I took this pic last summer at the Flathead Lake in Montana – and I wrote this passage last night, while sitting in Vietnam Noodle, waiting for our take-out order. Have I mentioned lately life is good?
For those of you who follow along with my blog here, you may recall that I sometimes use this platform to work on upcoming practice related talks I’ll soon be giving, usually at my local sangha Be Here Now, as it helps me to plan out and organize my thoughts about what I want to share. This time, however, I’ll be offering a talk to a group of volunteers with a local nonprofit called CASA, which stands for: court appointed special advocates. (From their website: CASA of Missoula provides independent, trained advocates for the best interests of children within the judicial system who are at substantial risk or have experienced abuse or neglect. We provide consistent, long-term advocacy until every child resides in a safe, permanent home.)
As I was asked to talk about the relationship between our energy output and our energy input, I’ve titled this talk Nourish to Flourish.
I’ve often thought about offering these kind of support sessions to volunteer organizations or in work-place settings, as both non-profits and many professions require annual trainings, continuing education credits or have wellness programs built-in. So, this is my first step in that direction.
I’d like us to start by having us all count how many breaths we take in the span of 1-minute. And we’ll try our best not to alter our natural breathing rate as much as possible. (Bring a timer and set for 1-minute – instruct folks to remember their number.)
Now, I’d like us to do 5-minutes of quiet sitting together, to settle into the room and this time here together, as simply a way to help us bring our attention and presence into this space and transition from wherever it is we just came from. So I’ll invite us to gently close our eyes and softly focus our attention on the sensations of our breathing in and breathing out…feeling as our chest expands and contracts….feeling as our stomach rises and falls…and noticing how we’re feeling, tuning into our body and our mind…(monitor time for 5-minutes, sound bell to start and end) (NOTE: I find that using the pronoun ‘our’ when doing guided meditations, deep relaxations, or in practice talks in general has a more communal and relational feel to it, verses the more common ‘you’ or ‘your.’ It is also has a less “preachy” or “instructional” air to it when I include myself in the mix by using the word ‘our.’ I mean, we’re all in this together, right? I’m practicing, too!)
So, let’s re-test our breathing rate. Again, for the span of 1-minute we’ll count how many breaths we take, without trying to alter our breathing. (Time for 1-minute.) Ask: How many people found that your number went down after the 5-minutes of sitting? How many people found that it stayed about the same? And did anyone find that it increased? It might interest you to know that the optimal breathing rate for highest functioning and good health is around 6 breaths per minute, with the medical norm around 12 breaths per minute, and the average adult is now breathing even faster, at about 15-20 breaths per minute. And severely ill patients have an even higher rate.
This is the 3rd of an 8-part series of my offering of short mindfulness related practice talks once a week, in order to help support and offer inspiration to fellow mindfulness practitioners.
Note: If when sitting on a cushion your knees do not touch the floor, simply place a small pillow or rolled up blanket underneath the knee(s) for support.
Ode to Cantaloupe
Dear local Dixon Melons, vine-ripened in Montana,
As soon as I walked into the Good Food Store this morning, I could smell your delicious fragrance perfuming the air – it was then that I knew that today was the day I’ve long waited for, my most favorite day of the summer. Today, was Dixon Melon day!
I was there at the GFS only 3 days ago – I looked for you, then, but sadly you were not there. But today?! Huzzah!! I left the store victorious, with a joyful plan to feast upon you with every meal for the rest of the weekend!
So, thanks, and stuff, for like, ya know, growing and being super awesome – truth be told, though, I’m a little sore at you for spoiling all other cantaloupe for me. In the famed words of Sinead O’Connor: Nothing compares to you.
In gratitude for my local Dixon Melon farmers,
Yesterday, I finished an online course offered through PESI by Dr. Christopher Willard, a licensed psychotherapist, educational consultant, and author, entitled: Mindfulness Certificate Course for Treating Kids and Teens: Interventions for ADHD, Anxiety, Trauma, Emotional Regulation and More
The course consisted of 9 modules, totaling in at around 18 hours worth of class time. To learn more about Dr. Willard: http://drchristopherwillard.com/
This class spurred in me a deeper consideration of determining for myself what the differences and pros/cons are in regards to developing mindfulness in a spiritual capacity, verses a secular one. Some people question whether it is even wise at all to separate the two: mindfulness and spirituality. Perhaps these folks are concerned about watering down the potency of mindfulness and losing its true spirit and intention. Or perhaps, like me, they might wonder how a person can teach mindfulness if they themselves do not have their own practice in which to draw experience and stability from.
So, is there a right and wrong way to offer mindfulness? Is there a point when it can become too secular?
As our local Dharma teacher says, and I very much appreciate, the classic Zen answer to any question is: It depends.
Has there ever been – and will there ever be – just ONE way in which to do ANY particular thing ALL the time? I think not.
In only the way a cat can, I was commandeered – in the best way possible – unable to break free. And, as we were sitting outside, I was afforded the luxury of time to look up and ponder the merits and inspirational value of the two towering elm tree friends posting guard in our backyard.
So, it was just this morning that I was able to determine, without wavering, that while they are cause for dismay and require great efforts of manual labor at times, their beauty, wisdom, and fortitude offer far more benefit.
I realized, too, that the one directly overhead of me had a sense of humor, as it was pelting me occasionally with small bits of twigs and leaves as I was writing.
P.S I thought it worth mentioning that I have mild-moderate levels of hesitation in fashioning and posting this photo array from pics I took this morning, as there is a part of me that wants to stay in close personal accord with not becoming one of “those” kinds of cat people. But after careful consideration, I decided it was worth the risk.
In loving memory of Alison Matthews, who passed away on July 3rd, 2017
and her husband David, who passed away last night on August 6th, 2017
A string of sangha friends have died in only one-month’s time – a period of mourning is at hand.
Breathing in, I see myself as a rain cloud.
Breathing out, I allow myself to grieve this sacred sorrow.
What am I to understand from all of this loss? 3 friends in the last month, gone. 2 friends this time last year, gone.
This life is extinguishable, yes.
Those I love will continue to die, yes.
Right now there is pain and heartache, yes.
At some point, this pain will pass, yes.
This life is precious, yes.
This day today is a gift, yes, most assuredly.
Here’s an excerpt from a speech David gave last year:
“I have a very strong connection to Martin Luther King, Jr. He was the speaker at my commencement in 1965 at Oberlin College. I lived through that troubled time of the ‘60’s, and through all the years since, with Martin Luther King as a powerful guide…
This individual man who was called by God, opened himself fully to universal mind. Two months before his assassination in April of 1968, in a Sunday sermon, he spoke out the summary of his life, and what he knew to be important. It is the antithesis of despair, and the call to each of us to make a useful life.
Once in awhile I think about my own death and my own funeral, not in a morbid way, but I ask, “what would I want someone to say?” If any of you are here when it is my time to meet my end, don’t make it a long funeral. And if someone gives the eulogy, ask them not to make it too long. Ask them not to mention the Nobel Peace Prize – that’s not important. Ask them not to mention all the other awards, or where I went to school. Those things are not important. On that day I would like someone to mention that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life in the service of others. On that day I’d like someone to say I tried to love somebody, say that I tried to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. I want someone to say Martin Luther King, Jr. was a drum major, a drum major for justice, a drum major for peace; say that I tried to be a drum major for righteousness. And all those other shallow things won’t matter. I won’t have anything to leave behind- no money, none of the fine things of life. But all I want to leave behind is a committed life. And that’s all I want someone to say.”