Stop Struggling

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!

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Impermanence & Sentimentality

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.

New Fridge Day

Yesterday, I watched as two dudes from Best Buy hauled our old 14.2 cubic feet Hotpoint away and replaced it with a shiny new 18 cubic feet Insignia.

The decision to replace our fridge didn’t come easy. My husband and I do not subscribe to the consumeristic driven philosophy of “get a new one even if the old one ain’t broken.” We tend to run a thing until it’s last sputtering breath and even then we hesitate to make new purchases.

Our Hotpoint wasn’t broken down. Sure it was gross from age and could only be cleaned to a certain extent. Sure the door shelves were held on by duct tape. But it worked swimmingly. The thing of it was, the oldness of it meant that it was a menace to society, by which I mean: it was not a good earth-caring citizen. I remember reading years ago that if a household was going to replace a certain large appliance in an effort to make a more eco-minded upgrade, old refrigerators were highest on the list in terms of having advanced in technology to the extent of it being wise to get a new one. So we finally pulled the trigger, after literally years of talking about it.

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Big Limbs A’Gonna Fall

Some time on Wednesday during the day or early evening – or perhaps it was around 10pm and it was the sound I heard that prodded me to get up from my almost sleep to investigate – a widow-maker fell from one of our two slowly dying elm trees in the backyard.

As massive tangle-wall of green bramble, spindly branches, and 100-year-old heavy trunk has taken up residency in the middle of the yard, where I mow and sometimes, when the spirit calls for it, frolic.

In some respect, we saw it coming. It was only a matter of time – just like everything else. Nothing ever happens without circumstance. Nothing has ever happened for “no reason” or “out of nowhere.” Had we been wildly surprised and/or shaken up at the sight of it, it would’ve said much more about our own sad state of affairs than it would’ve the tree’s.

Still, when suddenly confronted face-to-face with such a large object that once forever held steady up above, it can make a person ponder such things as constancy, and how very many ways there are to die.

Grief and Loss

It is with a sad and heavy heart that I share the news of our sweet cat Goncobe passing away this morning. We knew this was coming, and in fact scheduled a house visit to put him down tomorrow morning from the same vet who put down his brother Juba this same time last year, but nature took its course and he passed away on his own accord.

Just the other day, as I was reading through a book of poetry by Mary Oliver, I came across this lovely line, which says it all:

To live in this world,
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
 
Mary Oliver
 

What a blessing that Mike and I and Jaden were all able to be with him in his active dying phase this morning, just as we were all together when we picked him and his brother Juba up from the Humane Society as kittens in 2004, when Jaden was just 4-years-old. The two brother litter-mate kittens looked so much alike that only Jaden could tell them apart. Until we got to know them, Mike and I would constantly ask 4-year-old Jaden which one was which!

Grief has a way of slowing the bones of time. Such is the way today.

I wrote this earlier today while at Goncobe’s side, as his last breaths came in fits and spurts:

I cradle my sorrow like fragile eggs,
 hatching slowly in the nest of my heart.
Transfixed by the soft approach of light 
into an otherwise darkened place, 
through hairline fractures in the veil
 separating two worlds which serve as one, 
I reach out,
 crack myself open,
 and let my grief
 sing its rightful song.

Tender holding
 is what life asks for, 
in the moments before death.
 Tender holding,
 that is all. It is enough.

Please hold us in your heart during this time of mourning.

Nicole, Mike, and Jaden

On Sexual Energy

True Love

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

True Love is the third of the five mindfulness trainings as part of the Plum Village tradition led by our root teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been hearing – both directly and indirectly – from more and more sangha members, an increasing inquiry centered around how to date. And more appropriately: how to date well and skillfully, as a mindfulness practitioner.

When I first started hearing these ponderings from folks, I thought to myself: I have no freakin idea. And furthermore: I’m not sure I can ever offer anything on this particular topic, given that I’ve been married since I was 20-years-old. Isn’t is rather like the old adage to never get a haircut from a bald barber? Who wants dating advice from a seasoned married woman who’s dating history consists solely of being really poor at it from age 15-19?

But as is often the case for me, things have been percolating. I’m a s..l..o..w percolator. I often need time to digest and absorb things, in order to figure out how best to approach situations.

Oftentimes I’ll rotate a particular matter back and forth between the front burner and the back burner of my conscious thought process – and then at times I move the matter onto a whole other backup stove I have located in some other room, where it’s still simmering but more removed from my mental sight. Depending on the matter at hand, this might happen for weeks or months at a time before I feel as though I’ve landed on some insight or clarity into the subject.

Last week, on my way home from the market, some ideas starting taking shape as to what I might have to offer on the topic of dating. An insight arose: in between the lines of people wondering how to date well, is an underground inquiry about how to properly work with sexual energy. What people are really wondering about is how to engage in having sexual relations, especially outside of a long-term committed relationship and/or when true love is not part of the deal.

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Good People

Clarence Jordan, 1912-1969

As part of the class I’m currently taking on white awareness and developing racial literacy, we were asked to put together a short presentation highlighting a white ally (a white person who supported racial equality or worked on behalf of black people in some way). It could be someone alive and active in this area today or someone from the past. In doing an online search, I chose Clarence Jordan.

In the spirit of shining light on the simple and profound truth of how good people abound in the world (past & present), I thought I’d share the report I put together, which I’ll be offering to my class tomorrow. The way I see it: we can all use some good-people-medicine and stand to be reminded about the power of heartfelt and authentic determination to do well by others.

_______

Clarence Jordan was a white Baptist preacher who was described as a man with the zeal of a missionary. He was born in 1912 in Talbotton GA, and died of a heart attack at age 57, in 1969.

He graduated from Ag-college and then went on to seminary, where he earned a PhD in the Greek New Testament (and if I remember right, he only read the bible in Greek).

While at seminary, he met Florence Kroeger and they soon married and went on to have 4 children.

Clarence was a man of many interests and talents. I watched an interview where someone said that you didn’t want to mess with him – not because of his stature or powers of intimidation but because he was a man who bore the truth and lived diligently with his moral code in a way that few others did.

In 1942, Clarence founded Koinonia Farm (KF) in southwest GA, which was situated on 440-acres. Koinonia means: communion or fellowship, which in the 5th book of the New Testament is applied to the earliest Christian community.

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