Friday, March 30, 2012

Yes, I'm still among the living

Been a busy and tired couple of days here. No photos today -- that'll have to wait until I get a chance to download them from the camera.

The retreat was great! Ayya Sobhana is incredible. I had the great joy and honor of having lunch with her and her Asheville host last Friday, before driving her to the retreat. I learned a lot about Aranya Bodhi, and we had a good chat about the possibility of my joining them. In the end, she invited me to do so when I can, which will be at least one year away. I'm planning to go out there in July for a couple of weeks, to see how I like it, and to meet the other members of the community.

At the end of the retreat, I realized that I am willing to endure any hardship in order to have the privilege of helping and learning from this woman, and no doubt from the other community members as well. I have no words to convey the respect and admiration I have for her.

Southern Dharma is a beautiful place -- which I've heard from many others who have been there. Deep in forests, far away from roads, houses, and the 'civilized' world. It's quiet, peaceful. Great for meditating. Spring was just beginning to burst forth -- I could almost watch the trees turn greener by the minute. Flowers everywhere. Warm weather after a couple of stormy days. I had two issues with the place, the first being that they don't have separate housing for men and women. Of the 6 rooms on my floor, 3 were occupied by men. That includes both bathrooms, which also service the third floor. I wasn't prepared for sharing this space with men I don't know, and found it uncomfortable. Secondly, there are stairs, and stairs, and stairs, which have to be traveled up and down 10-12 times every day! This old body rebelled at first. By the time I left, I could manage the last 2 or 3 steps to the meditation hall without having to pull myself up forcefully. Most of the time. Granted, it was good for me, but it wasn't fun.

That's it for now. Photos to follow one of these days.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

She did!

I'm writing to you from beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, after a leisurely and picturesque drive through the Georgia and North Carolina mountains and, of course, an hour or so at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. I am psychologically unable to pass that place without crossing the bridge and letting it all soak in for awhile.

Today was much different than my December trip. The place is active now, preparing for the spring and summer whitewater season and for some kind of world freestyle kayak championship that's happening there this weekend. Also saw a surprising number of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers crossing the road and stopping to chat. It's a little early in the season, but then the season is also early this year.  It was in the low 70's, and balmy.  I spent about an hour, walking, sitting, enjoying.  Took lots of photos, but since bringing the computer was a last-minute decision, I didn't think to bring the cable that connects the two, so that'll have to wait until I get home.

After leaving the NOC I wandered to Bryson City where I had lunch at an Ingles supermarket (knew I could get food appropriate to my diet there), then followed signs to the Blue Ridge Parkway that took me on an old highway going toward Asheville, through the casino town of Cherokee, up a big hill and onto the Parkway for 10 miles or so. Right past the first opportunity to get off it, there was a sign that said "Asheville, 58 miles" right after that there was another sign that said "road closed 37 miles", so I opted to turn around and pick up the interstate again. I was getting a little bored with the Parkway anyway. Some beautiful views here and there, but mostly highway. Glad I did it, though.

Yesterday was crazed. Heard from Sobhana, the teacher, that she had a change of plans and would not be at the retreat center Thursday afternoon or Friday morning to meet with me. She hooked me up with a woman here in Asheville who is hosting her, which is why I'm actually in Asheville. There was no need to come here to get to the retreat -- just have to backtrack for awhile. We've worked it out so that I will meet the two of them for lunch tomorrow, then I will drive Sobhana to the retreat. That'll give us time to talk about Aranya Bodhi. I brought the computer so I could stay in touch with them (although she has my phone number now), research my way around Asheville, etc.

The weather and season up here are just beautiful. Misty and overcast in places, sunny in places, but I passed a long stretch of hillside in the Nantahala Gorge that had Trillium blooming thickly all along the highway. I've never in my life seen so much Trillium blooming in one place! Beautiful. And the state has planted daffodils thickly in places along the interstate -- seemed to be mostly at interchanges, exits, and such, but it was nice. They're a little behind our season at home, but that's to be expected. Should be wonderful at the retreat center for this week -- deep in the forests, quiet, lots of walking places.

Obviously, the car got a clean bill of health from the dealer, or I wouldn't be here.

Guess that's really it for a week, this time. Talk at you then.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The question before us today is....

....can Kitty live on social security alone. I think I can, and I think I'm about to find out.  I spent a lot of time with my friend Quicken yesterday, looking at my total average monthly expenses and income, and I was surprised to see just how close I am to being 'financially independent', if poor.  You'd never know it -- it's not as if I have gobs of money left over every month -- but I've been spending in a fairly profligate manner for awhile and still managing to add a bit to savings. 

I'll have to cut back spending on unnecessary stuff, and even on food, but I knowingly 'waste' a lot of money every month on food that my body really shouldn't consume, things I 'want' rather than 'need' to eat. That can change. I'm giving myself a month or two to see if I can actually live on what's leftover from my SS check after basic expenses come out. I can't do much about the extra gas cost for commuting, but I can factor that into how well I do at the end of the month.

I'd also have to payoff my car, but I could do that easily enough. The payment isn't large, but it's too large for my SS income alone.  And we're  headed into summer, where utilities won't be such an issue. I'll have to plan for that in colder seasons, of course. I have no idea what I'll do about getting a roof on the house, but I'll deal with that when the time comes.  I'm going to work another couple of months, at least, to put away a few more $$.

The job stresses me terribly. I'm tense and anxious almost all the time, particularly when I'm at work but also when I'm home theoretically relaxing. I'm depressed, too, and it mostly comes back to the job. I can and will apply Buddhist tactics to the issue, but I think that as long as I have to actually show up three days per week, it won't change much. I can make it easier, but let's face it. I'm not a young woman and I've worked since I was around 21 --- about 48 years. I'm tired. Physically tired (tension and stress will do that to you) and tired of working. I want to stay home, work in my garden, and meditate. And not a whole lot more.

I think it's time.