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Monthly Archives: August 2018

Restoring Balance

 

I wear a green shirt and brown pants every day that calls for me to leave the house and mingle with the weather and/or the people, which is to say, most days. My lounge-about/sleepwear, however, is slightly more varied, with purples and whites and grays. I have hoodies in brown and green but in the early mornings when I rise, perhaps in solidarity with the color of sky when I wake, it’s the black hoodie that makes the most sense to me to wear.

Yesterday morning, I grabbed a green hoodie because it was there and easy. I put it on, zipped it up, and set to making my tea and boiling my eggs, as though I hadn’t just monkeyed with the normal order of things.

I sat down at the table, next to a bobbing candle flame atop a beeswax base, and read the first few crisp pages of a new book I acquired the evening prior. But something wasn’t quite right. Like entering your house to discover a light left on that you knew you turned off, something was amiss. I knew straight away what it was: the green hoodie.

I got up and replaced it with the black one. Balance was restored.

Now, some might deem this an attachment I would do well to work on or an OCD moment I should tend to with greater skill. And if it weren’t for the fact that I was operating with self-connection in a spirit of befriending, verses that of compulsion and anxiety, I would readily agree. But I used my intelligence and made a conscious choice, and that makes a world of difference.

Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) is often instructing us to use our own intelligence when it comes to the use of the teachings and practice tools. This means that we would do well not to think that any one course of action can be applicable in all situations. This means that we must come to understand that to actualize the full breadth and spirit of the practice, we must be able to tune into our present moment experience and ascertain what’s called for, from our own perspective and knowledge, with clarity and ease. As our local dharma teacher Rowan says, and I just love: The classic Zen answer to any question is “it depends!” And it really does. The practice is not static or fixed in place. It’s alive, like the relationships we have with our dearest beloved.

My morning routine of communion with the greaterness that occupies space and time and joins us all miraculously together, is not something I find wise to mess around with. And if a black hoodie helps me in this process, then…shoot, I’m good with that.

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Kinds of Love

There are some people I only love from afar.

The way one might revel in a painting in a museum

while standing across the room.

There are others I love like

dipping in close to smell a wild rose.

Absorbing it full throttle

but only for a short burst of time.

There are some I love like movie theater popcorn:

ravenously but only once in a great while.

And then there are those I love like music and tea,

drinking them in as often as I can.

 

 

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Metta to the Drunk People

Last night, I attended a concert at an outdoor amphitheater, alongside a myriad of Missoulians clad in layers to weather the changing temperatures and armored with an ever-rising blood-alcohol level.

And it used to be I would sit in judgement, of those who drink enough to exhibit qualities of character that only other drunk people find appealing. But now I am able to bear witness to such inebriated behaviors and extend the following thoughts:

1. I hope you are accompanied by someone who can drive you safely home.
2. I hope one day you are able to dance and interact with such open abandon while sober.
3. Sweet Missoulian, I am glad to share this place called home with you. I wish you well.

 
 

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Life is short, time is precious

 

In the time I spend weekly with elderly patients, I continue to learn and deepen my understanding of how life is short.

In the time I spend weekly with young children, I continue to learn and deepen my understanding of how time is precious.

And it’s these two sentiments cultivated on-goingly, that have sculpted my view of the world and my place in it.

It’s these realities that propel me to do what I do – and to keep doing it, with love and vigor.

 
 

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Rallying

On Saturday, despite the fact that we haven’t seen a decent rain in weeks and our forests are on high fire alert, I lost all perspective when it came to my boots steadily filling with water. All I was concerned about was keeping my two tires on the slick roadway and having enough visibility through the rain patterns on my visor to see where I was going, which was hopefully to a place warm and dry.

In those wet, tentative moments on the bike – raindrops pelting my face and lips like needles – I had to marshal an inner strength to help me ride. I had to drum up some extra fortitude and focus on the small gratitudes, so as not to be ruled by fear and misery.

And it helped that I knew that the rain would pass. It always does. I knew my sodden clothes would dry and I would at some point get warm again. This is the way of things. Nothing lasts forever. So I held firm to those inevitabilities. I rallied. From a place within that always exists. I rallied because I had to. I rallied because I could.

 
 

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Dancing It Out

I love that I found this above image on a web search: Breathe, smile, and dance it out. Yes!

