Flying is Awesome!


This morning as I was reading the news I came across an article entitled: Why Do So Many People Hate US Airports (here’s the article if you’re interested) As I too have often wondered about this widespread phenomena I clicked on the article in hopes to gain some insight.  I mean, sure, there are long lines and security checks that aren’t the most fun things in the world to go through.  And if your plane gets delayed or cancelled then that’s not the greatest thing either.  But in general it seems our traveling experience isn’t really that terrible, so what’s the big deal?  Why do so many people gripe and complain so much about airports and flying?

The article poses reasons such as outdated terminals in need of upgrading and overcrowding but I think the real dissatisfaction comes not from our lack of shiny new buildings or the inability to boast butterfly, cactus, and orchid gardens like the Changi Airport in Singapore or an ice-skating rink and golf-driving range like an airport in South Korea.  Don’t get me wrong, being able to visit a garden with 1,000 butterflies and a waterfall during a long layover sounds pretty great – and while I don’t ice skate or play golf I think it’s equally great to have those options available as well.  However, I think our constant fussing and frustration has more to do with something much more ordinary and simplistic.  I think we just aren’t used to stepping outside of our comfort zones often enough.  Airports and airplanes toss us forcefully into an area we try with a great deal of force in our everyday lives to avoid at all costs: discomfort.  We’re sitting super close to strangers in tightly crammed seats, standing in long lines actually having to wait for something to happen, and have limited food choices (gasp!).  We’re also solidly transfixed on arriving somewhere else as opposed to being present in the moment, which doesn’t help matters.

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On Relationships


I’d like to start off by saying that this post will be on relationships in the broader sense of the word.  Sometimes when we hear the word relationship we think of only romantic based ones.  But the type of relationships I’ll be referring to involve a multitude of different types from friendships to family members and from co-workers to casual acquaintances.

My husband Mike and I gave a joint talk at our sangha last night – these were the notes I put together in preparation for it:

Last summer Mike and I went to Glacier National Park to attend a wedding there.  We camped for two nights inside the park and seeings as it was June and the park was not fully open yet, on account of snow, it was relatively quiet and sparse in terms of visitors mulling about.  We camped right beside Lake McDonald and the first morning we were there I went for a walk and found a lovely patch of rocky beach to spend time on.  After some scouting around I wandered over to this large log and found a small snake perched atop it.  It was a cute little guy and I was delighted, and quite surprised, to find that he let me approach him close enough to take some great pictures without slithering off.  Not wanting to disturb him any further I walked away after taking the pictures.  Well, the next morning I returned to the same spot to find him once again perched on the log.  I figured it must be his morning routine to come out of the log and warm up in the sun.  I watched him for a little while and then once again left him to his log.  When I went back to our tent Mike was awake and I told him all about this little snake friend I had met and asked him to come and take a look at him.  We walked back to the beach and found the snake right where I’d seen him the last two mornings.  Mike looked at him for a few seconds and then went to pick him up and soon found that it was a rubber toy snake!  I’m pretty sure Mike knew right away that it was fake – but I was totally surprised!  Had it been a heavily populated spot with kids running around and what not perhaps the possibility of it being a toy snake would’ve occurred to me, but there on a deserted rocky beach with no traces of human activity I was convinced the snake was real, even though it never moved or stuck out its tongue or anything that indicated it was even remotely alive.  We have a saying in our mindfulness tradition: Where there is perception there is deception.  Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) teaches that 99% of our perceptions are incorrect (and the Buddha taught that 100% of our perceptions are incorrect).  Apparently Thay gives us a little bit of wiggle room to be accurate once in a while :)

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Social Media + Mindfulness


I used to be really against delving into the social media realm.  It used to be something I felt a bit self-righteous about as well, as in: “I’m better than you because I’m not on Facebook.”  It’s a little hard to admit, but it’s true.

But after a recent writer’s conference and having the message of: If you want to be a writer you need to be on social media drilled into me by all of the published authors I saw in different workshops (yes, they ALL spoke to it) I dove head first into the waters of social media.  In the span of only one or two days I formed a personal facebook page, a twitter account, pinterest page, and looked into creating my own website.  If I had a smartphone I would’ve started an instagram account as well, but I don’t so I didn’t.

I’ve been operating a facebook page for our local sangha (Be Here Now Community) for the past 4 years or so but without a personal page of my own the functions available to me on facebook had been quite limited until recently.  So when I opened a personal facebook page it was rather overwhelming figuring out how things worked.  And twitter was, and still is, rather a mystery to me.  I don’t pretend to understand really what I’m doing on twitter and what I “should” be tweeting about.

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Last week during our meditation group as we were reading through our current book, One City, A Declaration of Interdependence by Ethan Nichtern, we read a passage that mentioned the quote in the above picture: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.  He went on to say:

“Anger contains a great deal of wisdom, especially the wisdom to know what is wrong, both within us and around us.  Anger is also the necessary inspirational fuel for changing any negative situation into a more positive one…Anger is what gets us off our asses and drives us toward transformative action…It can even be helpful to get angry at our own shortcomings if we can do it without falling into that bottomless crater of guilt and inadequacy…Like any power source, it can be deadly if not handled properly, and helpful if used skillfully.”

It gave me pause to hear some of these words spoken aloud during our reading time.  “Hmmm…” I thought to myself, “I’m not sure I entirely agree with ol’ Ethan here.”  I’m also not sure I agree with the above quote.  While I understand what it’s getting at  I’m not so sure that outrage is what’s required or should be sought after in regards to being faced with pervasive world issues, such as: poverty, war, injustice, violence, and so on.  I’m not so sure that awareness should be equated to “an act of wanton (done, shown or used) cruelty or violence” (as outrage is defined by  And I’m fairly certain that anger is not, in fact, necessary in regards to changing something negative into something positive, as Ethan suggests.

