Week 9, by Eva Tsoureka
Here we go!
When I first read that I’d be writing this week’s post and saw the chapters that I had to write about, the first thought was, You have to be kidding me??! Listening, What Is Voice, The Quarter Turn, The Inner Critic, Diving Down And Coming Up, and Love Your Window.
Those are my favorite topics to talk about, how am I going to fit them in a single post? Even from the first sentence, what a beautiful quote of Krishnamurti. Aloneness is indivisible and loneliness is separation…Aloneness is the purgation of all motives, of all pursuits of desire, of all ends.. It is the aloneness of being; it is uncorrupted, rich, complete. I find this so wonderful and how interesting it is the fact that even the word “alone” according to wiktionary derives From Middle English allone, from earlier all oon (“alone”, literally “all one”).
In many ways, writing is listening and simply taking notes. One of the reasons I love the process of writing is that it enables me to listen until my loneliness opens into a blessed sense of aloneness. The gift of silence is what allows us to let go of what we want so we can receive what we have. And what a great gift that is: the greatest gift of all.
So many memories of Wholeness in the Oneness are popping into my mind right now as I asked my “librarian” to search for them in the folders of my subconscious mind where all memories are kept. My desire to “dive down” is what brought me to New York 11 years ago. I thought that in an 8 million person city, I would find the answers that I needed. Honestly, I have no clue what I was thinking.. That I would stop people in the street asking them “Hey, what is it all about? What’s this life?”
I had a class to attend at NYU once a week for a couple of hours and the rest was ALONE time. I remember myself being on the line in the grocery store thinking “Oh, 2 more people in front of you and then it’s your turn to speak.” It felt awkward after so many hours or even days without saying out loud a word. Only conversations in my head with my beloved roommate. The inner critic that for sure I wasn’t keeping at arms length as Nepo wisely suggests, but instead giving him my entire voice. It took a while for me to confront him and ask him to make some room for me.
I realized that I first had to listen carefully to what he had to say and then dive down, deep inside me to see how his words impacted me and what those words truly meant for me. As Nepo says, “Our work is to open the gift of our consciousness while limiting the impact of our inner critic, keeping the self-watcher at arms length. Being still and listening allows us to behold what is before us. The deepest form of bearing witness is to behold another in all their innocence. This is the key to love. To listen until the noise of the world subsides. To listen until the noise of our wounds subsides. To listen until we only hear the life before us.” Couldn’t agree more. Yes, this is the key to love.
And we can access that love when we are brave enough to open the Window of the heart. “Of the many windows we have into life, it is through the window of our eyes that we take in the vastness of experience. Through the window of our mind, we take in the endless patterns that help us understand the web of life. And through the window of our heart, we feel the thousand ways we are affected by other life, the thousand ways we are each other.” Oh this window of the heart.. It has offered me so many wonderful experiences.
I am inviting you all on a journey to open that window in the meditation I was inspired to create after reading these chapters of the book. I hope you will listen and enjoy. (See below) And I would like to also share with you a piece I wrote while back, that popped into my mind after reading those chapters since it contains a lot of “Diving Down and Coming Up.”
Dear dad, I am so mad at you. How could you? How could you let a gypsy woman ruin your life? It’s so hard for me, writing to you, after all this time; it’s been 4 years since that evening in the bathroom. Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday. I was down on my knees, squeezed between the toilet and the shower, trying to hold you, and Pavlos, from the other side, was trying to lift you. Seems like I was for hours in this tiny bathroom with my brother, only the two of us and you. I was feeling his anxiety; the anxiety of the unknown; experiencing the exact moment that you know is going to define the course of your life. I was feeling the same. Incapable of performing any kind of action: unable to move; with a million ideas of how to react popping in my head but rejecting them all immediately. It was the first time I felt so useless.
There was absolutely nothing I could do but stare at you. You just exhaled and then, never inhaled again. It was just this one breath; a heavy, harsh and loud breath. I heard it. I felt it. I lived it. Like an ouph; a sign of relief and then just silence. Pure stillness. “What happened?” screamed Thanos when he saw the three of us in the bathroom. Just minutes ago, before he left to accompany the doctor to his car, we were all chatting in the living room commenting on the news about the financial crisis in Greece, he was coming back to tell you that the doctor said that you are getting better and to tell us (in private) that you have plenty of months left. He couldn’t believe that the inevitable came much earlier; that it just happened. It has been only 14 days since he called me in New York, to tell me I must come home right away. He said that an issue came up, concerning you.
