This past weekend we had our local Montana Open Way Sanghas fall retreat. We have four sister sanghas in three different towns in western Montana and twice a year we get together for retreats. The leaders of each sangha also get together throughout the year for board meetings and organizational purposes, of which I am part of. So I always very much enjoy these retreats for the simple fact that I get to spend time with the sangha friends that I don’t get to see very often.
On Friday night I participated in my first poetry slam. I signed up over a month ago for this annual event mostly because I was interested in taking another large step outside of my comfort zone and practicing to embrace my love of spoken word and sharing it with others. When I emailed a few friends letting them know about the slam and how I’d love to have some support in the audience I jokingly told them that if I simply was able to get on stage and not pass out then I’d consider it a success – mission accomplished!
I was incredibly nervous and over thinking each of my pieces to death on the night of the performance. To help cultivate some grounding energy before the slam I practiced walking meditation in an empty room upstairs from the venue. I also carried a sharpie marker with me to keep my notes and smiley faces on my hands visible, as they would quickly fade with my increasing nervousness and sweating. I wrote the word Breathe on my left hand pointer finger and had one smiley face on my left thumb and palm and one on my right hand to help remind me to breathe and smile. And while I didn’t use it I also brought my meditation bell with me in my bag – ya know, just in case :)
Today I went to a Celebration of Life service for a woman who passed away a week ago from cancer. I had never met her but knew her wife from sangha and retreating together. Since I hadn’t known the woman who passed away I got the privilege and honor of learning about her via friends and family during the service today. She was a vibrant person full of humor, adventure, talent, and community spirit who loved gardening, animals, traveling, music, singing, dancing, taking pictures, biking, and writing poetry. It was a gift to hear about her through the love and memories of those who cared most for her. I was inspired and uplifted by the life she led.
As the warm autumn light shone in through the church windows there was joy, laughter, and tears amid those who had come together to cherish, remember, and mourn this sweet woman. How grateful I am to have participated in this celebration of life. To be called to remember how precious life is – how important friends and family are – how important doing what we love is – how quickly things can change – and how much there is to celebrate!
This past Monday, September 29th, I gave a talk as part of our weekly Be Here Now Sangha meeting on the practices of embracing and letting go. If you would like to give it a listen please go to: http://openway.org/audio – there are also other great audio files on our site from past retreats and dharma teachers that you can download as well.