Friday, May 30, 2008


I have spent the better part of the last few days chasing flies. Thankfully this spectacle was not captured on video or audio - especially audio! My language has been a bit crude, even for me. My ability to formulate an endless array of possible loopholes, exemptions and exclusions to the first precept has been impressive! These critters have given me quite a workout, physically and mentally. So what led up to this invasion? (I've never actually seen this many house flies in one place-certainly not MY place!)

It started several weeks ago when my husband took down a large section of the backyard fence that was damaged in a storm and needs to be replaced. (This is starting to sound like that story about a butterfly flapping it's wings in Africa and...) Anyway, to keep our dogs from getting out, he built a temporary fenced in area adjacent to the back door. To be blunt, that created the conditions for a lot of uh, dog poop to be concentrated in a relatively small area. Fast forward to Monday, which was my son's birthday and also Memorial Day. We opened the pool, fired up the grill and had a great family get together. Lots of food, lots of spills, lots of people leaving the door open... Yeah, the flies couldn't resist a temporary change in diet and discovered there was plenty of food to check out just around the corner, so they went for it.

How can one actually become angry at a fly? I mean REALLY angry! These things are incredibly difficult to catch for one thing! Much easier to whack them with a rolled up magazine, or better yet a nice fly swatter. I don't own a fly swatter, but I did roll up a newspaper. Yes I did. And I swore like a sailor and threatened to use it. My threats fell on deaf ears. Can flies hear? It was around this time that I realized how glad I was that there was no one around to witness this whole thing.

It was time for some "lying down" meditation. What came to mind was Ajahn Chah talking about how when we are about to do something wrong we tend to look around to make sure nobody will see. But we often don't consider that WE will see. All the more important to understand this teaching when what we may be thinking of doing would be seen as absolutely the right thing to do by most other people. In fact NOT doing it would be considered, well, a bit crazy!

I learned that it's impossible to catch a fly, let alone dozens of them, when angry or frustrated. I learned that with a calm and focused mind, compassionate heart and patience, it's not that hard to round up a bunch of rowdy intruders and show them the door. A much better result for all concerned than what I had first considered, though briefly!

As Sunday and the start of my retreat fast approaches, I can't help but wonder what the challenges will be that are sure to pop up along the way. And will I be able to see them for what they are, opportunities to strengthen this practice, and not obstacles that get in my way.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Turning Down, Tuning In

In other words it's time for a tune-up. Turning down the mental volume and tuning in to the heart is so easy to forget as we get wrapped up in the day to day hustle and bustle that we latch on to. To step back from some of the stuff of household life, even for a short time, requires careful planning to avoid stepping on other peoples emotional toes as much as possible. Abundant opportunities for developing the Brahma-viharas there. It's all practice, especially the challenging parts.

Last winter Gary over at Forest Wisdom (soon to be found at Buddha Place) did a self retreat and I decided to join him, though a tad late. I found it to be extremely helpful and realize that, much like physical exercise, at least some of the benefit fades over time if not maintained. I also remember that knowing someone else was making the effort as well was a great help, especially in getting through the rough spots. So I invite anyone who visits here to join me if you're able.

I'm planning on the first week in June for my tune-up/retreat. I've a few details to wrap up and some commitments to attend to. Trying to tie up as many loose ends as reasonably possible while remaining open to the inevitable situations that routinely present themselves in an active and sometimes unpredictable household is kind of a warm up exercise in patience and equinimity.

I've chosen Ajahn Sr. Vayama as my retreat 'leader'. It has been a long, long time since I've listened to her teachings so I'm looking forward to her wonderfully direct and gentle guidance. During this time I will commit to meditating each morning and evening, listening to a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Vayama each day, and observing the 8 precepts.