Kindle: An Attachment

November 15, 2009

Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device (9.7" Display, U.S. Wireless, Latest Generation)Product Details


Here’s my excuse:  Apparently Kindles need a break every now and then.  My Kindle has been returned to me.  (See yesterday’s entry.)  It is like a boomerang. Here’s the history of my Kindle.

I received it sometime this summer, with great excitement and glee and it instantly became my dearest inanimate companion.  (You can read yesterday’s entry for more on that.)  I bought it a purple leather cover.  I made a shrine to it… okay, I didn’t, but I love it.  No more teetering stacks of books on my bedside table.  Just one sleek electronic device.

In late June I took the Kindle to Sequim Washington where Jesus and I were doing a seminar on the Constructional Aggression Treatment.  I had to leave early because I received a call that my ailing father had taken a turn for the worse.  I and all my stuff were taken to the tiny airport where I would hitch a ride to Seattle and fly to Dallas, then drive to East Texas where my Dad was entering hospice care.

I stepped off the teeny plane and walked across the tarmac dragging my suitcase and lugging a carry on and got all the way inside the airport before realizing I’d left the Kindle in the seat pocket.  I panicked and asked someone to help because the plane was ROLLING and I was afraid he was going to taxi off to the runway with my Kindle.  A very nice young man (probably in his 40s) went out and got it off the plane, and returned it to me wearing a bemused… nay… annoyed… expression.

I went out front and got on a bus which would take me to the big airport.  I started chatting with the folks around me.  I hopped off the bus and went off toward the airport terminal, and realized I’d forgotten my Kindle in the seat pocket.  Note to self: DO NOT PUT KINDLE IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT SEAT POCKETS!!!!  I dashed back.  Dashing is something less than running, but still took my breath away.

I got off the bus again and scurried (slower than dashing, faster than walking) through the very long airport to catch the next plane only to realize that I had my Kindle … but I didn’t have  MY SUITCASE!!!!  This wasn’t a normal lay over.  It was a wee-plane to big-plane switcheroo, and I had zoned out thinking about my Dad and forgot that it was do-it-yourself service from thither to yon.

I ran back (literally ran… if you can imagine that) back to the other end of the airport only to see two men standing with my suitcase, scratching their heads.  Between gasps I called out, “That’s mine!”  They looked at me as I slowed to a dash and then a scurry and finally a stertorous stop. One of them said, “Well, did ya forget your luggage now?” I refrained from offering a clever retort only because I was out of breath. He said, “We were just deciding what to do about it and here you came running!” I replied something like, “Pant, pant, pant… Thank pant you pant pant… so pant pant… much pant pant pant.”

“Are you alright then?  Anything else I can help you with?”  The other man was just grinning.  I wondered if they knew the guy who went to grab my Kindle off the wee plane.

There have been nights when Kindle spent the night at one of my offices.  There have been days when my Kindle was at home and I wished it were with me, where ever I was.  But I got the DX… a bigger version of the Kindle… and it didn’t fit well into any of my purses so I was always leaving it elsewhere because I have so much stuff to tote at work.  That lead to me buying the nice purple tote I wrote about yesterday.  I’m hoping it will resolve my Kindle forgetting.  We’ll see.

So, what have I learned from all this?  That I do indeed have an attachment to inanimate objects problem. I wonder what I would have felt if I had forever lost a couple dozen of my favorite hard copy books.  Would I have felt the sense of panic … and of dukkha … that I felt last night when my Kindle was missing?  I don’t think so.  I think it was the $500 bucks we doled out on the device and the $50 more on the cover that made it such a big deal.  It is actually a device I coveted but didn’t need, and certainly didn’t miss before I got it.  But I had an attachment to getting it.  I really wanted it. And when I found out I could get a purple cover for it… well… it was mine.

Another lesson in dukkha.  What do you do about the attachment when something is lost then returns to you?  If I were a good Buddhist I might get rid of the Kindle.  Sell it on Ebay, donate the money to the SPCA?  But I would still have my attachment to books.  I would still have attachments to all sorts of things.  And I’ve learned much of what little I know about Buddhism on my Kindle.  So.  I don’t know what else to say about that except that I’m keeping my Kindle.  Unless I lose it for real sometime.  (I’m not really a Buddhist, I’m just saying…and I’m going to write separately on the Complete Buddhist… stay tuned.)

