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Rallying

On Saturday, despite the fact that we haven’t seen a decent rain in weeks and our forests are on high fire alert, I lost all perspective when it came to my boots steadily filling with water. All I was concerned about was keeping my two tires on the slick roadway and having enough visibility through the rain patterns on my visor to see where I was going, which was hopefully to a place warm and dry.

In those wet, tentative moments on the bike – raindrops pelting my face and lips like needles – I had to marshal an inner strength to help me ride. I had to drum up some extra fortitude and focus on the small gratitudes, so as not to be ruled by fear and misery.

And it helped that I knew that the rain would pass. It always does. I knew my sodden clothes would dry and I would at some point get warm again. This is the way of things. Nothing lasts forever. So I held firm to those inevitabilities. I rallied. From a place within that always exists. I rallied because I had to. I rallied because I could.

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Dancing It Out

I love that I found this above image on a web search: Breathe, smile, and dance it out. Yes!

On Thursday of this past week, I’d planned to go on a solo camping excursion to a new spot a friend told me about a few days prior. As it was going to be at a lake setting, I was going to bring along my SUP board too. But Thursday morning rolled around and I wasn’t feeling it. New plan! I stayed home. I hemmed and hauled a little bit though first, telling myself things like: Summer is short here in Montana Nicole, maybe you should push yourself today and just get out there and do it. But the prevailing response I got back in return was: Nope. Don’t feel like it. So I heeded that voice instead.

I had a leisurely morning and a lovely resting period in the afternoon. And in between? Yep. I danced it out. And it was glorious!

I saddled the neighbors with really loud music cranking from our guitar amp (which I can plug my laptop into for amplification purposes of any music I so choose), shut the windows (to help abate the noise), grabbed a water bottle from the fridge, and proceeded to dance it out to some of my favorite songs. It had been long enough since last I’d done so that it served as a reminder about how much I love, love, love to dance.

I continued my dancing streak by attending Reflective Morning Movement (RMM) at the dance studio downtown on Friday morning. I’ll use the woman’s write up who puts on this offering to help explain RMM:

7:00 We arrive in silence and gather for a short sit.
7:15: Music begins, and we allow natural movement to emerge from the stillness.
8:10: Music ends and we sit together for few minutes of silence.
A bell rings to end our experience.
We leave in silence to allow each mover the gift of natural time and reflection.

We come in silence, we sit together, we dance together, we feel the music underneath the music, we feel the mercy of what it means to be in community, we listen to our fierce aliveness, we invite our wholeness, we re-member our true home in the ever-changing web of experience and feeling and thought, we move a prayer wheel of hope from within, we settle into belonging, we rest in the silence, we listen for the bell, we leave in silence.

RMM combines two of my favorite activities: dancing and sharing energy with people without the need to converse in dialog (as we enter, dance, and exit in silence). There’s no instruction or guidance offered. You come, music plays, and you move/dance however you want.

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Remember (Note to Self)

When I was younger, I wanted to save the planet. Now, I want to save the people.

But my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to speak, and I need to remember that I can both only do so much AND what I am able to do is not only enough, but abundantly helpful and a direct manifestation of my highest calling.

I realized just this morning, that I have not only been over-extending my heartspace but also putting certain expectations on doing so. And it doesn’t feel good.

A little thing I tend to do is forget that there is only so much time in the day, only so much heart-full energy I can extend, before the day is over and/or before I find myself weary and forlorn. I’m certain that one of my superhero names could be the Reacher-Outer. It’s one of the things I do well. When loved ones or sangha members are struggling, I reach out. I check in, extend offerings of support, and send love. If I haven’t seen or heard from a friend in a little while, I reach out. I check in, say hello, and ask what’s shaking. I send emails, texts, Facebook messages, postcards, and letters. It’s what I do.

As I grow older and interact with more people, I’ve come to understand that most people are either not skilled in this department or are simply un-interested in developing this quality of character. Most of the time, I happily and gratefully fill this role. Then there are times – like now – when I find myself getting burnt out with it. When I reach out to folks, I’ll often hear back from them one way or another, but seldom do people reach out first. And it grows taxing to be that person on a regular ongoing basis, especially when I have a rather large network of those I hold dear. As a spiritual leader and sangha director, the number of those I care about continues to grow as well, as more people come to sit with us and engage with the community. So I find myself in a quandary: How do I continue letting people into my heartspace without depleting my inner resources? How do I keep reaching out, knowing not many are able to return the gesture?

