Check Please

Without a contemplative practice – or some other regular investment of time into an action-based something that prompts a moving from head to heart; from self to other – it seems we risk falling subject to talking solely about petty, surfacey things.

With time and life and all that which pertains to the unfolding of even just one single day being precious and limited, how might I want to spend it and with who?

I don’t think it’s patience I lack when it comes to internally saying Check please! in response to a person droning on and on about mundane things (at length and in great detail), who is unavailable to listen and unable to peak interest in anyone else in the room. It’s disinterest, pure and simple. It’s a matter of valuing my gifted time.

It’s a bold and interesting thing to say but: I love people with a heart as big as the sky in sprawl over the Rocky Mountains and: I would rather not converse with a vast majority of them. My time, I think, is better well spent reading and writing poetry; on the cushion; sipping tea.

Besides, most people won’t be reached through words spoken out loud face to face – not on any level that really penetrates into the deeper well of things. We need other modes and vehicles of transport to deliver messaging that translates to something bigger than stock musings regarding the passing of time or patterns of the weather.

New Practices for 2020

Soon we bid farewell to one year in welcome of another. Soon we turn over the calendar, the decade; archiving it in the folds of yesterday’s memory.

And as is custom for me, I will leave behind the specialty mindfulness-strengthening exercises I started this past January and replace them with new ones to carry with me through the year, as a way to help keep my practice fresh and alive.

Each January, I pick up 2 or 3 new mindfulness-based practices, and lay down the ones from the previous year. In 2019, I adopted two new practices: 1. an Angst & Impatience tick-mark chart in my car, which I used diligently when driving and 2. 52-Weeks of Thank You’s.

Starting on January 1st, I’ll be picking up 3 new practices: 1. reading & practicing with one card a week from Thay’s deck of 108 meditation cards (recently published; see pic below) 2. transferring the Angst & Impatience chart for use when I’m on my laptop and 3. writing one haiku per day (or perhaps one per week, if doing it on the daily proves to be too much).

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In Quiet Peaceful Protest

The Quiet Room at the Philadelphia airport. Dec 22, 2019

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? Me? I’m in quiet (not silent, cuz here I am blogging about it) peaceful protest. Still, I can hear the bells tolling on Santa’s sleigh; from around the necks of his jolly crew of reindeer; on the shoes of his hard-working elves; from cash registers near and far. I wish forever and a day this holiday of Christmas was held in sacred accord with religious vows and values. That it wasn’t about what Santa wraps and leaves in secret under the tree. That it wasn’t about glorifying the acquiring of a bunch of stuff we don’t need. That it wasn’t about lying to our children.

It isn’t stuff we’re short on. Time and un-distracted presence is what we’re collectively lacking. Both are free; priceless.

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Home!?…

Home is at once:
where I lay my head to rest each night –
the dwelling place that holds the shelving which holds the books I’ve collected;
the town I am cradled in and the people that I share my breath with
on a regular basis, who all gaze out and see the same mountains I do;
the state my town resides and the landscape, cattle, barbed wire,
and boots on the ground that spread from border to border;
the stomping grounds of my birth and raising,
where I fell down the basement steps in a rolling walker
when I was a baby on Lemon Street and slow danced with boys
at school dances in the gym of Log College Middle School;
and the inner world I carry with me like a snowglobe
and can shake up and make it glitter rain wherever I go.
________

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Broken Mugs and a Full Moon

On Monday, I broke my favorite mug (see pic above); the one I use every day; the one I purchased from a local clay artist over the summer and carted home in the saddlebag of my motorcycle. On Tuesday, I managed to break my 2nd favorite mug.

I was on a roll.

On Wednesday, I stopped into three different small town thrift shops on my way to visit a friend up north on the Flathead Lake and purchased a mug with a dancing Snoopy on one side and the words: Life is too short not to live it up a little on the other side for .50 cents and balance was restored to my early morning tea-drinking routine.

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Yep, here i am talking about gratitude…again

Gratitude is one of my favorite subjects. One of my favorite practices to engage with and invest time and energy into. One of my favorite mindfulness-related skillsets to delve more into and unpack. Gratitude is both in and of itself a virtue to continually nourish and strengthen and it’s also a gateway to other beneficial unfoldings.

Gratitude has many other companion seeds in the garden of life. When we water the seed of gratitude, we’re also watering the seeds of: joy, kindness, resiliency, equanimity, understanding, compassion, and ease.  I’ve stated in the past and stand by it: in my view, if we chose only one practice to nourish and develop, gratitude would be more than enough.

Given my affinity for the practice and development of gratitude, I especially delight in the moments when I stumble across insights from teachers or info from articles in regards to gratitude.

“What is the one thing that people who can fully lean into joy have in common? Gratitude. They practice gratitude. It’s not an “attitude of gratitude” – it’s an actual practice. They keep a journal, or make a note of what they’re grateful for on their phones, or share it with family members…

Embodying and practicing gratitude changes everything.”

Brené Brown, from Dare to Lead, pg. 83

 

And just today, I came across a link to an article in my twitter feed that said:

“Over Thanksgiving, in between mouthfuls of turkey and sweet potato pie, many of us will be asking ourselves: What are we grateful for?

Taking a moment to practice gratitude like this isn’t an empty holiday tradition. It’s good for our mental and physical health. And here’s another thing: It can actually change our brains in ways that make us more altruistic.

The past two decades have seen a flurry of research on gratitude, beginning in the early 2000s with a series of landmark papers by Robert Emmons, Michael McCullough, and other psychologists. In recent years, we’ve learned through several scientific studies that there’s a deep neural connection between gratitude and giving — they share a pathway in the brain — and that when we’re grateful, our brains become more charitable.”

– from Giving thanks may make your brain more altruistic: Neuroscience is revealing a fascinating link between gratitude and generosity

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From One Poem to Another

This morning, my friend Chris sent me this poem, which inspired me to write my own poem.

To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work headfirst
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

___________

Untitled
by Nicole Dunn

I want to invest in people
who can keep up with me
or lead the way;
who aren’t intimidated by how I show up;
who don’t feel it necessary to cut me down
in order to make them self feel better;
who have strong backs
and soft hearts, like me.

I want to associate with people
who know what their work is – and do it;
who don’t consider it bad ass that I
ride a motorcycle or play drums like I meant it;
who make it no big deal that I do what I do;
who can grow and shine their own light
and not shrink or shirk away
in the presence of mine.

(NOTE: The “strong backs and soft hearts” is based on a core teaching of Roshi Joan’s “strong back, soft front.”)