Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘meditation’

I Carried Them With Me

geigerExcerpt featuring Nicola Geiger. From Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

Born and raised in Germany, Nicola Geiger lived in a young girl’s dream world; a luxurious home, close friends, material goods and parties galore. By the end of World War II she was homeless, without possessions and absent her loving family. Her father, mother and one-year-old son died shortly after the war began. When she was eight months pregnant with her second child she was raped. The child died at birth as a result of the trauma. She was interrogated and tortured in Poland, lost many close friends, and her dear husband Rudolf disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Since her losses during the war, Nicola persisted in reaching out to others. Immediately after the war she worked with the International Red Cross and assisted refugees. After studying in England she moved to the U.S., met her second husband, fought against McCarthyism and became involved in the civil rights movement. When they moved on to Japan, she became active in visiting the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, waged campaigns for world peace, and fought for the rights of Koreans who had been enslaved and abused by the Japanese. When her husband died she decided to move to the Philippines. There she fought for democracy and the overthrow of the Marcos regime.

Ms. Geiger:

First of all, my two children died. One was a baby and the other was when I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and was raped by twelve Russians. The child didn’t survive. It died right after birth. Fortunately, they found me in these ruins in Berlin. A lady heard me when I cried out for help and she took me to a Red Cross hospital. Then my husband disappeared and I never knew what happened to him. My father died a horrible death at the beginning of the war, which was said to be an accident, but it wasn’t – his legs were cut off while he was visiting a factory. Friends died and the absolute, total destruction of everything from the bombing. It was an enormous amount of simply taking in the losses.

Such losses can never be replaced. You’re totally wiped out . . . your associations and surroundings . . . furnishings that were two hundred years old, furniture, everything . . . so then you realize you are totally alone.

I was very active in helping refugees after the war. I moved to England where I studied theater. I came to America at the time of McCarthyism, where you were better dead than red. I was not going to stay in America one day longer with such attitudes and wouldn’t have if I hadn’t met my second husband. He was a scientist who’d worked on the Manhattan Project. He was really an extraordinary person.

I was very involved with anti-McCarthyism and the civil rights movement. I had never been told, “This is a Jew and this is a German.” I grew up in a socialist family and my father was extremely enlightened, as was my mother. My father was a Buddhist. He sat in the room where I was born and had prepared a meditation mat next to him so I could be put beside him upon birth.

I was very involved in the civil rights movement during the fifties and sixties and I worked a great deal with children in theater in order to empower them. I find theater to be a tool that is very useful. During the Vietnam War I continued in the civil rights movement. We lived in Philadelphia. There were sit ins from Baltimore up to Washington, women strike for peace and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. I was really involved with my whole heart then. When my husband went on sabbatical we went to Hiroshima Japan where he did research on atomic bomb victims, whom I worked with as well.

The Japanese had resettled two provinces in Korea and brought Koreans to Japan as slave laborers. In 1905 America and Japan made a treaty in which America took over the Philippines and Japan took over Korea. The Koreans were very badly treated, so I worked a great deal with Koreans in the Hiroshima area and in Kyoto after my husband died. I worked extensively with the Japanese peace movement and with the liberation people in Korea. For a couple years I moved to the Philippines because of my health. I lived with European journalists there and entered into the movement to oust the Marcos regime.

There was never a time when I wasn’t involved. It hasn’t been from an intellectual place. It really came from my own deep understanding of what life is about. The work I did was because I wanted to be in this world. I wanted to live in that light which takes away the occasion of all wars cruelty and control. I really understood, through my Buddhism, that I am the one that must work on myself . . . my ego. This is what I successfully did, in great part because of my experience with suffering.

Two of the major exercises which were brought to me when I was young, were to go over my day at night and decide what was harmonious and what was not. My parents did not speak of bad and good; they spoke of harmony and disharmony. They presented it in a way, because I was very small, that I was very much empowered. If I had done something, thrown a stone or fought with someone, I could go to that person and make it right or more accurately, harmonious.

