Flying not falling

It looked to me like he was plummeting to earth before the orange chute opened, but he said he was flying. My partner/husband/friend/companion/accomplice could not stop smiling as he told me about his skydive.

He has also recently managed to stand up on a surf board. His “bucketlist” is getting shorter. Another thing ticked off his list was to build a new house.

Visit Paris –yes. Climb Uluru – yes. Visit Machu Pichu – not yet. Visit Paris again – not yet! I don’t like the notion of the “bucket list” and prefer to think of my life as a colourful palette. Each day we create what we will. Sometimes it can be a muddy mess while at other times it is so beautiful beyond all expectation.

I have felt like I was falling – my life changes so total I have struggled to find my feet. This morning I realised I am flying not falling. The typical morning-mind complaints rattled around in my brain, whinging about the injustice of having to get up early to drive to the rural airport; when a scene so unique and beautiful stopped me and made me realise how lucky I was to  be out of bed early after all.

I was driving through patches of fog as morning light illuminated the countryside in soft pastel stripes of pink, blue and grey. The pastures lit up in vivid green and the white wind turbines turned their man-made symmetry in slow motion above the fog. It was a jewel of a day, so lovely and precious that I felt lucky and privileged and snapped out of my morning fug. Indeed I was lucky to be alive. I thought about stopping and taking a photo but I knew this could not be captured within the confines of a small digital image.

And that got me thinking about how my life has changed in so many ways. I recall wanting change and now every day is different and new. I had lifted myself out of the stagnant predictable sameness that it was, into a fresh, vibrant, challenging, rewarding and creative experience. We (my husband and I) pushed the boundaries and expanded our life experience to be fuller and richer.

Last night I was in a small country town hall at a public meeting listening to locals talk about their town. Today (in an unrelated matter) I enjoyed fine dining in The Melbourne Room of the Melbourne Town Hall then just three hours later I am in the plane banking over Discovery Bay looking down on an emu racing back into the pine forest.

Maybe the meditation is having an effect, allowing me to be quick to appreciate life more often. The power of mindfulness.

We are Fifty and Flying not Falling.

Clear blue mind

Of late I haven’t had much to say, because I have been trying to practice “clear blue mind”.

Imagining my mind as a clear blue sky, I observe the light fluffy thought clouds as they appear, drift and then disperse. I sit “zazen” emptying my mind of all thoughts trying to be untroubled and free from fear and doubt. I breathe in the crystal white light that could provide me with energy to face the day. I imagine all negative thoughts as grey smoke forced out by the light.

I can sit for 20 minutes in this way but I fail to find regularity of practice.

The Dalai Lama tells us in his book, “How to Practise: the Way to a Meaningful Life, that six times every day he imagines the eight levels of mind one by one. Those levels of mind are: mirage; smoke; fireflies; flame of a candle; vivid white sky-mind; vivid red or orange sky-mind; vivid black sky-mind; clear light. Fuller explanations of these are in his book.

It was easy to imagine “clear blue sky-mind” yesterday as I looked out the plane window above the clouds with the first glare of orange sunlight lighting the horizon. It was also easy to contemplate “death” as the plane came in through fog above the city. I knew the city was there somewhere close below. I trusted the young 20-something pilots could land us using only the instruments to guide them. It was a 20-seater and I was sitting in the very front seat, so I could clearly see the young men and the instrument panel and the white wall of fog.

In Buddhism contemplating “death” is a key teaching. Whilst not dwelling on morbidity, I have always had a keen sense of my own mortality and it gives perspective. If we were to miss the runway, then I had fully appreciated the beauty of life on earth when we were above the clouds.

Reading about how other people, Westerners especially, have come into Buddhist practices is compelling. “Why Buddhism? Westerners in search of wisdom by Vicki Mackenzie is a collection of interviews with individuals who describe their own experiences with Buddhism. I particularly like the comments about the practicality of Buddhist philosophies and how they can easily be applied to help you get through life’s little dramas. I am encouraged by the repeated observation about the depth of content and how the more people read and learn the more intrigued and interested they are to learn more. I am on the brink.

Needless to say, the pilots landed the plane beautifully. All those hours playing computer games paid off. Thanks boys.