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Gosh it’s easy to misunderstand things

This morning, while reading the Discourse on Happiness from our Plum Village chanting book, it clicked. After reading the second sentence: “Late at night, a deva appeared whose light and beauty made the whole Jeta Grove shine radiantly,” I came to understand what Brother Phap De meant two years ago when I was at Deer Park.

He had just finished leading us in stick exercises one morning before breakfast when he asked us, in a light and friendly tone of voice: “Who was that diva dancing the polka in the parking lot yesterday? I think they should lead us all in a dance session!”

In that moment, my internal dialog went something like this: Oh man. That was me. I didn’t really think others were watching. Do I have to declare myself now in front of all these people?! I mean, I really REALLY do not want to lead a dance session, that’s for sure.

I sheepishly raised my hand, indicating that the diva he was inquiring about was me. Then, I raced the heck out of there and headed to breakfast.

Later, I pondered the terminology he has used: diva dancing the polka and felt a mixture of confusion (as I didn’t know exactly what the polka entailed but I was certain I wasn’t doing it), slight embarrassment, and feeling affronted. Did he call me a diva? I thought to myself on many occasions after that. I’m not sure I like that term. No, I KNOW I don’t like that term. Is that how others see me?! Oh dear.

Up until this morning, I thought he meant diva (with an i), as in someone who is a prima donna, as my paperback Webster’s defines it. (Then I looked up “prima donna” to make sure I understood that word correctly – which is listed as: an extremely sensitive, vain, or undisciplined person.) But now I realize he probably meant deva (with an e!), which is described as a Celestial being or angel in the glossary in the back of our chanting book.

Upon making this discovery this morning, my internal dialog went something like this:

This changes everything!

Whew!

Thank goodness!

Brother Phap De

I’ve read the Discourse on Happiness a handful of times since Brother Phap De declared me the deva dancing the polka. But it wasn’t until just this morning that this insight arose, allowing for me to move into proper understanding.

The human experience is so incredibly fascinating, from a self-observation standpoint especially.

While it’s not worth giving it too much thought, I wonder: What changed? What allowed me to make this connection TODAY vs. some other day? I mean, I haven’t consciously thought about this instance with Brother Phap De in a long long time.

One of the guiding life sayings that I like to tell myself often is: Sometimes you don’t get to know why. Translation: This is a moment you would do well to practice just going with the flow of the river of life experience, Nicole. Stop trying to analyze things or come to some sort of neat conclusion that can fit in well with how you view the world, it’s a waste of time and energy.

Over the years since this encounter, even though I wasn’t a fan of being called a diva (with an i), I have dearly cherished this moment between us. He was genuinely interested in knowing who it had been that he had seen down in the parking lot. It was clear to me that he had been delighted in their joyful offering. And while I was mildly embarrassed that someone – especially a monk – had seen me dancing, I was also put at ease that he was able to sense my heartfelt enjoyment of dancing and appreciate it for what it was, vs. perhaps deeming it an inappropriate activity to do at a monastery (which was a back-of-the-mind concern of mine). And he was apparently so taken with my dancing that he even wanted me to instruct and lead others!

Brother Phap De passed away at age 82 (I think) in August of 2016. If memory serves, he made the “deva dancing the polka” comment in January of that same year, when Mike and I were there on retreat. It was an honor and privilege to get to know and spend time with Brother Phap De over the years that Mike and I have been visiting Deer Park, before he passed away. When I do stick exercises – which typically amounts to once a week – I think of him every time, as he was the one who would always lead them at Deer Park. Randomly during his instructions, he would prompt us all to smile – and when I lead them on our local retreats or at other times, I continue his memory and remind people of the same thing.

At the end of my stick exercise session each week, I do two standing bows in closing. The first bow is in dedication of Brother Phap De. And the second is in gratitude for the stick I use.

In conclusion:

Gosh it sure is easy to misunderstand things.

Now that I know what Brother Phap De actually meant, I am even more nourished from this encounter we shared. And now that I have been afforded the great gift of insight, it will allow me to carry forward this memory with more clarity, understanding, ease, and joy.

