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Category Archives: Community

Digging the Well

On Wednesday night, I attended a banquet dinner on campus with visiting guest speaker Ann Holmes Redding, as part of DiverseU, entitled: A Piece of the Peace. Ann is a former Episcopal priest, who was defrocked in April 2009 for having become a Muslim in March 2006. She is a faith leader, an author, a public speaker, and a teacher, who identifies with being both of Christian and Islamic faith.

Among many other things I greatly appreciated in her talk, she shared this parable:

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”

― Jalaluddin Rumi

One of the things I most enjoy, is attending evenings such as this. Opportunities that allow me to practice breaking down what Thich Nhat Hanh calls our illusion of separateness.

In a stroke of good timing, I felt attending this particular evening paired well with another topic that has been circulating for me recently, centered around our local Festival of the Dead (FOD) celebration – which took place last night – and the concerning matter of appropriation. I’ve been a part of FOD for a number of years, as a performer with Unity Dance & Drum, a local dance troupe. This year, the social outcry about the issue of appropriation, in regards to our Missoulaified FOD, reached a record high, to the point of causing enough ruckus as to greatly deflate the participation and attendance at the parade procession down Higgins Avenue last night.

In the interest of trying to further find my way around this confusing topic, I wrote this in my journal early this morning:

Appropriation: something (as money) set aside by formal action for a specific use. (Merriam-Webster, circa 1997) Apparently, this is one of those words commandeered by the masses and then sent to drift on an ice flow far away from its origination. So long, old chum! Safe sailing on the seas and swells of change! Because as I understand it, appropriation is a dirty, no good, rotten word with negative connotations – but I’m not getting that vibe from Webster’s definition.

In the same kind of funny way that femme fatale follows feminism in our household dictionary, it seems we’ve re-calibrated the word appropriation to match our western culture’s sometimes over-correcting tendency to be offended on behalf of a people who are not offended enough, by the actions of blundering white people, or BWP.

Please understand, I include myself in the BWP demographic and admit readily and upfront my ignorance when it comes to all things white privilege related – it’s also likely that I’m more of a femme fatale than a feminist, so there’s that to consider, too.

While there’s part of me that wants to generate more of an understanding about the culturally important topic of appropriation, another part of me wants to relegate it to those who are better equipped to serve directly in its deconstruction and called to guide its direction. Cuz we can’t all dig appropriately sizes wells when it comes to all subjects in need of attention and transformation. There’s only so much digging one person can do. And we pick our 1, 2 or 3 spots and dig there, alongside others who are digging there, too. And occasionally we lift our heads up, look around, and take solace in the fact that there are a multitude of others digging simultaneously in a myriad of different places.

For example, I gravitate towards hospice work and matters concerning aging and death and dying – do you? If your answer is no, I bet you’re glad to know I’m digging the well here in this particular spot, even if you have no interest in joining me.

We cannot do the work of a million hearts with the one life we’ve been so richly given.

And this truth does not have to be deflating.

Do not allow the fact that you can’t do it all keep you from doing all you can.

Pick up your shovel and dig where you’re called.

(and do so with gladness and joy)

 

 

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American Eclipse 2017

Standing still in one place will grant you the opportunity to bear witness to a full solar eclipse every 375 years. Our moment, was yesterday.

I had been on the fence about traveling the necessary 4-hours south that it would take to be inside the path of totality. Thank goodness our minds were made up by someone who knew far better than we did: a NASA historian we heard speak at the public library, who described the difference between seeing a partial vs. a full solar eclipse to be the difference between reading about chocolate and eating it.

Not knowing what to expect, we prepared for possible pandemonium. Even though we were only making a day-trip, we brought sleeping bags and a tent, in the event we got stuck somewhere overnight; 7-gallons of water, in case there was none to be found; food, playing cards, a cook stove, camp chairs, and cash, like the Idaho eclipse website suggested, just in case the card machines got overloaded and went on strike. We were geared up for the “worse-case scenario” – of course, we were so far removed from an actual worse-case scenario that we would’ve had to hop a train, two jets, and an ocean-liner to even scratch the surface – but our spirits were riding high on the seas of all things hope-related.

Equally fantastic to witnessing the stellar phenomenon of a total solar eclipse was the kind, caring and sweet nature of the pop-up community we were surrounded by in Hamer, Idaho. In the last 2010 census, Hamer, Idaho clocked in at 48 residents – up from 12 in 2000 – and is currently estimated at having a population of 91. So, it’s pretty small. But yesterday, for a few brief hours, Hamer swelled to around 200 wonderful folks and we all enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience together as a global family of strangers.

