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Monthly Archives: March 2018

March for Our Lives

Today, I practiced silent walking meditation amid hundreds of Missoulians brandishing signs in support of what wound up being a global march, in the wake of increasing gun violence in our schools.

Instead of a sign, I held my pocket-sized Buddha. Instead of joining in the chants of “No more silence, end gun violence,” I practiced deep, mindful breathing. The art of change-work can (and must) take place on a multitude of different levels.

We need those who can rally a march, who join in the chants, who can speak from the heart over a microphone, who are called to running for political offices, who donate money and time and their web talents – and we also need people who can remain calm and stable in the fray. We’re all needed. We all have something to offer. We’re all in this together.

 

Article from Lion’s Roar mag: Buddhists supporting March for Our Lives share their photos and messages:

https://www.lionsroar.com/buddhists-supporting-march-for-our-lives-share-their-photos-and-messages/?utm_content=buffer4e0f9&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Transitions

I’ve been investing intentional practice around the fact that my stepson is growing older and will soon be “out there,” left to his own devices, since even before he entered high school, so as not to not experience what I’ve heard so many parents of senior-year students speak to, in terms of being caught off guard and full of sorrow that their kids were all grown up and moving out. It seemed to me a rather implausible reality that a parent should feel so suddenly disjointed at the prospect of their child reaching a certain young-adult maturity level, as though they somehow didn’t see it coming all the years of their youth and moving out to start a life of their own wasn’t part of the deal.

But now I sorta get it.

Despite all my efforts to look deeply into the nature of impermanence and work to develop my practice in the art of letting go, just the other day I suddenly realized that my husband and I’s time with my 18-year old stepson is incredibly short. I did the math. Given how our residential schedule is lined out in our parenting plan – a schedule we’ve up-held diligently since he was at the tail end of first grade – we have a total of three remaining weeks with him until he graduates from high school, at which point he will be choosing to live full time with his mom and stepdad.

Just this morning I came across a lovely quote from Jack Kornfield on twitter, which states: To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.

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Posted by on March 23, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Everyone Has A Story

To listen to this post being read on my podcast, click here.

This post is in honor of World Storytelling Day, which by happenstance was yesterday (March 20th), the same day as was arranged our quarterly live storytelling event here in town called Tell Us Something (TUS). A pairing which was entirely coincidental by its orchestrater, Marc Moss.

The TUS guidelines for storytelling are as follows: they have to be about true personal experiences, fit in the span of 10 minutes, centered around the chosen theme, and must be given without the use of notes. Last night’s theme was: Right place, right time. 8 local storytellers got up on stage at the Wilma Theater, in front of a well-packed 850-seat venue of friendly faces, ready to listen.

Here’s my account of the evening, in order of appearance on stage:

1. Alex wore an orange Marty McFly vest and jazzy 80’s decor ball cap to regale us with a story about his last excursion to ComiCon, and encountering not 1, not 2, but 3 Deloreans, one of which he got the lifelong lasting pleasure to take a ride in. With the delightful confidence I’d never seen in a 13-year-old, he kicked off the evening with a breath of hope for our future, which I’m certain translated to every member of the audience.

2. His name was Michael, which meant I liked him right away, as derivatives of that name have followed me around in droves all my life and have always treated me well. He spoke artfully of his 70 years of life in the span of just 10 minutes, somehow managing to weave together having had a heart-attack, both in the literal and metaphorical sense, when his wife left him for another man, self re-invention, and travels over-seas.

3. Sarah opened with a mention of Ani Difranco, calling her a “weapons grade feminist folk singer,” which meant I liked her right away, too. The topic of divorce also made a cameo in her story, having left her husband for a woman whom she now has a child with. I saw fit to pen these two quotes from her in my pocket-sized notebook: “Whatever you do out of love, you can’t do it wrong,” and “I can only be where I am when I’m there.”

4. Heather wore a flower-print dress and continued in comradic fashion the theme of divorce. Like the others, it wasn’t in a sad country-song accord but more of a hard heart moment mentioning that spurred a re-posturing of a life once thought figured out. She spoke about her travels to Malawi, Africa, being a dancer, and ended by saying: “The Africa I went to see was not what I wanted, but it was what I needed.”

