Thanksgiving 2018

I spent two years studying the first noble truth of Buddhism—my precious human life. Every morning, I tried to focus my first thoughts upon awakening on gratitude. It took months to shut down the endless lists of things my day would include and the failings of things previously left undone which had been my habit. It is known that habits take, on average, three months to break and new habits are established in only two weeks. Well, call me stubborn, but it took the whole two years to get my new habit established and the old one broken.

Every morning, sounds are the first thing I focus on. The list varies each day, but the one constant is the sound of mechanisms like air conditioning, clock ticks, ceiling fan, and oscillating desk fan. Natural sounds come next, bird song, wind chimes, my own breathing. Then, I say thank you for my warm bed, indoor plumbing and hot, fresh-brewed coffee. Before my feet touch the floor I have listed the many amenities of my privileged life, including my loving relations with people, places, and things – all my relations.

I was struck by the concept offered by my teacher that we should be thankful for our capacity to learn and to have teachers that care about our spiritual advancement. Listing my teachers would surely take another two years of focused practice. Today though, my thoughts turn to friendship. The holidays offer many opportunities to see people that we may have been missing and forgot to acknowledge. One such friend who will visit today once said to me, “ You put a lot of love out there, so you should expect to get some back.” Two things have stayed with me about that statement. First, that someone acknowledged the love I shine each day and second, that I would expect something in return. It is true that expectations are hard to avoid in this human experience but if my motivation to shine is only to get lit up by others, it ceases to be a natural way of being and more like a negotiation for profit. That I am altruistic in all my actions is less than authentic, but to strive for authentic, unconditional love is indeed a noble cause.IMG_20181031_102907

Artist unknown (happy to give credit if anyone knows)

Wary of pitfalls

Ego engages

Loving being loved

Desires more of it

Avoidance mechanics

Determines fate

Look too deep and fall into that abyss.

 

List

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Recently, I found a bucket list that I wrote on lined notebook paper in 2001, the year my youngest son graduated from high school. There were twelve items written on the paper simply titled, “THE LIST.” I was surprised to find that several items had been accomplished and as many needed revision. Impermanence is the indestructible wisdom teaching of old. It is as true today as it was when first spoken by the ancient sages. Everything changes. I felt no disappointment about the things on the list that are not going to be accomplished. Auditing physics at the local university is not a continuing aspiration but attending a Broadway play still seems attainable.

You might have already guessed that I am a list maker. I make endless list of mundane chores, writing projects, travel plans, books I want to read, etc. There is a sense of accomplishment in tearing off that completed list and moving onto the next. Many notebooks have come and gone through my 64 years of life so why is it that sometimes I feel unaccomplished? This thought has inspired a new list. The list looks like this:

  1. What I know about healing
  2. What I now about spirituality
  3. What I know about art
  4. What I know about nature
  5. What I know about mysticism
  6. What I know about relationships
  7. What I know about equanimity
  8. What I know about connectivity
  9. What I know about wellness
  10. What I know about surrender
  11. What I know about aging
  12. What I know about longing

I have no idea if this list will be revised or accomplished or forgotten in the next 17 years only to be found in a dusty binder but, I am certain that impermanence will play its part.

Art in Spirit

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Art by Agniezska Nowinska

What are the qualities of art that connect us through cultures, language, lifestyle, politics, economic status, gender, and religious belief or lack of any dogma?

If a child looks at a famous painting and responds, is it because he or she is critiquing technique or style? I don’t think so. So what is it – topic, colors?

I took Eden, at age 3 to the art exhibit of a friend. I held her up so she could see the art at her eye level. She was delighted until we came to one particular painting when she began to shake her head. I asked her if she liked it. She again indicated no. I brought the artist to the painting and showed her Eden’s reaction. Of course most artists don’t take criticism well, but my friend knew this child and explained that the abstract painting was about love and feelings of the heart. Eden still rejected the painting. I tried to see what was different about this one painting in the show and could not discern anything that could prompt Eden’s response. I remain perplexed by this experience.

