March 28, 2015

At what point does childhood end? Is it when we turn 16 and can have a job? Does it happen when one becomes able to vote in an election? Does it happen when one is able to have a beer? Or does childhood end when becomes a parent?

It is a difficult question to answer, without going into a debate.  My intent here is not to create a political, societal, or life heated debated.

To me, the end of childhood was on March 28, 2015.  Granted, I had already been a parent for 10 years.  I was able to vote. I could drink (but never really liked the feeling of not being in control).  I live in my own house, on my own income.  Yet, I still had the fun dreams and visions of life.  Disney movies are still up there on my Top 50 list of favorites.  I knew that there was someone I could call, regardless of time, who would help me make decisions that mattered.  I enjoyed going over to a house and asking what was for supper.

But, on March 28, 2015 the of my childhood started.  My father was a courageous man.  He was diagnosed in 2013 with an aggressive form of lung cancer that had spread to his brain, liver, and spine.  He was originally given six months.  Those six months can and went.  He was given another six months. They also came and went.  In November of 2014 DSCN0606.JPGwe took a family vacation to Disney World.  It wasn’t just myself, my husband, child and parents.  It was extended family.  In total,  the 14 people who meant the world to my father went to the happiest place on Earth.  We made memories that have stood the test of time.  We saw the ocean, the Space Center, and had the time of our lives.  For a week, nothing existed.  Cancer did not have a hold on my family.  It was just us and the experience of a lifetime.

We returned to life as normal, but knew that this was our last Christmas, my last birthday, and my son’s last season with his papa and my father.

The day he passed, my childhood ended.  I knew what it felt like to experience a hurt so deep that you can’t express it.  To feel that you must now the one to make all the decisions.   It was then that life would never be the same.

In the two years since, I have found more of myself than I thought.  I still love Disney.  My Little Pony is nostalgia also.  A game of capture the flag? I’m there! But there is also a sadness around holidays for the table is missing a chair.

I have also realized that suffering is part of life.  In the Buddha’s teaching of the Four Noble Truths, I found the peace I was looking for.  While one can argue for a divine existence and  reasons for everything, I found myself more upset because it wasn’t fair.  Life, however, is never fair.  It is through the basis of understanding the Four Noble Truths that I have come to accept and see that childhood never really ends.  We always have a piece of our youth with each of us.  It is what makes us, well, us.  We find the memories and the feelings and pass them on to our children.  Tree forts, coloring books, hide and seek, nerf wars.. Yes, I still love them.  I have even taught my son how to pitch better than his father! Why? Because it was part of childhood.

What about you? Do you feel that childhood ends, or that we still have a piece of us with us at all times?  I know being an adult and acting like one are two different things.  But given a chance, I will take a day in a tree fort over a day in the office!

~J.J.~

 

 

Expanding on Impermanence

Nothing Lasts ForeverImpermanence is a tricky subject.  In today’s world the concept of impermanence applies more so to objects and items, rather than to life.

In Buddhist thought, impermanence holds that nothing will every be the same.  Events change, people come and go, and life can change.  Impermanence helps to provide the foundation for the first Noble Truth (more on that later).  How does one begin to wrap their head around the fact that nothing states the same? It isn’t easy, nor should it be.  Through study, one is able take hold of the difficult, complex topic and make it understandable.

Case in point: when the next Iphone or Galaxy is released, hundreds of thousands of people will buy this version simply because it is new.  The current phone, though still functional, will either be traded in, sold, or discarded for something that is new, shiny, and a “must have.”

By using the phone as a metaphor, life is in a constant state of change. Just as cells are always regenerating, each moment will never be able to happen exactly as it was before.  In our lives there are moments we are thankful for that we will not repeat.  Thankfully, due to the concept of impermanence, we will not have too.  For the moments that we wish we could recreate at any moment: we are out of luck.  We may try to recreate them at a later time, yet something will be different: weather, time of day, age of people, the list goes on.  For the moments that we wish we can hold onto: they will live on in our hearts.

Impermanence also allows for the difficult times when one does not feel that they can begin again to understand that it will pass.  Events change. We change. We are given a new opportunity each and every moment. Thanks to the concept of impermanence, we can begin a new, at any time.

~J.J.~

 

 

A Jolt of impermanence

Image result for lightning photo

Photo Credit: NOAA

On my path, one of the core teachings that I have struggled with is the concept of impermanence.  Everything is changing, thus any moment that one has had will never be repeated.  I have had that feeling on Tuesday of last week.  I was jolted back to reality and reminded that life, and careers, are impermanent. For almost five years I had went to work as scheduled.  I performed my normal tasks, along with any others the managers requested.  The sudden “normal” was taken from me.  Instead, I was jolted back to the fact that I would not longer have a career as of 1:00 PM CST.  A jolt is defined as “a push or shake (something or someone) abruptly or roughly.  I was abruptly shaken by feelings that I did not know I could possess towards my career.

For numerous years, I was semi-defined by the position I held.  I was not a manager, per-say simply for the fact that I had no direct reports.  I did however, see make sure that the day to day operations ran smoothly, paperwork was completed, and any other task that they felt I could handle.  Now, I am embarking on a new path.  One I started before the jolt of internal company-wide restructuring happened.  Life is what you make it. It is impermanent.  It is ever-changing.  Yet, who knows what is good and what is bad?
Simple take each day, one at a time, and follow the gentle (somethings harsh) ebb and flow of events as they come.

