Sunday, July 27, 2014

A stroll through the late July garden

A stroll through the garden in late July finds quite a few flowers in bloom. The poppies have finished, as have the lovely mauve verbenas and lavender mints, but the roses are beautiful.

The yellow will bloom steadily now until frost. Their blossoms are about 2.5 inches across.

I have a red one like this right next to it but for some unknown reason I didn't get a picture.

The pink minis will bloom until frost as well, the blossoms are only about an inch wide.These are out in the front bed at curbside.

This rose was planted before my time. The plant is about four feet tall, rangy but the colours are fantastic. They are fucshia when they open but the petals are white at the base, making them look almost transparent. The rose is surrounded by wolf willow which has silver foliage and is a perfect foil for the radiant pink of the rose.

The shasta daisies are at their best now, with about half a dozen large mounds of cheerful blooms. 

Still waiting for the echinaceas to open, there are dozens of bristling buds on their three-foot high stalks, but they are not in any hurry to petal out.

Closer to the entry the lime hosta, veronica, astilbes and ligularia are all doing well. The astilbes are just getting started, and the ligularia leaves are starting to show up. 

A close-up of the veronica - can you spot the visiting bee?

Enough for the moment. I spent about half an hour weeding today but the black cedar mulch was a great idea. The weeds root in that top 2" of mulch and can be yanked out with practically no effort.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Talking at cross-purposes

Let us eavesdrop a moment on the "peace" talks, you know, the meetings where diplomats and mighty poo-bahs with testosterone-fueled egos sit around tables in fancy hotels and give fancy speeches, and pretend to listen to each other, all with the aim of stopping the armies, the bombs, the bazookas and tanks, the slaughter of women and children.  If we could hear what actually goes on I imagine it is exactly as this old story told of two debating monks.


Provided he proposes and wins a debate about Buddhism with the monks who live there, any wandering monk can enter and remain in a Zen temple. If he is defeated, he has to move on.

In a small temple in northern Japan two monks dwelt together as brothers. The elder one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.

A wandering monk came to the door late one day and asked to enter their temple, properly challenging them to a debate. The elder monk, tired and aching in his old bones, told the younger monk to take his place. "Go and debate him, but request the dialogue take place silence," he cautioned.

So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.

Shortly afterwards the traveler rose and went in to the elder brother and said, "Your young brother is a wonderful fellow. He has defeated me."

The elder monk was astonished. "Relate the dialogue to me," he said.

"Well," explained the traveler, "first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one. So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching. I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers, living life in harmony. Then he shook his clenched fist in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization. Thus he won and so I have no right to remain here. I will travel further." With this, he bowed and took his leave.

"Where is that insolent fellow?" asked the younger one, running in to his elder brother.

"I understand you won the debate."

"Won nothing! When I catch him I'm going to beat him up."

"Tell me the subject of the debate," asked the elder one.

"Why, the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by pointing out that I have only one eye. Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers, congratulating him that he has two eyes. Then the impolite wretch held up three fingers, laughing that then between us we have three eyes. So I got mad and was going to punch him, but he jumped up and ran away from me, and that ended it!"

Friday, July 25, 2014

Beyond a wholesome discipline…

There once was a monastery where the rules were very strict. Following a vow of silence, no one was allowed to speak at all. But every 10 years, each monk was permitted to speak just two words.

After spending his first 10 years at the monastery, one monk went to the head monk. “It has been 10 years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Bed… hard…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Ten years later, the monk returned to the head monk’s office. “It has been 10 more years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Food… stinks…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Yet another 10 years passed and the monk once again met with the head monk who asked, “What are your two words now, after these 10 years?”

“I… quit!” said the monk.

“Well, I can see why,” replied the head monk. “All you ever do is complain.”


I admit a certain sympathy for that poor monk, who was "always" complaining.  Sometimes it feels as if that is what I chiefly do, though I'm actually usually trying to work out a strategy for getting more done than moaning about my lot in life. 

It's difficult to balance my limited energy reserves against what must be done, and when I don't get it right I can end up spending several days in too much pain to do much of anything, which is frustrating. 

But, as I often tell my husband, you just have to do the best you can do. Sometimes that's not much more than sitting in the rocker and watching a video or reading, sometimes it's more. But as much as I tell him that, I feel terribly guilty when I can't keep up.