During the intermission, I shot up from my seat and went to stand against the wall next to the aisles, to write frantically in my pocket-sized notebook. Here’s what I wrote in mildly illegible form, as the theater sprang to life with a mixture of chatter and rustling about: (NOTE: while I’m tempted to make slight edits to this bit of writing for the sake of clarity and ease of reading, I’m resisting the urge and will include it just as I wrote it, hoping it makes some sort of sense)

These stories cut like butter on the battlefield of what it means to be human – and I pulsate with electricity like a bolt of lightning tossed to a tree top, firing up the atoms of everything in sight. I listen, absorbing inspiration like ears to sound in the wake of stories being told – and it’s words that matter, maybe it’s all that really does – I’m juiced up, ready to steamroll anyone in my way like an avalanche – shoot, I’ve got so much to say that I can’t write fast enough – this freekin theater is packed with story listeners being given permission to live their lives without shame, becoming unburdened by the fact that we stand in our own way when it comes to learning how to love and be loved, unfettered and free – and I want to take up shop situated on the shoulder of every person here and listen to their story, so I can keep on learning how to be myself amid the fray.

 

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Good Quotes

 

(You know you’re a writer when you take a picture of the notes you’re scribbling down while at a writer’s conference because you think your pen looks hella sexy.)       

I’ve had so much great input as of late, from a variety of sources, and have collected a smattering of quotes I’ve penned on whatever papered surface was in my midst. I wasn’t sure what I would do with these quotes, I was simply inspired to pen them down. In the interest of not containing these quotes on paper where only my eyes will glance upon them, I’ve decided to fashion this post and release them into the wild, where they belong.

Quotes from panelists during the Writing at Work conference, which took place at the University of Montana campus on Friday:

“You need to be ready to be rejected over and over and over. If one rejection email is going to crush you, you shouldn’t be a writer.”

“I can’t get too close to my hometown of Cut Bank, Montana – it’s population, elevation, and wind velocity are all the same number: 3,800.”

“Stick with your voice, we’re more capable than we think” and “Put in the time, even when you don’t want to.” – Pete Fromm

“Create occasions you have to rise to.”

“Find the joy in the work” and “I only learn things when I suck at it.” – Sarah Aswell (local comedian and comic writer)

“There’s often a crisis that precipitates inspiration.” – Editor of Beargrass Publications

“No woman writer thinks they have permission to write.”

Random quotes from random sources of inspiration (from songs to films; from books to videos on youtube; from articles to twitter posts):

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Mindful Speech on Social Media

My husband Mike and I just finished watching the documentary Jim & Andy, the Great Beyond about Jim Carrey’s role in Man on the Moon, where he played the comedian Andy Kaufman. It was so fantastic and Buddhist inspired that we googled the phrase: Is Jim Carrey a Buddhist. In doing so, we came across this article – on the nature of being human, having, and then healing, from depression, and letting go of our ideas of self – with accompanying short video, which was so lovely and inspiring that I wanted to share it (I would also super recommend watching the doc mentioned above): https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/11/jim-carrey-explains-depression-in-the-best-way-ive-ever-heard/

In my zeal to want to support people in helping to reduce the collective and crippling stigma around matters concerning mental illness, I posted the above quote and link on our Be Here Now Community facebook page. While we have a fairly hefty following, considering we’re a small Montana-based mindfulness group, which clocks in at over 6,700 page likes, we don’t often get many comments on our posts, which I tend to fashion on the daily. But within short order, this particular post received this comment:

If I was as ignorant as this moron I would be depressed too!

Hmm. Welp. What is the most skillful action to take here, I pondered? The options seemed pretty clear. I could either leave the comment and do nothing. I could erase the comment. Or I could fashion a response, knowing that my reply, while written to the commenter, would be more intended to reach our followers and perhaps serve as a teaching moment in regards to how to respond with mindful, loving speech to hater-types on social media. Upon consulting with my husband, we quickly decided that erasing it, while easy to do, would be squelching the potential for dialog, and potentially keep people from feeling as though our community is a place where they can be heard and accepted, regardless of their views and whether or not we all agree with one another (which is an unrealistic impossibility anyway!). Simply leaving it untended to seemed to be the least skillful action to take – so crafting a response it was!