Part of the answer I think is stated in the meme above, that I came across on twitter earlier today: Do small things with great love. (P.S And keep doing them.)

The other parts of the answer that I remind myself often about are as follows: Continue taking good care of yourself; Pull back when you need to; It’s okay to say no; Have confidence in your practice; Be diligent in sticking with the things you know are helpful for you; Keep the practice of joy as a top priority; Letting go is an ongoing and ever-unfolding art; Stay in touch with your priorities and don’t make compromises or excuses when it comes to manifesting them; You can only do so much, you can’t save people, you can only support and love them as best as you’re able.

My notes to self are rather extensive on this subject at hand. Sometimes, they’re all that keep me afloat.

It’s good to be BFF’s with one self. It can really come in handy during those lagging moments when our energy wanes.

My morning post on my writer’s Facebook page:

Why I meditate everyday:

It’s cuz love.

I meditate to restock it, replenish it,

reinvent it, recirculate it, and re-approach it.

Without its graces,

my powers of love would become null and void of merit and sense,

absent of the energy needed to propel it near and far.

 

 
 

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Re-Envisioning the Practice

This morning, I watched a portion of a Dharma talk on YouTube, given by Brother Phap Dung in Plum Village on July 29th, 2018. It was entitled: The Power of Cutting Off and Letting Go. (Here’s the link if you’re interested.)

How timely that it happened to correspond well with the reading I’d done earlier this morning from our Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book.

Once a week, I read a different sutra from the chanting book. This morning I found myself reading the Discourse on the Dharma Seal, where it gives mention to the “three defiling qualities of mind – greed, hatred, and delusion.” Brother PD also spoke to this list in his talk, though he referred to them as the three afflictions and rephrased them a bit as: craving, anger, and ignorance.

He also spoke about the three virtues – also referred to as gauges – of a spiritual person and/or leader:

  1. Compassion
  2. Wisdom
  3. Freedom (or cutting off or cutting through)

Some things from the Brother’s talk that I scribed down while watching:

– We must re-envision our practice so that it includes all activities, not just certain ones or the ones we find pleasing; this is what Thay meant when he coined the phrase engaged Buddhism. (this is a paraphrase)

– “Be ordinary, don’t stick out. Don’t over-practice.” – Brother PD on the practice of washing the dishes

– “Buddhist practice is like medicine. It helps us, frees us, and then you don’t go holding on to it.”

– Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t met Thay and I think to myself: my life was so much easier before coming to this practice. So, you might want to go somewhere else (for spiritual practice), because in this practice tradition you have to look at things you might not want to look at. (paraphrase)

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On Comfort Zones, Waiting in Line, and Home Touristing

The Missoula chapter of Tenacious Dames (Montana’s only all female motorcycle club)

So, there’s a good chance that this blog post will only track well from my own vantage point, given the last few days I’ve had. Translation: I’m fixin on covering a few topics that might not string together in a neat and orderly fashion from an outsider’s perspective :)

On Thursday, I decided to try something new and step outside of my comfort zone. I joined the Tenacious Dames (TD) – Missoula’s chapter of Montana’s only all female motorcycle club – for their monthly ride. I just recently found out about them from a woman rider I met at a car show in Phillipsburg, a couple of weeks ago. I looked them up on Facebook and reached out. Jeanette, the Dame of Affairs – seen up close in the pic above – got back to me and warmly invited me to join them for their August ride. So I did!

Normally, I’m a solo rider. And now that I have a bigger highway-worthy bike, I’ve been getting out quite a bit. I’ve had my new bike for about a month now and I’ve put over 1,200 miles on it already. I decided to join the TD partly because it was outside of my comfort zone. I’m someone who intentionally seeks out things to do from time to time which allow me the opportunity to expand my perspective and bubble of familiarity. And it’s also good to mingle and mix with folks I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to know.