After a busy week (for me) last week I was exhausted. The last couple of days I've been really tired but today I felt better. I was able to do laundry, make the bed, tidy and dust.  And I made dinner! Just simple steak with mushroom and onions and some bean thread noodles and lentils with a curry and coconut sauce but it was food, hot, on a plate, which is a triumph for me many days. 

But I saw this little photo on Facebook and thought; Well, that's what we do. We do our best, with what we have.

And I guess you can't reasonably ask more of yourself than that, without doing lasting harm.

As Max Ehrmann said in Desiderata:

"Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

KIVA and the peanut farmer

Jiguisseme B Group Kafana Mali

In this Group: Mariam K, Kadia Ali, Mariam O, Saran, Assetou A, Toron, Awa Salif, Maria Modibo, Bintou, Mamine B

This month's KIVA loan goes to the ten members of the Jiguisseme B Group, all married women who are, on average, 38 years old and have three children. Most of them live in traditional families in the commune of Kafana, Sikasso district, Mali.

During the winter months, the women work with the KIVA field partner, Soro Yiriwaso, in order to improve their agricultural businesses. This will be their tenth group loan. The previous loans were all fully and correctly repaid.

Saran (in the yellow dress, standing second from the right in the photo) grows peanuts. She will use her loan to buy fertilizer, herbicide, and pay someone to help her work her acre land. She sells her peanuts in Sikasso. Saran expects to make a profit equal to about $150.00 USD, which will enable her to repay her loan and help her husband to provide for their family's day-to-day expenses.

This is a Group Loan

The other nine members of the group each have a small business which they will invest their $95.00 loan in to improve its profitability. In a group loan, each member of the group receives an individual loan but is part of a larger group of individuals. The group is there to provide support to the members and to provide a system of peer pressure, but groups may or may not be formally bound by a group guarantee. In cases where there is a group guarantee, members of the group are responsible for paying back the loans of their fellow group members in the case of delinquency or default.

Soro Yiriwaso is a microfinance institution that works primarily in rural and semi-urban areas of Mali to provide underprivileged communities with access to financial services. The organization provides access for disadvantaged clients, particularly women, to new resources and services, fostering solidarity and cooperation among its clients. Kiva lenders’ funds enable Soro Yiriwaso to expand its outreach and target even more under served Malians involved in business and agriculture.

Many Kiva Field Partners implement innovative business practices and offer services in addition to their financial products to meet the needs of the people they serve. For example, many organizations partner with health-focused agencies to provide health care services to their clients who are more likely, as a result of good health, to be able to repay their loan. The inability to treat health related issues, when borrowers did not have access to health care, had the potential to cause them to fall back into the cycle of poverty despite running a successful business.

Other examples include institutions that stress the importance of education. This can mean loans that enable parents to start businesses and bolster their income so they can send their children to school, as well as educational workshops on topics that are not financial in nature, such as the prevention of disease and domestic violence.

This month we doubled our usual loan, in memory of our daughter Mary Margaret Isabel. Please consider joining us as KIVA partners and reaching out to lend a helping hand to a hard working business person. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The illusive mustard seed

There's a story told of a mother who early one morning took her newborn son who had died in the night, to the Buddha, prostrated herself before him and weeping with grief said, "I have heard of your great wisdom Lord. Surely you have a medicine that can bring my baby back to life again."

The Buddha looked on her with deep compassion, knowing that there was nothing he or anyone else could do anything to restore her child to life. But he could not bear to send her away with no hope. So he gently told her, "Yes, there is such a medicine. But to make it I need one ingredient I do not have, which you must search out for me."

"Oh, anything," she responded, "I will get anything you need."

"It is a simple thing," he said. "I need only one mustard seed from a house in this village which has not been visited by death, and has never suffered the grief of parting from one they dearly loved."

The woman rushed off and began calling on her neighbours, explaining what she needed. But at every door she was told with tears of the children, wife or husband, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and grandparents who had been called by death, and of the burden of grief lying on every heart.

At the end of the day she went back to the Buddha, heartsick and exhausted, but with understanding. "There is not a single house in the village where death has not come," she said.

"Now you know you are not alone in your grief," the Buddha told her. "Take your child home, pay your respects and bury him. Your grief is everyone's grief. Loss is universal. Remember and honour your child by extending compassion and comfort to all those who also grieve."

