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Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas

Since Friday October 12th, I’ve traveled 828.9 miles plus 380.6 miles plus 781.1 miles away from home. When grand totaled, it comes to 1,990.6 miles. And one of the places you can find yourself when traversing that far from Missoula, Montana is Bull Shoals, Arkansas, population 1,950 – which equates to my having driven approximately one mile for every resident in this quaint and lovely little town, in order to get here.

I left my good friend Wendy’s, in the metro area of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, at 5:00am on Tuesday October 16th and arrived later that same day at 6:00pm at my mom’s place in Bull Shoals. Here are some road notes I scribed down whilst en route (in order of appearance):

6:30am, 41 degrees. Daybreak cuts the tension of darkness in a sharp jut of sky to the east.

Like miles of lane barricades on the highway with no trace of road construction in sight, I trust the process of life, even if I don’t understand it.

A road sign reads: Hope, 1 mile. Wouldn’t it be great if it were as simple as that?

I strode over the border into Iowa at 7:30am and watched the sun pop up over the horizon at 7:31. Bearing honored witness to a sunrise so inexpressibly beautiful that it floods the sense, these words came to mind:

I look out to the horizon in gratitude for this one precious life.
I look out to the horizon in gratitude for being a citizen of this great country.
I look out to the horizon in gratitude for the highways and byways that connect us.

More road notes:

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Posted by on October 18, 2018 in Travel

 

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On the road again

It gets little better for me in the good time department than making tea by the roadside. I’m not sure how quite to describe it but it just makes sense to me.

I’m currently on a road trip, clacking away on my old laptop I keep around for such things as rambling or retreating, so that I can attempt to keep up with all the things that percolate and bubble to the surface that I want to scribe down. It’s far too time consuming and arduous a task to use pen and paper on trips and then have the merry assignment of having to type it all out when I get home – I know, cuz I’ve done it. So, I’ve learned to make peace with traveling with electronics, as there’s a big part of me that would prefer to venture off without them.

Alas, a writer must write – and when she wanders off she must take the tools of the trade with her, with gladness in her heart.

Stats thus far, on my first leg of the trip:
Left town: Friday October 12th at 5:45am
Miles traveled on Friday: 828.9
Car camped for the night: Medina, North Dakota
Arrived in the metro area of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, to spend 2 days with a good friend: Saturday October 13th at 12:30pm
Miles traveled on Saturday: 380.6

Billboard on the roadside in North Dakota :)

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Posted by on October 15, 2018 in Travel, writer's life

 

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Mitra

Meet Mitra, my Bluetooth speaker. In Sanskrit, the word mitra means friend.

Months back, I decided to name my little speaker, in an effort to make better acquaintance with it. Since the speaker comes equipped with a female voice, which sees fit to tell you when it’s turning on and off or when it’s looking for a connection to whatever electronic device you’re attempting to pair it with, and also when the connection has been lost, I named her Mitra. Mitra can also speak a handful of languages in which to tell you said announcements. Since my personal preference is not an option: a silent/non-talking mode, I came to realize that I needed to find a way to enfold the speaker into my mindfulness practice, because I found the voice jarring, unpleasant, and annoying.

Did I mention that there’s also no controlling the volume of the Bluetooth voice? And, to top if off, the speaker has a mind of its own. It randomly turns itself off for no good good reason and disconnects itself from my laptop on its own volition – making sure to announce at top volume about its decisions as it goes about its business.

It’s not ideal.

So, I named her Mitra, to remind myself that making friends with whatever it is that I find disagreeable, is what the essence and aim of cultivating a mindfulness practice is all about.

Another thing I did was to set Mitra on the Portuguese setting, as I find that it’s the most lovely sounding language she speaks.

Mitra and I hang out everyday. So, it behooves me to make friends with her is the way I figure it.

Regarding her as a friend helps me to not get frustrated with her when she acts up in a way I deem incongruent with my worldview. As it happens, she’s temperamental – just like me and every other person I know.

It may sound silly but I find this practice of befriending inanimate objects incredibly useful in my practice (I’ve got other ones, too). I talk with her just as I would a real friend, and it helps me to develop more patience and understanding as a result. Making friends with my Bluetooth speaker is an action I take in order to reduce my own suffering – however trite and mild that suffering might be – and it works great!

