Yesterday, I watched as two dudes from Best Buy hauled our old 14.2 cubic feet Hotpoint away and replaced it with a shiny new 18 cubic feet Insignia.
The decision to replace our fridge didn’t come easy. My husband and I do not subscribe to the consumeristic driven philosophy of “get a new one even if the old one ain’t broken.” We tend to run a thing until it’s last sputtering breath and even then we hesitate to make new purchases.
Our Hotpoint wasn’t broken down. Sure it was gross from age and could only be cleaned to a certain extent. Sure the door shelves were held on by duct tape. But it worked swimmingly. The thing of it was, the oldness of it meant that it was a menace to society, by which I mean: it was not a good earth-caring citizen. I remember reading years ago that if a household was going to replace a certain large appliance in an effort to make a more eco-minded upgrade, old refrigerators were highest on the list in terms of having advanced in technology to the extent of it being wise to get a new one. So we finally pulled the trigger, after literally years of talking about it.
I am currently working with what feels like a sea of disharmony in regards to my inter-personal relationships, and also in some larger contexts as well. And through this challenging time I am learning a lot about myself. I’m also learning a lot about conflict and how there are different types of conflict and different ways to approach it, work with it, and transform it depending on the situation and the person with who I am experiencing disharmony with.
As I’ve been intentionally working on dismantling what I call my mode of “over-caretaking” for the past 2-years, I feel as though the turbulent waters I am swimming in are very much related to this work as sort of a next-leg-of-the-journey sort of deal – a leveling up into advanced practice, if you will. In short, my brand of “over-caretaking” involves trying to meet people where they’re at to the detriment of my own truth, needs, and/or well-being. It involves me trying to go above and beyond what makes reasonable and good sense in order to alleviate or manage other people’s feelings of upset or discomfort. While I am very much interested in remaining sensitive and tuned in to people’s needs in order to be of skillful support, I am working on finding a balance to ensure that I am able to do so without compromising my own needs. It’s been a fruitful practice – and I am very much still in the learning process.
I’m coming to understand how very many different ways conflict can show up and manifest – which also means there are many different ways in which to work with it. There is no one right or particular way to be in relationship with conflict. Some conflicts will never be fully resolved or come to a place of complete closure. Some conflicts are terribly difficult to untangle because the other person involved is unable or unwilling to participate in engaging in open dialog. Some conflicts will fade over time while others can linger for years. Some conflicts point to a need for direct and honest communication and others point to a need to distance one self from certain individuals in an act of self-care. Some conflicts require silence and personal reflection before speaking and others require using our voice in the moment. Some conflicts can be tended to and resolved all on our own and others need to be worked through directly with the other person we’re in disharmony with.
Yesterday morning, I started watching a recent Dharma talk given by Brother Phap Dung at Plum Village Monastery, as part of the three-months Rains Retreat. In it, he spoke of a practice tool that I’d heard about a while back but had forgotten about (one that I intended to remember and put into use). He held up a business-sized card and in large bold type it read simply: 100%.
The Brother shared about how Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) once gave all of the monks and nuns those cards as a practice tool, encouraging them to practice 100%.
In relation to the cards, the Brother also spoke about how we are the CEO of the business of making togetherness – how together, we are one. So, in a way, these cards can also serve as our actual business cards as practitioners and students of Thay. Our job is to practice mindfulness and connection; to show up in the world with compassion and kindness and curiosity; to build and strengthen and nourish community; to engage skillfully with our self and others, 100%.
I decided to make a stack of these cards with some cardstock I had on hand and a calligraphy pen. I placed one in my wallet and I made more to give out at my local sangha, for those who might be inspired to utilize its teaching. And at a gathering I went to last night, where there were some art supplies set out for community use, I fashioned a small wooden pendant with “100%” scrolled on it with colorful markers, which now dangles from the rearview mirror in my car.
There are some books I read because I really don’t want to (like the one I’m seen holding in the pic above). Books that are hard on the heart. Books that need to be written and read by those of us who don’t have a frame of reference or personal experience to add to a particular chorus of people who are suffering, struggling in shadows of silence to the detriment of us all.
There are some books I read because I am interested in being an agent of change in my world-sphere, and an agent of kindness and goodness that resonates throughout space and time; because I am deeply invested in doing my best to keep my love-light shining like a beacon in the darkness.
