Off the Grid…What is it?

Okay…so I am one of those tree-hugging, hippie, vegan types who dreams constantly of living in a tiny house or cave off the grid.  I know to some of you that may seem a little weird…well, maybe a lot weird, but I have always loved the idea of being away from the rat-race, the daily grind, the responsibilities, the noise that we are forced to be in every day because of societal norms..in other words…..THE MATRIX! 

I am constantly trying to figure out ways to live more sustainably, use less, create a minimal environment that is relaxing and Zen and quiet.  I don’t watch TV.  I recycle.  I get rid of “stuff” all the time or repurpose things to make them useful again.  I am learning about going plastic free.  I vegan-ized my closet/home as much as possible.  The other day I read an article about an 88-year-old woman who has always lived off the grid, doesn’t have running water, cooks outside, makes her own soap, grows her own food, and lives in the house that her grandfather built!  It has no electricity, and she is very happy.  This is how I imagine living.  She even made her own robes!  A woman after my own heart!!!!  Righteous!!!

This 88 Year Old Women Lives Alone & Completely Off The Grid...

Now, I know this is not practical (probably).  I have a young son who has grown up on video games.  I have a grown child with a grandbaby who would probably never visit me if I lived off the grid.  (Incidentally, when he was little I seriously contemplated living in a commune in a hay bale house…no joke!)  However, being a single mom with bills means I have to have a job which I am so grateful for.  I don’t have a garden anymore, and I wouldn’t be typing on my blog if I lived off the grid because I wouldn’t have a computer.  I get it.  I can’t live in a cave or in a mountain hideaway, but I can come as close as I can, right?

Well, you would think so, but last night while talking to my Great Teacher, (Only Love Zen Sangha) while meeting him for my weekly Zen teaching he asked me what my dream way to live would be.  I recited something like the above aforementioned information.  I said it in a very exasperated voice like “I know.  I will never be able to live like this.”  I will constantly be forced to deal with the fact that I have to work to pay bills and put food on the table.  It’s like a vicious cycle that I will never be able to get out of.”  He laughed (which he does sometimes when I go on my tirades) and said — are you ready for this? — He said, “You already live off the grid, and you can live off the grid any time you want to!”  I looked perplexed I am sure.  He said, you can live off the grid in your mind any time you want to.  Every time you don’t do the norm or live by the rules of the “Matrix”, you are living off the grid.  You can choose to take the “red pill” any time you want and wake up.  But taking the red pill (like in the movie The Matrix) doesn’t guarantee that you will have it easier because you are awake.  It just means you will be awake.  Here is what Wikipedia says about the red pill and the blue pill in the movie, The Matrix…

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” The term red pill refers to a human that is aware of the true nature of the Matrix.”  Said by Morpheus to Neo… (I love this movie…seriously..love!)

So this is one of those a-ha moments.  It was one of the greatest things I had ever heard.  I have spent a lot of time pining away for what I thought I could never attain.  However, I failed to look at what I am doing and what I can choose to do any time I want to.  I can create or manifest what I want any time I want to.  Every time I choose not to listen to what society thinks I should do, anytime I don’t buy the latest fad, every time I make a choice that is better for the environment or the animals or mankind, I am living off the grid.  Every night when Ezra and I turn off all electronics, shut off the lights and sit by candlelight before bed and just breathe I am living off the grid.  The Matrix wants me to be a robot, wants me to be dumbed down by their politics, negativity and anger.  Well, every time that I don’t oblige the media or whoever decides that today this is what I must have or buy or learn about, then I am living off the grid.

Living “off the grid” is a choice, but it doesn’t have to be in a physical sense.  It can be in the mind, in the heart, in my wild woman spirit.  I can manifest all the off-the-grid stuff in my life that I want to.  I can invite like-minded people to be a part of my life and my circle.  I can make choices that my family would be proud of.  I can choose not to join the masses of people who fuel the fires of dualism.  I can choose to make healthy choices for me and my family that don’t have anything to do with the Matrix.  I can continue to aspire to learn to love even when things or people are unlovable.  I can keep trying.  I can keep going, and I can never give up.  This is the red pill.

And when all else fails, I can go outside without my phone, light up the fire pit, make vegan s’mores, sleep in my tiny camper, and live off my grid just for a little bit.  Today I choose the red pill!  (okay…now picture Neo doing that Matrix thing where he avoids the cyber bullets and bends backwards…that’s me, and if you don’t know what I am talking about, you really need to watch The Matrix.)  Peace and love, Everyone!

