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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Disliking the Telephone

untitledI can think of 3 people right off the bat who would be filled with childlike glee if I were to suddenly and spontaneously become a phone person. And by phone person I mean: someone who picks it up when it rings, routinely calls back those who leave messages, and has a general fondness for the invention of being able to talk to people through the magic of wires, all of which do not apply to me.

What people don’t understand is that it’s not personal. It’s not like when the phone rings I run over to see who’s calling, just so I can flip them off and sneer at them by name. “Ha ha, grandma! I’m not picking up the phone because you’re stupid and I hate talking to you! Take that!” When the phone rings in our house it’s sort of like when you pass by that one inappropriate homeless guy who shouts obscenities on the street corner. We take notice, but just enough to avoid a personal interaction.

For the simple fact that it would be the end of me, I don’t have a cell phone. If I were to carry around an apparatus through which I could exchange text messages and check my email, I would never look up from it to engage anyone eye-to-eye ever again. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t have¬† enough self-restraining ability to be fully present with whoever I was with or whatever I was doing, when my phone was beeping or dinging or otherwise jovially indicating that a new message had come in. As someone who’s both at home a lot actively on their laptop, and an avid emailer, my need for a cell phone is next to nil. When people find out that I don’t have a cell phone, they often comment on how awesome that is, as though it’s a noble choice they wish they could make themselves. It’s not. It’s really just a matter of self-preservation. Well, that and the fact that I have no want or need, nor find myself important enough, to be contacted when I’m out doing other things away from my house.

I do, however, have a land line. One of those old fashion clunky cordless deals with an answering machine attached – ya know, the thing I never answer. Aside from the 3 people who would be overjoyed if I were to ever pick it up when they called, the only other people who generally try to contact me are those that caused me to be repelled by its ringing in the first place. Namely, creditors. Those who call incessantly in attempts at retrieving money from me that I don’t have. Not that I’m giving them a hard time – I mean, they’re just doing their job. It’s not like they’re making up the fact that I owe them money. I do owe them money. So why shouldn’t they be calling? (I have a lot of unpaid medical bills from a plethora of different chronic health issues.) However, it’s also not like I’m withholding money from them out of some vain, spoiled rich girl conditioning where sticking it to the medical establishment feels like some sort of great victory. If I had the money, I’d give it to them, and I do, on occasion.

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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Held

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Out in the woods yesterday,
I was reminded, once again,
about how nature remedies the ills
of what it means to be human.

It holds us in its breath,
its stillness, its offering of life,
its ability to let go.


Submerged amid rock formations, waters,
sage fields, trees, and sky,
I knew, without a sliver of doubt,
that the beauty of this world, our land and our people,
far outweighs what needs fixing.

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Jury Duty

missoula_county_courthouseMissoula Courthouse

I was summoned for jury duty in district court yesterday. I wasn’t looking forward to going, wondering if I might be able to get out of it by promptly shouting “Guilty!!” upon entering the courtroom, before anything was even underway yet, thereby calling into question my ability to be impartial, not to mention my sanity. Having no idea of what the day would have in store, but anticipating a lot of waiting around time, I packed light, bringing with me only a pen and small notebook. Over my four-hour stint in the newly renovated courtroom #3 I then proceeded, to my delight, to fill pages upon pages of it with my observations, factual information, musings and wandering of the mind.

A writer revels in new locations like a builder scouting for virgin land. With a pen and paper in tow, even mundane surroundings come alive – my attention held in the details, goings-on, faces and mannerisms around me.

What color is this carpeting? Warm burgundy? Dark salmon? Red brown brick meets sunset? Crimson? Wine? Crimson wine? Autumn leaf? What sort of creative but poorly understood name would it boast on a paint swatch? Jovial Friend Time? Lollipop Station? Squirrel Picnic? Luscious Horse Field?

I love the art and function of writing. To attempt the capturing of moments into unobstructed words. Being a writer supports my mindfulness practice, too. It affords me the ability to tune into certain things I might not otherwise take notice of. And, in the case of jury duty yesterday, having a love of writing allows me to turn an unwanted situation into an experience of captivation and interest.

Displayed at the head of the courtroom lies a mural of three lovely Romanesque ladies of justice, in pleasing earthen tones. The blue-skirted one on the left holds a dove, the middle pink-skirted one holds two rock-like round balls, one in each hand, and the arbor green-skirted one on the right is blindfolded, holding a scale. Above them, from left to right, reads: Freedom, Equality, Justice.

Pillars flank the courtroom topped in golden flourishes, pearl-globe chandeliers hang from the ceiling. A flag is nowhere in sight. Ornate crown molding surrounds the room. A grandfather clock hangs on the wall, keeping inaccurately slow time with its overtly bulky brass pendulum.

Connected wooden seats, with a place to put your cowboy hat underneath, fill with equally summoned citizens called to perform their civic duty – an inordinate amount of us, if you ask me: around 80! 80 relative strangers, who share our residence in Missoula county and a fondness for mountains, sitting elbow to elbow in a packed courtroom. They only need to select 12 of us, with one extra as an alternate, for the trial that will start after lunch, regarding 110 counts given to a woman alleged to have broken a restraining order by way of text messages (110 of them to be exact). A woman, I might add, who’s present in the room for this process of jury selection. Does she get a say in who is chosen? It seems odd that she would be involved in this.