And so it is we live with grief and understand that it is universal. She never forgot her child. I know because 43 years ago I also held a dead infant, which no one could restore to life, and I grieved, and I will grieve forever.  Born sleeping one mother called it. One day active and kicking, and then stillness. My breasts, readying themselves to nurse, felt different, less full. There was a bloodstain.

I called the doctor. "Oh," he said, as if he were talking about losing a mitten or a book he hadn't much cared for. "You've lost it, it's died. You'll go into labour within the week. Come to the ER when you do."

The labour was quick. She was born in the car on the way to the hospital. I ducked into the washroom just inside the door and took her out of the leg of my slacks. She was bloody, and wet, and her skin was peeling off like petals falling from a rose. Legs the size of my thumb, such delicacy. The membrane was still around her head, and I was in shock and felt I might faint in the cubicle. I thought they'd let us see her, hold her, once we were in a room, so I didn't take the membrane off. I should have looked at her face. I never even saw my baby girl's face. She lay curled in my two hands.  I didn't want her exposed to the curious stares of the people sitting in the waiting area of the ER. I wrapped her still, small body in toilet tissue.

I walked shakily to the nurse's station and handed her to the nurse behind the desk.  I don't remember anything else except lying on a gurney. The doctor was behind me. He had her, was unwrapping her. I asked if I could hold her. He said no, it was better if I didn't see "it" or touch "it".

I asked my doctor later what they did with her and he said all stillborns under a certain weight were cremated, no birth certificates, no acknowledgement they ever existed.  He said just forget about "it" - pretend it hadn't happened. But how do you carry a child for seven months and "just forget it"?

Mothers were shamed for grieving a stillborn baby then. You were told not to cry, not to "worry" your husband with it, and not to even acknowledge your loss. And for many years I didn't. I soldiered on, and stayed quiet, until I just couldn't bear to do it anymore. 

"The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same again. Nor should you be the same, nor should you want to."  ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross 

Mary Margaret Isabel born sleeping 17 July 1971


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Waiting for Daisy

It's been a month since the landscapers came out and weeded the flower beds, then covered the earth in black cedar mulch. We had lots of rain for a couple of weeks, and for the last few days we've had what passes for hot weather in Calgary, days ranging from 23 - 31 C (73-88 F). The garden has grown like crazy.

Typically not everything has thrived. Several of the petunias I bought turned up their toes and died, as did every geranium. (Was it something I said?) I didn't know geraniums were so picky.You see them blooming like crazy all over town.

 The purple mints that were so lovely earlier have now finished but both the rose bushes I planted last spring survived the winter, as did the mini-rose with orange blooms down in the front of the bed.

The purple sage and the shasta daisies are dancing around nicely with the roses and pink verbena in the front bed. If you look closely you can the coarse foliage of the echinaceas and their fattening buds. 

The bed beyond the bike rack has a native shrub called wolf willow, which has silver, granular textured leaves, and a large species rose which is red on the outside edges and white inside. This is a pretty spectacular combination, but between the bike rack and a moving van I couldn't get a good vantage point for a picture, maybe next time.

So at the moment the garden beds are a riot of colour. The poppies threw themselves into producing saucer-sized blossoms that were so vibrantly red they gave my cheap little camera lens a seizure. But they were a short lived delight.

To make up for the brevity of the poppies the Plaintain Lily Hosta has been blooming like mad for weeks. Though I failed to get a good photo you can see how many flowers it has on it.

My eyes are so bad I can't see if a picture is in focus. I take several and hope one will be good. This time I didn't get a good picture. This part of the garden sees only a bit of dappled morning sun, and is home to several hostas, a false spirea which is hanging on by its toenails and a lovely fern at the back, which you almost have to imagine in this photo. 

Two or three pale pink volunteer poppies bloomed right among the stand of purple veronicas, on the other side of the walk, but I was dealing with the flood at the time and had no chance to grab my camera and get a picture. Shame, the combination of frilled pink poppies and lavender spikes of veronica was lovely.

The lime green hosta is thriving next to the veronicas. It's shaded most of the day. Behind the veronica, though hard to see here, is the morning star ligularia. Its huge purple-green leaves wilt down every day, and come back up as the day cools. The flowers are just like big yellow daisies or sunflowers, but the foliage is so interesting.

Closer to the doors the purple-leaved coral bells are blooming, the tiny blossoms hover above the plants like pale pink fireflies, as in all but bright sunlight the stalks are so fine as to be nearly invisible.

