Thursday, August 27, 2020 8:18 AM For the second time I am restoring this little essay for the possible help (knowing you are not alone!) it may be to the many who have followed this site for so long that they are now themselves facing this last among the great challenges of life: getting old. The problems with frequent unsatisfactory urination, leg spazms, leg cramps, and post nasel drip have returned without restoring the dietary adjustments (meaning everything he liked is off limits); there is no more walking to town or anywhere except up and down the hill to get to the mailbox.
Thursday, January 18, 2018 7:30 AM This post was put up and shortly thereafter taken down six years ago. The young girl is married, he has given up coffee for many years now after associating the habit with extreme gastric distress. The problems with frequent unsatisfactory urination, leg spazms, leg cramps, and post nasel drip have been contained through dietary adjustments; fatigue at the onset of sit-down practice is almost eliminated. There is no more walking to the store or driving, extreme shortness of breath accompanies just walking down the driveway to get the mail, he walks with a cane; the back pain is unremitting. His sit-down practice is measured in two-to-four-hour sessions. His mental state is excellent: light, humerous, not quite completely detached, but getting there.
The Old Man
He wasn't always like this, he used to be The King of New York. Now he's just an old man. Indistinguishable from every other old man. Falling apart. A joke of pains. ... and you will notice, if you notice, that there is no mention here of his having any 'real' disease, cancer, heart condition, diabeties ...
Understand! He doesn't complain. He is a happy man and makes no effort to prolong his life or improve his health. He speaks of the problems of old age only as they relate to realizing the goal using his own body as illustration. At least it is good for that!
His most pronounced problem is constant pain in the hip and back which is related to pain in the abdominal muscles. Exercise or physical work used to make it possible to overcome the pain, now he is limited to one or two hours of physical effort before the intensity of the pain becomes an absolute barrier and that requires another one or two hours of rest to pass off.
There is a point in sit-down practice where one is able to sit for a long time without pain. The problem is that to get to this state one must pass through a period where the pains of the body make themselves known very forcefully. If one is at that point weak-willed from fatigue or because the effort has taken too long or for whatever reason and one gets up to take a break then the effort must be begun again although there is some cumulative advantage made with each additional session and over the years experience teaches one how to overcome each problem.
He is a tall man who has spent his working life sitting in a typists chair or at a drafting table. Poor posture has resulted in weak back muscles which make the upright posture conducive to deep samadhi painful to obtain and maintain. Again there is a point after conscious prolongued effort where one overcomes awareness of bodily pain. There is a point where the body of itself achieves uprightness without effort or pain. It is the extra effort needed at the beginning that is the problem.
Old habits press in on one. It is not simply a matter of giving up booze, coffee, tea, sodas, smoking, late meals, large meals, snacks, cookies, candies, crackers, gum, reefer, milk, sex, TV, movies, music, books, useless friendships, internet forums, translating, writing, answering questions, playing Go, fixing the place up. ... Give up one thing and a dozen other chemical balances are thrown off. Places where habit has conditioned bodily response at a certain time. Digestion changes character. The nature of sleep changes. One's work pattern must change.
The urine changes its chemistry. It's acidity effects the body's electrical conductivity, the legs charge and discharge and this is another problem that needs to be overcome. If the solution is that one must always have an empty bladder, then one is sitting and rising up on an hourly basis which is meditation interrupted. Until a solution is found in the diet this can result in waking up every hour on the hour at night resulting in sleep which has not really rested the body and fatigue during the waking hours. If one changes one's diet to overcome this problem, that again alters the chemistry of the entire body and its relationship to the chemical reactions caused by one's remaining habits.
The early effort to create a strong muscular body causes problems in old age. No pain no gain has turned into all gain equals pain. The circulation of the blood and because of that the oxygin to the limbs is altered. At night this can result in excruciatingly painful leg cramps depending on what foods are eaten, how much caffine is consumed. When sleep is altered by leg cramps and electrical charges the result is extreme difficulty in maintaing wakefulness during sit down practice.
Energy in is poop'd out.
Cafine in adrenaline up, cafine out the adrenaline rolls back as another chemical imbalance taking form as groundless paranoia, anxiety, fear. It can be understood and overcome. It's not because of the economy or the stock market, it's just a physical reaction that takes time to work through.
Then there is the economy and the stock market. It doesn't matter. One's wealth or poverty is a matter of kamma. He has done good deeds and been generous all his life there is nothing to worry about. It just takes a little time to think about it and become indifferent when the news is that the world's economies are all collapsing at once. Deal with the corruption in politics in the same way. Identity theft. Government intrusion of privacy. Property taxes. Inflation. Deflation. The house falling apart. Computer viruses, trojens, phishing attacks.
These things are worldly matters. They bother him only for a few minutes before he is able to put them away. However they go, that is how the story goes. Minute by minute.