What I know is that young children don’t look at art with their intellect, they feel it with their spirit eyes, with a sense of wonderment they still retain. Whatever that painting held in its spirit, Eden was not buying it.

If, as adults, we could look at art with our emotional intelligence, what would we discover about the art and about ourselves?

© 2018 Bessie Adams Senette

Visionary

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Photo by T. Senette

My new year began yesterday. It’s not that I don’t know what day it is. It’s only that I’m starting a slow movement toward renewal. 2017 was a challenging year and I didn’t want it to let the calendar hit it in the ass on the way out. Plus, this weather has me contemplating a retreat into hibernation. Our southern coast doesn’t usually see frigid temperatures until February and even then it doesn’t usually last more than 48 hours. My house is cozy and comfortable, so why expose myself to cold wind and post-holiday blues that seem to permeate the collective mood. Truth be told, it is more than that. I’m reticent, holding back my opinion of what may be in store for this year. I lack a vision for a future that includes a healthy dose of cooperation, collaboration and constructive creativity. I have no resolutions. What I would change seems unchangeable. Adding more to my to-do list is not possible. Refraining from all my cherished vices doesn’t seem likely. My mood is not sad. It’s undecided, directionless. So instead of focusing on 2018, I find myself projecting all my inspiration to 2020. So much about that year is appealing to me. It will be the year I can collect Social Security, the year we will finish paying for this oasis of hospitality that has become a fortress of solitude for me and our next opportunity to see if the country’s voting population has gained wisdom from its previous misstep in 2016.

I am determined to create art this year with a vision for 2020. I will use my creativity to inspire myself to more hope for the global collective consciousness.

I will begin in the dark where all my fears live and then seek the light that inspires courage. With enough grace I hope to emerge in authenticity and wholeness of being. What is required is structured solitude. Let the year begin!

Gratitude

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It’s easy to forget how privileged we are in the United States and especially in southern Louisiana. Unless you enjoy living off the grid and that is your privilege as well, then you don’t have to travel past your nearest indoor faucet for water.  You can have a back yard garden for vegetables and herbs and raise your own livestock for meat if you so choose. My parents lived in the marshes of lower Bayou Lafourche. They grew vegetables and fruit trees, fished, trawled and trapped for most of their food. The grocery store was 20 miles away and there they bought dairy, spices, seasonings, hardware, clothing and cleaning supplies. Of course, they had modern conveniences like cars, a television, washer and dryer and even a dishwasher. They once talked about getting some chickens but realized that the wildlife and insects would make life for chickens intolerable and they wouldn’t know what to do with them if a hurricane came.  My life in Lafayette isn’t so rustic but I enjoy the abundance of good food, good friends and great entertainment. Acadiana is rich in cultural diversity and the arts.  Now, just because I have an almost idyllic life here doesn’t mean I can’t see the suffering of others. It is true that we have room to grow and become better at many social issues. The disparagement between the poor and the wealthy is our most pressing challenge, in my opinion. Education, health care, job opportunities paying a living wage could be available for every citizen. When my parents went to the two-room school in Cut Off, Louisiana in the 30’s they studied the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic. My father went all the way to the eighth grade, my mother only to the fourth. While that schooling was free, they couldn’t continue with a formal education because they were both needed to help provide for their large families. Even if we find a way to equalize salaries and benefits, and fix the tax code, we would still be faced with a drug addiction epidemic and a mental health crisis. In the 30’s and 40’s drug cartels weren’t yet invading our cadie. Mental illness was part of  the social challenges then. Never spoken about, the mentally ill were sent to live in sanatariums. We’ve come a long way in the treatment of mental illness but the stigma still lingers that alienates the sufferers from society. Because this illness is misunderstood and misrepresented, we have a long way to go to provide proper mental healthcare. When I contemplate the beauty and abundance of my homeland and country, I see infinite potentiality. We will conquer these challenges if we contribute to collective, collaborative, and creative solutions. The personal challenge is to be grateful for life in all its juicy fecundity and apply all my features (that never were bugs) my life skills can offer. I practice by listing all that I am thankful for and remembering all the opportunities I have been given to thrive. I begin with my grandparents.