Something about a decision we (the siblings) had to make. When I received the call, I was at a Greek dinner around the corner from the storage place that Meinrad and I put “our stuff” after emptying “our home”. Totally exhausted after a long day of packing and moving boxes, feeling so sad and so disappointed. What was I thinking dad? Of course it would be a “recipe for disaster” to move in with someone you’ve only known for a couple of days; especially if he is from Austria! I cannot help it but blame Austria for my problematic relationship with Meinrad.
For me it was all about this cultural gap we couldn’t bridge. But of course, you didn’t say anything this time. You were just happy I decided to break up with the “16 years older than me guy”, who I (your only daughter) was thinking of marrying. Music to your ears, when I told you, after my 3 month vacation-existential journey-documentary workshop, that I decided to postpone my return back to Greece, because of an Austrian guy I just met and fell completely in love with.
Now, there he was, seating across from me, impatiently as always, tapping his fingers on the table, looking totally annoyed. “Eva, am I going to wait forever to finish your phone call?” he asked me, when I hung up the phone with Thanos. “There are a couple of more decisions we have to make!” he continued, with this stupid, once upon a time sexy, accent. “Who is going to keep the couch?”
“You can keep everything,” I said and left. Got into a cab and went straight to JFK airport.
My 30 year old crisis, all this confusion, trying to identify myself, my anxiety of being too old for not knowing what I want from my life, my romantic issues, my few minutes ago break up, my bittersweet feelings for emptying another apartment, my insecurities about my career, my disappointment of not becoming a mother anytime soon; all these “huge problems” suddenly seemed so unimportant and pointless. My head was about to explode trying to figure what Thanos meant on the phone. What could be wrong with my daddy that “I” had to decide about? You were always the one who made the decisions. You were supposed to always protect me and take care of me; not the opposite. You were the vice mayor after all! You did it for all these “voters” anyway; for so many years you were there for them; available 24/7.
You were strong and wise; everyone respected your opinion; including me. I knew you were the man I could always count on. “A friend” as you used as your motto in all of the 3 political campaigns you ran. It was just last summer that we were celebrating your 62nd birthday in beautiful Crete. We were both anxious about our careers but super happy that we finally had 3 whole days to spend just the two of us. For the last year that I was working for the biggest TV network, presenting the live morning show, we never had time to hang out together as friends usually do, but you were ok with it. You were so proud. Remember we were dancing barefoot, totally wasted at this fancy club by the beach until 6am? “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine” we were singing to each other, while hugging and dancing making everyone around us believe we were a couple in love (it wouldn’t be so crazy after all, I do have the same age as your girlfriend).
“This situation is killing me,” you told me anxiously over breakfast the next morning, while we were trying to deal with a terrible hangover.
“A clear sky should never be afraid of lightning,” I replied while smiling.
I knew there was this court case that was bothering you so much. I knew you were suffering that the press was accusing you for defalcation and fraud. I knew you were innocent. The financial situation in Greece was bad and people were just looking for scapegoats. I didn’t take your concern seriously. I wish I had.
“Should we tell him?” was the question; I found out after arriving at Thessaloniki airport, where Thanos and Pavlos were waiting for me. They were both as pale as ghosts with red swollen eyes. “Dad has only a couple of weeks left, perhaps months,” Thanos said “It’s cancer and it spread everywhere,” Pavlos said. “This cannot be happening.” I said, in absolute denial. We’d say nothing to you, that was our decision.
Back to the bathroom, with Thanos’s help, we were able to lift you and lay you down on the big sofa in the living room. We were just standing above you, trying to figure out what to do. “I think he is breathing,” I said “Maybe with a small mirror we can check; I have seen it in the movies.” I would have never imagined that I would ever experience something like that in real life. Death was never in my agenda. I was ignoring its existence. I never thought of it as an option. It never, ever bothered me in any way. It didn’t exist. Can it be so simple? Is just this “breath”, one minute is there and the next is not. As simple as that.
