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Choosing to Shine

A few years ago, I started on a journey to practice shining more. Shining my talents, abilities, and forms of creative expression. For me, shining means stepping into something and not letting fear run the show. I came to see how often I shirked back from shining – out of fear. Fear of ego and fear of out-shining others.

In a little under 3-weeks, the culmination of my journey thus far will manifest in a solo spoken word performance and CD release party here in town. To say that I am nervous would be a remarkable understatement. But, as I’ve been sharing with folks lately, I’m proud of myself because despite having feelings of doubt and fear and uncertainty, I’m still doing it. I’m still moving forward, one scary moment at a time. My tracks are recorded and mastered; my CD’s are ordered; the gig is set; my booklet of lyrics is at the print shop. It’s happening!

If you’re interested in checking out my event page for this upcoming gig: https://spark.adobe.com/page/hC5Y8cQ32xv1e/

Something I’ve realized over the years is that fear isn’t rational, which is a big part of what makes it challenging to work with. If fear were a rational process, it would be fairly easy to talk our way out of it. But we all know that engaging in an intellectual dialog when it comes to a certain fear we have is futile. For example, let’s say we’re afraid of flying. Would it reduce your fear, even an iota, if someone were to give you the facts and statistics about how flying is safer than driving? No, probably not. Fear cannot be addressed in the head, it has to be addressed in the heart of our experience. In order to work with fear, we have to get out of our head and into our heart.

So that’s what I’ve been working on. Since fear lives in the head, I’ve been breathing in and practicing to exhale and delve deeper into the fragrant and calming waters of the heart. I’ve been practicing to use gentle and loving speech with myself: I see you fear. You are present and part of my experience AND I’m choosing not to let you run the show. You can hang out and all – but I’m choosing to shine.

I love that the following poem is so well-known. I’ve encountered it in a variety of places over the years – my most favorite spot being the middle school my stepson went to a few years ago, where an excerpt hung in large lettering on a banner in the hallway.

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Posted by on February 18, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Deer Park Wrap Up

Tonight at my local sangha, Be Here Now, Mike and I, and a few of our sangha friends who recently spent time on retreat at Deer Park, will be offering a Deer Park (DP) retreat sharing panel as part of our format. There will be 5 of us on the panel and we’ll each share for 5 minutes or so about whatever is alive in our heart and our practice in regards to our time at DP. I plan on starting with a short intro and background about DP and then after the panel we’ll open up for Q & A. If there’s time, I also plan on showing a 10-minute DP video montage I put together from footage I took in January during our 3-week stay. And if there’s not time, then it’ll be an addendum after we close the group, for those wanting to stick around to watch it. I’m looking forward to this evening and hearing from my other friends about their retreat stay!

Here’s what I plan on saying for my sharing:

The importance of sangha practice is not new to me but I did delve deeper into this insight when I was at DP this last time. Being in close contact and interaction with my sangha – whether it’s my local home sangha, larger statewide Montana sangha, or the community at DP – is not an additional component of my mindfulness practice, like adding parmesan cheese to the top of a bowl of pasta. Sangha practice is equivalent to the tomatoes needed to make the sauce. It’s a necessary and critical ingredient.

Despite how strong and diligent my practice is with peppering in a variety of mindfulness tools and exercises throughout the day, if I were to stop attending sangha and stop attending retreats, my practice would eventually fall off and take a nose dive. Sangha practice is not just something nice to sprinkle in to my life when I have time or when I’m really craving connection, sangha practice is the center of the wooden wheel, which all the spokes splay out from.

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Deer Park Journal: Day 21, Departure 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

Friday, January 26th 2018

Day 21: Departure Day

8:18am

Early morning haiku:

The morning sky glints
like polished obsidian
singing in star dust

_______

I wrote this in the Dining Hall this morning:

The coffee maker adds its voice to morning’s orchestra of sound: water boiling in the hot water dispenser, clattering of breakfast preparations from the kitchen, the rolling wheels of a cart over cold tiles, carrying all the daily fixin’s for oatmeal and toast. The clock ringing its 7am song.

We depart from here today, on a jet plane, unsure of when next we will return (who is it that sings about this? I can’t recall). How both strange and delightful it is to have so many feelings of home. When I arrived, although I had left my home to come here, I felt as though I was returning home. And now, as I prepare to go back home, I feel as though I’m leaving home, too!

Then there’s the home which remains a constant source of solidity and fluidity. My true home within myself, anchored in the here and now. Home really is where the heart is – literally and metaphorically! When the heart is open, home is everywhere!

_______

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Deer Park Journal: Day 20

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

Thursday, January 25th 2018

Day 20

7:35am

Early morning haiku:

If I didn’t write,
how would I manage to speak
all that my heart learns?

_____

On Thursdays (and Sundays too), we have breakfast at 7:00am instead of 7:30. And as I am among the first in line to dish up at mealtimes and also the first to exit the Dining Hall, here I am already typing!

Today is Lay Day once again, and I am feeling a particularly strong rebellion against attending the scheduled activities. At 9:00am we are set to gather in the campground for Tai Chi, followed by outdoor walking meditation. Then, according to the posted schedule, we are to have a tea ceremony at 10:15 in the Small Hall and dharma sharing at 11:15.