As the Buddha said: With our thoughts we make the world.

 

 

 
 

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Fall Retreat

Breathing in, I feel gratitude for the opportunities that I am so richly afforded, and the spiritual community of friends I get to share my practice with.

Breathing out, I feel refreshed and energized.

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This past weekend, I had the great fortune of attending our Montana Open Way Sanghas fall retreat on the Flathead Lake, with visiting Dharma teacher Leslie Rawls. Each of our two annual retreats start on a Thursday evening and end on a Sunday afternoon. I feel so very grateful to have access to these opportunities twice a year, so close to home. Our local retreats are truly a gift.

Thursday, a northern drive which lulled my two travel companions to sleep, revealed a trusted tender sweetness I’d not shared with them before.

Friday, our first full day of the fall retreat revealed cohesion of the part of me that wanted to be somewhere else this weekend, with the part that wanted to be here.

Saturday, the water pitching and heaving under gray skies, revealed how similar the mind is to the lake’s surface and how quickly things can change.

Sunday, a 2-hour car ride with a friend, revealed another lovely layer of understanding and celebration for how other people’s experiences sculpt and enrich my life.

 

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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in Local Retreats, video

 

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Pain Awareness Month

I live accompanied by chronic pain. Lots of people do. And for many of us, you would never know it by looking at us. This is me. This is what a person living with chronic pain can look like (see pic above :)

September is Pain Awareness Month in the U.S.

A number of years ago, I was a state pain advocate with the American Pain Foundation, which has since disbanded. As part of this advocacy work, I went to a small handful of pain conferences and had the honor of speaking at a couple of them, as well. A friend of mine and I led a pain support group for a short period of time and we also put together a holistic health fair. I’ve written articles and posts about my journey with chronic pain and illness. I’ve shared my story. This is all to say: I used to be active in this arena. But that was a long time ago.

Now, it’s rare for me to talk about the chronic pain I experience, because pain is no longer the main lens through which I view the world, as it used to be years ago. The only person that really knows what I go through is my husband. And not because I talk much about it, but because he’s the one that piles me into bed after a long day.

The 2018 campaign for Pain Awareness Month is #PainWarriorsUnite. While I truly mean no disrespect, I don’t personally resonate with this theme. In honor of Pain Awareness Month and also the approach of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, #100TPC, I wrote this earlier today:

I am not a warrior
when it comes to living with chronic pain and illness
When I was in the thick of it,
it wasn’t courage that kept me moving forward
It was fear
It was necessity
It was: Well, what the heck else is there to do?

I am not interested in going to battle
I have no wish to fight
And no, this doesn’t mean I’ve given up
There IS another way
A middle ground between going to war and giving up
And this is where I choose to reside

My sense from others I’ve come into contact with over the years, is that in spreading the message of being a warrior when it comes to living with pain and/or illness, whether mild or serious, creates the paradigm that those who feel hopeless and despairing, who don’t feel brave or courageous, who aren’t upholding the “good” fight, are somehow doing it wrong. I’m not so sure that sentiments involving fighting, going to battle or war, or being a champion or warrior are so helpful for our collective landscape and morale.

But I suppose that the idea that we can still be proactive and engaged without the necessity of fighting might be too much for many people to absorb and understand. After all, we’re a society built on duality and dualistic thinking. Well, we figure, if we’re not fighting against something, doesn’t that mean we’re being passive and ineffectual? This is a very common view when it comes to all sorts of matters, whether it’s in relation to: pain, illness, politics, social injustice, environmental advocacy, etc.

What I’m getting at is: words matter.

I don’t identify with being a pain warrior. I am not fighting or at battle with my nerve disease (CRPS). I am a person living with chronic pain. And one of the best things I do in regards to my condition – which greatly aides in reducing my pain response – is to continually cultivate a friendship with my illness and my body. For me, I associate fighting and being at war as the state I was in during the first 1-2 years after my diagnosis, when I was in the thick of the fray of pain. I fought against my body, my illness, my state of limitation, my new realty that I hated. I was at war against what was unfolding to be my new way of life.

