflecting. I have been contemplating some Buddhist ideas of letting go of the material world and how to balance that with the reality of my own life; I am not a monk and I live in a harsh climate in a harsh city. So for instance, while I have been learning to let go of material greed, I needed that ridiculous Canada Goose parka this week to keep me warm when I was sick. Maybe the point should be that I only need one warm jacket instead of ten, and that I need it because I commute to work by public transit in the winter. The point is not that I should only possess one bowl and robes.

I have come a long way towards learning to deal with the world’s stresses in a calm manner and to let go of things that would have crippled me a few years ago. Yoga, tai chi and reading Eastern philosophies have really helped focus my ability to separate the static noise from the music. The world still needs to be dealt with, but the key is to deal with it versus hiding from the things that haunt us before we fall asleep at night.

China is also irrationally looming in my mind this week. I listen to the radio and read newspapers, but do not watch television. The signs for war are not good, and that concerns me on the periphery of my consciousness. I am not sure if the West has any concept of the sheer size of China and how its needs are soon going to shift the world’s focus. Maybe I am just a little too apocalyptic, but historically these are the conditions (economic depression, over-population, scarcity of resources, political instability) when we find ourselves losing our stability and tumbling into warfare.

I watched a documentary on the Dalai Lama last night and that also made me wonder about whether it is valid to visit Tibet this summer. Given the politics of the area, I am not sure if I want to support the oppression the Chinese have placed upon the area. I do know that I have been trying to buy as few Made in China goods as I can, but that is not a solution that will make any change. The only real solution is to engage with the Chinese people and find a way to harmonize our societies together. It is one area of the world that does not function in a way that can be easily understood by ignorant outsiders like myself. We all must learn more about this civilization, so as to better understand ourselves, perhaps.

I have also been enjoying many memories from my trip to South Africa two years ago. South Africa was like a dreamland wherein every space with different and beautiful. Danger did leak on the borders, but we did well to drive and survive our independent safari through Pilanesberg and Mabalingwe. I will always be impressed that V. thrived in Bontebok for six months independently. She is a much stronger traveler than I am, but it is never shameful to be with people who are stronger than you.

In reflection the mornings were beautiful. We drove a crappy Kia rental through the game reserves sighting lion, rhino, elephant, monkey, water buffalo, giraffe and countless other creatures I had only imagined seeing. It was an experience of a lifetime, yet I have only found the time to reflect on its beauty this morning. How can that be? Are our lives so frantic that it takes an illness to give us the time to enjoy our memories?

The rest of my weekend will have to be spent in bed. Mingus and India have been causing havoc now that I have no voice to correct them, but I find them cute in their ways and dogs have a way of making me smile. I should probably smile more often; I certainly have been blessed with many things to smile about.



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