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All Is Well

To listen to this post being read on my podcast, instead of or in addition to reading it here, please follow this link: https://soundcloud.com/inmindfulmotion/all-is-well

There are some things I would never see fit to write, were it not for the simple fact that I rise early in the morning, when darkness still paints the sky.

Here are some examples, from this morning’s journal session:

It’s 4:12am, Saturday morning.
I awoke at 3:00 and did the should-I-shouldn’t-I dance till roundabout 3:45,
before the I-should won out.
As in: I’m awake, I should just get up.
I knew snow must’ve fallen overnight,
as soon as I stepped into the living room.
Despite the curtains having been drawn,
a brightness perfumed the air.

4:53am.
A light snow falls outside.
Tucked into the warmth of my home cocoon,
all is well.
Only the hum of the pilot light is audible.
Well, that and the gliding strokes of my pen over paper
as I write this.

Everything speaks a different language in sleep mode.

If you have a yearning to foster the sense that our world isn’t a junk show,
or that good people abound,
or that beauty is a thing that exists in every landscape we find ourselves amid,
practice bearing witness to the spell of early morning.
It might very well be the thing that rallies a new resounding melody within you,
in which to sway your heart and feet forward.

__________

The practice of Being Here Now does not disclude us from delving into the past or planning for the future. However, as mindfulness practitioners committed to our practice, we must develop a level of awareness in order to investigate the difference between what is skillful, helpful, and kind and what is serving to further exasperate feelings of attachment, turmoil, and disconnection. (Working analogy: We should only operate a time machine device if we know how to make proper use of all the controls and gadgetry. Otherwise, we risk getting stuck in the year 1985 without the benefit of hairspray and parachute pants.)

In short, we need to know how to visit the past and future without setting up shop there. To apply our mindfulness practice to working constructively with the past and future, we need to effectively use the tools that will bring us back to the here and now.

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Posted by on November 24, 2018 in writer's life

 

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On the road again

It gets little better for me in the good time department than making tea by the roadside. I’m not sure how quite to describe it but it just makes sense to me.

I’m currently on a road trip, clacking away on my old laptop I keep around for such things as rambling or retreating, so that I can attempt to keep up with all the things that percolate and bubble to the surface that I want to scribe down. It’s far too time consuming and arduous a task to use pen and paper on trips and then have the merry assignment of having to type it all out when I get home – I know, cuz I’ve done it. So, I’ve learned to make peace with traveling with electronics, as there’s a big part of me that would prefer to venture off without them.

Alas, a writer must write – and when she wanders off she must take the tools of the trade with her, with gladness in her heart.

Stats thus far, on my first leg of the trip:
Left town: Friday October 12th at 5:45am
Miles traveled on Friday: 828.9
Car camped for the night: Medina, North Dakota
Arrived in the metro area of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, to spend 2 days with a good friend: Saturday October 13th at 12:30pm
Miles traveled on Saturday: 380.6

Billboard on the roadside in North Dakota :)

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Posted by on October 15, 2018 in Travel, writer's life

 

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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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Fall Retreat

Breathing in, I feel gratitude for the opportunities that I am so richly afforded, and the spiritual community of friends I get to share my practice with.

Breathing out, I feel refreshed and energized.

________

This past weekend, I had the great fortune of attending our Montana Open Way Sanghas fall retreat on the Flathead Lake, with visiting Dharma teacher Leslie Rawls. Each of our two annual retreats start on a Thursday evening and end on a Sunday afternoon. I feel so very grateful to have access to these opportunities twice a year, so close to home. Our local retreats are truly a gift.

Thursday, a northern drive which lulled my two travel companions to sleep, revealed a trusted tender sweetness I’d not shared with them before.

Friday, our first full day of the fall retreat revealed cohesion of the part of me that wanted to be somewhere else this weekend, with the part that wanted to be here.

Saturday, the water pitching and heaving under gray skies, revealed how similar the mind is to the lake’s surface and how quickly things can change.

Sunday, a 2-hour car ride with a friend, revealed another lovely layer of understanding and celebration for how other people’s experiences sculpt and enrich my life.