Not only do I usually ride solo but I also have an irrational aversion to joining groups which are designed for women only. So saddling up with the TD was a double whammy, in the stepping outside of my comfort zone department. The TD were super welcoming. And I really enjoyed the pack ride experience and meeting other women that were as much into riding as I am. I’ve done only one other group ride before, just a few weeks ago with my husband and stepdad in Glacier National Park. I’m realizing that pack riding blends something together that I really enjoy but don’t often get the chance to engage in, which is to share space and energy with others amid a certain level of quietude and personal spaciousness. For instance, I love meditating and sharing silent retreats with others. It gives me the best of both worlds: being with others and also being with myself. In short: I like being amid others without the added activity of conversating. So pack rides are great! I’m able to share energy with others on a different, more personal level.

The TD were great, and I’m sure I’ll join them for another ride soon.

Lesson I continue to learn: Stepping outside of my comfort zone is the only way I grow and become more resilient and dynamic.

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Yesterday morning I found myself – for the second time in the past month and a half – waiting in line at the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) at the courthouse. The first time was to transfer the title into my name for my new/used Subaru. This time it was to do the same action for my new/used motorcycle. Having been to the MVD a little over a month ago, I knew to expect a long wait. I arrived about 40-minutes prior to the office opening at 8am and I was the 11th person in line. The dude behind me came supplied with a folding camp chair. People are getting hip to this waiting line epidemic here in town at the ol’ MVD. All in all, I spent a little over an hour and a half at the MVD.

As someone who is intrigued by observing human behavior – my own and that of others – waiting areas offer unique and ripe opportunities. We can learn a lot about ourselves in moments of waiting, such as: what our patience level is, how kind we are to others when our system is taxed, how we occupy our time and minds, what our quality of heartfulness and connection is to those around us.

There was an array of line conversations I overheard and a menagerie of reactions and responses to the whole waiting game that I witnessed, ranging from light-hearted to angry-ridden. Some knew what to expect and seemed to have a certain level of acceptance (and humor) about the situation, while others were clearly not anticipating the MVD to be such a hot spot at 8 in the morning and were quite affronted.

How well-balanced we stay amid such conditions as waiting in line, speaks directly to how we show up in all sorts of places in our life. If we regard waiting in line to be separate from life, as something we’re not “supposed” to encounter, then we’re setting ourselves up for pockets of misery and discomfort whenever we find ourselves waiting for something, which is to say: a lot of the time. The more I can infuse my mindfulness practice into all the things that I do, the more ease I experience as a result, and the more open and expansive my life becomes – whether it’s when I’m doing something I enjoy or something I’d assume avoid.

Lesson I continue to learn: There is no such thing as an insignificant moment. I am always practicing something.

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Posted by on August 11, 2018 in Everyday Practice, Fun, Travel

 

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Daily Gratitude Practice

Every morning after my session of sitting meditation, I have a gratitude practice I do, which involves bowing down to the earth three times and then doing one final standing bow.
 
With each bow, I offer a gratitude. The first and last gratitudes are the same each morning, but the middle two are spontaneous and change each day.
 
Today’s Gratitudes:
1. I bow down to the earth in gratitude for this one precious life.
2. I bow down to the earth in gratitude for all of the opportunities, luxuries, modern conveniences, abilities, and abundance I am afforded.
3. I bow down to the earth in gratitude for the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha for showing me the way in this life, and for nourishing and supporting me.
4. In gratitude for this one more opportunity to live today, may I be useful, may I be kind.
 
 

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Squirrel Meditation

Our campsite on the Flathead Lake

This past weekend (Aug 2-5) we had our sangha summer campout with our meditation community Be Here Now – it was our 6th annual! We’ve been using the same campground each summer: Big Arm State Park on the Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana. For the past 3 years, we’ve been managing to reserve their one and only group site, which wonderfully allows us to be all together in one spot AND right on the water! So great!!

Each campout is a nice social/community building/relaxing hang-time on the lake opportunity for our sangha. It allows us to be joyfuly together, whilst revelling in the lake, each others company, and the practice of having nowhere to go and nothing to do. We spend our time: reading, floating/paddling/swimming, conversing, laughing, playing games, drinking tea/coffee, sharing community meals, napping, and hanging out around the fire at night. Given that we had a smaller group than usual, and Saturday afternoon was a bit blustery, we even took a field trip this year during our campout: cherry picking!

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