And that brings to mind what I automatically did last night.  I quickly came to the conclusion that it had been stolen, possibly by one of the two women standing in the bag section looking at wallets.  I very quickly dismissed the notion that maybe I forgot it somewhere again. I did fleetingly think that if I had left it in my cart (which I had) someone had already swiped it.  But I had, they handn’t, and no one did any swiping.  It was just me being forgetful.  (Forgetfulness drives me crazy but I’m SOOO good at it!) And me learning that blaming people isn’t too helpful.

Here’s what I did with my dukkha last night.  Whenever I would think about the Kindle and feel angry or sick, I would stop myself and say, “Okay, be with that feeling.”  And I would think about the knot in my stomach and just make myself stay there with that physical sensation.  And the sensation went away.  By the time I went to bed I was still disappointed, but I was okay. I had let go.  I was doing okay with the loss.  I still had work to do on it, but I was very nearly okay.

This process seems to have desensitized me to the loss.  This morning when I first woke up and thought about it, I felt a lesser sense of loss, but went into it, just went to that dull feeling and stayed with it.  It diminished.

So when I checked my voice mail and got a message saying the Kindle had been found in the shopping cart where I’d carelessly left it, I felt a little bewildered.  Really?  I was so sure it was gone for good.  I’d done my homework in letting go of the attachment.  I’d refrained from ordering another Kindle, not just because it was expensive but because I wasn’t sure I needed to have one.  (Okay, to be sure I did peek at the new Kindle model when I went online to cut off my Kindle service last night.  It’s smaller and will fit in more purses, AND it has global wireless, not just in the USA.  I don’t leave the country that often, but that would be cool… At cocktail parties I could say, “Oh, yes, I downloaded that book while vacationing in Belize.”  Of course I haven’t been to a cocktail party in 20 years. And I’ve never been to Belize. But the DX has a rotating display, and that does come in handy sometimes.  So, yeah, I would have ordered another Kindle.)

Kindle is home now, and fortunately I did not return the purple Kindle Purse, although I have yet to find a bag for inside the Kindle purse.  Maybe Ziploc makes something suitable. (See yesterday’s post for more on that, too.)  I re-registered her immediately.  It was super easy to do… even a thief could have done it.  See?  There I go again.

Good Karma to you,

Meditator Tot



When Dogs Are Friends

October 28, 2009

Yesterday Aero went to work with me. I hadn’t taken him for a while, but he’s become so unruly in the evenings that I thought a little more Mom time was just the ticket. He did great. He just loves people so much. We came home in the evening and Pan was in the back yard. Aero ran over to nose him under the gate, then ran through the house and bounced at the backdoor until I let him out. I went out on the porch but I could have been invisible. They greeted each other like they hadn’t seen one another for a year. Pan did a little playful Grrrr! and Aero play bowed and off they bounded. It took about 5 minutes for Pan to come and see me. They were both grinning ear to ear. Happy, happy boys.

These are the same two dogs that can’t be given a rawhide unless at least one of them is crated. Pan will sometimes be eating in his exercise pen and suddently bark even though Aero is finished with his food and off doing something completely different, completely uninterested in stealing anything. Pan got the nick name Badger after we adopted Aero. He learned to Grrrrrrarf! at Aero to counter his kinectic enthusiasm. There are even times when a regular boxing match ensues, although I’m glad to say that those occasions are less frequent now, and can easily be interrupted by saying their names.

I planned to take Aero to work again today. I put Pan in the back room, and Aero ran to the front door. Then he ran back to where Pan was. I got his leash and my bag and called him. He ran to me and said, “Ahrooo rooo arrrr!”

I said, “Sit,” and he did not. He backed up and said, “Arrrrrroooo Arrrrrrrrr Arrrrrrrrrrr!”

I said, “Aero, sit!” He did not. He said, “ROOOOOOoooooo ARR ARR ARR!”

I said, “Sit!” He did not. He repeated his discourse on the Roo and the Arr. I really need to get the Rosetta Stone canine language learning set.

