One of my new practices for 2020 is to enfold one card per week into my routine from Thich Nhat Hanh’s set of Everyday Peace Cards, 108 Mindfulness Meditations.
On Mondays, I pick out a new card and then I read it every day for the next week. In just the past 3-weeks, I’m finding that the teaching on the card then naturally percolates and bubbles up for me throughout the week and helps to inform my daily practice. And sometimes I’ll do a bit of free-form writing in my journal about the card’s teaching as well.
The card shown above is the one I’ve worked with this past week: Stop Struggling.
As soon as I first read it last Monday, I chuckled aloud. You have struggled in the past, and perhaps you are still struggling – but is it necessary? No. Struggle is useless. Stop struggling.
In part, I reckon that I find it funny cuz it’s true. And in part, I reckon I find it funny because Thay just slices right into the heart of things and tells it like it is, making it sound so easy to do, when in my view of reality it often seems impossible. So I find it funny because I know how stubborn I can be!
Please, Don’t Wait
Dearest of friends,
people I will never meet or know:
Please, don’t wait.
Don’t wait for the “right” moment
(whatever that flippin means)
to be caring and kind and full of splendor.
Don’t wait for someone to give
you approval for who you are
in this magnificent and heartbreaking world.
Don’t wait for all the stars to align
before you make good on the promise
to live a good life.
Don’t wait to do the thing,
whatever the thing is.
Don’t wait to tell that gal or dude
that you’re wild about them,
even – and especially – if you’ve
been partnered with that gal or dude
for hundreds of years.
Don’t wait to roll up on a crowd
of gathered people and extend your heart,
like an open palm waiting to be filled
with something you never want to let go of.
Don’t wait to move in the direction
of a calling only you can hear and feel.
Don’t wait to start.
Waiting is death
To wait is to die:
tomorrow, next year, decades down the line,
– a poem, penned by me, just now
There are certain words I try my best not to use, like: busy, crazy, evil.
In my view, busy speaks to a powerlessness I find grossly inaccurate. Crazy speaks to a drama infused ignorance I find telling of our collective insistence to blame and avoid. And evil speaks to a dualistic drive to make proper nonsense of a world we don’t make enough of an effort to deeply connect with and truly understand.
For those of you who follow me and read my posts regularly, you know I am someone who writes often about the power of words and how words matter. I pay close, special attention to how I use words and also how others use them and I especially monitor how they land. There is one person I know, however, that ups me in the words matter department: my husband Mike.
One of my new mindfulness-strengthening practices I’ve come up with for 2020 is Haiku A Day, where I pen one new haiku every day.
Here is my first week of 2020 in Haiku:
Never will I know
how truly gifted I am
to have this one life
Winter birds asleep
townspeople in deep slumber
trees rest until spring
Darkness changes hue
No one morning looks the same
Sometimes dark is light
Glowing beeswax flame
one fallen star on the ground
Green tea in winter
January roots and blooms
I sit in gladness
Morning pen in hand
a rumbling on the stove
the universe hums
Wake up: 3am
darkness speaks in poetry:
I am here for you
As someone who is interested in both honoring impermanence and upholding sentimentality, I’ve not kept every scrap of art or pipecleaner creation my stepson ever made but I did keep a few select pieces. I’ve been intentional in my keepings, careful not to clutter up our life holding on to the past.
One of my prized possessions – prized as in: I’d want to snatch it up on my way out the door if our house were on fire and I were a quick enough thinker – is a clay mug he crafted in middle school.
The assignment was to make a cougar mug, in an effort to instill a certain prescribed affection for the school’s wild feline mascot.
It feels a bit odd to me now but didn’t at the time, to align such young minds in the direction of school allegiance. Now I wonder what early prep work this is for a lifetime spent, for some of us, trying to find our self and un-conform.
Every morning, I end my sitting meditation session with a short gratitude practice involving three gratitude-infused prostrations to the earth and then I stand and do one final standing bow, where I say inwardly to myself:
In gratitude for this one more opportunity to live today,
may I be useful, may I be kind.
I fashioned the Zen enso in the pic above using a newly acquired calligraphy pen and a super thick Sharpie.
In early December, I posted this pic on my home sangha’s Facebook page (Be Here Now Community) where, to date, it has “reached” 1,556 people. Of the 72 people who clicked on an emoji for the post: 71 people either liked or loved it and 1 person chose the sad icon. The person who was saddened by the post, commented: Can I be un-useful…..? So I am not good enough as I am….? 😢💔
I chose not to respond to this person’s comment, as I didn’t feel that a FB comment reply would be a skillful way to have any sort of meaningful dialog take place, and would likely only serve to create more confusion. However, I really appreciated this person’s comment; it’s been a subject of mild reflection for me ever since. I greatly appreciate learning how people hear and receive the Dharma. It helps me to better understand where people are coming from and to perhaps make adjustments in how I might share the Dharma with others, as someone who is highly invested in doing my best to unpack certain elements of the teachings that can often and easily be misunderstood or left unclear.
My reflections centered around this person’s comment include: if I was asked this question in person, what would I have said?; what message do I think they received from my post?; how can I flesh this out more?; how might I respond in such a way that won’t be more damaging or add further to this person’s confusion/sorrow?
From the title of this post, I reckon you can tell I am not a fan of this well-known and often used aphorism. I watched an old episode of Hell’s Kitchen the other day with my husband and one of the participants in the show said it to another participant who had broken down crying, which is what prompts me to pen some words on this particular thread.
For whatever reason, this aphorism seems to me to be close cousins of another unfortunately common saying: If I can do it, you can do it.
At face value and generally speaking: both sayings are nonsense.
Have I mentioned lately: words matter?
It would be much more accurate to say: What doesn’t kill us may make us stronger. Because the thing is: sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, the challenges/hardships/struggle/turmoil/or trauma we face serves as a means to shut us down, and armor us up against a world we deem as out to get us.
After reading this by Mary Oliver this morning: “Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention and that is the recognition of the spiritual side of the world and, within this recognition, the condition of my own spiritual state. I am not talking about faith necessarily, although one hopes to. What I mean by spirituality is not theology, but attitude.” (from Winter Hours)
I wrote this: My spirituality is more about relationship than it is about anything else; how I relate to: the world, others, myself, that dude over there: my husband. My spirituality is about how I view and meet the world and regard its two-leggeds and four-leggeds and all who fly or swim or crawl. My spirituality is about upholding morals, cultivating virtues; quality of life, comfort in my skin. It’s about integration, kindness, joy, service, grace, and ease. Always and forever, it’s about growing, strengthening, honing skill.