And in what I call Isabel's Garden, my un-raked Zen garden of gravel and three stones, the sedums I planted last year survived being completely covered in a mound of ice and have covered the base of the standing stone once more. They are even beginning to bloom, little splashes of yellow on the green. 

It's what I wait for all year long. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The 24 Hour Channel called 'Monkey Mind'


A learned professor of Asian religions traveled a long distance to visit a revered Zen master. The professor was excited by the opportunity to visit the master, and eager to share his theories on how this practice developed or another was influenced by some other teaching. He talked and talked and talked, until his throat was parched.

The master called for a tea tray, set out two cups and began to pour tea into the first cup, and poured and poured and poured. The tea filled and then overflowed the cup, spilled across the table and into the lap of the professor.

When people hear this story most will identify with the Zen master. We all know people like the professor, people who don’t know when to shut up. But the truth is that we’re very much like the professor, you and certainly me. It’s a human thing.

There's a commentator in my head, constantly regretting, planning, judging, worrying, fretting, feeling irritated, or fearful, angry or anxious, excited, happy, goofy or scolding. The voice in my head is like that visiting professor - it never shuts up.

Through practice I've learned how to quiet the commentator, at least some of the time. There are still days when it screams what an awful person I am and all I want to do is sit in a corner and sob, usually because I've said or done something that hurt someone else.

And when my commentator, what the Buddha called 'Monkey Mind', will not shut up and I have no strength or energy left to do battle with it, I have to shut it out, change the channel as it were. Sometimes this is through music or a dvd, not recommended ways to deal with the commentator but the best I can do at that particular time, and I leave working on taming my monkey mind to another day. Sometimes it works out well, and I like to think at any rate, patience may overcome what force cannot. A hot shower and a good night's sleep have been the cure for many a midnight's calamity.

Tao de Ching  Verse 15 

…when a man is in turmoil
how shall he find peace

Save by staying patient till the stream clears?

How can a man's life keep its course

If he will not let it flow?

Those who flow as life flows know

They need no other force:

They feel no wear, they feel no tear,

They need no mending, no repair.

Monday, June 30, 2014

On which side of the door did you place your KIA?

There was a young monk who wanted to study with a widely respected teacher. He knew this teacher only accepted the most promising students so he studied the texts, memorized wise sayings and practiced looking impressively serene. Finally he gained an appointment for an interview with the master.

On the morning of his interview it was raining heavily. The young monk set out for the teacher's house carrying his umbrella. When he reached the teacher's house he removed his muddy shoes, closed his umbrella, sat it aside, adjusted his robes and rang the bell.

Once inside he sat where the attendant indicated and waited. After a while the teacher came in. The young monk jumped to his feet.

Now, I drive a bright red KIA Soul, which I park in stall 76 which is to the right of the double entry doors on the south side of our building. I love my little car, which was a gift from my two wonderful sons. It's easy to drive, I can get in and out of it without dislocating anything, the small back trunk area holds the wheelchair, the walker or my grocery cart. It's the perfect car for me.

So I was more than a little perplexed when my neighbour hammered insistently on my door yesterday afternoon to tell me that a tow truck was towing my car away! I wobbled after him as quickly as I could, the driver was securing the last wheel to the trolley as we arrived in the parking lot. My KIA was not in its usual stall.

My first question was; "What is my car doing here? Did you move it?"

"No," he said, "it's been ticketed to be towed for being illegally parked here. We received a complaint that your car was parked in this stall, which belongs to someone else."

It was stall 66. Ten stalls in the line-up short of my stall. (Gobsmack)

I'd made a quick trip to the Walmart the day before, to try and find tomato cages or braces or anything that would keep the topiaries we'd placed in the big concrete pots out front from toppling over. I wanted the bases secured to concrete blocks and buried in the gravel, but I could not get the young men doing the work to do it the way I wanted. They put the blocks in, wrapped a strand of wire around and left the pots perched on top of the gravel. We've had 60 mph winds the last few days, and I've rung myself out trying to wire the darn things down better, but they just flop over again. 

They had no tomato cages, no braces that I could see how to implement. I came home with two iron cage-like things - obelisks - for the garden. They were heavy. Some assembly required. I got them unpacked, clipped off all the plastic rings and tags I wouldn't be able to reach once they were in place and put them together. They were a foot taller than I am, but after struggling to get the first one on I learned that they were too narrow to encircle the topiaries. A real topiary yes, one made of whatever solid material fake topiaries are made of - no.