They must be expecting the need to weed out a bunch of us with their procedure of questioning. Questions like: Does anyone have cataracts or glaucoma, rendering it difficult to see clearly? Does anyone have a family member who’s in law enforcement? Did anyone receive the jury summons and think of not showing up? Does anyone know anyone else here in the jury pool? Does anyone have an issue with text messaging (morally speaking or for other reasons)? Does everyone understand what ‘reasonable doubt’ means? Is there anything going on for you in your life that will hamper your ability to focus on the trial?

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Posted by on November 19, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Flying on the Wings of Affection

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I wanted to share an excerpt from a wonderful article I read this morning from the Mindfulness Bell publication (Winter/Spring 2016), entitled: The Treachery of Oblivion, by 15-year-old Jadzia Tedeschi:

“How could the people who have the power to change the world be so oblivious to fossil fuel depletion, world hunger, and ecosystem changes? But wait…here was the key! These people were oblivious, not treacherous.

…In reading the First Mindfulness Training (http://www.openway.org/content/mindfulness-trainings), the first things that might come to mind are vegetarianism and a blank criminal record. But all around me, I saw irreverence for life and our plentiful resources. I understood more clearly how crucial it is to love life in all its forms. A mosquito only bites to nourish itself and so deserves compassion, but what about those tampering with Mother Earth? Yes, they are worthy of respect and compassion. They haven’t encountered sufficient conditions to become sensitive to their circumstances. As “victims of oblivion,” they inflict harm on the world.

…Let’s not fight the victims of oblivion, because ramming into each other with sharpened horns will only bring chaos and destruction. Let’s let our collective energy be contagious and fly on the wings of laughter and affection.”

 

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Amid Changes

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Amid the world’s changes – for better, for worse, and usually a little of both – let us continue to do our work.

The work of a practitioner,

who knows, deep down, that impermanence is the marrow of life’s bones.

It does us no good to wallow in our devastation, breathing stale air into our worries.

It does us no good to commiserate with one another about how terrible we feel something or someone is.

Let us experience our sorrow, full fledged and fleeting,

and then toss it to scatter wildly about the hills.

Let us rock our sadness until it has calmed itself and fallen to sleep,

birthing in its wake a renewed diligence, towards our own transformation.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Creative Writing

 

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On Fear

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A week or so ago my husband Mike and I were discussing the topic of difficult emotions, in the context of our mindfulness practice. He mentioned being continually surprised by the common lack of mentioning fear, as one of the big prevailing emotions. Anger is referenced often, but seldom is fear spoken about. He posited that fear was, in fact, the root of all other difficult emotions. I agreed that anger, for instance, is not a root emotion, but a response to feelings of either hurt or fear. Most of what we feel arise as an emotion is rooted in another deeper layer of experience, often in our subconsciousness. But I never considered that fear may be what lies at the heart of all strong/challenging emotions. I took it as food for thought and have been chewing on it, so to speak, ever since.

When I first encountered the well-known quote by Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure,” I didn’t connect with her words and quickly sloughed them off. But now, years later, I understand. While I don’t presume to know how often this is true for others, I do know that a couple of years ago I discovered her insight to be true for myself. During a month-long retreat at Deer Park Monastery, I came to realize that I had a strong tendency of holding myself back from shining, which is what I refer to as our capacity to emit a certain inherent radiance when acting with joy and confidence in who we are and what we’re doing. I realized that what sat at the root of my trepidation, was fear. Fear of ego, fear of offending others or making them feel uncomfortable, fear of growing apart from certain loved ones by outshining them. Fear of becoming powerful beyond measure.

Ever since this light bulb of self-realization turned on, I’ve been slowly transforming this fear, working to dissipate it into the clear waters of understanding, where freedom resides. I’m learning the difference between egoism and self-confidence, and how it’s easy to confuse and misinterpret them. I’m learning that in holding myself back from shining, I’m also holding myself back from connecting fully, with both myself and others. I’m learning that to not shine as brightly as I can is to perform a disservice to who I am. And I’m learning to let go of over care-taking for people, by trying to affirm responsibility for their reactions, feelings,¬† and experiences.

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I’m learning to embrace the abilities and talents that I possess and shine as brightly as I can. It’s an ongoing process that continues to unfold and deepen. The more time I invest in becoming good friends with myself the more I see clearly about how important it is to develop this relationship – to relinquish my fear and embrace who I am with inclusiveness and ease.

Imagine the possibilities if more of us were less afraid of shining our light, helping to usher others forward to claim their own strength and wisdom. We all have the capacity to be the ones we’ve been waiting for.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Breathe, It’ll Be Okay

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It’s not up to our country’s leaders to instate an atmosphere of togetherness, it’s up to us.

We are the people we’ve been waiting for to rise up.

So let us rise up as one community.

In the spirit of connection, understanding, and compassion,

let us rise up.

 

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