Emmitt

So on May 25th, 2016, at 6:39 p.m. my world got even fuller.  My grandbaby, Emmitt, or as he is also known as (My G-baby, my Squishy baby, Grunty Baby or “him’s the tootest!”) was born!  Words really can’t describe what it’s like to be a Grammie, but I’m going to try.  He is the perfect blend of my son, Ethan, and his momma, Ashley.   They are great parents who love that little one so much!  They are handling their new roles like champs and with a great deal of ease, maturity, and poise.  I am so proud of them.  You know, it’s such an amazing thing to have children, to know that “this little human” is a part of you, but then when you get handed your grandbaby, well, that is a whole new level of life and awesomeness!!!  It’s legacy!  It’s spectacular!  I didn’t really know what that love was until that moment.  I remember getting the text from my son saying he was here, and I could come upstairs to see him for the first time.  I literally jumped up out of my seat and yelled in the middle of the hospital lobby.  It’s surreal.  The absolute two best days of my life happened on October 24, 1993, and October 20, 2005, when MY two babies were born.  But now I get to add a third best day, May 25, 2016.  Ten pounds, 14 ounces and 23 inches of the sweetest, most precious, most cuddly, preciousness ever!  I already have my next tattoo planned!  I love you, Emmitt!

emmitt2

 

 

 

Legacy

Today is the first Mother’s Day without my mother here on earth.  It’s a surreal kind of feeling, and I always am wondering where she is.  I don’t have a belief in anything in particular after life because I haven’t been there to know, but I feel like somehow she is around in some way.  I have always looked at my children as MY legacy, but today I am thinking about my mother’s legacy, and me and my sister are a part of HER legacy.  We both have characteristics of our mother such as strength and determination.  When she set her mind to do something, you best get out of her way, and I loved that about her.  I think Angela and I have that same drive!  Her legacy lives on in me and my sister but also in my children and my soon-to-be grandson…  This morning I was thinking about her and I decided to hang some fabric that was hers in my kitchen.  She loved to decorate, and I do as well.  There is definitely a hole that she used to fill that is now somewhat empty, but it will never be completely empty as long as her memory and her legacy live on in us and our family.  If she is able to know anything about her girls right now, it’s that we are a part of her that lives on.  I am grateful that she gave me life, a life that I am trying to live to the fullest and to the best of my ability!  Thank you, MOM!

Open Mind, Open Heart

A couple of weeks ago some students from the college that I work at mentioned that they were going to be visiting a local mosque to learn about their culture and religion. This fascinated me because I didn’t even know there was such a place for worship here in our area. Part of the direction of the Only Love Zen Sangha is to build bridges, tear down walls, and spread love and compassion where possible. One of the ways in which I want to try to achieve this is to visit/study other places of worship from all different faith backgrounds. My Great Teacher is doing this very thing in Michigan, and he has inspired me to do the same.  I thought this might be a place to start.  I went to the website and filled out the information to set up a visit. In my request to the spiritual leader there, I requested information on the proper etiquette for visitors to make sure that I didn’t do anything offensive. I think this is very important to try to appreciate other customs and rules because they are allowing me to visit.

 

Other religions fascinate me!  I love to study other cultures and traditions, so I was pretty excited about my adventure.  When the day finally came and I realized that I was going, I started to have some unusual apprehension that I had not planned on. It dawned on me when I got in the car that the scarf that I had on my head could might make it appear that I am a Muslim. This frightened me a little bit.  It wasn’t that long ago that a Buddhist priest was mistaken for a Muslim and was beaten.  I honestly looked out the windows of my car, and I pulled the scarf off my head. I realized then what some Muslims in our culture in America have to go through on a daily basis. It made me a little sick at my stomach the fact that certain groups have to walk around in fear all the time just because they have a tradition of covering their heads out of respect.  I realized then that the way people are judged by their looks is terrifying.  Why would anyone assume that all people of any particular background,race, religion or anything should be condemned or hurt or worse? So I decided that I would drive to the mosque (also more appropriately called a masjid) and honor everything about what they did and how they did it.

 

I got lost looking for the place so when I finally arrived it was raining, and a lady drove up in her car in full dress and I watched her walk in because they have a separate door for sisters as women are called. So I very quietly walked in behind her and I sat down after I realized I needed to take off my shoes.  I observed the woman in another room bowing in silence and praying. There was something very beautiful about her doing this and it reminded me of why I was there. I was there to find the similarities not the differences.  I bow in my practice as a Buddhist.  I do prostrations in my practice as a Buddhist.  I pray and chant in my practice.  There was absolutely no difference between her and me.

 

About that time a lady who was walking with a crutch came into the room where I was sitting and was very nice and asked me if she could help me. She identified herself as the Admin there and asked how I knew the teacher there.  I said that I had talked with him earlier that week via email and that he had told me that I could come to the class. She was very gracious and said that she had seen that email and made me feel welcome.

 

The first lady who came in before me told me what to expect and just told me to have a seat and make myself comfortable. She asked me what was my reason for being there, and I said that I was there studying different religious paths because I was a Zen Buddhist priest and I wanted to get to know a little bit about other traditions and other religious values and other places of worship so that in my quest to build bridges I would be able to speak with a little bit of knowledge about each and every place that I visit.  We chatted for a few minutes about looking for peaceful connections in things rather than creating opposites.