They were going to stand a good foot higher then the top, and lack a good foot from reaching the gravel at the base of the pot. I could have cried. If I'd had the strength to take them off and take them apart I'd have taken them back, but I had none of that. So I came inside, got some grape ivy greenery I've had for like 20 years and wired the bottom rung of the obelisks to the wire holding the pots.

By now I was wringing wet, weak and getting a bit befuddled, as I do when I'm tired. I slammed the trunk of the KIA, drove around the building and in my haze realized I had driven right past my parking spot. The line of cars in the stalls was unbroken.  I put the car in reverse and backed up until I saw my empty stall with the '6' peeking out from my sign. The car to my left was different than the one usually there, but Jess is a mechanic and often drives a different car home.

"So you want to study with me?" the teacher asked, looking out the window at the falling rain. "Have you prepared yourself? Are you ready to learn what I have to teach?"

"Oh yes," the young monk answered, "I have studied very hard."

I got out of the car, crossed the lot and was puzzled momentarily by the door I found myself at, a single door, not the usual double door I usually come through.  I was not awake.

"On which side of my door did you place your umbrella?" the teacher asked.

The young monk's thoughts flew back to the moment when he closed his umbrella and leaned it on the wall beside the door. He could not remember, his thoughts had not been on the umbrella, but only with the interview before him. "I don't remember," he said, "is where I placed my umbrella of importance?"

"Until you wake up and learn to pay absolute attention to every moment and what it holds I cannot teach you anything," the teacher answered.

The tow truck driver said; "Once we have the wheels off the ground we're supposed to pull the car to the impound lot. But I can see this was just an honest mistake. We have the option to refuse to tow. I'll do that, and I'll call the city but they don't usually rescind tickets."

He got on his radio while I hurried to get my keys. By the time I was back he had my car back on its own wheels and was trying to talk the City out of the ticket, but they said no. But at least I avoided the impound lot which would have cost $480.00 plus the parking ticket to retrieve my vehicle.  As is the parking ticket will cost me $40.00. The person who was parked in stall 76 when I came home will remain unknown. 

Next time I park my KIA I will be awake, even if I am falling down from exhaustion.  A nudge to awaken… so be it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Clinging and the backward 'C'

Life Rocks!
I must say we've made great progress at the job of purging and organizing this past week. In the living room my goal was to get rid of enough books/dvds to completely empty the bookshelf we'd stuck on top of the secretary desk.

I was a bit ruthless. Dvd's we'd not watched in ages or would not likely watch again went out. A great pile of them. A great pile of books, including some I really loved, but my heart was steel. 

There's a "Freecycle" table next to the front entry downstairs. The dvds went to a friend down the hall who came by while I was busy purging, the books to the Freecycle table. I had my doubts if some of the philosophy and history books would go but they flew.

Contents which were staying were then redistributed between the remaining bookcases, the empty one was cleaned and dusted and carried off to the bedroom where it slid into my closet beneath my clothes and was then filled with my art supplies and such.  There's now a nice neat space in the linen closet for other things.

I bought a nice white square basket for the "disaster" towels; you know - the ones you have to keep on hand for when a grain of rice get stuck in the gasket of the dishwasher and a flood ensues? That new basket went on the top shelf of the linen closet, with the disaster towels rolled in it. Since I can't really reach that shelf I've been throwing the folded towels up there, and they magically unfolded themselves on the journey, arriving to lie in odd configurations on a shelf I can't reach to straighten without a ladder. 

I'm not sure if it's just this building or if this is the new norm everywhere, but any time a neighbour comes over they have to inspect our entire place, so you feel an obligation to be at least reasonably presentable at all times. This building has a dozen differently configured units, and each configuration can be flipped right or left, so there are dozens of combinations and there seems to be an obsession about which one you have and how you use the rooms. "Do you have a 'C', or 'Z'? Mine's a backward 'C', or "I have an 'L'." The 'L' is a studio, with the room we use as a living room, plus a kitchen/dining room, plus of course the bathroom and linen closet combo.  Pauline downstairs has an 'L' and uses the 'den' as her bedroom, shoehorning her sofa and living area in the six foot extension past the kitchen cupboards.

