Beauty in the Ordinary

This is not about being brilliant, or extraordinary, it's not about wanting to be famous, or making headlines, or trying to impress...this about sharing a 'gift' each day with the lift the spirit of people when they read this blog, to show them the beauty in the ordinary.
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." Raold Dahl

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Two Down

Seven (weeks) to go...

My hero still stands tall, side effects of radiation minimal.

I've been to each of his treatment sessions this week; the technology blows me away.

They overlay the planning CT scan atop one taken each day so that he is in the exact same position +/- 1mm before they deliver the radiation.

45 minimal doses given every day except weekends over nine weeks so that the target cells are destroyed and have no time to recover, but good cells that are on the periphery of the treatment area, the collateral damage, do have time.

The staff at the hospital are professional, kind, interested, just amazing.

By contrast, FIL has been hospitalized this week in need of a pacemaker.
He's in another hospital on the outskirts of town...we went to visit last night.  What a nightmare of a place.

What I find most interesting is no matter how much we think we have everything under control, how incredibly wrong we are.

We have our schedule, a great flat near the hospital loaned to us by a good friend to stay in during the week; caring people to see and be with during this we have all the bases covered - we should both be absolutely fine...

and yet we are fragile and exhausted and just desperately want to be home.

Funny old life isn't it?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Expat Life #1

"Honey...we are going to Japan...are you excited?"


And so the announcement of our first overseas posting came.

I was in my late 30s, with two daughters 11 and 13.

Up until this point in time, I had resisted overseas postings.  I truly felt our girls needed to form a solid foundation of family.  They lived within walking distance of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

But now was the time.  Husband had been patient, but if the career move was to be made, it could wait no longer.

And so we go. that first few weeks, I thought I had been kidnapped and taken to Mars...yes, the planet.

We are living in an hotel, albeit a beautiful hotel, but it is still an hotel.  Trying to 
1 - figure out where the heck we are;
2 - where we are going to live for the next 3 years;
3 - where the kids are going to go to school;
4 - and, more immediately, how do we get the dog out of quarantine.

So we struggle for the first couple of weeks of running down the hotel hallway in my bathrobe to the next bedroom (adjoining rooms you say? - wish I had thought of that!)
to get the girls out of bed, dressed, breakfasted and on the school bus, which amazingly came to the hotel to pick them up.

Then it was dress myself;  hubby to the office - did I mention the two weeks they promised him to 'settle the family' actually turned into 2 days? No? well no matter;
and head out with my Japanese entourage (who are these people?) to look for a flat/house/apartment/somewhere to live!!!

After two more weeks of this, and husband now telling me he has to fly, weekly, to California (and what am I doing here???) I am about to loose it.  I've been shown every, mold-infested, dark, dank, miserable apartment in Tokyo.  Time to call in the big-guns...President-of-company-san...can you help me please???

And so the apartment issue is suddenly resolved.  Dog is out of quarantine, no furniture? no matter, we rent futon (pillows so hard you wake up with pins and needles in your head) plastic forks, knives, plates and take-out food - but we, and Meg (the dog) are home (loud sigh).

"Honey...guess what?  The furniture has arrived! Wonderful, yes?"
"Great...the girls will be so excited to have their stuff."
"Small issue"
"I have to go to Hakone that weekend...Company golf-tournament.  Mandatory attendance..."

So furniture-arrival weekend comes.
Me and six white-gloved (no, I am not kidding) Japanese furniture men.
Everything, when being packed was marked for assignment as per room, kitchen, dining, bedroom, etc.
Well, given that I spoke zero Japanese, and they spoke zero English, that lasted all of about ten minutes.  So chaos ensued, and at the end of the weekend, everything was in the flat, unpacked and all over the show.
Enter husband Sunday afternoon, looking relaxed, tanned, stepping over kitchen pots, Hummel figurines and clothes and says 
"Honey...(tongue in his cheek,  so he thought)...I thought you were a bit more organized than this.

Mount Fuji erupts!!!

And, because timing is always everything, out walks Jessica from her bedroom,
miserable (about leaving Canada), crying (sixth day in a row) and says for the tenth time that day:
"Mum, I'm hungry...there's nothing to eat in this house!"
(Stab me in the heart right now!)
So...with tears streaming down both our faces, I grab her by the hand and say
"McDonalds...let's go...I know how to do McDonalds!"

So, she and I walk down to Bunkamura at the end of our street and, still crying, present ourselves before our local McDonalds (Teriyaki Burger? - no problem).
The doors, however, seem to be a big problem.  She and I walk up to what we presume to be the automatic doors and nothing happens.  Back up, try again, still they do not open.
Inside, a little Japanese girl is having her meal.  She sees our dilemma and exits by the side door and shows us (stupid white people) how to press the HAND PAD and open the door.  We go inside, order and all is well.

As Jessica and I are eating, it suddenly and hilariously occurs to me that that Japanese girl is going to go home that night and relate to her family how she helped a poor
gaijin family that day, who were in tears because...


Thank you and goodnight.
Not sure why that story jumped into my memory today, but it did, and I thought I would share.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Clever Cro at Magnon's Meanderings
has just introduced me to the beautiful Buddhist practice of

Tonglen is a Tibetan word which means sending and taking. 
With the practice of Tonglen, we work directly with our habitual tendency to avoid suffering and attach ourselves to pleasure. 

