20 December 2013

14 : Something Blue No More!

Zen Tattoo's!
There's nothing quite so inspirational as having a permanent reminder to keep you motivated through all of the hard times; especially when that reminder is a Zen proverb tattooed on your arm :)
I have to admit that I really love that feeling of satisfaction when you are able to achieve something you really want by simply using your power of choice, of free will.  Doing something for no one else but for yourself. 
My first tattoo was a Christmas present from my children, two years ago, and I absolutely love it.  A beautiful angel with the name of our baby, that we never got to hold in our arms but loved just as much as our other children, followed by the names of my six children.  Surrounding their names are six footprints representing each of them and a beautiful Celtic endless love knot and the letter A cleverly interwoven into the tattoo as a symbol for my husband Andrew.  A beautiful representation of all those that are important to me, a permanent reminder of all that I love!
I had always felt that I would like to get another tattoo but waited until the time was right.  As much as I absolutely adore my first tattoo which is on my lower leg, I really wanted to get a new one  somewhere on my body where I would be able to see it often and it could inspire me.
I wanted a phrase that was short and simple yet said so much in only a few words; the Zen proverb 'The obstacle is the path' did that for me.  It sums up my life so far and reminds me of the future, of where I should be heading when I lose my way.  The meaning is obvious yet hidden within, it means that those big obstacles that keep interrupting your life are supposed to be there; don't think of them as something you need to avoid and put you off, see them for what they really are.  The obstacles are placed in your way to give you the opportunity to conquer, allowing opportunity for growth and reaffirming that by doing this you ARE on the right path.  The obstacle IS that path.  So profound, so succinct, so true!
The 11:11 figures have been special for both my husband and I for many years now, it became a strong symbol of hope for us when we lost our baby Amelie.  It has consistently remained a strong symbol that has helped with so many decisions over the years and acts like a pointer in the right direction for us. I chose an ensō circle or Zen circle to surround my 11:11 symbols.  The following article explains the meaning behind ensō circles more eloquently than I could:
Ensō (circle) is a sacred symbol in the Zen school of Buddhism and is one of the most common subjects of Japanese calligraphy, even though it is a symbol and not a character. You may hear it called the Circle of Enlightenment, the Infinity Circle and even the Lost Symbol of Reiki. If you actually took the meanings of the two Kanji symbols that make up the word, ensō would translate as Mutual Circle or Circle of Togetherness.

In the the sixth century a text named the Shinhinmei refers to the way of Zen as a circle of vast space, lacking nothing and holding nothing in excess. At first glance the ancient ensō symbol appears to be nothing more than a miss-shaped circle but its symbolism refers to the beginning and end of all things, the circle of life and the connectedness of existence. It can symbolize emptiness or fullness, presence or absence. All things might be contained within, or, conversely, excluded by its boundaries. It can symbolize infinity, the “no-thing”, the perfect meditative state, and Satori or enlightenment.  It can even symbolize the moon, which is itself a symbol of enlightenment—as in the Zen saying, "Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself." In other words, do not mistake doctrines, teachings or explanations, which are intended to guide one toward enlightenment, for enlightenment itself. Ensō can also represent the moon's reflection on water, thereby symbolizing the futility of searching for enlightenment outside oneself.

Ensō symbolizes many more things including: strength, elegance, the universe, single mindedness, the state of mind of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of imperfection as perfect. It also represents the oneness of life and all things contained within it, the spirit of harmonious cooperation, personal development and refinement of character, the visible and the invisible, absolute fullness in emptiness, simplicity, completeness, endlessness, perfect harmony, the circle of infinity and the cyclical nature of existence. The ensō is a manifestation of the moment, an expression of absolute enlightenment, a visual manifestation of the Heart Sutra and a representation of our true and innermost self. The ensō is a universal symbol of wholeness and completion; "form is void and void is form." When viewing ensō, one can see that that form and void are interdependent and, in fact, define each other. There are so many definitions available, that each of us is truly left with the responsibility to select or create our own definition of ensō.

An open ensō may express the idea that the ensō is not separate from all that is; rather, it is a part of something greater. The open circle reflects that the ensō is not contained within itself: but opens out to infinity. It might also speak to imperfection as an essential and inherent aspect of our existence. Ensō can be the open circle of emptiness in which the self flows in and out while remaining centered; or it can be closed and express a mandala or cosmogram. Leaving the ensō open is like leaving room for the spirit to flow in and out of the circle of emptiness; allowing it to breathe. Breath and emptiness are essential ingredients for meditation, contemplation and the creation of a spiritual life.