…an excerpt from “Cutting the Clouds”

First and Always

Thank you maternal grandmother for birthing the daughter who would become my precious mother, who at the time of her birth carried the egg that was the potential of me.

Thank you paternal grandmother for birthing the son who would donate his sperm to the cause making that potential a reality and for contributing to the loving father he became.

Thank you mother for my life, for nurturing me and challenging me to be more than I thought I could be. Thank you father for the lessons of humility and self worth. Thank you both for my sister and for her beauty and brilliance that helped me to shine in my own way and for my brother whose gentle wisdom taught me the importance of kindness. Thank you for the sister I never knew who taught me about the power to heal. By her life and by her death, I learned perseverance. Thank you sister for my beautiful niece, today a friend and scholar, who gifted us all with the next generation: that brilliantly clear, redheaded baby boy. Thank you family for all the times you challenged and encouraged me. Thank you ancestors, unknown and uncounted. The wisdom you came to in your lifetimes is surely part of my soul’s journey now.

Thank you, all you angels, both human and otherwise, who scolded me when I needed scolding, who taught me when I needed teaching, who lifted me up when I needed to be held, who nudged me along toward greater integrity.

Thank you my husband, heart of my heart, for your loving that surpasses understanding. Thank you my two sons for your continuing love and support and for crediting me on occasion for gifting you with life and lessons that you cherish. Thank you for the daughters I never had by choosing such exquisite wives.

Thank you Jade and James for generously sharing with me the newest addition to the community of heroines, awakening in me my Garden of Eden. While you are not children of my womb, you are without a doubt children of my heart.

Thank you friends who walk beside me helping me to contain so much love. I trust you know who you are.

Thanks to all of you who have allowed me to be a part of your healing and for those who sought me as their mentor. I have been honored and blessed by your trust in me.

Thank you Great and Wondrous Spirit for gifting me with so much love and support. Your gentleness is awe-inspiring and sometimes overwhelming.

© 2017 Bessie Adams Senette

 

Change

 

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

 Change

The earth is stretching out of her shell,

Cracking open to let the light in,

Wielding fire and oceans of suffering

Held deep below tectonic plates,

Gathering all our transgressions into

One projectile aimed at heaven.

 

When its fire falls back to crackling skin

Brandishing a mighty cleansing sword,

Will we run in fear or welcome its destruction?

 

The wings come first into the breech.

She will fly but who or what will steer the flight,

A dark angel? Or a saint?

Who will be the architects of a new design,

And who will be the builders,

Dreamers? Or survivalists?

 

For thousands upon thousands

We have destroyed and rebuilt

Never before or even now

Understanding

How much is lost or

What could be gained.

 

© 2017 Bessie Adams Senette

 

 

 

One

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“We dodged a bullet,” someone said. Is that even possible? Hearts connect and suffering is universal. Escape is illusory. Even if we numb ourselves; avoid the horrific television images, even that is deceptive. Our coastal homes have been ravaged once again and the recovery will be long and grueling. Pray, yes. Help where you can, yes. But remember there is no safety and we are all in this together. We cannot separate ourselves from the suffering of others unless we forget that we are all made from the same spirit. And even if we forget, the spirit that moves through us all never will.

Tangible

The sirens have surfaced again from deep waters.

They don’t care about our beauty or our sex.

They want our firstborn and our ancient ones.

Death is all they crave.

They steal our memories for fuel.

There is no safe place to hide.

Waiting until the cruel waters subside,

 

When calmer winds

Return their hideous screeching,

Disguised as seductive longing,

To the ocean depths

Joining new souls to

Those through centuries of kidnapping are

Stirred to the surface once again.

 

We remember and then forget.

So fragile is life

So tangible is death.

 

© 2017 Bessie Adams Senette