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Monthly Archives: September 2016

14 Years and Counting!

14-years

(Stage direction: cue the slow opening of the curtains to a stage shrouded in darkness)

After a dramatic pause, a deep strong voice (not unlike James Earl Jones) says, from beyond the darkness:

14 years ago. (insert another dramatic pause) A community was born.

(Cue loud pounding drum noise)

The voice comes in again:

They called it: BE…HERE….NOW

(Cue the sounds of more loud pounding drums)

(Stage direction: bright lights are turned on, sudden and fast, revealing a stage crammed full of people on every possible inch of the stage – and the clincher: they’re stacked into a gigantic human pyramid)

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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Be Here Now Sangha

 

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The Shift of Perspective

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Snapshots

Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
Could be almost anyone right?
What if I said: Buddhist?
How does that change the image
developing in your mind’s eye?
Or, what if I said: Drummer?
Or: Nanny?
Did I mention she has long hair?

Switching.
Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
Hospice patient.
Beloved grandmother, close with her family.
Sharp as a tack.
Who do you envision now?

Switching.
Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
Super into screwdrivers (the tool, not the drink)
Enthralled with construction machinery
but off-put by vacuum cleaners.
Did I mention he was 1 1/2 years old?

Switching.
Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
And two more feet.
Fuzzy.
Loves romping around at night and catching mice.

The more info we receive
the clearer our understanding can become,
until there is no more data left to collect.
And then,
we need to empty ourselves
back out again
of everything we think we know
about someone.

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Posted by on September 23, 2016 in Creative Writing

 

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Looks Can Be Deceiving

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I recently signed up to participate in a local poetry slam that takes place this coming weekend. It’s an annual slam that happens around this time each year, as part of the Montana Book Festival. This will be my fifth slam. Doing these poetry slams is the most nerve racking thing I do with my time all year. But I sign up for two reasons: 1. It’s good practice for me in getting outside of my comfort zone. The more I practice, the easier it gets. 2. It’s good for me to practice shining my light of creativity and love for spoken word. I’ve taken it on as a diligent practice to step out of my fear of shining brightly – a fear I came to realize I had a couple of years ago while on a retreat at Deer Park Monastery.

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                         (Quote to the right by Marianne Williamson)

A few days ago I was at the Good Food Store, our local organic market. When I was in the checkout line the cashier, having remembered me from when she saw me in my first slam in the fall of 2014, said, “Oh, I saw that the poetry slam is coming up soon. Did you sign up?” I then proceeded to tell her about how I did sign up and that I was feeling pretty nervous about it, since it’s at a more popular venue this year and will probably be pretty packed. She was surprised that I was nervous and even more so to learn that the one she had seen me in two years ago had been my first slam. “You didn’t look nervous at all!” she remarked. I replied with a smile and said, “Yeah, it’s one of those don’t judge a book by its cover things.” She nodded and agreed and then quoted something a friend of hers had told her: Don’t judge someone’s outside by your inside. And after a pause, to let those words sink and settle in, I thought to myself: Good phrase!

It was then my turn to be surprised when she mentioned having remembered something I said from my first piece in the slam she saw me in all the way back in 2014, which had to do with busyness being a choice. She really appreciated that and said it was a good message. For someone to remember a quickly spoken few words I uttered on stage two years ago seems quite remarkable.

Similar encounters have happened to me a handful of times over the past couple of years: people I don’t know coming up to me and commenting about the slams they’ve seen me in and offering their appreciation of my pieces, each becoming equally surprised to find out that I am super nervous up on stage and that it’s a relatively new craft for me. I’ve written on this topic a few times before but it never ceases to amaze me about the strength and power of our perceptions and how often we are totally mistaken. Please don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of gratitude for those folks who’ve come up to me and offered their kind words, it’s a great and unexpected support – and I love that I live in a town where this sort of thing happens! It’s just funny how quickly we can judge a book by its cover, or a person’s outside by our inside. I am continually reminded to ask myself the question Thich Nhat Hanh poses as a practice tool: Am I sure? And it’s still amazing to me how often the answer is no.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Reverence for Life

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Now that autumn is underway here in western Montana, the local birds are taking full advantage of our bustling mountain ash tree in our front yard, which is chock full of bright, orange, and apparently delicious, berries. While the tree produces berries each year, similar to fruit trees it has an every other year cycle of having a much greater bounty than the year prior. So every other year we have to contend with the challenge of birds running into our large picture window on the front of our house. As I understand it, not only are the berries a hot commodity to birds soon taking flight down south but with the turning of the weather the berries also start fermenting, causing the birds to become slightly intoxicated. Hence, their judgement gets impaired and the window they once avoided skillfully the rest of the year suddenly looks to them like something they could fly through.

One such disastrous thud of a bird happened this morning, prompting me to finally put up the only thing I’ve tried that really works to keep them at bay from our window: an exterior curtain. I’ve tried a few other things over the years: cutting out pictures and taping them to the window, shutting the interior curtain, but to no avail. I thought the little robin that hit so hard this morning wasn’t going to make it. But after a little while of sitting beside him, shielding him from one of my approaching house cats, he made his way to his feet, then hopped up on my front steps, started making chirping calls, and then flew up into the tree. It’s hard to say if he’ll continue to heal or not, but sometimes they do simply get stunned after their impact and then appear to recover.

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The first mindfulness training, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, is Reverence for Life (see pic I’ve crafted together below). There are many ways to interpret, practice, and grow with these trainings, of which we have two sets: the Five and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. In my experience, and personal opinion, the sentence: “I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life,” causes some confusion. What does it mean to kill? My desk side Webster’s dictionary defines kill as follows: to deprive of life; to put an end to; also defeat; use up; to mark for omission. Commonly brought up is whether it’s then acceptable, in relation to this training, to euthanize our dying pets. A similar question was posed in the current edition (September 2016) of Lion’s Roar magazine (formally Shambhala Sun), in a section marked Advice for Difficult Times:

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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Mindful Manual Labor

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This past Labor Day weekend marked the 11th weekend that my husband and I have been working on remodeling our kitchen. We’re not done yet, but we’ve come a long way and it’s looking great!

We started this big project on Memorial Day weekend and have been working on it, solely on Saturdays and Sundays, ever since. With the exception of a couple of weekends we spent visiting with family, one weekend where Mike and our son Jaden went to Portland, to see Flight of the Conchords, and one weekend we went camping with our sangha, we’ve spent every weekend, since late May, in our construction clothes, wielding a variety of tools, ordering food for delivery, and working long hours – and when we weren’t at home working, we were at the Home Depot: researching materials, buying materials, wandering the aisles looking for materials, and riding on the metal carts to load our materials (OK, well, that was just me).

Oh, and FYI: if you happen to have a super bright orange shirt that you’re thinking of wearing for your home remodel project, think twice before wearing it into the Home Depot. Turns out Home-Depot-orange is not the best choice to wear into Home Depot, unless you want others to think you work there and want to field all of their questions :)

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Posted by on September 5, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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