On V-Day

I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. For me, V-Day is on par with Santa Claus at Christmas. I mean, part of me gets the whimsy of it but a bigger part of me is all like: Really?! THIS is what the group consensus came up with?

When holidays have the great potential to plummet a fair amount of our brethren into the pits of despair, based on the hype that gets generated around them and the unrealistic notions hitched to their giddy-up, I’d say something is in serious need of cultural repair.

I recently attended a presentation on the University of Montana (UM) campus for Mental Health Awareness Week and learned that 71% of UM students report feeling “very lonely” and 64% report feeling “very sad.” Loneliness is affecting the masses. I’ve got nothing against those who are super into celebrating V-Day on their own accord and feel called to set aside a day to connect with their romantic partner – I think that’s great, truly. My problem lies in the expectations we’ve orchestrated around V-Day; the pressure to be in love or have some grand lusty time; the hype and the heart-shaped everything; and the fact that in large part V-Day is a female heavy holiday and it’s the guy who’s supposed to dote on the special gal in his life and not the other way around. Females in particular are dangerously caught up in fictitious ideas of what it means to be in love and what our partners should and shouldn’t do to continuously prove to us how much they adore us. V-Day keeps in motion a slew of not-so-great to super-unhealthy views and notions centered around romantic relationships, sex, love, desire, and connection. And V-Day makes a lot of people feel even lonelier.

Like the pic I took above, from a book I came across in Powell’s Books while visiting Portland last weekend, says: What if this were enough? What if whatever we have going on right now we regarded as being enough? Enough to be content, to be happy, to be at ease in the world of heart-shaped everything on V-Day.

What if we were able to invoke the message of the 7th of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings: Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment?

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Winter Saunter

Thankfully, I’m not easily intimidated by winter weather driving – I mean really, I have a Subaru for goodness sake, this is, in part, what they’re made for. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times when it would be ill-advised to venture out, but I did not deem today to be one of those days.

Instead, I labeled today’s blustery conditions and smoke-machine-esque ice-marbled roads as a prime time to uphold my self-proclaimed status as a gal who enjoys pushing against the commonly held feminine norms, such as exists around: traveling solo, driving in inclement weather on sketchy roads, and eating out in public with only the company of a good book and writing supplies.

After an hour spent at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, I landed at the Dixon Mercantile, a place so delightfully quaint that I instantly felt right at home.

There’s something extremely satisfying and life-affirming in skirting collective modes of operation, such as heading north on a solo saunter on Sunday February 3rd in near white-out conditions, and living to tell the tale.

P.S If you live in the area or are ever in the area of western Montana, the Dixon Mercantile (in Dixon, MT) is only 40 miles from Missoula and they are almost solely only open on Sundays from 9-2 for brunch. The owner Laura is super great, the food was really good, and they make homemade fresh bread and pastries. Need I say more?

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Yesterday, I spent 5 uninterrupted hours writing, pretty well glued in the same spot the whole time with only the occasional tea making and bio break to incite bodily movement away from my keyboard. It was glorious.

Today, I road on up north, as any asphalt adventurer knows, it’s unwise to disobey the call of the open road when it summons thee. I followed tire tracks instead of painted lines and in an area thick with mountains, I managed to see none all the way to Arlee and then Dixon.

To be fair, I did consider not heading out on my drive-about prior to leaving the house, once I was confronted with the state of weather happening outside. But it was only about 2% of me that sat in question; the other 98% urged me eagerly onward ho.

Besides, I DID go to all the trouble of running a brush through my hair like two times before putting a winter hat on AND putting on cold-hardy clothes over the top of my pajamas. I was also well equipped with the essentials of winter travel: a fresh Contigo full of tea, my camera, writing supplies, a Subaru, and a good attitude.

And, I figured, one never grows familiar and accustomed to a thing, if said thing is never done.

Sometimes, what’s called for is to foster connection with members of my beloved tribe of humans, as I did last weekend. And sometimes, what’s called for is to bolster the relationship I have with myself, as I’ve been doing this weekend.

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Not A Pretty Girl

Inspired by an Ani Difranco song that I’ve refashioned and have been playing & singing lately on the guitar, here are some of the ways my “I am not a pretty girl, that is not what I do” expresses itself:

I wear the same basic outfit every day: brown pants/green shirt; my idea of hair care involves washing it 2-3 times a week (no cutting, styling, dying, or whatever else-ing most women tend to do); I wouldn’t know how to apply makeup even if I had it; the few pieces of jewelry I own were given to me by well-intentioned people who don’t know me well enough to know I will never wear it; when I’m in a bar to hear music, I’m the girl armed with a pocket notebook and pen jotting down observational notes; I own 3 pairs of shoes: crocs, snow boots, and motorcycle boots; I’m not interested in mirroring my moves on the dance floor so as to best maintain the reflection of a sex-object; and I am not beholden to self-validation and worth (as I was when I was young) through the ability to attract a guy (or 2 or 3 or 12) – I reserve that dignity to be procured from my own well of self.

Ode To My Husband

Mike giving love to the cat before taking off for the airport

Written at 5:37am, Friday January 25th, 2019:

Given the expedient fashion with which we managed to both get to and through the airport – checking bags and all – I’m already back at home.

We even lingered in the airport gift shop for a spell, wrinkling our noses at the horrid smell of perfumed, decorative soaps and delighting in the array of stuffed animals, in order to further delay parting ways at the security line.