I’m done fighting. I’m done battling. I’ve moved onto befriending – and my life and my relationship with my illness and pain, greatly benefit every day from that transformation.

Please understand, befriending doesn’t mean to give up. Befriending means to accept, embrace, and transform. When I was in fight mode, I was trapped and full of fear and anger. Befriending mode, however, is very liberating. And for me, this has made all the difference in how I respond to physical pain when it arises.

_______

Pain is often invisible to the naked eye – whether it’s physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Please don’t ever think you’ve got someone all figured out at first glance – or even second, third, or one millionth glance. This is me. This is what a person living with chronic pain can look like:

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2018 in Chronic Pain

 

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Pyramid of Priorities

My priority pyramid (date: today)

The following was much needed writing/creative inspiration that I received today, from Dan Blank’s Creative Clarity Workbook at WeGrowMedia.com:

Manage your attention:

Those who create say “yes” to their creative work with vigor, and “no” to distractions that truly don’t matter. Too many people spend their days in a mode of reaction instead of intention. They give away their creative energy freely to any headline, social media update, TV show, trend or email that begs for their attention. They always put the needs of others first, often at the expense of their own mental, physical and creative health.

Get clear about the biggest priorities in your life. Not just your creative priorities, but all priorities. Then, double-down on them and jettison everything else.

Take Action: (see my pic above)

Get out a deck of index cards. On each card, write down one thing that matters deeply to you. Then on the floor or a desk, try to create a pyramid with one item on the top, two in the next row, three in the next, and four in the final row. At the top should be the thing that matters most to you in your life. In the next row should be the next two most important things.

Your attention is finite. The first step to manage your attention is to get radically clear about what matters most to you.

 

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Sometimes I Forget

Sometimes I forget that we’re all – each of us – doing our best.

That we each march to our own drummer, sway to our own beat, hear the rhythm of life pulsating differently.

Sometimes I forget that there’s only so much time in a day – or a lifetime – to maneuver.

I am personally acquainted with people who’s spark comes alive through justice/support based work, such as: healing racism, translating for Spanish immigrants, volleying for animals on their way to slaughter, training underprivileged demographics in the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, de-stigmatizing mental illness, spending time with those who are in the process of dying, training women on how to navigate creating their own small business, supporting kids without active adult relationships to navigate through the court system, educating school-age boys about healthy masculinity and the subtleties of sexual violence, volunteering with local non-profits, engaging with people around policy change work, guiding early childhood development skills, and fostering opportunities for people to learn more about such matters as suicide, postpartum depression, homelessness, access to housing, global warming, and incarceration.

And I know people who’s spark comes alive through creative/self-expression based work, such as: gardening, cooking, baking, playing sports, traveling and playing music, hosting standup comedy learning sessions for women, bringing African dance into the lives of those with disabilities, organizing community poetry events, providing high school students with opportunities to craft and share their voices through the medium of written & spoken word, hiking, painting, photography, collage work, and role-playing games.

Me? My biggest most illuminating spark comes alive through sangha building. I am drawn to cultivating community through the dharma. Spiritual leadership is my highest calling. I love helping to support people, I love spending time with people. And I have a great love for and confidence in using and teaching about the tools and skills made available through mindfulness, meditation, and our Buddhist Plum Village tradition.

Creative/self-expression wise, my spark comes alive through: writing, spoken word, playing music, listening to music, dancing, solo traveling, spending time in nature, motorcycling, photography, volunteering with hospice, and working with young children.

We all have different callings. Different things that draw our attention and motivate us to action. And sometimes I forget this. Sometimes I think everyone is like me – or should be like me. And when this happens, I suffer.

Currently, I’m on a journey to find my people – those I resonate and have the most in common with. And I’m practicing to understand and embrace all those who are in my life who I don’t hold a lot in common with, but whom I cherish and value.

There’s a balance I am seeking in my interpersonal relationships right now. And it’s becoming clearer to me as of late, how often I forget certain elements of human dynamics and functioning that are crucial to remember, for the sake of my own and others quality of well-being.

The practice continues…

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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