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Sometimes I Forget

Sometimes I forget that we’re all – each of us – doing our best.

That we each march to our own drummer, sway to our own beat, hear the rhythm of life pulsating differently.

Sometimes I forget that there’s only so much time in a day – or a lifetime – to maneuver.

I am personally acquainted with people who’s spark comes alive through justice/support based work, such as: healing racism, translating for Spanish immigrants, volleying for animals on their way to slaughter, training underprivileged demographics in the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, de-stigmatizing mental illness, spending time with those who are in the process of dying, training women on how to navigate creating their own small business, supporting kids without active adult relationships to navigate through the court system, educating school-age boys about healthy masculinity and the subtleties of sexual violence, volunteering with local non-profits, engaging with people around policy change work, guiding early childhood development skills, and fostering opportunities for people to learn more about such matters as suicide, postpartum depression, homelessness, access to housing, global warming, and incarceration.

And I know people who’s spark comes alive through creative/self-expression based work, such as: gardening, cooking, baking, playing sports, traveling and playing music, hosting standup comedy learning sessions for women, bringing African dance into the lives of those with disabilities, organizing community poetry events, providing high school students with opportunities to craft and share their voices through the medium of written & spoken word, hiking, painting, photography, collage work, and role-playing games.

Me? My biggest most illuminating spark comes alive through sangha building. I am drawn to cultivating community through the dharma. Spiritual leadership is my highest calling. I love helping to support people, I love spending time with people. And I have a great love for and confidence in using and teaching about the tools and skills made available through mindfulness, meditation, and our Buddhist Plum Village tradition.

Creative/self-expression wise, my spark comes alive through: writing, spoken word, playing music, listening to music, dancing, solo traveling, spending time in nature, motorcycling, photography, volunteering with hospice, and working with young children.

We all have different callings. Different things that draw our attention and motivate us to action. And sometimes I forget this. Sometimes I think everyone is like me – or should be like me. And when this happens, I suffer.

Currently, I’m on a journey to find my people – those I resonate and have the most in common with. And I’m practicing to understand and embrace all those who are in my life who I don’t hold a lot in common with, but whom I cherish and value.

There’s a balance I am seeking in my interpersonal relationships right now. And it’s becoming clearer to me as of late, how often I forget certain elements of human dynamics and functioning that are crucial to remember, for the sake of my own and others quality of well-being.

The practice continues…

 

 

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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Courage To Heal

For the last few years, I’ve been honored to participate in Unity of Missoula’s Day of Prayer interfaith service. The service is tonight and I will be speaking on behalf of our Buddhist sanghas, as part of our spiritual leadership team.

A short snippet about Unity:

Unity Worldwide Ministries is a worldwide network of ministries, ministers, licensed teachers and individuals providing practical teachings to help people live healthy, prosperous and meaningful lives. Unity is a positive path for spiritual living. We teach the effective daily application of the principles of Truth taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ.

Here’s what I plan on saying, based on Unity’s theme this year, which is: Courage to Heal and their affirmation of: I am a healing presence.

Prior to watching the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor just last night, I had planned on talking about the unification of mind and body in the present moment, and how dispersing our energy into thoughts about the past or worries about the future greatly reduces our ability to be a healing presence in the world. But at 9:00pm last night, after I watched this remarkable documentary, I decided to go in a different direction.

I’d like to start with a 1-minute exercise that Fred Rogers liked to do with people – I’d like us all to reflect on someone who has helped us along the way. So let us take 1-minute right now to do this in silence.

(One minute of silence, followed by a sound of the bell)

We all have people who have helped us along the way. People who, as Fred was shown saying at the end of the film during a commencement speech, have: “smiled us into smiling, talked us into talking, sang us into singing, or loved us into loving.”

To help is to heal. To help is to love. And each of us has the capacity to foster a healing presence in the world. It’s imperative to the well being of humanity that we not shrink away from or underestimate our ancestral bestowment, which is the power to help, heal, and love: ourselves, our friends and family, our co-workers, our neighbors, all beings who cross our path, and the earth.

Every morning, I start my day with 30 minutes of silent sitting meditation, followed by a gratitude practice that I’ve come up with on my own, using certain elements of our Buddhist tradition, which includes 3 prostrations to the earth, down on the ground, and one final standing bow. With the first prostration I say the same thing each morning: I bow down to the earth in gratitude for this one precious life. With the 2nd and 3rd prostrations, I offer rotating gratitudes of whatever is alive for me that day. And with the final standing bow, I conclude with: In gratitude for this one more opportunity to live today, may I be useful, may I be kind.

This way of starting my day helps to angle me in the direction of my highest intention, which is to be a healing, supportive, loving presence throughout the day to all those I will cross paths with. And in order for this calling to be sustained into the future, I need to cultivate and strengthen the seeds of gratitude, ease, and joy every day.

My hope for all of us is that we find ways in which to continue to water these same seeds for ourselves, so the we can shine our light forward, helping to illuminate the beauty, goodness, and splendors that exist within and around us. And when we do this, it will naturally usher others to join us in the work of transformation and healing.

 

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Restoring Balance

 

I wear a green shirt and brown pants every day that calls for me to leave the house and mingle with the weather and/or the people, which is to say, most days. My lounge-about/sleepwear, however, is slightly more varied, with purples and whites and grays. I have hoodies in brown and green but in the early mornings when I rise, perhaps in solidarity with the color of sky when I wake, it’s the black hoodie that makes the most sense to me to wear.

