RSS

Monthly Archives: October 2018

UM Hate Crimes Forum

Last night, I attended a forum on the University of Montana campus, as part of an annual event called DiverseU. It was a forum on hate crimes and there were three sets of panelists, totaling 12 speakers all together. Unfortunately, I don’t think they advertised it very well, as there was relatively poor attendance. There were maybe 75-100 of us to start off, scattered out around 400 chairs or so. After the first panel was done, over half of the people left. By the time the third panel started – running well behind schedule and beginning their session at 9:00pm, when the event was set to end – only about a dozen of us were left to give them our sleepy-eyed but undivided attention.

Who knows. Maybe they did advertise it well and people just weren’t drawn to the topic, knowing full well that it would be a hard evening to endure. For me personally, there are some things I am willing and glad to do even when I have something else scheduled that requires cancelling; even when I’m tired; even when I’d prefer to haul up at home; even when I know my heart will ache deeply in unison with the people when I go. This forum was one such occasion.

As a spiritual leader in a Buddhist community, I want the people who come through our doors to feel welcome, safe, cared for, supported, loved, and accepted. And anything I can do to better educate myself and expand my understanding and compassion, the better.

Here are some notes I scribed down last night:

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Passing Away

My grandmother Mary, who passed away on October 27th, 2018

 

Yesterday, my paternal grandmother passed away. After a long life spent singing in the church choir, attending mass, and being the hub for tending to her 8 children and 12 grandchildren, she went the way all of us inevitably will, sifting from form to memory.

She was my last surviving grandparent.

Last night, I lit a fire out back in her honor. And it just so happened that a bundle of my maternal grandmother’s ashes sat beside me. They followed me home from a recent trip I took to see my mom. I never said a proper good-bye to her, when she passed away last December – not in a way that acknowledged that the breath of a life had been transferred back to its source. Her ashes then became symbolic of both of my grandmothers departures.

They became that of Mike’s grandmothers, too.

We added a small handful to the fire, and watched as the ashes both settled into the crackling embers and rose up amid the smoke, which caused the drying elm leaves above to rattle and dance.

We then set out in the darkness of 8pm in the autumnal mountains, to scatter the rest of the ashes. We set some adrift on the Bitterroot River and laid the remainder to rest in a grassy field surrounded by ponderosas.

Aho grandmothers.

A blessing to you all.

You gave us life.

You carried us on the same backs of all those who came before us.

We as your grandchildren are your continuation.

Now, we carry you forward,

on the same backs of all those who still remain,

and will soon follow in our footsteps.

My grandmother & grandfather’s continuation of grandchildren

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana

I recently completed a solo 10-day road trip loop around the states. Here are the stats:

I left home in Missoula, Montana on Friday October 12th at 5:40am (camped over night in Medina, ND)

I arrived in Stillwater, Minnesota on Saturday October 13th at 12:30pm

I left MN on Tuesday October 16th at 5:00am and arrived in Bull Shoals, Arkansas later that same day at  6:08pm

I left AR on Friday October 19th and arrived back home in Missoula on Sunday October 21st at 12:19pm (camped over night in Paxico, KS and in Kaycee, WY)

Grand total of miles traversed: 3,834.3 miles

________

Arkansas

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 25, 2018 in Travel, writer's life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Don’t Bite the Hook

On my recent road trip, in addition to all of the music I enjoyed listening to while driving, I brought along a set of CD’s I borrowed from our mindfulness center’s library: a 3-disc series of talks by Pema Chodron called Don’t Bite the Hook.

Here’s a description I found online:

Life has a way of provoking us with traffic jams and computer malfunctions, with emotionally distant partners and crying children—and before we know it, we’re upset. We feel terrible, and then we end up saying and doing things that only make matters worse. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Pema Chödrön. It is possible to relate constructively to the inevitable shocks, losses, and frustrations of life so that we can find true happiness. The key, Pema explains, is not biting the “hook” of our habitual responses. In this recorded weekend retreat, Pema draws on Buddhist teachings from The Way of the Bodhisattva to reveal how we can:

• stay centered in the midst of difficulty
• improve stressful relationships
• step out of the downward spiral of self-hatred
• awaken compassion for ourselves and others

I can’t say enough good things about this series. It was so chock full of insight and wisdom that I found I could only listen in 15-20 minute segments which fortunately, with how this series is set up, is very easy to do.