 

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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in Local Retreats, video

 

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Seven Treasures of the Heart

Over this past weekend, I finished watching a talk by Brother Phap Hai, which he gave at Deer Park Monastery on June 21st, 2018. I watch a fair amount of Dharma talks online and I found this one in particular to be very powerful. If you’d like to check it out, click here. Side note: if you’re like me and it’s helpful to watch talks in segments, there are good stopping/pausing points in this talk at 17.40 and 31.05 (the total run time is 54.55).

From Brother Phap Hai’s talk:

“The fundamental insight of Buddhism is that if we look deeply into our lives, into our situation, with appropriate attention, then the path reveals itself naturally.”

 

Seven Treasures of the Heart

as offered by the Buddha in the Dhana Sutta

1. Confidence

2. Mindfulness trainings

3. Self-reflection

4. Concern

5. Listening

6.Generosity

7. Discernment

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Five Remembrances

This morning, during my sitting meditation session, I devoted my practice to connecting with the Five Remembrances. The original Five Remembrances come from a Buddhist sutra, for which the English translation is entitled: Subjects for Contemplation. The above translation, of which I’m most familiar with, is from my root teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.

According to Wikipedia, which I think is well said: According to this discourse, contemplation of these facts leads to the abandonment of destructive attachments and actions and to the cultivation of factors necessary for awakening.

If feelings of sorrow, overwhelm, upset, or aversion arise upon reading the Five Remembrances, it indicates that only a surface level view is being encountered. If we think these are a downer, we have not yet penetrated them deeply enough to benefit from the levels of insight from which they manifest.

As a collective assembly of people, we are societally groomed to avoid these inherent realities as being part of our human experience. In doing so, we are limiting our ability to be – and stay – in conscious contact and communication with the preciousness of life. We take things, people, places, experiences, and life itself, for granted.

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Creating Balance

I gave a talk at the Open Sky Sangha in Kalispell, Montana last night, Thursday June 14th. (Open Sky is one of the sister groups of my home sangha Be Here Now.) Below is what I wrote out ahead of time, to help me prepare for the talk. If you’d prefer to listen to the audio recording, vs. reading it, you can venture here:

http://www.openway.org/content/creating-balance-practice-talk-nicole-dunn

___________

Title: Creating Balance

Subtitle: Cultivating self-care while also staying active and engaged in the world

Last month, for the week leading up to and including Memorial Day weekend, I went on a solo sojourn and stayed in the Mission Lookout Tower, which is just outside of Swan Lake. So, for 5 nights and 6 days, I situated myself 40-feet up off the ground in a 15X15 glass nest perch in the pines, with a 2-3 foot wide wrap-around deck, which afforded me sweeping views of the Swan Range to the east and the Mission mountains to the west.

I reserved this recent solo stay at Mission Lookout back in November, because I knew that come mid-late May, I’d be in need of some time of restoration and refueling of my energy tanks – and boy was I right! Prior to heading to the tower, my energy was sorely waning and I was feeling over-extended and organizationally meetinged-out. I recorded my debut spoken word album and had a release party and performance in March; I was one of the directors of our statewide spring retreat in April; and was in charge of our big annual community yard sale fundraiser at our mindfulness center in Missoula two weeks after the retreat – on top of working part time as a nanny, being a weekly hospice volunteer, taking care of my family household, having a regular writing regiment, and so on. And this isn’t anything special or unique – we all have a myriad of things that we tend to on an ongoing basis.

No matter how glad we may be to invest our energy into all the different things that we do, there comes a time that in order to continue doing those things, we will need to find, create, and make important the art of resting and self-care, lest we become completely and utterly exhausted and kaput. So, developing a relationship with cultivating our own sense of balance between being active in the world and learning how to rest and replenish is not just something nice to do, it’s vitally important to our ability to continue beautifully into the future – to keep actively practicing in our spiritual mindfulness tradition and in all of the endeavors we participate in: work, school, family life, social life, home upkeep, traveling, volunteering, recreation, hobbies/interests, etc. We extend ourselves out and about in so many ways and we can liken ourselves to a car: our gas tank can only take us so far before we need to refuel. If we have more energy going out than that which is coming in, we will find ourselves eventually broken down and stranded on the side of the road. And this is a position that is all too commonplace in our culture. We are a nation of doers. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

The hitch in the giddy-up is that we are not well-acquainted with how to ongoingly restore ourselves. We don’t prioritize – alongside of: work, family, friends, and so on – the practices of stopping, resting, nourishing, and healing.

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