I was reading the Fourteen Mindfulness trainings on Saturday morning and I guess this guy wanted to see what all the fuss was about :)
My cup runneth over with inspiration, information, and heartbreak for the people. I’m rather at a loss of how to reign it all in to fashion this post. Over the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with a wealth of different people and topics that have given rise to a myriad of emotions, thoughts, and ideas.
Today marks the last day of our local 10-day 15th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. During the span of the festival, I saw films highlighting a number of issues, including: domestic violence, the oppression of our LGBTQ community, Native land rights, coal mining and mountain top removal in West Virginia, and the plight of orangutans and loss of forested habitat.
As a representative of our Buddhist sangha and active participant in our local interfaith community, I also attended a couple of events with a retired Evangelical pastor who was brought to town by both our local Christian faith communities and the Sierra Club: Pastor Tri Robinson. Tri Robinson is a conservative, Republican, evangelical, pastor-rancher that is adamant that evangelical Christians should be working to address the climate crisis as part of their Christian calling. I attended the first U.S premier of the film showing of Cowboy and Preacher on Friday night, for which Tri was the focal subject. And last night my husband and I attended his keynote address on the university campus entitled: Creation Care and the Christian Church. Both events were simply fantastic and provided a great deal of nourishment and inspiration to me as a spiritual leader motivated strongly to help support others and care well for our planet.
And then there’s the issue of what’s been happening in the wake of the school shooting that took place in Florida recently. My 18-year-old stepson’s high school was the target of a number of threats this past week. As parents, we were alerted via email and recorded phone messages about each instance and kept well informed. On Thursday, I received an email stating that the school was on lock-down, due to a threat posed to the student body. And while, for better or worse – and probably for both – I didn’t regard the threats as being of a serious nature that would actually give rise to actual harm being inflicted, my heart broke for my stepson and the other students, teachers, and staff who were having to weather and situate themselves amid that atmosphere, however hollow and empty the threats might have been.
Over the past week, too, I met with a few different close friends and sangha members, some of whom were seeking support with a particular matter. I had the chance to experience the vulnerability of a few individuals in trusting me with their stories and struggles, which is a privilege and honor that humbles me deeply.
Yesterday, as part of my Mindful Morning Saturday routine, I watched a Dharma talk given on February 12th by Brother Phap Man, a monk in the Plum Village tradition who resides at Blue Cliff Monastery. His talk – which I watched in two sessions and finished this morning – was entitled: Healing Ourselves, Healing Our World, and focused on matters of racial discrimination, sexism, white privilege, and detrimental cultural biases.
I met with two hospice patients. I spent a day nannying for two young boys. I worked to pull together logistics for our upcoming spring family retreat, for which I serve as co-director, in charge of registration and also putting together and running the kids programming. I met with a good friend who’s offered to be my sound guy in the venue for my upcoming scary new adventure of having a CD release party and solo spoken word performance. And there’s more, too.
So much happens in the span of one week’s time. And some weeks, like this past one, involve a bit more than usual, in the realm of sensory input.
I’m sitting with a swirling torrent of internal wind patterns of thought. And holding steady is an overwhelming sense of gratitude for being in the position that I am. The position to have the causes and conditions not to be stuck and glued to my own tiny box of self. To be able to extend myself to others who are in need of love and support. To reach out to friends and family. To bear witness and be in close contact with matters of injustice and suffering and still remain grounded in my practice of joy and ease. To engage with the range of the human experience and be nourished by all of it – fueled by all of it. To actively seek out opportunities which afford me the chance to learn and grow and develop more empathy, compassion, and understanding. To actively practice being uncomfortable and looking deeply into that, as discomfort is a telltale sign that the conditions are ripe for developing insight and transformation.
And one of the greatest misfortunes is that collectively and individually, we don’t understand the importance of stepping into discomfort. When we encounter discomfort, our tendency and habit energy are to shirk back. We don’t stretch ourselves enough into new landscapes. We are overly stuck in our own self-proclaimed and largely illusory states of busyness – too self-absorbed to reach out and invest our time and energy into the care of others and matters that affect our local community, nation, environment, and the world.
And it’s the seemingly “little” things that matter most. It’s terribly easy to underestimate the power of cultivating a mindfulness practice. Of developing what I like to call the two powers of stability and fluidity. We allow ourselves to falsely believe that sitting meditation, walking meditation, deep breathing, and so on, are not effectual means of being a citizen of change – that it’s too passive, not enough, and even a waste of time.
But I am of the nature to agree with one of my favorite song lyrics, by one of my most beloved musicians, which states:
You can talk a great philosophy, but if you can’t be kind to people every day, it doesn’t mean that much to me; it’s the little things you do, the little things you say, it’s the love you give along the way.
– Ani Difranco