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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Smoke

Missoula Valley. Photo Credit: Brian Christianson Photography

Here in Missoula, Montana we’re in the midst of our fifth annual season: fire season. In western Montana, the order is as follows: winter, spring, summer, fire, fall. So the “water cooler” talk right now in town is centered largely around air quality and wildfire activity. Whether at the check-out line in the grocery store or during a chance occurrence with a friendly acquaintance, the topic de jour is about how awful the smoke settling in the valley is, how sad it is to know our forests are burning, and how everyone hopes it’s over soon.

Regardless of the season, this dialog is no different than our collective griping about the weather. Come winter time it shifts to how cold and gray it is. Come spring time it’s too rainy, or not rainy enough. Come summer it’s too hot. Come fire season it’s too smoky. And fall’s biggest detractor is that it has arrived too soon and isn’t summer.

This post isn’t my own gripe about other people griping, but instead is my way of trying to process this cultural phenomenon and shed light onto an opportunity in which to practice. Despite my propensity for writing – which I do A LOT of – in person, I gravitate towards the quieter side of the verbal scale. So, when people I meet proceed to talk about how awful the smoke is, my tendency is to simply smile and listen. But I do invest contemplative time in trying to fashion some kind of response that would be an authentic expression AND also not be dismissive of what someone is saying. Once in a while I manage to say something that I hope will serve to rally against the commonplace mentality of complaining about the weather, but mostly I have found little to offer in return when it comes to this dialog exchange.

I’ve written about this topic here on my blog a few times over the years. How we engage with the weather is a litmus test for how we engage with life. Our reactions to the weather are an indicator of how well we deal with uncertainty and change, how well we are able to go with the flow of what’s being presented in the here and now, and how skilled we are in the art of letting go. It’s worth our time and energy getting in touch with what our own relationship is to the weather, and paying close attention to what it is we say and how often we talk about it with others.

Our quality of life depends on what we do in the in-between-the-cracks moments – those instances we disregard or let fall to the wayside or way underestimate as being important. There is no such thing as an insignificant moment. Every weather-based conversation and simple exchange matter.

So, as always, the practice continues…

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“Me”

Every influence I’ve ever encountered has shaped my character and disposition. I am who I am because of an endless parade of circumstances, people, and input. There is no “me” in which to point to directly. Instead, one must point to every single other person and everything else – and continue pointing, as the “me” you’ve grown accustomed to is always shifting.
 
I would be someone all together different if I wasn’t a student of Thich Nhat Hanh’s – if I wasn’t a devoted listener to Ani Difranco or, back in the day, the Grateful Dead – if I hadn’t moved across the country to Montana days before I turned 19 – if I had had different BFF’s growing up, different boyfriends, different parents – if that grade-wide ecosystem project hadn’t happened in 8th grade – if I hadn’t been raised by the Jersey shore in the summers of my youth – if I had shaved off all my hair only twice, instead of three times – if even one flower or butterfly I’ve met had not caught and held my breath in its beauty. 
 
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Posted by on August 28, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

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8-Minute Practice Video: Gratitude

Video #5 of my 8-week video pilot project :)

 

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Heart & Brain

Heart_and_Brain

Heart & Brain comic by Nick Seluk

 

Heart: Let’s take to the open road! Adventure is calling! Banff or bust!!

Brain: I’m not so sure that’s the best idea. I mean, we should really be focusing on getting our first book published and rededicating ourselves to the second book we started.

Heart: But, the road! Adventure! Let’s seize the moment!

Brain: Well, we DO have friends there now who will only be there for a short while. And it’d only be for a few days. It’ll start getting cold up there pretty quick, too – and since we’d be camping it does make sense to go sooner than later.

Heart: Huzzah! Let’s start packing!

Brain: Whoa there little fella. It’s still a couple of weeks out yet IF we go. I’m still on the fence.

Heart: Screw the fence! We only live once! Life’s too short to have fences! Open fields, that’s what I say!

Brain: What about the fact that we still have our taxes to do? Our 2016 taxes! And we have to work on those class proposals, finish painting the garage, do that one thing we talked about, and have loads of other adulting tasks to take care of?

Heart: Whee!! Look at me running in this open field! I’m freeee!

Brain: Okay. I’m in.

(Inspired by the Heart & Brain comic by Nick Seluk)

 

 

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American Eclipse 2017

Standing still in one place will grant you the opportunity to bear witness to a full solar eclipse every 375 years. Our moment, was yesterday.

I had been on the fence about traveling the necessary 4-hours south that it would take to be inside the path of totality. Thank goodness our minds were made up by someone who knew far better than we did: a NASA historian we heard speak at the public library, who described the difference between seeing a partial vs. a full solar eclipse to be the difference between reading about chocolate and eating it.

Not knowing what to expect, we prepared for possible pandemonium. Even though we were only making a day-trip, we brought sleeping bags and a tent, in the event we got stuck somewhere overnight; 7-gallons of water, in case there was none to be found; food, playing cards, a cook stove, camp chairs, and cash, like the Idaho eclipse website suggested, just in case the card machines got overloaded and went on strike. We were geared up for the “worse-case scenario” – of course, we were so far removed from an actual worse-case scenario that we would’ve had to hop a train, two jets, and an ocean-liner to even scratch the surface – but our spirits were riding high on the seas of all things hope-related.

Equally fantastic to witnessing the stellar phenomenon of a total solar eclipse was the kind, caring and sweet nature of the pop-up community we were surrounded by in Hamer, Idaho. In the last 2010 census, Hamer, Idaho clocked in at 48 residents – up from 12 in 2000 – and is currently estimated at having a population of 91. So, it’s pretty small. But yesterday, for a few brief hours, Hamer swelled to around 200 wonderful folks and we all enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience together as a global family of strangers.

Today, I sit in awe of the power, inspiration, and magnitude of both the cosmos and community. Each and every moment changes our character and perspective, in some regard. Yesterday’s eclipse viewing might very well turn out to be one of the more influential changes I’ve experienced. It’s beauty was truly a sight to behold and cherish. What a splendid and magnificent universe we live in.

To view my amateur video of the eclipse from Hamer, Idaho:

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2017 in Community, Travel

 

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8-Minute Video: Engaged Practice

 

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Do your own practice

One of the most valuable practices we can engage ourselves in is not taking on the energy of others.
 
By working on developing our own sense of wellness, balance, joy, and ease we are able to learn how to carry it with us wherever we go and not be swept up by the stressful, anxious, angry, sad, and unhealthy energies, words and actions of others.
 
Keep sitting. Keep breathing. Keep smiling. The fruits of the practice will reveal themselves in time.
 
 

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