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Category Archives: Everyday Practice

Think Before You Depart

Sometimes – like now – my spirit wanes around the truth I’ve captured in this sentence, from a recent spoken word piece I’ve written: “Self-absorption is the rampant plague of our time.”

Recent example:
On Wednesday night, I attended a film showing of “500 Years”, as part of the Roxy’s current month-long series honoring Native American Heritage Month.

Following the film, there was a 3-person panel set up for a Q & A session. As the film credits rolled, over half of the audience left, leaving around 25 of us to engage with the panel members. This is something I experience a lot. (I’m now remembering the Hate Crimes Forum I attended a couple of weeks ago, where by the end of the evening only 10 of us remained in a sea of empty chairs.) I find this to be a sad commentary on our ability to act on behalf of supporting others in matters when in stands to inconvenience our own lives.

I’ll tell you, in both of the cases I just mentioned, I would’ve preferred to have left, too. I was tired. I was ready for bed. But I stayed, because it was the right thing to do. I stayed because those panel members deserved my attention and my presence. They were devoting their time and energy to a cause they believed in and were passionate about. And the very least I could do was stay.

Public service message:
Think of others before you depart for yourself.

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Posted by on November 16, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Books

This morning, in an effort to whittle the pile down, I took one book off of the growing stack perched above my side of the bed, with the intention of returning it to the library from whence it came.

14 books remain, which is a number high enough to make anyone ponder my intentions for being able to make my way through them all.

In the mix sits the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Dharma of the Princess Bride, and two books by Bill Bryson.

Sometimes when I’m laying underneath the shelf that supports their hulking weight, I imagine being suddenly visited by them all, when the dark-stained rectangle of pine makes the well-timed, conscious decision to give up its thankless role as propper-upper of things and heaves them all off with one push of breath onto my head, chest, and stomach.

The book I am most actively reading, however, sits on the coffee table in the living room.

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Posted by on November 10, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Words Matter

It’s been quite the week.

A week I could (and did) summarize by the title of this post: Words matter.

At the start of the week on Monday, we had an especially lovely evening at our local sangha, Be Here Now. It was one of those nights where the sharing was really genuine and heartfelt, we had a large group (over 30 people), and we had someone join us who’d just moved to town and was so grateful for having found our group and to feel so welcomed and right at home with us.

On Tuesday, I attended a forum on hate crimes on the UM campus (see previous post).

On Thursday, I attended a public talk on campus given by Christian Picciolini, founder of the Free Radicals Project and author of White American Youth: My Descent Into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement – and How I Got Out.

Unlike the Hate Crimes Forum I attended on Tuesday night, the seats were well-packed. While there were a mixture of ages in the audience, UM students occupied the largest demographic and I took great pleasure in being surrounded by 7 others in my close proximity who donned notebooks on their laps in lieu of cell phones.

And last night, I helped organize an event called Word of Mouth at our local Roxy theater here in Missoula. An evening which celebrated the art of creative self-expression through wordsmithing. We had 3 spoken word poets (myself included), 3 storytellers, and 3 standup comics take the stage, each with 10-minutes, for a 2-hour show that was simply fantastic. The show started at 7:00 and by 6:30 all 119 seats were sold out. Dozens of folks were turned away at the door – which speaks to me of the great need for continuing to offer these types of events.

Collage pic of all the WOM performers in the show last night

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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.

 

 

 
 

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Pyramid of Priorities

My priority pyramid (date: today)

The following was much needed writing/creative inspiration that I received today, from Dan Blank’s Creative Clarity Workbook at WeGrowMedia.com:

Manage your attention:

Those who create say “yes” to their creative work with vigor, and “no” to distractions that truly don’t matter. Too many people spend their days in a mode of reaction instead of intention. They give away their creative energy freely to any headline, social media update, TV show, trend or email that begs for their attention. They always put the needs of others first, often at the expense of their own mental, physical and creative health.

Get clear about the biggest priorities in your life. Not just your creative priorities, but all priorities. Then, double-down on them and jettison everything else.

Take Action: (see my pic above)

Get out a deck of index cards. On each card, write down one thing that matters deeply to you. Then on the floor or a desk, try to create a pyramid with one item on the top, two in the next row, three in the next, and four in the final row. At the top should be the thing that matters most to you in your life. In the next row should be the next two most important things.

Your attention is finite. The first step to manage your attention is to get radically clear about what matters most to you.

 

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Sometimes I Forget

Sometimes I forget that we’re all – each of us – doing our best.

That we each march to our own drummer, sway to our own beat, hear the rhythm of life pulsating differently.

Sometimes I forget that there’s only so much time in a day – or a lifetime – to maneuver.

I am personally acquainted with people who’s spark comes alive through justice/support based work, such as: healing racism, translating for Spanish immigrants, volleying for animals on their way to slaughter, training underprivileged demographics in the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, de-stigmatizing mental illness, spending time with those who are in the process of dying, training women on how to navigate creating their own small business, supporting kids without active adult relationships to navigate through the court system, educating school-age boys about healthy masculinity and the subtleties of sexual violence, volunteering with local non-profits, engaging with people around policy change work, guiding early childhood development skills, and fostering opportunities for people to learn more about such matters as suicide, postpartum depression, homelessness, access to housing, global warming, and incarceration.

And I know people who’s spark comes alive through creative/self-expression based work, such as: gardening, cooking, baking, playing sports, traveling and playing music, hosting standup comedy learning sessions for women, bringing African dance into the lives of those with disabilities, organizing community poetry events, providing high school students with opportunities to craft and share their voices through the medium of written & spoken word, hiking, painting, photography, collage work, and role-playing games.

Me? My biggest most illuminating spark comes alive through sangha building. I am drawn to cultivating community through the dharma. Spiritual leadership is my highest calling. I love helping to support people, I love spending time with people. And I have a great love for and confidence in using and teaching about the tools and skills made available through mindfulness, meditation, and our Buddhist Plum Village tradition.

Creative/self-expression wise, my spark comes alive through: writing, spoken word, playing music, listening to music, dancing, solo traveling, spending time in nature, motorcycling, photography, volunteering with hospice, and working with young children.

We all have different callings. Different things that draw our attention and motivate us to action. And sometimes I forget this. Sometimes I think everyone is like me – or should be like me. And when this happens, I suffer.

Currently, I’m on a journey to find my people – those I resonate and have the most in common with. And I’m practicing to understand and embrace all those who are in my life who I don’t hold a lot in common with, but whom I cherish and value.

There’s a balance I am seeking in my interpersonal relationships right now. And it’s becoming clearer to me as of late, how often I forget certain elements of human dynamics and functioning that are crucial to remember, for the sake of my own and others quality of well-being.

The practice continues…

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Un-distracted & Un-hurried

One morning a week – Saturdays to be precise – I eat my morning’s breakfast un-distracted and un-hurried.

With the exception of this one meal per week, I eat accompanied by such things as music and/or my laptop.

On Saturday morning’s, however, I take the time to connect more deeply with the bounty of food I am so richly afforded.

I eat in silence, with posture upright and solid.

I savor.

I inhale the many causes and conditions that factored into its being with every bite.

And in the span of my meal time, I am transported around the globe.

Then, with senses in full bloom, I re-embody myself and come back home, fresh and new.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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