Yesterday morning, I grabbed a green hoodie because it was there and easy. I put it on, zipped it up, and set to making my tea and boiling my eggs, as though I hadn’t just monkeyed with the normal order of things.

I sat down at the table, next to a bobbing candle flame atop a beeswax base, and read the first few crisp pages of a new book I acquired the evening prior. But something wasn’t quite right. Like entering your house to discover a light left on that you knew you turned off, something was amiss. I knew straight away what it was: the green hoodie.

I got up and replaced it with the black one. Balance was restored.

Now, some might deem this an attachment I would do well to work on or an OCD moment I should tend to with greater skill. And if it weren’t for the fact that I was operating with self-connection in a spirit of befriending, verses that of compulsion and anxiety, I would readily agree. But I used my intelligence and made a conscious choice, and that makes a world of difference.

Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) is often instructing us to use our own intelligence when it comes to the use of the teachings and practice tools. This means that we would do well not to think that any one course of action can be applicable in all situations. This means that we must come to understand that to actualize the full breadth and spirit of the practice, we must be able to tune into our present moment experience and ascertain what’s called for, from our own perspective and knowledge, with clarity and ease. As our local dharma teacher Rowan says, and I just love: The classic Zen answer to any question is “it depends!” And it really does. The practice is not static or fixed in place. It’s alive, like the relationships we have with our dearest beloved.

My morning routine of communion with the greaterness that occupies space and time and joins us all miraculously together, is not something I find wise to mess around with. And if a black hoodie helps me in this process, then…shoot, I’m good with that.

 
 

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Metta to the Drunk People

Last night, I attended a concert at an outdoor amphitheater, alongside a myriad of Missoulians clad in layers to weather the changing temperatures and armored with an ever-rising blood-alcohol level.

And it used to be I would sit in judgement, of those who drink enough to exhibit qualities of character that only other drunk people find appealing. But now I am able to bear witness to such inebriated behaviors and extend the following thoughts:

1. I hope you are accompanied by someone who can drive you safely home.
2. I hope one day you are able to dance and interact with such open abandon while sober.
3. Sweet Missoulian, I am glad to share this place called home with you. I wish you well.

 
 

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Re-Envisioning the Practice

This morning, I watched a portion of a Dharma talk on YouTube, given by Brother Phap Dung in Plum Village on July 29th, 2018. It was entitled: The Power of Cutting Off and Letting Go. (Here’s the link if you’re interested.)

How timely that it happened to correspond well with the reading I’d done earlier this morning from our Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book.

Once a week, I read a different sutra from the chanting book. This morning I found myself reading the Discourse on the Dharma Seal, where it gives mention to the “three defiling qualities of mind – greed, hatred, and delusion.” Brother PD also spoke to this list in his talk, though he referred to them as the three afflictions and rephrased them a bit as: craving, anger, and ignorance.

He also spoke about the three virtues – also referred to as gauges – of a spiritual person and/or leader:

  1. Compassion
  2. Wisdom
  3. Freedom (or cutting off or cutting through)

Some things from the Brother’s talk that I scribed down while watching:

– We must re-envision our practice so that it includes all activities, not just certain ones or the ones we find pleasing; this is what Thay meant when he coined the phrase engaged Buddhism. (this is a paraphrase)

– “Be ordinary, don’t stick out. Don’t over-practice.” – Brother PD on the practice of washing the dishes

– “Buddhist practice is like medicine. It helps us, frees us, and then you don’t go holding on to it.”

– Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t met Thay and I think to myself: my life was so much easier before coming to this practice. So, you might want to go somewhere else (for spiritual practice), because in this practice tradition you have to look at things you might not want to look at. (paraphrase)

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Daily Gratitude Practice

Every morning after my session of sitting meditation, I have a gratitude practice I do, which involves bowing down to the earth three times and then doing one final standing bow.
 
With each bow, I offer a gratitude. The first and last gratitudes are the same each morning, but the middle two are spontaneous and change each day.
 
Today’s Gratitudes:
1. I bow down to the earth in gratitude for this one precious life.
2. I bow down to the earth in gratitude for all of the opportunities, luxuries, modern conveniences, abilities, and abundance I am afforded.
3. I bow down to the earth in gratitude for the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha for showing me the way in this life, and for nourishing and supporting me.
4. In gratitude for this one more opportunity to live today, may I be useful, may I be kind.
 
 

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Squirrel Meditation

Our campsite on the Flathead Lake

This past weekend (Aug 2-5) we had our sangha summer campout with our meditation community Be Here Now – it was our 6th annual! We’ve been using the same campground each summer: Big Arm State Park on the Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana. For the past 3 years, we’ve been managing to reserve their one and only group site, which wonderfully allows us to be all together in one spot AND right on the water! So great!!

Each campout is a nice social/community building/relaxing hang-time on the lake opportunity for our sangha. It allows us to be joyfuly together, whilst revelling in the lake, each others company, and the practice of having nowhere to go and nothing to do. We spend our time: reading, floating/paddling/swimming, conversing, laughing, playing games, drinking tea/coffee, sharing community meals, napping, and hanging out around the fire at night. Given that we had a smaller group than usual, and Saturday afternoon was a bit blustery, we even took a field trip this year during our campout: cherry picking!

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