Sometimes – maybe even all the time – more understanding equates to more freedom. Freedom from what? you might wonder. To which the teachings in our tradition would say: Freedom from illusory notions and false views, which is ultimately what all of our suffering (large, small, or tiny) can be attributed to on a foundational level.

To read more about Brother Phap De’s life story, click here.

 

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Dancing It Out

I love that I found this above image on a web search: Breathe, smile, and dance it out. Yes!

On Thursday of this past week, I’d planned to go on a solo camping excursion to a new spot a friend told me about a few days prior. As it was going to be at a lake setting, I was going to bring along my SUP board too. But Thursday morning rolled around and I wasn’t feeling it. New plan! I stayed home. I hemmed and hauled a little bit though first, telling myself things like: Summer is short here in Montana Nicole, maybe you should push yourself today and just get out there and do it. But the prevailing response I got back in return was: Nope. Don’t feel like it. So I heeded that voice instead.

I had a leisurely morning and a lovely resting period in the afternoon. And in between? Yep. I danced it out. And it was glorious!

I saddled the neighbors with really loud music cranking from our guitar amp (which I can plug my laptop into for amplification purposes of any music I so choose), shut the windows (to help abate the noise), grabbed a water bottle from the fridge, and proceeded to dance it out to some of my favorite songs. It had been long enough since last I’d done so that it served as a reminder about how much I love, love, love to dance.

I continued my dancing streak by attending Reflective Morning Movement (RMM) at the dance studio downtown on Friday morning. I’ll use the woman’s write up who puts on this offering to help explain RMM:

7:00 We arrive in silence and gather for a short sit.
7:15: Music begins, and we allow natural movement to emerge from the stillness.
8:10: Music ends and we sit together for few minutes of silence.
A bell rings to end our experience.
We leave in silence to allow each mover the gift of natural time and reflection.

We come in silence, we sit together, we dance together, we feel the music underneath the music, we feel the mercy of what it means to be in community, we listen to our fierce aliveness, we invite our wholeness, we re-member our true home in the ever-changing web of experience and feeling and thought, we move a prayer wheel of hope from within, we settle into belonging, we rest in the silence, we listen for the bell, we leave in silence.

RMM combines two of my favorite activities: dancing and sharing energy with people without the need to converse in dialog (as we enter, dance, and exit in silence). There’s no instruction or guidance offered. You come, music plays, and you move/dance however you want.

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Nourishment & Healing

This is a post in pics. Last night, before attending a high school drama production my stepson was part of, I went for a solo saunter in the woods. By the end of the evening, I was nourished, fed, and inspired by a multitude of influences: the woods that surrounded me, the river that flowed beside the trail,

the sky in sprawl above in a budding spring blue,

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Soundtrack

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I listen to music.  A lot.  While I’m cooking, writing, reading the news online, cleaning, driving, or doing yard work I have music on.  I find that music helps me to practice joy throughout the day.  It can also help me to process through difficult emotions and get in touch with challenges I am facing.  Music can be very powerful and healing.  And it can also cultivate a lot of strife and harm if we are inattentive to its effects on our mental state.  For instance, I love love love the musician Bon Iver.  His voice and melodies are hauntingly beautiful.  But I started noticing that when I listened to his music my disposition would change.  I would suddenly become more downhearted and sullen.  I enjoyed his music so much that not only did it take me a while to connect the dots in terms of how I felt during and after listening to him but it also took a while for me to decide to stop listening to him because I didn’t like how the music affected me.  Music, like any media influence, has the capacity to uplift us or sink us down and it’s important to understand ourselves well enough to know which does what to us so that we are able to water the most skillful seeds within us and flourish with more ease.

After I cooked myself a wonderful vegetarian dinner earlier tonight I was struck by musical inspiration and hopped onto youtube in order to look up some of my old favorite songs I hadn’t heard in a while.  I plugged my laptop into our large guitar amp so that I could listen to the music the best way I think it should be experienced – loudly!  I mean really, some songs simply need to be loud in order to do them justice.  You cannot listen to Pink Floyd on lousy laptop speakers, it just won’t do I’m afraid.

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Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Everyday Practice

 

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