Using this powerful and highly effective practice, we learn to embrace our life experiences with more openness, compassion, inclusiveness, and understanding, rather than denial, aversion, and resistance. When we encounter fear, pain, hurt, anger, jealousy, loneliness, or suffering, be it our own or others, we breathe in with the desire to completely embrace this experience; to feel it, accept it, and own it, free of any resistance. 

Touching and understanding suffering is the first step toward true transformation. Rather than avoiding suffering, we develop a more tolerant and compassionate relationship with it. We learn to meet and embrace reality—naked, open, and fearless. When we touch and embrace suffering, we can finally understand what causes it. When we understand the cause of suffering, we can eliminate it and be liberated.

With this radical shift of awareness, this new way of embracing our life experience, our heart becomes more tender, open, sensitive, and aware. 
This is true intimacy with life. 
This is the cultivation of bodhicitta—the awakened heart of compassion and wisdom.

Breathing in, we allow ourselves to feel the inevitable suffering that occurs in this life. Our heart's natural response to this suffering, while breathing out, is compassion. We breathe in the pain and suffering of this world like a dark cloud, letting it pass through our hearts. Rather than bracing ourselves against this pain and suffering, we can let it strengthen our sense of belonging and interdependence within the larger web of being. 

When we know in our hearts that we are connected to the insects, animals, trees, the earth, and every living being, we do not cause harm or suffering to any of these parts of ourselves. Rather, we become sensitive and attuned to the cries of the world, and we learn to respond with wisdom and deep compassion. We develop the wish to free all beings from their suffering and its causes; we desire, more than anything, to bring them happiness and peace. Indeed, the practice of Tonglen is an excellent way for us to train our heart and mind so we too can develop universal compassion and help alleviate the suffering of all living beings.

In Tonglen practice, through our compassion, we take on (embrace without resistance) the various sufferings of all beings. In return, we give them our loving-kindness, happiness, peace of mind, well-being, healing, and fulfillment.

1) Sit quietly, calm the mind, and center yourself. Reflect on the immense suffering that all beings everywhere experience. Allow their suffering to open your heart and awaken your compassion. You may also choose to invoke the presence of all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and enlightened beings, so that through their inspiration and blessing, compassion may be born in your heart. In this way, you are resting in bodhicitta—the enlightened nature of the mind. Bodhicitta, is an inexhaustible source of purity, generosity, and compassion.

2) Imagine in front of you, as clearly as possible, someone you care for who is suffering. Although this may be more challenging, you may also imagine someone you feel indifferent toward, someone you consider to be an enemy, or those who have hurt you or others. Open yourself to this person's suffering. Allow yourself to feel connected with him or her, aware of their difficulties, pain, and distress. Then, as you feel your heart opening in compassion toward the person, imagine that all of his or her suffering comes out and gathers itself into a mass of hot, black, grimy smoke.

3) Now, visualize breathing in this mass of black smoke, seeing it dissolve into the very core of your ego at your heart center. There in your heart, it completely destroys all traces of fear and selfishness (self-cherishing) and purifies all of your negative karma.

4) Imagine, now that your fear, self-centeredness and negative karma has been completely destroyed, your enlightened heart is fully revealed. As you breathe out, imagine you are sending out the radiance of loving-kindness, compassion, peace, happiness, and well-being to this person. See this brilliant radiance purifying all of their negative karma. Send out any feelings that encourage healing, relaxation, and openness.

5) Continue this "giving and receiving" with each breath for as long as you wish. At the end of your practice, generate a firm inner conviction that this person has been freed of suffering and negative karma and is filled with peace, happiness and well-being. 

Traditionally, we begin by doing Tonglen for someone we care about. However, we can use this practice at any time, either for ourselves or others.

Tonglen can be done either as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. For example, if we encounter someone in pain, we can begin to breathe in their pain and send out some relief. At any time, when we encounter our own emotional discomfort or suffering, or that of others, we open our heart and fully embrace what we are encountering on our in-breath. Breathing out, we offer the heartfelt radiance of acceptance, loving-kindness, and compassion. 

This is a practice and a way of life.

Practicing Tonglen on one friend in pain helps us begin the process of gradually widening the circle of our compassion. From there, we can learn to take on the suffering and purify the karma of all beings; giving others our happiness, well-being, joy, and peace of mind. Tonglen practice can extend indefinitely and gradually.  Over time, our compassion will expand. We will find that we have a greater ability to be loving and present for ourselves and for others in even the most difficult situations.

This is the wonderful goal of Tonglen practice, the path of the compassionate Bodhisattva.

Monday, September 3, 2012

10.10 am Tuesday September 4

I know this is a big ask but, 
if Tuesday morning, September 4, at 10.10 am (Toronto time),
you happen to have a couple of minutes,

I ask you to think of Rudy as he undergoes his first 
radiation treatment...

I strongly believe in the power of prayer/positive thinking...

I strongly believe that the Universe/God wants us to have exactly what we ask for...

so, I am asking for effective treatment that will lead to a total cure with no collateral damage!

Just putting it out there...

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