~J.J.~

Free time and planning

I was unexpectedly let go from my place of employment on 04/12/2017.  I had been with GWES for almost 5 years.  While there was some restructuring on one side of the company, the retail side did not experience as many lay offs… until now.  My position, along with two others were eliminated in my store, and company wide.  Thus, there are at least 100 people looking for new jobs.

Since I have a new abundance of free time, I feel it would be a good idea to get the ball rolling on what I hope to accomplish with this blog.  In the vast world of cyber-space there are numerous “experts”. Some truly are a recognized expert in their field. For myself, I hope to simply share my journey on following the path to enlightenment with transparency.  Does it mean I will ever become enlightened? I do not know. I simply know that though my experiences in life with never fully match those of another, different perspectives and insight can be vital when one is facing a difficult journey of their own.  I enjoy writing, studying new material, and applying it to my life.  In some way, this might turn into a series. Or maybe it will just be the ramblings of someone trying to navigate this thing called life. It can be messy. It can be scary.  It is uncertain.  But it does not have to be lonely.  I have made a decision to follow a particular path, which merits its own form of unknown. Sharing my journey with you, will take many forms; include many characters; and be real.

Welcome to my journey as I pursue this path set before me.  I look forward to the times ahead!

~J.J.~

The Horse and Life

There is a Chinese proverb that goes like this:

Once there was a Chinese farmer who worked his poor farm together with his son and their horse. When the horse ran off one day, neighbors came to say, “How unfortunate for you!” The farmer replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.”When the horse returned, followed by a herd of wild horses, the neighbors gathered around and exclaimed, “What good luck for you!” The farmer stayed calm and replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” While trying to tame one of wild horses, the farmer’s son fell, and broke his leg. He had to rest up and couldn’t help with the farm chores. “How sad for you,” the neighbors cried. “who knows what is good and what is bad,” said the farmer. Shortly thereafter, a neighboring army threatened the farmer’s village. All the young men in the village were drafted to fight the invaders. Many died. But the farmer’s son had been left out of the fighting because of his broken leg. People said to the farmer, “What a good thing your son couldn’t fight!” “Who knows what is good and what is bad,” was all the farmer said.

Much like the farmer, we all experience events in our life that we did not foresee.  For example, I was recently let go from my employment due to internal restructuring.  It was not only my position, it was company wide.  There are numerous people now without the steady source of income.  Yet, who knows what is good and what is bad? I know that I will be able to have food, shelter, and water.  I do not know what the future holds. I am open to new opportunities as they arise.

This parable is one that has stuck with me.  When assigning events in life as either good or bad, we are forced to keep them in the designated box.  We become tied to the “outcome” of the event.  Was it bad that I no longer have a job? Yes! Is it good that I am able to spend more time with my son? Yes! In this instance, who knows what is good and what is bad? The event would fit nicely in both boxes.

I do not know what the future holds, which can lead to anxiety or peace.  I can be at peace with the fact that while life was unexpectedly altered, I will be ok.  The reason for this knowledge: life is an ever-changing motion of ebb and flow.  Just learn to go with the flow.

Who would have thought? Not me,

In the Western world, Easter is fast approaching.  With that in mind, there is something that has been on my mind for many days. According to Top 10, the following are the top five world religions as of April 2017, in order: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. path Each of these have similar traits to the others, yet are different enough to be distinguished among non-followers throughout the world.

So, a little about me, to help fill the gaps: I attended a private Christian school until 6th grade.  I then transitioned into the public school until graduation from high school.  I attended three different colleges: a community college, a state university, and a private Baptist college.  I have obtained degrees in religion as well as business.  Yet, there was something that was in the back of mind always: how does one follow blindly a path without questioning?

Fast forward many years and the following life events: a child, marriage, (numerous furbabies), the death of close family members: 2 grandfathers, an aunt, a grandmother, a great grandmother, and about the same on my husband’s side of the family.  Yet, nothing prepares for the loss of a father.  It was one of the darkest times of my life for the following reasons. He was my father first, yet he was also my friend. He taught me how to fix a car, yet also how to walk in heels. He was my partner in crime, while being a shoulder to cry on.  He did let me experience life, even when he knew I would fail.  Always in the background, waiting for me to fall, or fly.  He was there to make sure my wings worked, yet there to catch me if they didn’t.  2015 was the darkest year thus far.  I am not saying the days that have subsequently come and gone have been easy.  It still hurts, and it is still raw.  There is a hole in my heart that will never be whole.

You might be thinking, “why is she telling me this?” Well, because it has brought me to where I am today.  Buddhism is a religion yes.  However, it does not seek to convert one to follow the path. The Dalai Lama explained that, in my own words, Buddhism seeks to make you a better you.  Regardless of what faith you identify with, or do not identify with.  It seeks to make you a better person. Through my courses a the private college, I was influenced by, and drawn to, Buddhism.  It is one of a few belief systems that encourage people to question everything. To take nothing on faith, because the only true statement one can make is “I do not know.”  (More on this later).

As we embark on our journey in life, there are things we do not expect.  No one, I mean NO ONE, expects to lay their father to rest before they are 30.  They do not expect their child to grow up without his grandfather, and to lose him when he is only 9.  It was at this time in my life that I decided to follow my heart and see where it will lead me.  It has led me here, on the Pursual of the Path. I know it will be a journey like no other. Difficult, rewarding, enlightening (maybe), but it will be on that is unique to each individual.  I also feel that while my journey is different from yours, we can each benefit from each other.

I welcome you to my journey, no matter how bumpy.  It may not be pretty. It may not fit in a box.  It might resemble yours, yet it is slightly different.  In an age of time where secrecy is prized, I welcome you to my journey with the spirit of transparency.

~J.J.~