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Mindful Morning Saturday

I awoke just before 4:30am and turned on my Mighty Bright book light made in China, patents pending, and slid out from under a mismatched set of sheets, one fashioned from organic cotton made in India and the other I got from the Goodwill, who’s tag I was unable to locate while groping around in the dark trying not to disturb my sleeping husband.

After reciting my daily morning verse: Waking up, my smile greets a brand new day, I padded into the bathroom where I proceeded to use recycled toilet paper, glide on some Tom’s of Maine unscented deodorant, made in the USA, wash my face with 85% organic ingredient soap “made with care in Missoula, Montana,” and run a brush through my hair that I bought in Paris upon realizing that I had managed to hop across the pond without a detangling stick. A brush, I might add, that must’ve been made outside of China, due to its lack of stamped mention of a country of origin.

I then found myself in the kitchen turning on the electric tea kettle, made in China and sporting the words “Do not immerse in water” in five different languages engraved on the bottom, and readying my morning gunpowder green tea, which I order online and has Chinese writing emblazoned on the packaging. And I sip said tea slowly from my most favorite hand-crafted clay mug made by my friend Drew (see pic above), as I ease into the day.

And the day will proceed onward in this fashion – I will use and encounter an endless array of items and products, from both near and far flung places. My day-to-day activities will be due to an endless sea of people having created, fashioned, and made possible my way of living.

What most struck me this morning, as I was fine tuning my attention to my routine, was how much the presence of water factors into my day – and how often I take it for granted. In operation of the toilet, washing my face and hands, preparing tea, boiling eggs for breakfast, filling the cats water bowl, washing dishes, drinking, showering… Being able to turn a handle and have clean water dispensed is a miracle of convenience I don’t think enough about.

So, today, among other things, I celebrate water :)

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Discomfort Practice

The more we attempt to regulate our environment to suit our preferences, the less resilient we become in managing fluctuations when they occur. This week: practice weathering (and perhaps eventually embracing) small discomforts by doing such things as:

  • not putting on the AC in your car when running a short errand around town
  • eating a meal without being on your phone/laptop/TV
  • foregoing your favorite morning beverage for one day
  • doing something you’ve been putting off because you don’t feel like doing it
  • eating something that you tend to generally avoid
  • listening to a song you would otherwise thumbs down on Pandora
  • doing something nice for a co-worker who you don’t particularly like
  • voluntarily standing in the longest check-out line at the market
  • walking much slower than your normal pace when going a short distance from one place to another
  • not falling asleep with the TV on for one weekend
  • intentionally leaving the house without your phone for a whole day (or 1/2 a day – or even 1 hour!)
  • not using your phone to kill small increments of time (when stopped at a red light, waiting in line, in-between errands or bites of food…)

We’re becoming a culture unable to forge strong, intelligent relationships with our own selves – so quick are we to run, distract, intoxicate, ignore, and fight against even the slightest of uncomfortable situations. If we are incapable of managing the small stuff, how will we be able to sort through the big stuff, like dealing with grief and loss, handling stress, or going through emotional/physical/political/societal upheaval?

Valuable practice: Start small so you can work big.

 

 
 

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Time

Last week I turned 38 years old. On the eve of my birthday, a sangha friend passed away. Alison Matthews, age 63.

63 is an age generally considered to be on the younger side of someone passing away. 63 is not old age. I am continually reminded about the preciousness of life, especially in the wake of others who have passed on. Earlier today, I was visiting with a hospice patient. During our weekly visits, I’ve taken to bringing a newspaper with me and reading aloud the news. As I was reading the Today In History section I came across this: In 1937, American composer and pianist George Gershwin died at a Los Angeles hospital of a brain tumor; he was 38.

One never knows when our time will expire. So often, we live as though we have a limitless supply of time. In reading world news and local obituaries, however, I routinely come across people who’ve died at all ages and stages in their life. For me, this serves as an important reminder: there’s no guarantee that we will see old age. And that applies to myself, as well as my beloved family and friends.

Being in touch with death and dying keeps me in close contact with my gratitude for life. Volunteering with hospice affords me the opportunity to train in the art of living life well, with however much time I have. And I am deeply touched and nourished by all of the patients I have the honor and privilege to meet with, who serve as my teachers in this regard.

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Posted by on July 11, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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The Art of Staying

Inspired by a recent talk I watched online from Buddhist teacher and author Susan Piver, I’ve been thinking about how one of the great fruits of cultivating a meditation practice is developing the art of staying.

“Meditation teaches you how to stay with discomfort. What could be more valuable than that? Because basically everything is uncomfortable.”