It was me who made the call. “Okay,” I said, “it’s probably time.”

After a proper embrace, we headed in opposite directions. As I headed out, I glanced back 2-3 times and met his gaze doing the same each time.

And that was that.

I was outside, surrounded by the dark chill of early morning in Missoula – and he was inside, surrounded by bright artificial lighting, soon to take off sky high and land in short order in southern California, where I hope he will be cradled well for the next 3-months.

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Over the past week, multiple times a day, I took inventory of the things I would miss about him while he was gone and also the things I would look forward to having a break from. But in the last day or two, the line between these categories grew increasingly blurry and I came to see that I would miss all of it. Even the stuff I really don’t like, such as cleaning up wads of chewing tobacco on the windowsill that serves as his nightstand.

I take solace in the truth of our situation, of the little thing that has happened in our being together for almost 20-years: because we resound in the graces of our interbeing nature, we are strong and strengthened both when we’re together and when we’re apart.

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I reckon from here on out, until he returns in 3-months, the ol homestead will be in the same state of affairs when I come home each day as to when I left.

It was only 8-months ago I was preparing dinner each night for 3-4 people. In June, our household reduced to a steady 3. In November, we were whittled down to 2. And now, starting today, I am paired down to 1.

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On Solitude

Pic taken during my one-week solo stay at the Mission Lookout Tower, May 2018

 

There are at least two kinds of solitude: one we experience when we are by ourselves alone and the other we can experience when we are in the midst of others.

There is a kind of solitude, which is spoken to in the sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone, that can be carried within us wherever we go. It involves an ability to live in the present moment, free of worry, stress, anxiety, craving, and attachment.

Just because we may live alone doesn’t mean we know how to be alone. And just because we have house mates doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate the art of solitude.

It’s good to mention too, that there is a solitude born from isolation and separation and a solitude born from a deep sense of interbeing and re-connection with one self – and they are not at all the same thing. Using the Eightfold Path as a guide, we could say there is Solitude and then there is Right Solitude.

Additionally, solitude as a power or virtue is all of the following: drastically undervalued, super misunderstood, and detrimentally romanticized.

Ah, the inner stirrings of a writer on solitude.

52-Weeks of Thank You’s

Typically, I’ve waited until either mid-year or the end of the year to share the new mindfulness practices I’ve taken up at the start of the new year, but I thought I’d share this one fresh out of the gate.

Inspired by an idea on the RandomActsOfKindness.org website, one of the new mindfulness exercises I’ve embarked upon for 2019 (as I like to enfold 2-3 new practices at the start of each year to help keep my practice fresh) is 52-Weeks of Thank You’s. I penned my third one this morning.

At first, I thought 52-Weeks of Thank You’s was synonymous with 52-Weeks of Gratitude but then as I thought more about it, I started wondering if maybe they were slightly different.

Saying: “I’m grateful for _____” is not the same as saying: “Thank you for ______.” There’s an energetic difference. One focuses on the self, as in: I am grateful for such and such, whereas the latter focuses on the other person, as in: Thank you for such and such.

As I was interested in focusing on the person I would be sending the note to, I decided to stick with calling it 52-Weeks of Thank You’s.

Prior to embarking upon this new practice, I wrote out the full list of names to send thank you’s to through the whole of 2019. Before I got into the swing of it, I had trouble coming up with who I would send thank you’s to. But once I got rolling and into the spirit of it, I wound up easily coming up with 52 names and then I ended with being disappointed that I had run out of weeks and had way more people to include. And not only did I include individual friends and family members but I also added a handful of organizations and local businesses. Another criteria I’ve set for myself is that each thank you note will be sent old school, via the U.S postal service. While sending email thank you’s would be far less time consuming and resource intensive, there’s something important that gets conveyed when someone takes the time to handwrite a card/letter/note and send it.

I made these labels to attach to each thank you note:

 

3 down – 49 to go! :)

Why I Practice

Why do I practice? And more specifically: Why do I practice in this Plum Village mindfulness tradition, in all the ways that I do?

Why I do see fit to attend retreats, spend time at Deer Park Monastery, sit for 30-minutes in meditation each morning, show up to my weekly sangha every Monday night, read sutras, chant, and spend hours each week tending to our local and statewide sanghas and mindfulness center’s business turnings? Why do I put so much attention, effort, care, and diligence into developing and strengthening the seeds of mindfulness, joy, ease, liberation, and heartfulness in my daily life?

For me, the spirit of these questions is worth while to to keep alive and answer periodically from time to time.

Right now, here in this moment, I am inspired to answer in two different ways: a practical way and a poetic way.

First, the practical way:

I practice because I feel nourished and supported by my teachers, the dharma, and the sangha. I practice because even when it’s hard, it feels like the right thing to be doing. I practice because I am able to see the fruits that develop and strengthen in my daily life as a result of my efforts, such as growing my capacity for being more kind, caring, present, connected, open, and understanding. I practice because I know life would be hell if I didn’t. I practice in the interest of life being precious and time being short. I practice because I want to help support and care well for others and I see clearly that in order to do that, my own well-being must be continuously maintained and protected. I practice because this tradition brings me to a vibrant, joyful, and grounded frame of mind, body, and heart, over and over again.

And now the poetic response:

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