With life comes death, as hate comes with love, as cold comes with hot, as bad comes with good and so forth. But for me it was just like life comes with “problems”, death was not part of the acquisition. After the funeral, I left with mom to spend a whole month with her at her boat. We were sailing for days with no particular destination, just gazing at the sea in total silence, both drawn into our own thoughts. She was also feeling lost; you might have been separated for a couple of years but you were her man for 30 years, her only man.
One day we approached a marina to dock safely for a while, since a big storm was on its way. It was August 13th; the day of your birthday. “It’s his birthday today,” I told mom. “I know” she replied.
I could see the deep sorrow in her eyes; and so could she. Sorrow you cannot put in words. So big, you cannot turn it in something so small as a word. I left in search for a bar to have a drink with you, just as we did the year before. I found this bar on the beach, made from bamboo sticks, in total harmony with the wild nature around it. I ordered 2 margaritas; one for you and one for me. I chose the best spot for us, a table facing the endless blue sea, away from the noisy crowd but close enough to hear the music. “I am not the only one staring at the sun” was coming out of the speakers, and I couldn’t hold my tears while I was whispering it to you. Feeling lonelier than ever before in my life. After emptying my 3rd and your 3rd margarita, I somehow went back to the boat (I don’t really remember how that happened) and woke up the next morning with a huge hangover, verifying that it was a successful birthday celebration or just to bring me in the reality that it wasn’t a birthday celebration whatsoever.
I had to deal with it. And is not the hangover I am talking about. I had to deal with Death. The Tibetan Book of the Dead for sure will bring me closer to my goal, I thought, when I saw it at the Munich airport bookstore, where I was wandering around, waiting for my connecting flight back to New York. I was never into “spirituality” but knew that Tibetans had a more clear understanding of this matter!
According to Buddhism, contemplation and meditation on death and impermanence are very important because it is only by recognizing how precious and how short life is that we are most likely to make it meaningful and to live it fully. Also, by understanding the death process and familiarizing yourself with it, we can remove fear at the time of death and ensure a good rebirth. I was a bit skeptical about the reincarnation theory, perhaps the whole idea is too big for me to process, but I felt the need to meditate and pay closer attention to my breath. After all, it was all about this breath.
There I was in a Vipassana silent retreat, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by 200 people that I wasn’t even supposed to look in the eyes; no talking; no phones; no books; just a clock and a flashlight; for 10 days. You have no idea what I am talking about, right? You have never heard of Vipassana? Vipassana which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body. Does all this sound totally abstract to you?
It’s not; trust me after being in complete silence for 10 days; waking up every morning at 4am to meditate and then meditate and then meditate again; 12 hours a day; observing your breath and persist doing it no matter how hard it is; at the end you finally get it. Don’t worry. I didn’t become a Buddhist monk but completed the course feeling enlightened. Understanding the importance of the breath, how essential it is to observe it in order to achieve peace of mind; a mind that creates thoughts that can constantly change just like our emotions; who are always driven by our thoughts; which we have the power to control. Always. What are we after all? If not our minds and the thoughts we create about ourselves? We are the things WE believe we are. As simple as that, dad!
If a person believes with his entire being for 35 years that he is going to die of cancer because a gypsy woman told him so, then YES; he is going to die of cancer in 35 years. Just like you did. Do you understand now why I am so mad at you?
Love forever, Eva
Ps. Looking forward to hearing from you. Now that I know you are around, I feel strong again. I know there is nothing out there that can really hurt me or you.
- Week #10 The Deeper We Go through Not Great But True, Tracey Yokas, Nov. 4
- Week #11 Staying Close to What Is Sacred through Stacks of Wheat, Maria Rodgers O’Rourke, Nov. 11
- Week #12 Placeholders through Going With The Stream, Tammi Scott, Nov. 18
- Week #13 <<<BREAK>>> Happy Thanksgiving
- Week #14 Everything We Need through Becoming the Poem, Kim Prendergast, Dec. 2
- Week #15 The Empty Saddle through This Belongs to Everyone, Eva Tsoureka, Dec. 9
- Week #16 FINAL book club round up Zoom, Saturday, December 18, 10am pacific
A link will remain here to week 1 in case anyone wants to review the spearheading guidance. Week 1.