On Thursday of this past week, I’d planned to go on a solo camping excursion to a new spot a friend told me about a few days prior. As it was going to be at a lake setting, I was going to bring along my SUP board too. But Thursday morning rolled around and I wasn’t feeling it. New plan! I stayed home. I hemmed and hauled a little bit though first, telling myself things like: Summer is short here in Montana Nicole, maybe you should push yourself today and just get out there and do it. But the prevailing response I got back in return was: Nope. Don’t feel like it. So I heeded that voice instead.

I had a leisurely morning and a lovely resting period in the afternoon. And in between? Yep. I danced it out. And it was glorious!

I saddled the neighbors with really loud music cranking from our guitar amp (which I can plug my laptop into for amplification purposes of any music I so choose), shut the windows (to help abate the noise), grabbed a water bottle from the fridge, and proceeded to dance it out to some of my favorite songs. It had been long enough since last I’d done so that it served as a reminder about how much I love, love, love to dance.

I continued my dancing streak by attending Reflective Morning Movement (RMM) at the dance studio downtown on Friday morning. I’ll use the woman’s write up who puts on this offering to help explain RMM:

7:00 We arrive in silence and gather for a short sit.
7:15: Music begins, and we allow natural movement to emerge from the stillness.
8:10: Music ends and we sit together for few minutes of silence.
A bell rings to end our experience.
We leave in silence to allow each mover the gift of natural time and reflection.

We come in silence, we sit together, we dance together, we feel the music underneath the music, we feel the mercy of what it means to be in community, we listen to our fierce aliveness, we invite our wholeness, we re-member our true home in the ever-changing web of experience and feeling and thought, we move a prayer wheel of hope from within, we settle into belonging, we rest in the silence, we listen for the bell, we leave in silence.

RMM combines two of my favorite activities: dancing and sharing energy with people without the need to converse in dialog (as we enter, dance, and exit in silence). There’s no instruction or guidance offered. You come, music plays, and you move/dance however you want.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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Remember (Note to Self)

When I was younger, I wanted to save the planet. Now, I want to save the people.

But my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to speak, and I need to remember that I can both only do so much AND what I am able to do is not only enough, but abundantly helpful and a direct manifestation of my highest calling.

I realized just this morning, that I have not only been over-extending my heartspace but also putting certain expectations on doing so. And it doesn’t feel good.

A little thing I tend to do is forget that there is only so much time in the day, only so much heart-full energy I can extend, before the day is over and/or before I find myself weary and forlorn. I’m certain that one of my superhero names could be the Reacher-Outer. It’s one of the things I do well. When loved ones or sangha members are struggling, I reach out. I check in, extend offerings of support, and send love. If I haven’t seen or heard from a friend in a little while, I reach out. I check in, say hello, and ask what’s shaking. I send emails, texts, Facebook messages, postcards, and letters. It’s what I do.

As I grow older and interact with more people, I’ve come to understand that most people are either not skilled in this department or are simply un-interested in developing this quality of character. Most of the time, I happily and gratefully fill this role. Then there are times – like now – when I find myself getting burnt out with it. When I reach out to folks, I’ll often hear back from them one way or another, but seldom do people reach out first. And it grows taxing to be that person on a regular ongoing basis, especially when I have a rather large network of those I hold dear. As a spiritual leader and sangha director, the number of those I care about continues to grow as well, as more people come to sit with us and engage with the community. So I find myself in a quandary: How do I continue letting people into my heartspace without depleting my inner resources? How do I keep reaching out, knowing not many are able to return the gesture?

Part of the answer I think is stated in the meme above, that I came across on twitter earlier today: Do small things with great love. (P.S And keep doing them.)

The other parts of the answer that I remind myself often about are as follows: Continue taking good care of yourself; Pull back when you need to; It’s okay to say no; Have confidence in your practice; Be diligent in sticking with the things you know are helpful for you; Keep the practice of joy as a top priority; Letting go is an ongoing and ever-unfolding art; Stay in touch with your priorities and don’t make compromises or excuses when it comes to manifesting them; You can only do so much, you can’t save people, you can only support and love them as best as you’re able.

My notes to self are rather extensive on this subject at hand. Sometimes, they’re all that keep me afloat.

It’s good to be BFF’s with one self. It can really come in handy during those lagging moments when our energy wanes.

My morning post on my writer’s Facebook page:

Why I meditate everyday:

It’s cuz love.

I meditate to restock it, replenish it,

reinvent it, recirculate it, and re-approach it.

Without its graces,

my powers of love would become null and void of merit and sense,

absent of the energy needed to propel it near and far.

 

 
 

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