I said, “What’s up, Buddy? Wanna go to work?” I heard Pan’s little toenails clicking on the door to the back room as he jumped up again and again against the woodwork. Oh, thank goodness my husband was gone. He hates the little rivulets of claw scratches on that door. Aero turned and ran to the back room, turned and waited for me, prancing. I opened the door, and he ran in.

The two dogs stood inside, shoulder by shoulder looking at me. One shoulder was a whole lot higher than the other, but you get the idea. Ears up. All for two and two for all! We’re a team. Take us both or take no one, Woman!

And so I went to work alone. Pan hates going to work and barks at people I’d just as soon he didn’t bark at. He trembles and lays in his crate. It’s pathetic. Aero loves it when Pan comes with him to work and he loves to come to work, I think. This was the first time he went on strike.

What’s so zen about that? Does Aero have too great an attachment to Pan, and Pan too great an attachment to me? Pan would come anywhere I asked him to even if he were miserable. But I did not know this thing about Aero. Aero loves Pan very much. Pan is Aero’s best friend.

Can you have a zen best friend? That’s one of those things that drives me crazy about Buddhism. In one of the sutras Buddha says that attachments to family are some of the worst attachments because they pull so hard at you. Attachments are the cause of suffering (dukkha). Weirdly enough, I have learned that this is true.

Through my zen practice I’ve learned to let go of some attachments and I have less suffering. Housework is one. I have always been very attached to hating housework. But once in a while now I can just have a housework meditation. Last night I swept the kitchen and den with a broom, and I just thought about the broom moving the dust and dog hair into the dust pan. It was good.

But right now in my zen I think that some attachments and some suffering is valuable. And letting go of some attachments can cause far more suffering than just the little suffering having them has. Maybe I’m justifying things, which might be something like attaching to justifications. I don’t know. But I’m not planning to leave my husband and get rid of the animals and live by begging any time soon. Maybe a proper zen master would tell me I’m attaching too much to worrying about being destitute in retirement. And it may be true, but I don’t exactly know an alternative to that.

What I do know right now is that Aero and Pan are friends. Aero will probably be sad when Pan dies, but he is not sad today, which is the only time that matters.

Maybe zen is a little like being an animal. Living for this moment and living this moment as perfectly as you can. When you are fetching a wubba, fully fetch the wubba. When you are playing blanket monster with Pan, you’re just playing blanket monster with Pan.

Mindful zen doggies.

Being here now.

Meditator Tot,

One time a delivery man came to my house, and without asking propped open my front door. My greyhound ran out and ran down the street. I chased her all around the neighborhood until she was cornered in a driveway. I was terrified that I would come back and find the delivery man had filled my house with my possessions and taken off with them.

Another day she got out and I took a different approach. I walked in the direction she had gone until she looked back. Then I called her and ran back to the house. Just then my sister-in-law drove up. Bravo trotted up, and I praised her, and we ran into the house for a treat. My SIL said, “Are you rewarding her for running away?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “I am am rewarding her for coming back!”

Striving chases the answers away.

In my work there are many volunteers. The vast majority of them are wonderful and generous. A few are full of striving and angst and the belief that if they don’t personally save the world it will end in a calamitous mess. The strivers are willing to insult and damage the people and the everyday work we do. I have a lot of trouble with these few volunteers, and it causes me a lot of dukkha (suffering) as I strive to solve problems that I have decided they have caused me. The Dalai Lama said that our enemies are our greatest teachers. This is because they give us so many opportunities to practice patience and being present in difficult moments. My way of dealing with troublesome people has always been to strive for a solution, to try to explain, to convince. My mind is full of thoughts of, “If only I could get rid of this person!” My little zen practice is helping me to stop and acknowledge that I’m not helping anything with all that mean striving.

I am an American. This zenny business made sense on one level, but it didn’t make sense on another. I wondered how on Earth I would have gotten a Master’s degree if I hadn’t focused on goals. How could I even do something like finish a report or shop for shoes? How would anyone accomplish anything?

But the goal is not to have a goal. Oh, boy. That sounds like so much Martian-ese when you say it in the US.

There have been times when I get it. These little eye openers are called kensho, or little glimpses of enlightenment. I read the writings of one zen master who said that all of enlightenment is kensho. Others seem to think that if you get enlightened enough you stay there and are eventually embued with supernatural powers, a view that makes my inner eyes roll. All I know is that I’ve had tiny glimpses of something in which I learned a new way of living peacefully in this world. That seems like kensho to me.

