On Safety

The above list of basic human needs is based on the work by Marshall Rosenberg and the Center for Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and is is neither exhaustive nor definitive. (c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication
Website: www.cnvc.org Email: cnvc@cnvc.org

My husband and I are currently taking a local Communication Class based largely on NVC. It’s a 5-week class series and we have one more class left to go. I’ve been appreciating our instructor and our small group of folks in the class. The tools of NVC are allowing me to stretch myself in new directions. As I explained to my sangha recently during a Dharma sharing circle, in large part, I took the class because communication is a huge part of life, and a lot of the time I’m not very good at it.

I’m someone who is actively invested in ongoing skill building and personal growth work. I love being a perpetual student when it comes to anything that I think will help me to stretch and grow and learn ways to be more skillful. There is always more work I can do and it’s important to me to stay committed to doing my work.

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Word Cop

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.

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May I Be Useful, May I Be Kind

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?

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What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger (blech!)

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.

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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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The Dharma of Conflict

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.

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The importance of reading hard books

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?