15 December 2013

14 : Zen - Something Borrowed

A Zen Inspired Poem...
If you think you are beaten you are;
If you think you dare not, you don't;
If you want to win but think you can't;
 It's almost a cinch you won't.
If you think you'll lose you're lost;
For out of the world we find
Success begins with a fellow's will;
 It's all in a state of mind.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger and faster man,
But sooner or later the man who wins
 Is the man who thinks he can.
Author Unknown
Zen can be described as 'releasing conscious, directed thinking, you allow random, unrequested thoughts to arise to awareness - a torrent of ideas which reveals a choatic universe normally hidden from us. It requires courage to face such thoughts and it requires real effort to become detached from it all, learning how our own thoughts are a source of our suffering which must be let go in order to achieve genuine peace and harmony.'
The word Zen has become part of the English language, but what exactly does it mean?  It’s much easier to answer the question “When is Zen?”, for that answer would have to be “Now!”.  The whole point of Zen practice is to become fully aware, here and now.  To come home to the present moment; this is truly where we live.  Thinking verbally takes us far into the past, or into the distant future.   But both past and future are fantasies, since the future isn’t known and our memories of the past are often quite distorted accounts of what really happened.  Zen exhorts one to “Come to your senses!”, for when we get lost in thoughts of the past or future, life passes us by.   When one mindfully dwells in the present moment, one completely dissolves into whatever activity manifests.  One becomes the activity.  Most people have had peak experiences, which all involve being so totally involved with life that one’s sense of separateness dissolves into the experience.  Very Zen.  The word ‘Zen’ is the Japanese attempt at pronouncing the Chinese word ‘Chan’, which in turn is the Chinese attempt at pronouncing the Sanskrit word ‘Dhyana’, which translates as ‘meditation’.  And indeed, the word Zen conjures up an image of motionless Buddhist monks lost in deep meditation.  This mysterious image becomes less mysterious when you realize the monks are simply practicing being here now. http://www2.bc.cc.ca.us/resperic/what_is_the_meaning_of_zen.htm
The principles of Zen are not part of a religion, it is more a state of being and understanding the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of any particular scriptures.  It is a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind, it is described as a way of being.  It is something very much of interest to me and I have found inspiration in many of the principles of zen.  I have found a zen proverb which is forming the inspiration for my new tattoo:


11 December 2013

14: RIP Little Blue - Something New

RIP Little Blue...
 Little Blue first arrived 11/12
 Little Blue (top) with other discus 11/12

 Early 2013, growing well...
Sept 2013, Little Blue (left of centre)
faded and smaller than tank mates...
September 2013 - officially stunted
11/12/13 is a very sad day for me... Today I had to put down my 'Little Blue' stunted cobalt discus.  If you recall my September post http://ajmaaa.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/7-stunted-discus-something-blue.html I discussed how my cobalt discus was officially stunted, where he didn't grow like the other discus.  It happens sometimes but they can often still live normal lives.  Unfortunately my little guy didn't make it; he went from being one the most feisty discus in the tank to hiding and refusing to eat.
Already small he couldn't afford not to eat, he was a little bugger because he ONLY ate black worms, refusing all other foods offered.  I used to break up the dried worms, which are cubed, into two pieces so the other discus could fight over one lot while 'Little Blue' sneakily got plenty a short distance away by himself.  I hand fed this little guy every day...
I made the decision to remove him from the tank last week when I noticed he had become emancipated and was dark in colour - not a good sign for discus.  I threw every medicine I own at him, but it wasn't enough.  He became skeletal thin and I had to make that hard decision this morning, it was time...
RIP Little Blue - I will really miss you...

08 December 2013

14 : Something Old - I Hope....

Post Assault...
Well my brain is working better, and my hands are working better, and as a bonus I can even nearly feel ALL of them!  My how we take for granted those simple things in life: to think, to feel, to function.  Considering my line of work is about helping people, I had never even really considered that I would be assaulted at work and that it would have affected my life as much as it has. 
I am beginning to understand what the term 'king hit' really means; with it touted throughout the media so much recently I feel extremely lucky to have actually got off with my life!  A recent article in 'The Age' stated that ''One-punch'' assaults have claimed 90 Australian lives since 2000, mostly in booze-fuelled bashings.  The victims were killed either by a single blow to the head or when falling and smashing their heads against the hard ground after being knocked unconscious.'
The difference with a 'king hit' single punch is that it often renders the poor victim unconscious, it is that blow to the head or the fall to the ground which then causes the head injury, quadriplegia, paraplegia, coma or death.  The reason one punch can cause such a problem is because the person being assaulted has no idea the hit is coming and is not prepared for a blow of any kind, let alone one to the head.  Although the king hit blow to my head thankfully did not render me unconscious, I remained on my feet - somehow.  However, because I had absolutely no idea it was coming, it turned what may have been simply a bad hit to the head, to one that caused my head to be thrown back so violently it caused a significant whiplash injury.  This, in turn, caused a concussion injury when my brain was suddenly thrown about inside the vault of my skull, bruising it and causing problems with memory and concentration which was to continue to affect me for weeks.  The facial bruising and swelling was really a very minor part of the injury sustained, however, the only one visible to others.
It's amazing how something that was fuelled by alcohol, and perhaps other influences, can cause such a ripple flow on affect to all involved.  It's one of those things that unless it actually happens to you, you really can't anticipate or appreciate it.  My injury has caused time off from work for not only me, but also for my husband, who has needed to take significant time off from work at his own expense to help care for me and our children.  It has also caused me a huge amount of stress and concern about returning to a job that I have been doing for 14 years, threatening our family income if I am unable to return to a job I once loved. 
The whiplash injury is something that I will require ongoing management with as it has caused me numbness/tingling/pain in both arms/hands which has been both a frightening and very worrying side effect.  In addition, the discovery of a new cervical disc bulge to add to the two others that I had sustained from a previous work whiplash injury, where a member of the public rammed into my ambulance, is distressing!  With physio and medication I am physically getting there, psychological issues are something that will take a lot longer to work on.  Unfortunately, for me, this assault has been added on to my previous memories of the many other attempted assaults and other traumatic issues surrounding my line of work.  I hope it is not the straw that breaks the camels back, but time will tell...
As much as I have enjoyed helping many, many other people in my time as a Paramedic, life is just too precious to throw away for a job.  With millimetres being the difference between walking and breathing and even of living, millimetres perhaps is just not enough of a buffer. 
Maybe I need to concentrate on my writing now that my fingers can type better and my brain has remembered how to work again.  Maybe I will just stay indoors and safe from now on...

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