Today, I sit in awe of the power, inspiration, and magnitude of both the cosmos and community. Each and every moment changes our character and perspective, in some regard. Yesterday’s eclipse viewing might very well turn out to be one of the more influential changes I’ve experienced. It’s beauty was truly a sight to behold and cherish. What a splendid and magnificent universe we live in.

To view my amateur video of the eclipse from Hamer, Idaho:

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2017 in Community, Travel

 

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Nourish to Flourish

For those of you who follow along with my blog here, you may recall that I sometimes use this platform to work on upcoming practice related talks I’ll soon be giving, usually at my local sangha Be Here Now, as it helps me to plan out and organize my thoughts about what I want to share.  This time, however, I’ll be offering a talk to a group of volunteers with a local nonprofit called CASA, which stands for: court appointed special advocates. (From their website: CASA of Missoula provides independent, trained advocates for the best interests of children within the judicial system who are at substantial risk or have experienced abuse or neglect. We provide consistent, long-term advocacy until every child resides in a safe, permanent home.)

As I was asked to talk about the relationship between our energy output and our energy input, I’ve titled this talk Nourish to Flourish.

I’ve often thought about offering these kind of support sessions to volunteer organizations or in work-place settings, as both non-profits and many professions require annual trainings, continuing education credits or have wellness programs built-in. So, this is my first step in that direction.

Talk Prep:

I’d like us to start by having us all count how many breaths we take in the span of 1-minute. And we’ll try our best not to alter our natural breathing rate as much as possible. (Bring a timer and set for 1-minute – instruct folks to remember their number.)

Now, I’d like us to do 5-minutes of quiet sitting together, to settle into the room and this time here together, as simply a way to help us bring our attention and presence into this space and transition from wherever it is we just came from. So I’ll invite us to gently close our eyes and softly focus our attention on the sensations of our breathing in and breathing out…feeling as our chest expands and contracts….feeling as our stomach rises and falls…and noticing how we’re feeling, tuning into our body and our mind…(monitor time for 5-minutes, sound bell to start and end) (NOTE: I find that using the pronoun ‘our’ when doing guided meditations, deep relaxations, or in practice talks in general has a more communal and relational feel to it, verses the more common ‘you’ or ‘your.’ It is also has a less “preachy” or “instructional” air to it when I include myself in the mix by using the word ‘our.’ I mean, we’re all in this together, right? I’m practicing, too!)

So, let’s re-test our breathing rate. Again, for the span of 1-minute we’ll count how many breaths we take, without trying to alter our breathing. (Time for 1-minute.) Ask: How many people found that your number went down after the 5-minutes of sitting? How many people found that it stayed about the same? And did anyone find that it increased? It might interest you to know that the optimal breathing rate for highest functioning and good health is around 6 breaths per minute, with the medical norm around 12 breaths per minute, and the average adult is now breathing even faster, at about 15-20 breaths per minute. And severely ill patients have an even higher rate.

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Breathe, It’ll Be Okay

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It’s not up to our country’s leaders to instate an atmosphere of togetherness, it’s up to us.

We are the people we’ve been waiting for to rise up.

So let us rise up as one community.

In the spirit of connection, understanding, and compassion,

let us rise up.

 

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For vs. Against

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Last night there was a state wide peace march at 5:00pm in five different cities around Montana, organized in the wake of the fear building up in our area around the possibility of becoming an area of welcome for refugee families affected by distant, raging wars. Recently, over 500 people packed into a school gymnasium in Hamilton, MT to attend a town hall meeting to help address a proposed letter to be sent by our state Governor, Steve Bullock, and our congressional delegates, to President Obama’s administration disapproving the bringing in of refugees. Having heard from someone in attendance at this meeting and in reading the news the overall energy was infused with hatred, scathing remarks, hostility, and, ultimately, underneath it all, fear. It was a meeting that could’ve easily turned violent and was not an entirely safe place for those in opposition to the vast majority in attendance at the meeting, who were adamantly against refugees coming into not only our particular part of the state but the country in general. The state wide march was in response, largely, to this town hall meeting.

DSCN1308  Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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Healing Communities

quote-comfort-the-afflicted-and-afflict-the-comfortable-finley-peter-dunne-54022

This past week I had the opportunity to attend two meetings as part of the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative’s (MIC) community outreach training.  As a faith leader of my local sangha and director of the Open Way Mindfulness Center I have been serving as our representative at a variety of MIC meetings, events, functions, trainings, and workshops since its inception, about 3 years ago.

On Tuesday I went to a training offered through the MIC by Doug Walker, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, who traveled here specifically from DC to offer the training from Healing Communities.  From their website:

Healing Communities is a framework for a distinct form of ministry for men and women returning from or at risk of incarceration, their families and the larger community. Healing Communities challenges congregations to become Stations of Hope for those persons affected by the criminal justice system.

