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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

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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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March for Our Lives

Today, I practiced silent walking meditation amid hundreds of Missoulians brandishing signs in support of what wound up being a global march, in the wake of increasing gun violence in our schools.

Instead of a sign, I held my pocket-sized Buddha. Instead of joining in the chants of “No more silence, end gun violence,” I practiced deep, mindful breathing. The art of change-work can (and must) take place on a multitude of different levels.

We need those who can rally a march, who join in the chants, who can speak from the heart over a microphone, who are called to running for political offices, who donate money and time and their web talents – and we also need people who can remain calm and stable in the fray. We’re all needed. We all have something to offer. We’re all in this together.

 

Article from Lion’s Roar mag: Buddhists supporting March for Our Lives share their photos and messages:

https://www.lionsroar.com/buddhists-supporting-march-for-our-lives-share-their-photos-and-messages/?utm_content=buffer4e0f9&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

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Befriending

All those parts of ourselves that we don’t like – all those parts we’re self-conscious about, that we try to hide or fight or squelch or fix – befriending is always the answer.

As soon as we embark on the genuine path of befriending, the frequency of the relationship dynamic to whatever it is about ourselves that we don’t like changes right away. As Carl Rogers (co-founder of the client-centered approach to psychology) stated:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

~Carl Rogers

The pitfall that so many of us encounter in relation to inner transformational and healing work is the common predicament of trying to change, with the mindset of there being something about ourselves that’s damaged or broken or defective. We approach it from the angle of there being something wrong that needs fixing. And when we approach it from this standpoint the conditions for change and growth are extremely limited, because the ground for transformation and healing to take place is stripped and barren. What allows the ground to become fertile and ripe for transformation is the genuine act of befriending – acknowledging, accepting, and embracing ALL the parts of who we are. Only when we start to befriend ourselves can we start laying the foundation in order to build a more engaged, skillful, and well-contented life.

Befriending is always the answer. Whatever’s going on. Whether it’s something internal or external. Suffering is generated when we fight against something going on – when we want things to be different; other than as they are. To befriend is to stop struggling. To befriend is to allow things to be just as they are, to let things be. To let others be. To let ourselves be.

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In a recent class offered at Deer Park Monastery, Brother Kai Ly taught the following (which I consider to be the in-depth process of what befriending is all about):

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Posted by on February 9, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Deer Park Journal: Day 17

2018 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 5th-26th, 2018

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition but are not monks or nuns.
Monastics: The collective group of both monks and nuns.
Clarity Hamlet: Where the nuns, also called Sisters, reside. Laywomen stay here as well.
Solidity Hamlet: Where the monks, also called Brothers, reside. Laymen and couples/families stay here as well.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese

Monday, January 22nd 2018

Day 17

2:28pm

Early morning haiku:

In time we all change
every moment we change
nothing stays the same

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Let me start by saying that today – for the first time ever in all my 38 years – I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while swinging in a hammock. It was glorious. And, now that I’ve made sure to mention the most important part of my day so far, I’ll continue :)

After breakfast, I set out on a solo hike. There is a lovely trail system that weaves around the hills of the monastery grounds, situated long before Deer Park was nestled here. Had I hiked the particular loop that I took, it probably would’ve taken me around an hour or so. But since I saw fit to stop along the way in various spots, to write and drink tea, I was gone for a little over 3 hours. During my first pit stop, I was called to write my own version of the Earth Touchings – of which we have two versions of in our tradition, one which has three verses and one which has five. Since three is my favorite number I thought I would write three verses but then I found that I had more to say than could be contained in just three, so I wrote five.

While I didn’t originally intend on this, after writing the first one in one spot and the second one in a different spot along the trail, I decided it made good and lovely sense to write each one in a different location, so that’s what I did. I also wrote an introduction to go along with the Earth Touchings. Here’s what I penned on my hike:

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Posted by on February 6, 2018 in Deer Park Monastery

 

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Deer Park Journal: Day 11

2018 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 5th-26th, 2018

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition but are not monks or nuns.
Monastics: The collective group of both monks and nuns.
Clarity Hamlet: Where the nuns, also called Sisters, reside. Laywomen stay here as well.
Solidity Hamlet: Where the monks, also called Brothers, reside. Laymen and couples/families stay here as well.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese

Tuesday, January 16th 2018

Day 11

7:17pm

Early morning haiku:

My eyes awaken
a smile alights my face
all is fresh and new

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Upon consulting with San Diego Birds, A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species, I’ve ascertained that the winged ones I’ve seen around the monastery are as follows: Western Scrub Jay, California Thrasher, Great Horned Owl, Greater Roadrunner, California Quail, and, of course, my dearest friends the American Crow and the Common Raven. There’s also the lovely Red-Tailed Hawks, who take up shop in the oak grove. There are others, too. Smaller songbirds. But I’m afraid there’s little distinction I can make out between them – they all look the same to me!