We have a backward 'C'. We use the 'den' as a living room, and the kitchen/dining room as kitchen and dining room. Of course we also have a bedroom. A neighbour who visited a few days ago inspected our place then said he has the 'L', uses the den as his office during the day and has a Murphy bed he sleeps on. I know someone with a 'L' who has boxes lining every wall with a single recliner in the middle of the dining area facing a TV on the wall. I don't think she even has a bed. The wall of boxes bristles with hangers and broomsticks, mop sticks, odd bits of unidentifiable metal. I don't know how she finds anything. More to the point I don't know how she keeps from putting out an eye!

I guess what fascinates us about all these others' homes is behind what someone signing themselves as  Sauveteur commented on Apartment Therapy a couple of years back; "Every home tells the story of the person or people who live there. All you need to do is open the door and the story that your house is trying to tell the world will immediately say what you would rather keep a secret."       

When a first-time visitor came a few days ago, I expected him to come in and sit down in the living room as invited. Instead he walked around (I was a bit shocked) and looked at everything. He asked about our configuration, the backwards 'C'.  As we talked he looked around, with bored disinterest, like you look at the health posters on the doctor's exam room wall, at the pictures of my parents, the bleached and long-dead turtle shell I picked up beside a dusty country road 30 years ago, the seashells, the paintings on the walls, the model ship in the case, my "pile-of-books" coffee table. These sentimental "treasures" of mine meant nothing to him. They didn't even rouse his curiosity.

One basic Buddhist teaching is that there is suffering in life, and that we suffer to the degree we crave and cling. So is the secret revealed by my home that I cling too much to the past? The art is old, the photos are of people who are gone. Seashells, such lovely forms but the animals who built them are long, long dead. Old rusting boxes, for pencils, cough drops and dusting powder; and aside from my medical references and nature books (identification of birds, plants, mushrooms, trees, etc.) I prefer old books. Books about people going back to childhood homes and towns and finding the town or themselves irrevocably changed.

There is an antidote to unhealthy clinging in Buddhism, the eight-fold path that shows us how to live with moderation. I'm doing my best to get this place organized and uncluttered, but even more I need to stop clinging to the past. The past is (literally) no place to stay. It's simply the place you journeyed  from, physically but even more importantly, metaphorically; Wendell Berry said;  …the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home. ~ The Unforeseen Wilderness    

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What do you do when an @$$hole throws rocks?

"[here] is an idea that is difficult for Westerners to accept: when someone harms us, they create their own suffering. They strengthen habits that imprison them in a cycle of pain and confusion.  …when they harm us, we unintentionally become the means of their undoing. Had they looked on us with loving-kindness, however, we’d be the cause of their happiness. 

But what’s true for them is also true for me. The way I regard those who hurt me today will determine how I experience the world in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it." *

Ask me about this most of the time and I'm all bobble-head smiley-face you betcha. Buddhism ROCKS! But tonight for a good long stretch of the drive home after a board meeting my gutter "French" got one hell of a workout.

Granted, I wasn't the only one. As we spilled out of the board room the air was positively blue. The atmosphere in the meeting was so taut you could have used it as a trampoline. There was a lawyer at the table, not for decoration, but to try and keep a lid on.

The person who was the cause for all the swearing is married to the person who was president of our board last year. She was doing a great job until she had a stroke which affected her ability to do the job properly. The board had to finally ask her to resign. This made her furious and her belligerent, domineering husband decided to avenge her honour by nominating himself to the new board with the intent of ripping us all (and me in particular) to shreds.

He sent a barrage of angry, verbally abusive e-mails even before the term's work began and tonight he criticized every breath I've drawn since joining the board several years ago. Everything bad that has happened since 2011 has been my fault. 

One of Buddha’s disciples went to him and said, “Master, what do I do about my enemies who throw rocks at me and call me names?”

Buddha said, “You have no enemies. Hatred is a defilement of the mind, a defilement you can mindfully overcome.”

This is my challenge. A test, as it were, not of my (ahem) "French" skills but of my ability to remain calm and compassionate while this 6' 7" man is looming over 5' 0" me, determined to intimidate me, since he blames me for ousting his wife, because as vice-president I had to finish out her term.

I want to experience the world in a positive light, not from a fearful and defensive position. I suspect by the end of this I will have learned a great deal more about mindfully overcoming the defilement of the mind which occurs when someone throws rocks at me and calls me names.

Or I will have taken up voo-doo, the kind where you make dolls, say incantations over them and stab them with pins. I'd say the chances are about 50/50.

*paraphrased from Pema Chödron's book No Time To Lose...