Here’s what I said in reply:

Hello _(insert person’s name here)__, while this is not typically the sort of comment we like to support, as skillful and loving speech is something we put great value on as a practice, every one is very much entitled to their own opinions, so we’d prefer not to simply erase it. On behalf of our community, with all due respect – truly – our views and ideas of others are incomplete and pitted with misunderstandings. We cannot presume to know anyone well, even those who are closest to us, as we see them through the lenses of our own experiences. May your day and night be well and to your liking. With Care, Nicole Dunn, Be Here Now program director.

NOTE: I originally signed the post as Be Here Now Community, in the interest of wanting to protect myself a bit from being potentially receiving personal backlash, but I quickly edited it and put my name instead, as it felt cleaner and more true to who I am as someone who puts great importance on showing up as authentically as possible.

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Upon Waking

A little something I wrote early this morning, upon waking:

Within five minutes of waking, I had come up with a handful of things to be grateful for.

Within fifteen minutes, I was reminded of how sometimes – lots of times – my husband does not smell good, even when he’s sound asleep.

Within twenty minutes, I had scooped a teaspoon of loose gunpowder green tea peals into my tea strainer and delighted in the noise it made whilst tumbling in, akin to graupel on a windowpane. And I’d been bowled over for a brief moment by the realization that having running water is a great luxury not everyone has (the sound of which reminded me that in my exuberance to put pen to paper, I’d forgotten to pee).

Within thirty minutes, I deflated a bit when remembering that today, my Saturday would include an unscheduled trip to Grimebusters Laundromat, due to the fact that one of our cats peed in our bed last night, all the way through the comforter and both sheets. And I invested brain power in once again trying to come up with a less churlish-sounding substitute word for ‘pee.’

Within an hour, I was surrounded by a collection of papered items, which would relay to someone who didn’t know me that I’m both a writer and a Buddhist.

Within an hour and five minutes, I’d been given goosebumps upon reading a new bit of writing that I myself had crafted – and I didn’t feel silly or shameful about it (which is a newer development).

And within one hour and 48 minutes, I had run the gamut of thought, vacillating from birth to old age to death; from ideas for spoken word pieces to all the people I love and adore (including a whopping 4 friends who all have their birthday today!); and from that which stirs me up to that which serves to knock me down.

 

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Inspiration vs Intimidation

I follow Tiny Buddha on twitter (see image credit above) and really appreciate what they put out into the twitter-sphere. I re-post a lot of their memes on our sangha’s Be Here Now Community facebook page. I came across this one above just the other day and it fits exceptionally well into a subject that’s been alive for me lately, both pre and post my solo spoken word performance and album release last Friday, on the nature of inspiration vs. intimidation.

Along these lines, I penned this in my journal early this morning:

I’m aware that I am a person who shows up big. Even when I’m not saying anything – even when I’m just…sitting there. I know because I know. Because I have eyes and ears and an open heart that renders me observant. I know because people have told me. And it’s not as though I’m putting on airs or trying to show up in a certain way. Still, it translates in generally one of two ways, depending on how comfortable the other person is in their own skin whilst in my midst. My “bigness” is either inspiring or intimidating, and sometimes it’s a mixture of both at the same time.

It used to be that I was inclined towards over-caretaking for those who were left to feel inferior in my wake, by dimming my light and trying to ratchet down my “bigness.” But I’m realizing more and more that this is not a sound plan. Adjusting my light to compensate for the insecurity of others only serves to limit who I really am.

My work is to do my work, to be as kind and full-hearted as possible – and have that be not only enough but ALL of it. People will have the experiences they do, whether I show up big or cower back from fear of causing others offense or discomfort. It’s not my job to manage their energy (as though I even could!), as long as I’m doing my very best to be as skillful and loving as possible.

This is a practice I imagine I’ll be working on for the rest of my days. Because while I’m invested in continuing to shine my light and showing up how I show up, I’m also concerned with the energy exchange that occurs in relationships, and want to be sensitive to how I might overpower people in certain situations. I’m aware that not every moment is a time to shine. Sometimes the best action is non-action, to step back a bit and allow others the space and opportunity to do their thing. Sometimes I do need to dim my light, in order to get out of someone else’s way, so they can shine.

 

 

 

 

 
 

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