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“Little” Moments



If you can practice patience in the traffic jam with a sense of humor
approach or whatever approach you want to use, you are training for really major difficulties in your life. So, it sounds silly, but actually, it’s true. If you’re sowing seeds of aggression in the
traffic jam, then you’re actually perfecting the aggression habit.
And if you’re using your sense of humor and your loving-kindness or whatever it is you do, then you’re sowing those kinds of seeds and strengthening those kinds of mental habits; you’re imprinting those kind of things in your unconscious. So, the choice is really ours every time we’re in a traffic jam.

– from Pema Chodron

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Sweet 16


My stepson Jaden, picture above, turns 16 years old today!  In celebration of him I wrote this little verse:

16 Things I love About Jaden

I love how caring & considerate Jaden is – like the time we were collecting money to sponsor a Buddha statue at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas and he decided, on his own accord, to donate some of the money he had saved up

I love how many random bits of knowledge he knows – like the time when he was quite young and picked up the talking stick at meditation one night during our sharing circle to offer these 7 sound words, “Bananas are a great source of potassium.”

I love how our senses of humor make sense to one another and that our sarcastic natures are well tuned together, but know when to settle down too

I love his creativity and how for years the only thing he’d ever ask that we buy for him were certain colors of pipecleaners

I love his imagination and his ability to put his colorful thoughts into words

I love his ability to look at things deeply and gain insight

I love how in the morning when both cats come to sit with him while he eats breakfast instead of shooing them away he shares his chair with one, to the point of having only a sliver of it to himself, and lets the other one wrap around the table beside him, which sometimes means he has a fuzzy tail in his cereal bowl

I love how when a good song comes on when we’re driving he and I can crank it up and dance

I love that he has a good sense for who he is without being easily swayed

I love that he has genuine concern for and interest in others and asks how people are doing and how their day was

I love that he knows how to be present and looks people in the eye

I love that he has developed the ability to go with the flow with a gladdened state of mind

I love that he wouldn’t think to text someone at the dinner table because he knows it’s not the appropriate time

I love his open mindedness and how he’s not quick to be too sure of something

I love his impression of Napoleon Dynamite

But most of all I love that on November 8th he was born into my life, and a better stepson I could not find – so to end with a lyric by Prince about the year Jaden was born, let’s party like it’s 1999 :)

Healing Communities


This past week I had the opportunity to attend two meetings as part of the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative’s (MIC) community outreach training.  As a faith leader of my local sangha and director of the Open Way Mindfulness Center I have been serving as our representative at a variety of MIC meetings, events, functions, trainings, and workshops since its inception, about 3 years ago.

On Tuesday I went to a training offered through the MIC by Doug Walker, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, who traveled here specifically from DC to offer the training from Healing Communities.  From their website:

Healing Communities is a framework for a distinct form of ministry for men and women returning from or at risk of incarceration, their families and the larger community. Healing Communities challenges congregations to become Stations of Hope for those persons affected by the criminal justice system.

The training was being offered to a host of different congregations so that we could open up dialog, brainstorm ideas, and hopefully move forward with an action plan in order to open our doors and create a safe environment for individuals returning back to the community after being incarcerated.  Healing Communities aims at addressing concerns and issues that might arise within faith communities and also helps shed light on the social stigma involved for those coming out of the prison system and their families.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 1 in 32 Americans are under correctional supervision, which means in prison, jail, or on probation or parole.  And since 95% of inmates will be eventually be released from prison at some point that means this is well worth our time as faith communities to address in terms of how to best support our congregations, since the chances of this affecting some of our members, on some level, is extremely high.  This isn’t an issue for certain areas of the country or certain demographics of people.  This is a matter that concerns us all.

During the training on Tuesday a local Methodist pastor shared the quote above, stating that it was the creed of Methodist leadership, “Comfort the afflicted.  Afflict the comfortable.”  I had never heard this before and it very much struck me as being important enough to jot down so I wouldn’t forget it.  When I looked it up online I discovered that it originated from an American humorist and writer by the name of Finley Peter Dunne.  As it turns out, Dunne’s quote is from an essay he wrote about the state of newspapers:

Dunne once wrote the following passage mocking hypocrisy and self-importance in the newspapers themselves:

“Th newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward”.
– From Wikipedia

Since then Dunne’s quote has been adapted and used in many contexts and is often enmeshed within ministry work.  I really connect with this quote in regards to faith leadership roles.  It makes a lot of sense to me and has offered some good food for thought.

A primary focus of both the Healing Communities training and the MIC meeting we hosted at the Open Way Mindfulness Center last night entitled Better Together (which was a conversation about community service and some of the unique issues facing Missoula and how we can engage our particular mindfulness tradition in getting involved both individually and collectively) was about developing relationships.  In terms of supporting men and women during the re-entry process and also getting our sangha members actively involved in community service work forming, building, and sustaining reciprocal, genuine relationships is the most important aspect.  It is the nature of relationships and the web they form that unites people together, that offers inspiration, motivation, and ripples outwards to positively affect others.  Relationships take time.  They take active participation, interest, and an authentic drive to connect.

I think many things can be whittled down to the importance of relationships really.  Whether it’s with business, family, volunteer service, politics, creative endeavors, social communities, hobbies, interests, activist work, or otherwise our relationships are what bind us together.  Our relationships are what make us who we are.  And its the building of even more relationships that often serves as the best kind of support and nourishment that we can offer and benefit from.

May healing communities and the relationships they foster abound – in all of the many ways that this can take place.

P.S It just occurred to me…perhaps sometimes, it is we ourselves who are the comfortable that need to be afflicted by giving our time and energy to help comfort those afflicted.