The training was being offered to a host of different congregations so that we could open up dialog, brainstorm ideas, and hopefully move forward with an action plan in order to open our doors and create a safe environment for individuals returning back to the community after being incarcerated.  Healing Communities aims at addressing concerns and issues that might arise within faith communities and also helps shed light on the social stigma involved for those coming out of the prison system and their families.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 1 in 32 Americans are under correctional supervision, which means in prison, jail, or on probation or parole.  And since 95% of inmates will be eventually be released from prison at some point that means this is well worth our time as faith communities to address in terms of how to best support our congregations, since the chances of this affecting some of our members, on some level, is extremely high.  This isn’t an issue for certain areas of the country or certain demographics of people.  This is a matter that concerns us all.

During the training on Tuesday a local Methodist pastor shared the quote above, stating that it was the creed of Methodist leadership, “Comfort the afflicted.  Afflict the comfortable.”  I had never heard this before and it very much struck me as being important enough to jot down so I wouldn’t forget it.  When I looked it up online I discovered that it originated from an American humorist and writer by the name of Finley Peter Dunne.  As it turns out, Dunne’s quote is from an essay he wrote about the state of newspapers:

Dunne once wrote the following passage mocking hypocrisy and self-importance in the newspapers themselves:

“Th newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward”.
– From Wikipedia

Since then Dunne’s quote has been adapted and used in many contexts and is often enmeshed within ministry work.  I really connect with this quote in regards to faith leadership roles.  It makes a lot of sense to me and has offered some good food for thought.

A primary focus of both the Healing Communities training and the MIC meeting we hosted at the Open Way Mindfulness Center last night entitled Better Together (which was a conversation about community service and some of the unique issues facing Missoula and how we can engage our particular mindfulness tradition in getting involved both individually and collectively) was about developing relationships.  In terms of supporting men and women during the re-entry process and also getting our sangha members actively involved in community service work forming, building, and sustaining reciprocal, genuine relationships is the most important aspect.  It is the nature of relationships and the web they form that unites people together, that offers inspiration, motivation, and ripples outwards to positively affect others.  Relationships take time.  They take active participation, interest, and an authentic drive to connect.

I think many things can be whittled down to the importance of relationships really.  Whether it’s with business, family, volunteer service, politics, creative endeavors, social communities, hobbies, interests, activist work, or otherwise our relationships are what bind us together.  Our relationships are what make us who we are.  And its the building of even more relationships that often serves as the best kind of support and nourishment that we can offer and benefit from.

May healing communities and the relationships they foster abound – in all of the many ways that this can take place.

P.S It just occurred to me…perhaps sometimes, it is we ourselves who are the comfortable that need to be afflicted by giving our time and energy to help comfort those afflicted.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Community

 

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300th Post

Be Here Now Sangha collage. Pics from December 2014-August 2015 :)

Be Here Now Sangha collage. Pics from December 2014-August 2015 :)

 

In honor of my 300th post I thought I’d pay homage to my local meditation group, the Be Here Now Sangha, celebrating 13 years together this month!  The word sangha is Sanskrit meaning spiritual community in Buddhism.

The above collage shows some of my favorite sangha pics taken over the last 10 months.  From our white elephant gift exchange last December to our dinner & a movie night in January, from our monthly open mic nights to participating in the river clean up downtown in the spring, whether we’re hiking the woods, gathering for a potluck & campfire or having fun on the lake at our summer camp out we sure know how to be joyfully together in community :)

I started the Be Here Now Sangha, rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, in September of 2002.  My husband and I had sat with a meditation group on the east coast, in early 2002, called the Night Sky Sangha.  While they have changed their format and tradition since then they continue to meet at the Pebble Hill Church in Doylestown, PA, which I am so delighted to know.  When we moved back to Missoula, MT I missed having a group to practice meditation with.  So even though I was a novice and did not know much about mindfulness or meditation at the time I did what somehow made sense to me: I started my own group!  I knew I didn’t have the resolve to meditate on my own at home.  I needed others to practice with.  I didn’t presume to have any knowledge or abilities.  I simply wanted the support of others to continue my mindfulness and meditation practice with.  I knew myself well enough to know that if I started a group I’d follow through with it.  I jokingly say, and it’s true, that all I did was show up and turn the lights on for those first few years.  While there was a little more involved it wasn’t much.  My role at the beginning can be whittled down to four words: I kept showing up.

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Posted by on September 12, 2015 in Be Here Now Sangha, Community

 

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