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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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Place and Time

A light snow falls, like wishes and hopes for a future yet to come, with softness and a fragrant lingering for more.

So many of us ponder: Will more be enough?

Then following in tow: What if more is never enough? What if getting more simply leads to needing more?

And if we’re still and quiet in heart, speech, and body, this answer will be there on the heels of our fears:

There is no such thing as more, to remedy that which we experience as lacking.
There is only this.
There is only now.
This.
Here.
Now.
These are the only things we can truly rely on.

 

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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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Sorrow

Last Saturday, as part of a show I helped to put together called Word of Mouth, I shared a newish spoken word piece I wrote this past spring, entitled: Sorrow. There’s a chance I’ve already posted it here on my blog somewhere – but I did a quick search and didn’t see it, so I’m a-thinking perhaps not.

This particular piece sums up rather well the past year for me, in terms of some deeper inner work I’ve been doing. It was only the second time I’d shared it publicly – the first time being out of town at a spoken word gig I had up north in Kalispell in June. It felt fitting to share it with my home crew last Saturday. I’d like to share it here with all of you, as well. Here goes.

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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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UM Hate Crimes Forum

Last night, I attended a forum on the University of Montana campus, as part of an annual event called DiverseU. It was a forum on hate crimes and there were three sets of panelists, totaling 12 speakers all together. Unfortunately, I don’t think they advertised it very well, as there was relatively poor attendance. There were maybe 75-100 of us to start off, scattered out around 400 chairs or so. After the first panel was done, over half of the people left. By the time the third panel started – running well behind schedule and beginning their session at 9:00pm, when the event was set to end – only about a dozen of us were left to give them our sleepy-eyed but undivided attention.

Who knows. Maybe they did advertise it well and people just weren’t drawn to the topic, knowing full well that it would be a hard evening to endure. For me personally, there are some things I am willing and glad to do even when I have something else scheduled that requires cancelling; even when I’m tired; even when I’d prefer to haul up at home; even when I know my heart will ache deeply in unison with the people when I go. This forum was one such occasion.

As a spiritual leader in a Buddhist community, I want the people who come through our doors to feel welcome, safe, cared for, supported, loved, and accepted. And anything I can do to better educate myself and expand my understanding and compassion, the better.

Here are some notes I scribed down last night:

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Passing Away

My grandmother Mary, who passed away on October 27th, 2018

 

Yesterday, my paternal grandmother passed away. After a long life spent singing in the church choir, attending mass, and being the hub for tending to her 8 children and 12 grandchildren, she went the way all of us inevitably will, sifting from form to memory.

She was my last surviving grandparent.

Last night, I lit a fire out back in her honor. And it just so happened that a bundle of my maternal grandmother’s ashes sat beside me. They followed me home from a recent trip I took to see my mom. I never said a proper good-bye to her, when she passed away last December – not in a way that acknowledged that the breath of a life had been transferred back to its source. Her ashes then became symbolic of both of my grandmothers departures.

They became that of Mike’s grandmothers, too.

We added a small handful to the fire, and watched as the ashes both settled into the crackling embers and rose up amid the smoke, which caused the drying elm leaves above to rattle and dance.

We then set out in the darkness of 8pm in the autumnal mountains, to scatter the rest of the ashes. We set some adrift on the Bitterroot River and laid the remainder to rest in a grassy field surrounded by ponderosas.

Aho grandmothers.

A blessing to you all.

You gave us life.

You carried us on the same backs of all those who came before us.

We as your grandchildren are your continuation.

Now, we carry you forward,

on the same backs of all those who still remain,

and will soon follow in our footsteps.

My grandmother & grandfather’s continuation of grandchildren

 

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