My parents always used the bell. (She rings bell) The bell was used for settling down. My mother was not a Buddhist, but she saw how its values worked and she and father’s parenting was always together. There was also an enormous group of friends with whom we’d celebrate the change of the year. People would come together. Every weekend there would be music and poetry. It was an extremely interesting and wonderful life I grew up in.

I don’t really know how I managed to survive (the war), but I can tell you what happened. When I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, I thought, “I can change the world!” Don’t we all think that? I was nineteen when my father died on September 6, 1939, just six days after the war began. Then there was the attack on Poland and a few of my friends were killed. Then began the registration of food and nobody could travel on trains. Everything was regulated. My father was against Hitler and had voted against him in the election. Did you know he came into power with only thirty-three percent of the vote? A year after Hitler became chancellor he assassinated five thousand people, many who were homosexuals, gypsies (and political opponents). Five thousand people in two days! They were all rounded up.

When these things happened I really understood that I had no power; that I had been living in a fantasy; thinking my life could make a difference. I really understood that I was quite powerless, even though I knew many important people. I could go to them but they could not help me. I couldn’t say, “Let’s stop the war.” Then from my own view of the world, because of Buddhism, I really grasped, not so much understood, it really was a grasping, that I was responsible for myself and how I would live and what I would do in the midst of all that was going on. From 1943 on, when the totally destructive air raids came, I really lived day to day.

Why didn’t I have any feeling of revenge? I think this is fascinating. I thought it was futile to do so. I felt that to have these emotions were only hurting me. They didn’t give me any peace. I had feelings, not so much of revenge, but of anger and more anger. I wanted to lash back. But I began to understand very quickly, to grasp, that that would only hurt myself. I had to fight to really center down and my bell helped me with that. I centered down and did my Metta practice every day. Metta is a Buddhist meditation for loving-kindness. That was the thing to do. In many ways it’s a great mystery that I could do it. I think it had something to do with all the wonderful people I’d encountered through the years. The German people were not bad people. The people I’d been born in to were fine people. In human kindness and helpfulness I encountered many wonderful people.

So, I did my Metta practice. I didn’t deny my grief. Indeed, I felt it! I tried to commit suicide on my birthday on August 3rd, 1945. I took pills and my friends with whom I was staying came back home after I’d taken them. Luckily they’d forgotten something. I don’t speak of it very often. I was tired. I was so tired of knowing about evil. I was so tired that I wanted to rest forever. It’s really amazing all the things that went on around the world.

When I recovered, woke up and was back in the present, I was really grateful that I had lived! My time was not yet up. Indeed, I realized that I had a task. And each time someone died that was close to me; I carried them with me in their spirit. It’s like they’re marching with me. I’ve demonstrated and manifested in my life what most of the people who died would have done.

Post Script: Nicola Geiger died peacefully, after a long illness, on July 31, 2006.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

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Losing A Pet

They say cats have nine lives. I wish that were true, but the facts contradict such myths. Everything dies, including the felines, dogs and other creatures we choose to care for and have in our lives. Most animals tend to have a shorter life span than humans, thereby increasing the chances that our beloved friend will stop breathing long before we leave our mortal bodies behind.

images

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

To add insult to injury; is the often callous or dismissive attitude and comments of others when we’ve lost a non-human friend. People don’t always understand the emotional impact losing a pet can have. They disregard our pain when we try to talk about the cat or dog we’ve had for fifteen years getting sick and needing constant attention. They scoff at our tears, when our affectionate tabby is lost or killed by a car. They belittle our sense of shock and disbelief when the dog we loved and cared for tenderly for the last eight years suddenly dies.

Yet, for some, pets, animals, and companions (which ever you prefer to use as a label for non-human creatures) are some of the closest and endearing connections we experience in life. Being responsible for any of the varied creatures placed in our care takes time, attention and devotion. And, just like people, such continued time and attention creates attachment, bonding and lasting imprints.