It hasn’t lasted. I don’t have any supernatural powers and don’t expect to ever have any. I embarked on a zen path because it didn’t ask me to fall for any nonsense, just to be aware in this world. That’s all I’m commited to doing. If I get supernatural powers, I’ll deal with them the same way. Fortunately in zazen one tries not to strive for the future, so I will continue to not worry about that.

But I think the reason it doesn’t last is because the world doesn’t stay the same, and you constantly have to come back to being here, now, the way the world is in THIS now. The other nows are gone. I imagine that enlightenment is knowing how to do that and consistently doing it. But who knows. Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to fly to your house without a plane. I have no idea how my luggage will get there, but I’ll worry about that then.

So in my little zen practice, I have been sitting in meditation, not striving, not trying to solve the world’s great problems or even my grand ones, just learning how to be here, now. And what has happened is that without striving I have figured out something that is very cool.

If you stop trying to fix your problems and just sit with them, accepting them, feeling what you feel when you are dealing with them, sometimes you find yourself doing what can be done to fix them without striving. So, last night I sat in zen, bringing my monkey mind back to sitting here, now, again and again. But when I was done, I felt peaceful and calm.

When I went to work I contacted the person in charge of our volunteer department and asked her to help me learn how to better deal with volunteers. She was honored, I think, and I was relieved. I had not meditated on volunteers. I had thought about them briefly in zazen, but I kept coming back to my little room, with my dogs, where my bottom was supported on my zafu, and I just was there, then.

In the morning I had a solution I had not been striving for.

That was my little kensho, and it was good. It was the kind of englightenment that doesn’t distract you or anyone you know with magical powers, with supernatural anything. It was me in my world, understanding it a little better. I have no goals of trying to do that again, because if you strive it won’t happen.

Meditator Tot

October 4, 2009; 2:42 p.m.

If tradition were the road to enlightenment I would provide you with a Preface to what I plan to do here… or perhaps a Foreword or an Introduction.  But I am not going to do that.  Instead I’m going to Be Here Now.  And I’m not even going to offer apologies to Ram Dass for stealing his line.

It may come as an enormous surprise to you, especially if you don’t know me, but occasionally I screw up.  This weekend I booked a seminar in a room at work where there were already two events booked… and two of the events had even been booked by me.  In my defense I thought I had reserved the room for the seminar event months ago.  But I originally booked it for a different space.  That space is now being demo’d for remodelling so I moved the event, and when it came down to it, I forgot to check to make sure the new space was available.  Agh. No one to blame but me, damn it.

So, I move this dog handling seminar to the barn, recently cleared of horses, where, amid flies my poor speaker and her guests made the best of things. 

The speaker arrived that morning none too cheerful, having forgotten her packed bag at home a state away, and gotten stuck in a traffic jam the night she arrived in town, and then the next morning being trapped behind streets cordoned off for a 10K foot race and not knowing how to get around the congestion to arrive at the seminar on time. 

I can sympathize since the day I met her was just about like that for me (Maybe I’ll tell you about it some day), but I also knew that I couldn’t do anything help her stop being upset that the venue had moved to the barn on top of everything else.  All I could do was present the information, apologize and lay low.  Sometimes you have to let people worship in the high, holy and pissed-off sanctuary before they they can believe you are sorry, and sometimes they never do believe it.  Leaving them to their ire is sometimes the least you can do, especially when you deserve it. 

I hope she forgives me and we can laugh about it one day.  I know that today she thinks I am a complete and total ass.  And in fact, I know she has thought that before.  (Maybe one day I’ll tell you about the first time I booked a seminar with her. She has never learned to trust me even though that was 6 years ago.  Maybe it’s because I keep giving her reasons to worry.)

The Life Of An Ass.

So, Friday I was notified of my booking boo-boo by a fellow manager who is known by her cheerful demeanor and willingness to figure out a workable plan.  Everyone should have at least one of her around.  She’s a life saver.  I swore I had booked the room months ago (because in my imaginary world I had…).   I really could only claim foolishness when I checked the calendar.  She recommended the barn solution, and I couldn’t come up with a single better idea, so the barn it was.  I spent the afternoon taking down 2 dozen large dog crates (That’s TWO dozen.  Seriously.) that had been set up in that barn for use later in the week.  Oh, my and oh my.  They will have to be put back up later.  Oh, my.

