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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Pain as Teacher

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As I’ve mentioned a small handful of times I live with chronic pain.  I have RSD, a nerve disease, and endometriosis, a condition which causes growths outside of the uterus where they don’t belong.  And most recently I’ve been dealing with increasing shoulder pain and weakness due to a tear and cyst in my labrum, the cartilage around my shoulder socket, for which I’m slated to have surgery to repair next week.  I was recently talking with a sangha friend who, after asking me some questions about my health, said: “I wish I knew why bad things happen to good people.”  I then replied: “Actually, I am extremely grateful for the pain I’ve gone through and continue to have, it has taught me so much.”  It may sound like some kind of hoaky Hallmark card or cheesy after-school-special but I truly am deeply grateful for the experiences I’ve had and continue to have with chronic pain.  I don’t see my situation as a bad thing at all (although I used to when my journey with RSD first began).  Pain has been my greatest and most valuable teacher – there are some things I just don’t think I would’ve learned otherwise.

So I got to thinking about the lessons I’ve learned through having pain – so I thought I’d jot some of them down, in no particular order:

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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Chronic Pain

 

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5 Words To Live By

A pic I took last weekend :)

A pic I took last weekend :)

Enough said!

 
 

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Why Sit?

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At our weekly Be Here Now Sangha we’ve been reading a book by Ethan Nichtern entitled One City, A Declaration of Interdependence.  Last week we read a section where he posed a question, in his hip satirical-esque fashion, many meditation students and practitioners ask: How does sitting on my ass help the world?

As I’ve found that answering mindfulness related questions is a great tool to help me hone in my teaching (and writing) muscles and find my own voice I tucked away the question in a small mental pocket to address later.  How does sitting meditation change the world?  Is that the “point”?  Why do I sit?

Sitting meditation is one of the most important things I do with my time.  It enables me to develop and strengthen my foundation of stillness, solidity, balance, attention, and concentration so that I am better equipped to move through the world with joy, ease, and resilience.  Sitting meditation can help us cultivate spaciousness, learn how to slow down, and receive training in the wisdom of adaptation – it’s a practice of learning how to be in and of this world, one impermanent moment at a time.

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Peace Un-conference Continued…

 

Old Missoula Peace Sign on Waterworks Hill

Old Missoula Peace Sign on Waterworks Hill

Since my last post was so long and I didn’t cover a few things I wanted to I thought I’d do a second post about the peace un-conference I attended.  So if you’re interested in reading in detail more about the un-conference and what that entailed please read the previous post.

During the opening and lightning keynote speakers in the morning someone said the following statement, which I then wrote down after it was reiterated by one of the participants in the closing circle: Where there is conflict people care deeply, which then creates an opportunity for peace.  I thought this was an interesting insight into the nature of polarizing issues and beliefs.  On both sides of the fence, no matter what the difficulties are, people are filled with care and concern about something.  One side might be particularly drawn towards concern about the environment while the other side may be concerned about the security of jobs and economic prosperity.  To see the areas of similarity and overlap is incredibly important when it comes to the transformation of the us-verses-them mentality.  It’s difficult to make lasting, effective change when we only see the differences and set our perspective in the direction of separation and division.

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Peace Un-conference

Flyer from the Jeannette Rankin Peace center for the Peace Un-conference

Flyer picture for the Peace Un-conference                                           Presented by the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center

Yesterday my husband and I attended an all day event entitled Rising from the Ashes: How Do We Create Peace from Chaos, Confusion, and Conflict.  It was an un-conference sponsored by our local Jeannette Rankin Peace Center (JRPC).  Designing it as an un-conference is a reference to something called Open Space.  From their website:

Open Space Technology, or Open Space, is a meeting format discovered by Harrison Owen. There is much written about Open Space available in books and on the internet, and yet often the format defies description or explanation. It is much more easily experienced that written about.

The basic process of Open Space helps those participating in the event co-create an experience based on responsibility and passion. It is a very welcoming and very frequently fun process, and also one that can be challenging in the same way a good game is challenging. Open Space invites the participants to engage to a high degree.

 

Never having attended an Open Space setting before I could only imagine what to expect in terms of format and set-up.  I was, like many others, a little nervous.  The Five Principles of Open Space set me a little more at ease:

1. Whoever comes are the right people

2. Whenever it starts is the right time

3. Wherever it is, is the right place

4. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, be prepared to be surprised! 

5. When it’s over, it’s over

And the one law of Open Space is called the Law of Two Feet:

If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else.

In this way, all participants are given both the right and the responsibility to maximize their own learning and contribution, which the Law assumes only they, themselves, can ultimately judge and control. When participants lose interest and get bored in a breakout session, or accomplish and share all that they can, the charge is to move on, the “polite” thing to do is going off to do something else. In practical terms, Owen explains, the Law of Two Feet says: “Don’t waste time!”

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Mindful Eating

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I posted this on our sangha’s facebook page (Be Here Now Community) this morning and thought I’d share it here too:

Before every meal I take a moment to give thanks. Even if it’s only a brief inner moment. I give thanks to the earth, the sky, and all the hard work that went into the food: the workers, time, energy, resources, transportation, infrastructure. To honor the precious gift of food I give thanks. In respect to the millions of people across the world that will not have enough to eat today I give thanks. To not take for granted the bounty that I am afforded I give thanks.

 
 

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Gathas

Gatha above my bathroom sink

Gatha above my bathroom sink

Some of my much appreciated loyal readers may remember my posting many months ago that I was starting on the grand adventure of writing a book on mindfulness and the cultivation of joy.  As a three word update on how the process is going: The writing continues!

Inspired by a section of the book I was working on earlier today I thought I would write here about the wonderful use of gathas.  The word gatha is sanskrit meaning: verse.  More specifically it refers to a short mindfulness verse which can help remind us to return back to the present moment in whatever task we find ourselves in throughout the day.  The gatha above sits above my bathroom sink.  Years ago I used a magazine cut out and typed up the verse and put it together.  There are many pre-written ones within Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition, like the one above, and I also like to compose my own, such as this one I have in my car:

Gatha in my car (which sits inside my steering wheel in the area where an airbag once deployed with the previous owner)

Gatha in my car

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