The love and commitment we give and receive from our animal friends, in some respects, are quite unique from that of other relationships. Sometimes, they are the only living beings that love us unconditionally and don’t argue, judge or hurt us in any way. They also provide forms of communication beyond words. There desire to be touched, patted, combed, and talked to, provide warmth, softness, connection, meaning and continual reminders of enjoying the present moment.

A lady I recently met was shocked when told by her veterinarian that their beloved kitten had cancer and should be euthanized. She refused and is currently seeking a vet that will give Hospice-type services for her cat, and provide whatever is needed to make sure her family friend dies comfortably at home enjoying as many precious moments that remain. Like human beings, there should be an alternative for animals beyond that of further treatments or mercy killing.

Losing a pet also awakens other losses we’ve experienced; whether recent or long ago. When a cat of ours, named Sushi, was killed by a dog a couple of years ago, I unexpectedly found myself remembering my childhood collie, named Pinky and the grandmother I used to visit when Pinky was still alive.

The loss of your animal friend should be treated the same as that of a human. Talk about the loss; share your pictures, memories, tears and grief. Walk, run, swim, workout, hike, bicycle, dance, play or listen to music a couple of times s a week by yourself or with a friend.

Breathing exercises, visualizations, relaxation, stretching, meditation, affirmations and yoga have all been shown to relieve stress, anxiety and positive endorphins to help the body heal.

Relax in a hot tub, hot bath, shower, sauna or sweat lodge and let the emotions seep from your pores and evaporate with the steam.

Put together a collage, altar, memory book, picture frame, treasure box, video or CD of your cat, dog, bird, horse or rabbit.

Have a service or gathering. Memorials and/or funerals; provide validation of your relationship with that being; acknowledgment that their life was of value; and societal affirmation that all living creatures are to be honored and respected.

If you’ve lost an animal friend, at any time in your life and would like some additional support (outside your circle of family and friends) contact the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals), an empathetic therapist or your local grief-counseling center.

Further reading at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Can I have a word?

From Abbott Toshiba’s 14th Lama Sutras. Some words out of Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

What is Zen?

Zen is another word for meditation.

Meditation is another word for mindfulness.

imagesMindfulness is another word for vipassana.

Vipassana is another word for awareness.

Awareness is another word for satori.

Satori is another word for presence.

Presence is another word for Buddhism.

Buddhism is another word for Buddha.

Buddha is another word for one who is awake.

Being awake is another word for meditation.

Meditation is another word for Zen.

What is Zen? It’s another word.

Many more words at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Aunt Tova’s Closet

imagesChantall’s story about her aunt’s material things. Excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Master Tova’s niece, Chantall, had recently arrived from the land of the Maori to care for her aunt in her final days. The first thing The Master requested was that Chantall clean out her bedroom closet.

“It would be my pleasure Auntie. Where would you like me to put everything?”

“Just clean it out first, then we’ll figure out what to do with it.”

Chantall went to work and was surprised to find such an array of items packed into such a small space. She pulled out three bags of clothes, ten pairs of shoes (including some sequined platform clogs), a shredded bed roll, five pairs of candlesticks (which were melted almost to the wick), fifteen unmatched socks, a pair of rusty engraved silver scissors, scroll after scroll of some ancient texts (which she could not read and did not understand), two balls of yarn, a broken knitting needle, seven lightweight blouses (with stains and various colored material), a large pair of men’s pants, a moth-eaten velvet hat, an earring, nose ring, ankle and wrist bracelets, an array of playing cards, a begging bowl, an ochre-colored robe that had turned almost gray, a wooden chess set, two brass bells, some old letters (which she planned to read as soon as her Aunt drifted off to sleep, as they appeared to be love letters), a drawing of an elephant sitting in meditation, and a necklace with a green emerald pennant in the shape of a Bodhi tree. Clearing out the closet took much longer than she’d expected.

“Now what Auntie? What would you like me to do with all your things?”

“We must first clear out the closets of our mind, before we can be free,” Master Tova replied. “A mind cluttered with ideas, thoughts, the past, the future, or desire, will never find freedom.”