I woke up a trillion times Friday night thinking, “Oh, crap, what am I going to do?  Oh, crap, they’re going to be sooooo pissed off.”  I even had time to worry about a few other unrelated things, which were equally impossible to resolve in the middle of the night.

Finally, about 3 or 4 am I remembered my zazen (sitting meditation).  I am a beginning zen meditator (You can call me Meditator Tot).  I need a teacher, and I need to practice every day, but that’s why I’m a tot.  I’m still learning. 

What I had figured out to do from reading a couple of books and searching around online was to just be with it.  Stop striving to be somewhere else or what other people are likely to do or worrying about outcomes.  Just be with it.  Be Here Now. 

I didn’t get out of bed for zazen or anything.  (I did a special meditation called a lazy-ass zen with covers) but whenever I began to feel my heart rate increase with the thoughts of the horrors the next day was to bring, I just brought myself back to it: 

Sure, you screwed up.  But just be with that.  Outcomes are for losers.  Whoops, that’s a judgment.  Acknowledge it and let it go.  Just be with it. 

My mind would try to figure out how the instructors were going to react, then I’d just say, “Whoa, Tot…”  (Well, I didn’t really say that, I just thought up the Meditator Tot thing just now) “Don’t go there.  Who knows what they’ll do or won’t do?  Doesn’t matter.  Just be here with this experience.”  Then I went to sleep and stayed there the rest of the night.  Two and a half more hours.  Whoopee! 

I woke up the next morning and felt pretty okay.  I felt, Yep, they might be pissed, sure enough.  But I felt okay. You’re probably thinking that I’m going to tell you that everything went rosy and neither instructor was bothered in the least, and in fact both of them thanked me for making them better people.

Um.  No.  But it was still okay.  I think that’s where I didn’t get meditation when I  tried it in the past.  I thought it was about striving toward Nirvana, and then I’d be disenchanted when I didn’t attain it in 2 or 3 sittings.  But it turns out that for me right now what I needed to get from sitting (or laying in Friday night’s case) was that meditation doesn’t cure you of screwing up and doesn’t mean you will never suffer. It just means that you admit that you can’t run away from suffering because you’ll just be running forever.  And in fact, that’s exactly what so many of us do with our whole lives.  We run and run and run and we never just sit with the suffering.

The one that had travelled from out-of-state only to encounter the evil city traffic demons without a change of clothes was pretty pissed off.  A co-worked said, “She’s really not very nice, is she?”  I explained what happened, but she wasn’t convinced.  I had to remind myself to just be with that co-worker not liking the instructor that was pissed at me.    

Oh, but that wasn’t the only double booking I managed to create.  The final week of an obedience class was Sunday morning, and I had to ask the instructor if she would mind having the class outside or in the lobby so the other instructor could be inside.  She was annoyed but gracious when I first told her. 

But when I then told her, oh, problem solved, we’ll have the other thing in the barn and you can have the conference room.  But that turned out to be incorrect.  Be with that, why don’t ya’?

On day 1 in the barn the seminar class made do by working outside a lot.  The weather was excellent.  It worked okay, not great.  But on Day 2 it rained.  The instructor was not at all enamored of the idea of trying to make that work again. 

So I told her she could have the conference room, meaning I had to re-boot the other class out on their graduation day.  I called the other instructor up and at one point she said, “Kellie, take a deep breath.”  I laughed and kept explaining things, and she said, “Kellie, seriously.  Take a deep breath right now.”  Sometimes I don’t even know I’m freaking out.  I am that good at it.  I think somewhere along the way I figured out that if I talk fast and don’t shut up problems go away, but I can’t for the life of me think of a time when that really worked very well. 

I did take a deep breath.  Later in the day another co-worker told me that it’s nice to have me around because it gives everyone something to laugh about.  She laughed at the idea that I was the one who was supposed to be calming everyone else down. Whoa.  I was feeling pretty laid back.  The class instructor told the co-worker about having to tell me to take a deep breath.  Seriously.  Who are they talking about? 

Ha.  Well.  I guess I’m going to have to just be with that.


Meditator Tot