According to the Pocket Guide, American Crows have a distinct call – caw, whereas Common Ravens have a hoarse croak call. Great Horned Owls have a resonant call: hoo-HOO-hoooo. Western Screech-Owls, on the other hand, make a series of short, accelerating whistles. And Barn Owls’ call is a purring shriek (whatever that is!).

Mike and I had an informal meeting with Brother Phap Ho tonight after dinner. We had asked for his council in regards to the residential practice community we are wanting to start and he happily agreed to meet with us. So, as there is a sitting meditation tonight at 8:00pm, I’ll have to keep today’s journal entry short.

I came across this quote from the Buddha this morning, in a back issue of what used to be known as Shambhala Sun magazine: “If we keep death in front of us, if we are aware of it, we will live better lives.” I think this teaching points to why death and dying are so focused on in Buddhism. When we understand full well that death could come calling at any time, why then would we choose to waste what precious time we are afforded?!

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Deer Park Journal, Day 4

2018 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 5th-26th, 2018

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition but are not monks or nuns.
Monastics: The collective group of both monks and nuns.
Clarity Hamlet: Where the nuns, also called Sisters, reside. Laywomen stay here as well.
Solidity Hamlet: Where the monks, also called Brothers, reside. Laymen and couples/families stay here as well.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese

Tuesday, January 9th 2018

Day 4

6:30pm

Early morning haiku:

Rain, an honored guest
graces the land with support
to grow and flourish

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Last night, our “Joyful Gathering” meeting wound up being a dharma sharing group with an emphasis on sharing our joys. We had so many lay folks that we wound up breaking up into two different groups. Mike led our group in the tea room. There were about 15 of us. (There are around 25-30 of us lay folk here in Solidity and I am one of only 3 or 4 women, as Solidity is designated for the Brothers, lay men, and couples and families.)

One man, here from Mexico with his wife, shared that when he pays attention, he sees clearly that he is in love with his wife but that oftentimes he doesn’t pay attention and gets swept up in petty annoyances. When he pays attention, he said, the song lyric: every little thing she does is magic comes to mind. I found his sharing so very touching. It spoke to me deeply.

Someone else shared about their joy for the rain – which began falling late afternoon yesterday and has persisted without reprieve through the night and most of today. They called it a welcomed and honored guest (hence the inspiration for my morning haiku). How delightful that someone should share this sentiment! So often we don’t hold the rain – or any inclement weather – in any sort of high regard. So his joy of the rain was music to my ears, much like the sound of the pitter patter of the water has been for much of the day.

Our schedule today was as follows:
5:00am Wake Up
5:45-6:30am Sitting Meditation
7:30am Breakfast
9:00am Class (for lay friends)
11:00am Outdoor Walking Meditation
12:00pm Lunch
3:00pm Working Meditation
5:30pm Dinner
8:00pm Sitting Meditation & Chanting

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Deer Park Journal, Arrival Day

2018 Deer Park Daily Musings
Written during a retreat I attended from January 5th-26th, 2018

Background Info & Terminology: Deer Park Monastery is rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is situated in Escondido, CA, north of San Diego.

Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen; those of us who practice in this tradition but are not monks or nuns.
Monastics: The collective group of both monks and nuns.
Clarity Hamlet: Where the nuns, also called Sisters, reside. Laywomen stay here as well.
Solidity Hamlet: Where the monks, also called Brothers, reside. Laymen and couples/families stay here as well.
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese

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Friday, January 5th 2018

Arrival Day

6:23pm

I awoke at 3:00am. Our lovely friend & airport ride, Linds, picked us up at 4:30am. Our flight left Missoula at 6:00am and by 10:00am, Pacific Time, I could smell the salt water on the sun soaked breeze. We had traded 16 degrees and snow for 70 degrees and blue skies. It felt…strange – as though things weren’t quite right in the universe, to have winter equate to such warmthitude.

I wrote this in my journal on the first leg of our flight:

A string stitched to my heart, anchors down below in town as we fly off. I feel the tension of it pulling taught, as though I were a kite being held in nimble fingers, grasped firm so as not to flitter off.

 And some of us are already fast asleep. Some are reading and some, like the two in front of me, are becoming friends. We’re all going somewhere: home or on a temporary stay. We’re all in this together, too, strapped on this wild ride.

My silhouette – framed in the darkened porthole window – keeps me company in flight. Row 20, seat A, the last stop in the back of this metal bird.

Sky cracking open with pale blues and streaks of fire reds. And then, things change quickly! Blackness returns. A sea of unknowing fills my view and I am plunged back into myself. We are forever made or broken by the presence of absence of the light – and sometimes, both happen at the same time.

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Posted by on January 28, 2018 in Deer Park Monastery

 

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