“Okay,” Chantall said, “but what do you want me to do with all this?” She nodded towards the high pile of Master Tarantino’s possessions.

“That? That is nothing more than a collection of matter, which had been stored inside a container of matter. Holding on or letting go of material objects makes no difference. It is our attachment to people, places, or things which causes suffering and keeps us on the endless wheel of karma.”

“Yes. I understand Aunt Tova, but where should I take it? What do you want me to do with it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Just leave it. Better yet, why don’t you take what you wish, give some to your mother, and distribute the rest to charity?”

“I’m not sure how to say this Auntie, but most of this is useless. It wouldn’t even be worth donating.”

“Then burn it all. Light a pyre and reduce it to dust, just as I will soon become.”

“As you wish.”

Chantall took load after load out into the light of day, built a fire, and started throwing Master Tarantino’s material goods onto the fire. She kept the ancient scroll, the necklace, and a bell. She tried to retrieve the love letters, which she’d inadvertently thrown in with everything else, but it was too late. Then she returned to her aunt’s room.

“It is done Auntie.”

“Excellent. Now you are free. There is nothing holding you back. You can move on.”

“Those were your things, not mine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? Desirelessness is a trap and desire is liberation.”

“Don’t you mean . . . oh, never mind.”

As Aunt Tova drifted off to sleep, Chantall quietly tiptoed out of her room, wondering what she would have found in her aunt’s love letters, and berating herself for having inadvertently thrown them into the fire.

Chantall told this story to her mother after she returned home from caring for Aunt Tova. Her mother wrote it down and later passed it on to an undisclosed student of her sisters community.

More stories of desire at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

What A Day For A Daydream

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbAn excerpt from the hot and cold Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

A mother of one of Mistress Tova’s students missed her daughter and came to see what she was learning at the monastery. She found her daughter sleeping in the large bedroom she shared with ten other students who were also asleep. Quietly, she approached her daughter and gently shook her shoulder. Turning over slowly and rubbing her eyes, the girl awoke to see her mother sitting on her cot.

“Mother,” the girl whispered. “What a wonderful surprise.”

“I’ve missed you so much,” her mother replied. They embraced. “Are you eating okay? How’s your health?”

“Shhh,” the girl whispered to her mother. “I’m fine, but can’t you see we’re meditating?”

“Meditating?” The mother looked around at all the sleeping students. “You’re all napping. It’s the middle of the day.”

“It may look that way Mom, but we are in deep meditation.” Several snores arose above their whispers.

“When we’ll you be done, so we can visit?” her mother asked.

The girl looked outside to gauge the sun. “Another four or five hours, not much longer.”

“You’re going to sleep your entire day away.”

“Oh no, Mom,” the daughter said, her eyes shining brightly. “Mistress Tova says that it is best to sleep in, take long naps, and relax as often as possible, day or night. She says that it wakes us up to the reality of what is real.”

“You’re kidding?” Her mother said.

“Kidding? I’m not a kid Mom.”

Her mother rolled her eyes. “You left home to live like a sloth and sleep all day?”

“It’s not like that. You don’t understand. Mistress Tova says this is the surest path to enlightenment.”

“Then Mistress Tova is . . . never mind.” She kissed her daughter on the cheek, and stood. “Let me know when you’re done. I’ll be outside. I think we need to talk.”

More devious koans, stories, & tales, at Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Maid Service

An excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

There was a man who traveled thousands of miles to see Master Tarantino, certain that being in her presence would bring the peace and enlightenment he craved. He asked for an audience every day for a week until he was finally invited into the inner sanctum to meet The Master. He was certain his wishes would be fulfilled and all the answers to his questions answered. The moment arose and he entered. To his surprise, there was no one present.

“Hello,” the seeker whispered. When there was no answer he called out. “Hello! Master?”

“In here,” she hollered.

He followed the sound to a small doorway to the left of the dais in the back of the meditation hall. He looked in and saw Master Tarantino apparently on her knees cleaning the toilet bowl.