There are some books I read because not to read them is akin to a kind of death, a sterilization technique where I tell myself I don’t have the time or that reading is only for entertainment or intellectual learning. But I say this: what are words tossed on a page, bound into a book, if not a direct telling of a hard and terrible truth we are not permitted to voice aloud or able to hear with the same ears that subscribe to the old adage ignorance is bliss?
It’s like this: I can either further my jacked-up ego by never pushing myself to grow or I can intentionally choose to face discomfort for the betterment of my people.
Here’s to the books that tow a hard-freaking line; the books no one wants to read for fear of shaking our complacent world view up like a snow-globe; the books that will disrupt our inner matrix, resulting in the inevitable crisis of conscience: how do I dissent from the norm and rally against the system, without descending into an ocean of cynicism and despair?
Yesterday morning, I found myself in line with my favorite cashier at a local store I frequent. As she was ringing me up for my purchase, she asked me if I was ready for Thanksgiving. At first, I was confused by her question. Given that it’s 3-weeks away, T-day simply isn’t high on my mental radar. But I re-calibrated quickly and responded in a lighthearted tone: Yep, I’m ready.
It’s important to mention that her question was front-loaded with a tone that clearly relayed not only her own lack of readiness but also a thick air of obligation. It felt very much like she was fishing for a certain stock answer she was looking for – an agreeable party that could share her own sense of misery inherent in the upcoming holiday. I then went on to tell her that we were hosting a community potluck gathering at our house, like we do every year, to which she replied: Oh, that’s good. That way you don’t have to do all the cooking your self. She then told me about how her kids now have kids and even though it’s just her own family attending, her family is growing and it’s a lot of work to host Thanksgiving. Part of me wanted to say: don’t do it, my friend – if you don’t enjoy cooking and hosting, don’t do it. But even though she and I have a lovely rapport together, it’s not like I know her well enough to say something like that.
It seemed very much like she was putting herself in an obligatory state of relationship with Thanksgiving, rather than a choice-state. And having a fondness for her, my heart went out to her, wishing she didn’t feel as though she had to cook and host if that really wasn’t what she wanted to do and could find joy in.
I am the head organizer and also a performer in a show happening tonight at our local Roxy Theater called Word of Mouth. This is our 2nd annual show and tickets sold out 2 days ago. WOM brings together spoken word, storytelling, and standup comedy into one show – and it’s freaking awesome!
Word of Mouth Mission:
WOM aims to both support and highlight local wordsmiths and nourish and inspire the audience by way of rediscovering the power of words through various creative forms of self-expression.
As a spoken word artist, to say that I get nervous before performances would be a fairly large understatement – it would be like saying that a bear is basically the same sort of animal in disposition and behavior as a large dog.
I put value in telling people that I get super nervous before performances, as people who see me do spoken word often tell me that they never would’ve guessed that I was nervous. I think it’s important to help dispel the common notion that just because I’m good at what I do and just because I’m up there on stage doing it, equates to me feeling super chill about it. I do not feel super chill about it. Every time I gear up for a spoken word performance I literally say to myself: Whose idea was this?!
Here’s something I penned this morning in my journal:
For those of you who are a much appreciated devoted follower here, you might recall that each January, in lieu of New Year’s Resolutions (which I’ve never been a big fan of), I adopt 2 or 3 new mindfulness-based practices to weave in throughout my calendar year, which I then switch out for new practices the following January.
This past January, one of my new mindfulness practices was to embark upon an exercise that I read about on the Random Acts of Kindness website: 52-Weeks of Thank You’s.
The concept is pretty self-explanatory: each week, I craft a thank you letter/note/card to someone. I’ve been including friends, family members, and also local businesses and organizations. I’ve done a total of 44 thank you’s thus far, with this week marking week #45 of 2019.
I made labels to affix to each card (see pic above) and my personal commitment was to not send these thank you’s via the less personal route of email but to instead write them out by hand and send them in the U.S postal mail, putting some love into the dwindling art of letter writing.
This practice has been quite an interesting new road I’ve been traveling on, with some weeks harder than others to drum up my next person/business to send a thank you to. Still, even when it’s been a bit challenging or I’ve had the thought Oh man, I have another thank you card to do already? Didn’t I just do that?! angling myself in the direction of sending direct thank you’s to people and businesses has been nourishing to my own sense of connectedness.
Over the years, I’ve invested in a number of different gratitude-strengthening practices and this is what I’ve discovered for myself personally: the more I practice seeing and touching gratitude in my life, the more I see and touch more reasons to be grateful – and the stronger my sense of gratitude becomes, the more joy and ease and sense of connection I feel as a result.