 

After I saw where I needed to sit, I sat beside her on the carpet in this big room very sparsely decorated. There were no statues, no crosses, no deities of any kind.  The man at the front of the room was dressed in a long, white robe with beads around his neck and white cap on his head.  He was standing next to a whiteboard and a few books on a little stand and he introduced himself.  

 

The next hour was filled with the beginning history of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandfather and talking about the history of Islam as it relates to the Prophet Muhammad, his grandmother and Medina and Mecca and how all of that kind of tied together. He said that this was like the beginning of a 6 to 8 week course; just a very generalized history of the Prophet’s life and his timeline.

 

The whole hour went by so fast because I was captivated by all the stories I had never heard before, a beautiful story. I was enthralled and really enjoyed listening to everything.  People came in during the class to sit and listen or just take notes.  It was very relaxed.  People could ask questions and comment about things that he was talking about.

 

After the class was over I sat and talked with the lady that walked in before me and we just talked about different aspects of the class and then she asked me what my purpose was for being there. My answer: “LOVE”, and she smiled.  We chatted some more about similarities and that people want peace and love in their lives.  Nobody wants to hurt and suffer.  I want to spread peace in the world and I want to figure out ways to do that. She shared with me some more about her Buddhist background and how she could relate to what I was doing.

 

After the class the teacher and I talked for a little bit about why I had come and my purpose.  I shared with him that in the past I was an activist with anger and how that never solved anything.  It never made anything better.  He seemed to understand and opened the book he had in his hand called “The Book of Wisdom”.  The very first few lines of the first chapter says, “One of the signs of relying on one’s own deeds is the loss of hope when a downfall occurs.  Our desire for isolation, even though God has put you in the world to gain a living, is a hidden passion.  And your desire to gain a living in the world, even though God has put you in isolation, if a comedown from a lofty aspiration.”

 

He invited me to an interfaith dialogue dinner later this month where 12 different religious leaders come together and eat dinner and talk about their paths. He asked if I would come as his guest and then he gave me the book that he had been reading from.  He said that in the past he had not found a Buddhist to participate in this gathering before and he said that he quit trying much like the passage in the book had said and when he did, I came to the class.  

 

This meant so much to me.  I went with an open heart and an open mind and I feel as though I made new friends.  I wrote him after class and asked him if I could continue to come to classes so that I can continue to learn. He said that I am very welcome to come and continue to listen to his classes and that he was excited that I was coming to the dinner.  
This was a beautiful experience!  When we go out in the world with an open heart and an open mind, beautiful things can happen if we are willing to listen and trust that moment.  We find good if we are looking for good.  We find peace if we are willing to cultivate it.  We spread love if we can be love!  The choice is ours!  Peace, Saij

Where is she…

Where is she?

Where did she go?

Here one minute, gone the next…

Slowly fighting, letting go.

Trusting the voice that said, it’s okay.  You can rest now.

This is your chance.  It will be all right.

Letting go.

Finally resting.

No more fighting, no more tears.

Peace, rest, gone.

No more breath.

Where did she go?

Where is she?

What is it? Don’t know.

I miss you.

Waking Up…

So one night I am Skyping with my Great Teacher, a monk/priest in the Zen Buddhist tradition. As we are wrapping up the teaching, he asks me….”Are you awake?” I said…um…yes. I think so. Being awake requires one to be present in the moment and actually pay attention to what is happening in that moment all around you moment after moment. It’s the ability to be that way in each and every moment…something that escapes me 99.99% of the time every single day! When I try to be awake in the moment and pay attention, I try to hold on to that feeling, that presence of mind. This particular evening, I thought that when we get done with our teaching session, I would try to hold on to this thought long enough to walk through the house and onto the deck to tell my partner about what it meant to me to be awake. Now, let me also say that that requires walking through five small rooms to get to my deck. I am not proud of the fact that it took me literally two rooms to lose my present moment. I thought to myself, this is hard….remaining completely present in the moment and only being in this moment alone. I almost instantly and without any effort leap to the future or go to the past. It is very hard work maintaining “awakeness” every moment…moment after moment. Needless to say, by the time I walked through the five small rooms in my house to get to the deck, I had worked out so many things in my head, planned several events, figured out what we should have for dinner, redesigned my bathroom, etc. etc. all in my head and at the same time realizing that that is exactly what I was doing and thinking to myself…how is it that I can’t hold onto a thought for more than a nanosecond? Living in the moment, paying attention to the here and now takes practice every single day. On the rare occasion when all the stars align and I can actually stay in the moment for more than a moment, I feel more, I hear more, I see more, I love more….I am aware of more than just myself. I am awake…..even if just for a moment…..Zen Ragamuffin