“Master, I have come thousands of miles and waited many days to see you.”

The Master turned her head and smiled. “That’s wonderful.” She stood and handed him the brush. “Clean this. When you’re done come see me in the garden.”

The seeker reluctantly took the brush and began cleaning. “This must be a test of my devotion,” he reasoned, “to see if I am worthy.” When he’d completed the task he went to see The Master in the garden. He found her sleeping and quietly woke her. It was a hot day.

“I’m done,” he said and proceeded to sit cross-legged on the ground, awaiting her teachings.

images-1“What?” she said, rubbing her eyes and yawning? “Oh, it’s you.” The seeker waited patiently for his instructions on finding peace and happiness. “If you don’t mind, would you please do the laundry? It won’t take long. It’s over there in that big washbasin. The river’s only a mile or two down the road. Let me know when you’re done.”

Reluctantly, the seeker stood, looked at the smiling Master and did as he was instructed, believing it was another task to prepare him for the golden words he longed to hear.

By dusk, the laundry had been hand-washed and scrubbed and brought before Master Tarantino who was finishing a sumptuous dinner. “Excellent,” she exclaimed, upon the seeker presenting himself and the folded laundry. “You deserve a treat. Sit. Take a load off your feet.” The student placed the laundry on a chair, sat, and bowed to The Master, as she took her plate of leftovers and placed it before him. He bowed again, eating greedily, as she poured him a glass of water, which he gulped down from thirst. Bowing once again, he waited for his spiritual instruction.

“You’ll do,” The Master said. “I’m going to bed early. Tomorrow’s a busy day.”

“Master,” the bewildered student exclaimed. “What is the significance of ‘you’ll do’?”

“Significance?”

“Are you saying I’m good enough as I am, that I am enough? Does it imply validation for my journey and quest? Is it meant to teach me to be and not do? I beg you to explain.” He bowed once again.

“Begging does not suit you,” she grinned. “You are the help we asked for, are you not?”

“Help?” the student exclaimed.

“They said you were from a far off land and would be arriving any day. We promised room and board. You are exactly as requested. Sister Hernandez will show you to your cot.” The Master nodded at the sister who entered, waiting to lead the seeker to his room.

“No. No. No. There’s been some mistake,” the student said. “I’ve traveled thousands of miles and waited many days to accept your teachings and find peace and happiness.”

“Excellent,” The Master said, as she was leaving. “You’ll do.”

More satirical koans, stories, & tales, at Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Troubling Times

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbAn excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

A student came to study with Master Tarantino Toshiba after a recent separation. She was fed up with relationships and said she was tired of the whole mating game. She’d rather go it alone and find peace of mind through meditation.

“Go back to your ex and give it a little longer,” advised Master Toshiba. “But this time make sure to meditate non-stop while engaged in any conversation or activity with your partner.”

“You’re telling me to leave and return to that selfish, nagging cheater and try again?”

“Yes, but try not to call them names, as that tends to make people feel bad.”

The student thought The Master had misspoken, since she had no idea what her ex was really like, but she trusted her teacher and returned home. After a month of re-kindled arguments and negativity, she returned to her teacher.

“This is not working Master. No matter how hard I try to meditate or have loving thoughts, they continually ignore me, put me down, and tell me what to do. I want to stay here with you and the other nuns to find some peace of mind.”

“If you can’t find peace of mind at home with those you love, you will not find it in a monastery, community, or distant cave.”

“But Liz is insufferable. Aren’t there times when one needs to move on?”

“What’s her name?” The Master asked.

“My partner? You know Liz.”

“Oh yes. I know Liz,” Abbess Tova said. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

“I assumed you knew who I was speaking about.”

“It is best to never assume anything,” replied the Abbess.

“Well, I apologize if I wasn’t clear.”

“No apology needed and it is accepted.” The Master smiled. “In this case, as I said before, there are times when some situations are hopeless and one must move on in order to find freedom.”

More satirical koans, stories, & tales, at Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

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