– Susan Piver

Having a daily sitting meditation practice enables me to hone the art of staying, which enriches my daily life in a multitude of ways. But, staying with what? Ultimately, it comes down to an ability of staying grounded within myself in the present moment. But here are some specific instances that come to mind where the art of staying offers tangible, and practical, benefit:

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Posted by on June 25, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Solo Retreat, Part 3 of 3

Written on Sunday June 18th, 2017

10:40am

From my early morning journaling on sunrise patrol (hence pics above):

4:11am – A triangle of light glistens between two eastern peaks. 51 degrees.
4:22am – Outlines of each mountain are gathering distinction from their darkened counterpart above.
4:25am – A drop of light is tossed over to beckon through another soft dip in the ridge.
4:26am – An unassuming rain falls, almost as an afterthought. 51 degrees.
4:28am – Local bird residents become audible.
4:32am – An artistic rendering of budding light and swirling watercolor clouds paint the horizon in deep blues, black violet, and white turquoise.
4:41am – Pine tree silhouettes come into view, accenting the skyline with their bristled scruff tops.
4:45am – Dawn has penetrated the veil of night in every cardinal direction – no longer is coal the dominant hue of the sky. 51 degrees.
4:53am – The vertical ocean of clouds assumed a color scheme I associate somehow with the energy of dwindling hope.
5:01am – Almost all of the surrounding landscape is bathed in partial faded light.
5:08am – Foothills and fence-line reveal themselves anew, as though it were the first day of their creation.
5:17am – A sliver of brilliant golden rose appears right where the very first light penetrated the night sky.
5:28am – Sage, moss, and forest greens sip their first taste of the white-silver morning.
5:36am – Smokey pink-creme rays spiral up like tufts of steam into the soft din of low-hanging clouds.
5:39am – A lone cow elk cameos on scene. Still holding at 51 degrees.
6:08am – 50 degrees.
6:21am – 49 degrees. (Hmmm.)
8:31am – What I was waiting for to end this sequence has finally happened – 52 degrees!

_____________

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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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Solo Retreat, Part 2 of 3

Written on Saturday June 17th, 2017

7:19pm

A few years ago, a university student, who was sitting with our sangha at the time, asked if she could do a video project of me on the topic of meditation for a journalism class she was taking. One of the questions she prompted me with on camera was to fill in the blank: Meditation is like ______. I said: Meditation is like stepping out into the first light of spring. It was simply the first thing that came to mind. Well, today has felt this way, too. It has been the loveliest of days. I feel light, refreshed, nourished, peaceful, and contented. What great fruits this practice brings!

It’s worth mentioning that while I did come up with a schedule to serve as a foundation for this weekend, I also intended on going with the flow of the day and following my intuition. Here’s what today wound up looking like:

5:30am Wake up
5:30-7:00am Sip tea, write, watch the morning sky
7:00am Sitting meditation
7:30am Sutra service
8:00am Stick exercises
8:30-9:00am Breakfast
9:15-10:30am Dharma talk video
10:30-11:15am Outdoor walking
11:30-12:15pm Yoga (using guided video)
12:15-12:45pm Picnic lunch outside
12:45-1:45pm Nap
2:00-4:00pm Sip tea, write, calligraphy, read
4:00pm Sitting meditation
4:30pm Sutra service
5:00-6:00pm Dinner
6:15-6:45pm Outdoor walking & sage picking
7:00-9:00pm Journal typing
9:00-9:30pm Read
9:30ish Bedtime

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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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Solo Retreat, Part 1 of 3

Written on Friday June 16th, 2017

7:32pm

The idea of doing a solo retreat has been a brewing interest of mine for a little while now. Then, after going to Deer Park Monastery for three-weeks this past January, my percolating idea bubbled up with a newfound vigor. So I emailed a few well-chosen friends who I thought might have some ideas of a place to go where I could be relatively secluded, surrounded by nature, and left to my own devices.

I’ve long been wanting to stay in one of the handful of local fire towers that’ve been converted to a reservable getaway destination spot, but I soon found out that those are in high demand and already fully booked up for the season, which makes sense. (Note to self: book early for next year!)

A sangha friend generously offered me the use of her and her husband’s cabin about an hour from town, which is where I’ve landed and am currently typing from. I arrived here, amid spectacular rolling sage-covered foothills, around 4:30 this afternoon. After finding my way around the house and unpacking the car, I set to making dinner, which I intentionally kept simple: a pre-made salad and a bowl of vegetarian chili, made and sold by our local organic market The Good Food Store, which I picked up this morning.

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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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