Here are some things I penned down whilst driving and listening (note: if it has quotation marks around it, then it’s something she said verbatim – if it doesn’t, it’s something I paraphrased, infusing my own understanding/practice into what I heard):

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas

Since Friday October 12th, I’ve traveled 828.9 miles plus 380.6 miles plus 781.1 miles away from home. When grand totaled, it comes to 1,990.6 miles. And one of the places you can find yourself when traversing that far from Missoula, Montana is Bull Shoals, Arkansas, population 1,950 – which equates to my having driven approximately one mile for every resident in this quaint and lovely little town, in order to get here.

I left my good friend Wendy’s, in the metro area of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, at 5:00am on Tuesday October 16th and arrived later that same day at 6:00pm at my mom’s place in Bull Shoals. Here are some road notes I scribed down whilst en route (in order of appearance):

6:30am, 41 degrees. Daybreak cuts the tension of darkness in a sharp jut of sky to the east.

Like miles of lane barricades on the highway with no trace of road construction in sight, I trust the process of life, even if I don’t understand it.

A road sign reads: Hope, 1 mile. Wouldn’t it be great if it were as simple as that?

I strode over the border into Iowa at 7:30am and watched the sun pop up over the horizon at 7:31. Bearing honored witness to a sunrise so inexpressibly beautiful that it floods the sense, these words came to mind:

I look out to the horizon in gratitude for this one precious life.
I look out to the horizon in gratitude for being a citizen of this great country.
I look out to the horizon in gratitude for the highways and byways that connect us.

More road notes:

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 18, 2018 in Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

On the road again

It gets little better for me in the good time department than making tea by the roadside. I’m not sure how quite to describe it but it just makes sense to me.

I’m currently on a road trip, clacking away on my old laptop I keep around for such things as rambling or retreating, so that I can attempt to keep up with all the things that percolate and bubble to the surface that I want to scribe down. It’s far too time consuming and arduous a task to use pen and paper on trips and then have the merry assignment of having to type it all out when I get home – I know, cuz I’ve done it. So, I’ve learned to make peace with traveling with electronics, as there’s a big part of me that would prefer to venture off without them.

Alas, a writer must write – and when she wanders off she must take the tools of the trade with her, with gladness in her heart.

Stats thus far, on my first leg of the trip:
Left town: Friday October 12th at 5:45am
Miles traveled on Friday: 828.9
Car camped for the night: Medina, North Dakota
Arrived in the metro area of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, to spend 2 days with a good friend: Saturday October 13th at 12:30pm
Miles traveled on Saturday: 380.6

Billboard on the roadside in North Dakota :)

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 15, 2018 in Travel, writer's life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mitra

Meet Mitra, my Bluetooth speaker. In Sanskrit, the word mitra means friend.

Months back, I decided to name my little speaker, in an effort to make better acquaintance with it. Since the speaker comes equipped with a female voice, which sees fit to tell you when it’s turning on and off or when it’s looking for a connection to whatever electronic device you’re attempting to pair it with, and also when the connection has been lost, I named her Mitra. Mitra can also speak a handful of languages in which to tell you said announcements. Since my personal preference is not an option: a silent/non-talking mode, I came to realize that I needed to find a way to enfold the speaker into my mindfulness practice, because I found the voice jarring, unpleasant, and annoying.

Did I mention that there’s also no controlling the volume of the Bluetooth voice? And, to top if off, the speaker has a mind of its own. It randomly turns itself off for no good good reason and disconnects itself from my laptop on its own volition – making sure to announce at top volume about its decisions as it goes about its business.

It’s not ideal.

So, I named her Mitra, to remind myself that making friends with whatever it is that I find disagreeable, is what the essence and aim of cultivating a mindfulness practice is all about.

Another thing I did was to set Mitra on the Portuguese setting, as I find that it’s the most lovely sounding language she speaks.

Mitra and I hang out everyday. So, it behooves me to make friends with her is the way I figure it.

Regarding her as a friend helps me to not get frustrated with her when she acts up in a way I deem incongruent with my worldview. As it happens, she’s temperamental – just like me and every other person I know.

It may sound silly but I find this practice of befriending inanimate objects incredibly useful in my practice (I’ve got other ones, too). I talk with her just as I would a real friend, and it helps me to develop more patience and understanding as a result. Making friends with my Bluetooth speaker is an action I take in order to reduce my own suffering – however trite and mild that suffering might be – and it works great!

As the Buddha said: With our thoughts we make the world.

 

 

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,