In knowing that we’ll be leaving around lunchtime tomorrow, part of me wants to simply depart right now, thereby skipping Lay Day and the dancing around to avoid social chatter like land-mines. Sidestepping Lazy Afternoon and Lazy Evening tonight and the Lazy Morning that follows in suit tomorrow. Other than meals – and lay day activities through until lunch
today – the only thing remaining is Working Meditation tomorrow at 9:00am. While part of me sees this as rather timely – a proper transition back to life outside of the monastery – another part of me does not want to let go of the periods of collective stillness and silence, which I so revel in here.

It’s almost 8:00am and I am still undecided about what to do for today. So often this question arises for me: How does one discern between the discomfort that arises from genuine lack of interest, or skilled ability to engage in a beneficial manner, and the discomfort that holds one back from acquiring the opportunity to practice in such a way that enables us to become free of the ties that bind us so fiercely? Part of the answer, I think, is to simply keep this question alive. To stay in continual contact with myself. The other part is to wait for a response to arrive from this space of inquiry and spaciousness. I’ve found that when I’m able to allow myself to settle into even just a modicum of spaciousness and stillness, my path forward tends to present itself pretty clearly.

_______

Every morning after breakfast, I recite this verse (which I fashioned of my own accord, influenced by other renditions):

This bowl, now empty, was just filled with
wonderful, delicious, nutritious food.
May I take the energy and nourishment
it provides me and transform it into:
_____, ______, and ______
on my path of practice today.

I fill in the blanks with a varying assortment of words, depending on the day and my aspirations. Today, I used the words: deep looking, ease, and friendliness.

With this agitation stirring, I see that the practice of befriending is most important for me right now. To take good care of this agitation with loving kindness and gentleness. To smile upon it like a dear friend and not criticize or condemn these feelings, wishing they would go away or be some other way than as they are.

The ability to let go of a painful or uncomfortable feeling only develops after learning how to recognize, accept, and embrace those feelings as they are. If we try to skip those first parts and go directly to the practice of letting go, it doesn’t work. Attempting to skip the first parts equates to the practice we’re most familiar with: running away, covering over, or ignoring the pain or discomfort that has arisen.

Befriending is always the answer.

_______

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Deer Park Journal: Day 19

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

Wednesday, January 24th 2018

Day 19

8:07am

Early morning haiku:

Small sounds of morning
the temple bell is calling
the cushion awaits

_______

I got 8 hours of sleep last night by skipping evening meditation and “sleeping in” until 4:15am. It was splendid. When you need the rest and you receive it, it’s a marvelous thing. Upon laying down on my bed last night around 7:00pm, I knew from the deep sighs of relief I made when my body met the mattress, that I was not going to make it to the meditation session at 8:00pm. “Go on without me,” I quipped aloud to an empty room, “just leave me here – save yourself!”

Here’s something I wrote in my journal this morning before sitting:

I guard my silence here much like one guards a small, precious child when crossing a busy road. I cradle it in my arms with care, and become fierce if the situation should deem it necessary. It’s so rare, this thing called silence. Sometimes I feel it is in such short supply that I’d fight to the death to protect and defend its honor, lest it be be stolen and every ounce spent and gone forever.

_______

Somehow I realized just this morning – during sitting meditation – that the presence of others here on retreat is a necessary ingredient for my practice and development of concentration. They aren’t an obstruction, as I have often been thinking. They are a vital component. They are as crucial an ingredient to my strengthening of concentration as tomatoes are to making pasta sauce.

The presence of others naturally enables me to boost my practice energy. I think we can all relate to this phenomenon. Let’s say we host a potluck at our house and there’s a sea of delicious food to choose from. Given that we’re amid our friends, we eat with a certain level of moderation. We don’t gorge ourselves on dessert, we only have a handful of chips, and so on. Then, at the end of the evening, after everyone has left and we’re left standing alone in our kitchen surrounded by all the leftovers, we release the hounds! We proceed to eat half a pie, 2 bowls of ice cream, and the rest of all the chips. And this isn’t something to give ourselves a hard time about – it’s human nature! I’d be a much lazier practitioner if I were left to my own devices, is what I’m saying.

So, where do we go from here? How do we reconcile with not using our mindfulness practice to try and fix or change ourselves when there are things about ourselves that we want to, well, fix and change? One of my new favorite quotes is from Carl Rogers, (the founder of the client-centered approach to modern psychiatry): The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” I love hearing this insight from a titan in the field of psychology, especially since it reaffirms what we are taught in this Buddhist practice tradition. Befriending is always the answer, when it comes to an inward struggle we’re having or any kind of pain we experience, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Befriending is always the remedy. What befriending allows us to do is to create spaciousness and ease. And when that happens, only then can we act from a place of understanding and love. And from this place, transformation is not only possible, it’s inevitable. Fighting against or with certain parts of ourselves that we’re not a big fan of, will never result in the outcome that we’re looking for. The more we recognize, accept, and embrace others as part of our path, and the more we recognize, accept, and embrace ourselves just as we are, the more able we are to grow in our practice of mindfulness, joyfulness, and liberation.

(Can you tell I’m working on a talk I’ll be giving at my home sangha next month? :)

_______

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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

_____

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 16

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

Sunday, January 21st 2018

Day 16

7:32am

Early morning haiku:

She’s out in the night
no longer in the morning
a waxing sliver

_____

A little something else I wrote in my journal this morning:

Are you operating with heart?
Giving it all you’ve got?
“It” meaning ALL of it:
the people around you,
your work,
your play,
your practice,
your studies,
sweeping the front steps,
cleaning the bathroom,
life…
Giving gusto to whatever it is you’re doing
is all that really matters, dear one.
Do it up.

______

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