There is a young girl in the bookstore. From back East. She has presence, self-assurance. Fit. Good posture. She knows exactly what is what. She makes her own clothes. Behind the counter she sits and bends foreward stretching out her leg to re-tie her shoe. She shifts seamlessly into a painting by Degas. She looks up to see if he has an appreciation of art. She is maybe 20. Between the stacks she walks up to him standing straight up looking him straight in the eye no more than a foot away smiling. "Can I help you find something?" [It's his hat. It speaks of a sense of humor. It tells her there is something alive there in this otherwise utterly barren wasteland of a community that thinks so much of itself and its wealth.] She looks directly at him and smiles as she hands him his books, holding the bag from underneith with her two open palms as in an offering, raising it up and lowering it down, raising it up and lowering it down. "Here you are," she says. In sit down meditation later it is all he can do to keep her image from disrupting his effort to enter samadhi. "I am seventy years old for criminy sake!" he mutters to her. There is no more ridiculous a picture he could conjure of himself. He gave up sex more than 30 years ago! It takes weeks before he see's there the daughter of Mara and set's himself free. She walks away slumped over. Nothing, not a single word of the matter has been exchanged face-to-face. But a lot of Time has been wasted because of an old habit.
To maintain a double length work day during his productive years he used to use gotu-kola, an herbal tea which gives great energy and mental well being with no hangover ... until he had been using it for thirty years and found himself getting old and needing to change other habits. Then what was its great advantage, its ability to turn everything he consumed into energy, became the problem of constipation and the problem of constipation became the problem of hemorrhoids and the problem of hemorrhoids became a problem, if you had not already guessed, in his sitting practice. Quitting gotu-kola is no problem. It has no addictive properties and no withdrawl symptoms. Except that the payment for the cure to hemorrhoids after 30 years of using gotu-kola is poor digestion, a body that has been used to double doses of energy suddenly needing to make do with its own resources. Years of fatigue follow. More issues with regard to wakefulness during sitting practice. Then just as a really-rolling samadhi has set in, the digestion announces that it's time to run.
Then it's back to cutting back on coffee and a new round of related chemical reactions.
How it is related to the coffee drinking habit is uncertain, but that it is, is certain: his eyes, for many days at a time will tear up with a very salty tear that stings and causes his eyes to tear up. When the eyes tear up and sting when sitting, that is a distraction hard to overcome. It can be done. It takes time.
Smoking reefer, for all its wonderful aspects, has resulted in an alteration of the mucus membranes in his nose. Post nasel drip. Drip drip drip. His house is littered with paper towels. He must always remember to carry a paper towel with him when he goes out or he could face an embarasing situation in public. In sit down practice it is at just the precise moment when he has overcome all the other pains of the body that post-nasel drip makes itself known.
His teeth have been ruined by drinking coffee with sugar, eating sweet things, grinding his teeth in sleep at night. No problem until there is a visit to Olsen's Fruit Stand and just one bag of their Turkish Delight. Or some other such temptation. Then there is tooth pain for one, two, three days. Alternatively there are spicy foods that do the same thing to the teeth.
Tooth pain is ear pain, side of face pain. It can be overcome. Sitting perfectly still and ignoring the pain sometimes even cures the situation. It just takes a little time to accomplish it.
Did I speak of his ear pain? Not pain. Tintinitus. Annoyance. He has two sorts going on in one ear and one in the other. One is a tick-tick-tick exactly like a clock. The other is a loud constant ring. He hardly notices any more except when he gets very still, as with sitting. But he is able to overcome that. It just takes a little time. He thinks of something else.
Like the feeling that there is some sort of conjestion in the ear. Ignore it. Move on.
No shoes fit feet used to the freedom of flip-flops or bare feet. Walking to the store means wearing shoes, wearing shoes means the toes will hurt for two days. When the toes hurt that is another pain which must be overcome in sitting.
There are 'spells'. Mini-strokes. Waterfall sight they call it. An area of vision looks like it is has lost what used to happen with televisions: horizontal hold. No apparent effect on the mind. Just another period of time where he is not able to be fully functional.
He shaves his head. Even so it is necessary for him to wash his head thoroughly on a daily basis to avoid problems with itchy scalp. Probably caused by a life-long habit of washing his head thoroughly on a daily basis. Sit down and itch itch itch. Of course this can be overcome. You sit there and do not itch the itch. In a while, after the itch moves around from here to there to there to there, it will give up. More time before the peace of overcoming the body.
There are spots and moles and unexplained bumps and depressions and in-growing hairs and bug bites and pimples and dry skin and rough patches. It looks like a mine-field. Which one will turn into the cancer that will kill you? It doesn't matter, something will kill you, what difference does it make? Well we get concerned. We get particular about the way we want to go. Even understanding that pain is a matter of kamma, we hope the way we end will not be with prolonged pain, unbearable pain or some other condition making it difficult to die with dignity, or something visibly disfiguring making everyone else uncomfortable. So every possible threat gets our attention for at least a short time.
Time. That is the problem. A million things taking a short time shortening our time. It's nine, ten at night, been up since three, been at it since one, the samadhi is just beginning to really take off. The mind is opening up, light is arising, clarity is arising, vision is arising, if he could do this just a little bit longer it would take him into another dimension, solve even more of his problems, but the legs and back just cannot take it any more today. Time to go to bed, deal with the cramps. Start again tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 6:36 AM
When the cops no longer pull up alongside you and ask: "You live around here?"
But in stead pull up alongside you and ask: