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Tag Archives: embracing

Absence of Sound

For a brief interlude, I could detect nothing audible. 
No whirling of the refrigerator, 
no distant whooshing of passing cars, 
no song chatter of birds. 
It was as if all the world had tipped over a precipice 
and was free-falling amid the din of there being nothing left to do but let go.

It was a rare and fragile moment I was only half prepared to savor.
Mostly I was caught off guard,
wondering what had suddenly changed.
When I realized I was cradled in the absence of sound,
I took one breath and it was over,
my ears and heart re-attuned,
so as to be ready in case it happened again.

 
 

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On Grief and Loss

grieving

Last night marked the fourth and final installment of a series I put together at our local mindfulness center entitled: Mindful Community Conversations. Once a month since September we’ve focused on a different topic, each featuring a different speaker. My vision was to help create and hold space within our mindfulness practice, in order to shed light on certain topics that are often very challenging and difficult to talk about and address. The topics I chose were: Chronic Pain & Illness, Depression & Addiction, Dealing with Difficult Emotions, and Grief & Loss. Our format started with 10 minutes of silent sitting meditation, followed by a 20-30 minute talk from the speaker and ended with an open sharing circle. As the facilitator for each evening, I prompted our sharing time by inviting folks to offer their name and a little bit about what motivated them to attend the particular evening’s topic. I found that the openness, intention, and strong mindfulness practice of each of the speakers allowed for a very powerful opportunity for community sharing and healing to take place. I continue to be moved and inspired by the coming together of sacredly held circles of people.

Our topic last night was on Grief and Loss. Our speaker was my sangha friend Greg, who’s one of our five ordained members of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing here in town. He’s also a hospice chaplain, so his depth of practice and experience with death and dying is vast. I greatly enjoyed his talk and the sharing that followed, from those who attended. I know that all of the words spoken last night will continue to slowly filter in and through me, and benefit my outlook and perspective in a myriad of unforeseen ways.

This morning, in the darkness of the hour of 5:00am so common and crucial to much of my writing, I wrote this:

To love is to know one day
you’ll grieve the loss of those you’ve extended yourself to,
and it won’t be pretty.
It’ll be devastating.
It’ll be devastating in ways impossible to comprehend until it happens.
And holes will manifest in the open field of your heart.
Holes that will remain as part of your landscape,
like the scars of a deforested hillside ravaged by wildfire.
But, eventually,
you’ll be able to find yourself in the emerging
from those dark places,
amid everything that has been lost,
and you will take back up
the tending of your field.

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Posted by on December 2, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Amid Changes

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Amid the world’s changes – for better, for worse, and usually a little of both – let us continue to do our work.

The work of a practitioner,

who knows, deep down, that impermanence is the marrow of life’s bones.

It does us no good to wallow in our devastation, breathing stale air into our worries.

It does us no good to commiserate with one another about how terrible we feel something or someone is.

Let us experience our sorrow, full fledged and fleeting,

and then toss it to scatter wildly about the hills.

Let us rock our sadness until it has calmed itself and fallen to sleep,

birthing in its wake a renewed diligence, towards our own transformation.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Creative Writing

 

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Reverence for Life

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Now that autumn is underway here in western Montana, the local birds are taking full advantage of our bustling mountain ash tree in our front yard, which is chock full of bright, orange, and apparently delicious, berries. While the tree produces berries each year, similar to fruit trees it has an every other year cycle of having a much greater bounty than the year prior. So every other year we have to contend with the challenge of birds running into our large picture window on the front of our house. As I understand it, not only are the berries a hot commodity to birds soon taking flight down south but with the turning of the weather the berries also start fermenting, causing the birds to become slightly intoxicated. Hence, their judgement gets impaired and the window they once avoided skillfully the rest of the year suddenly looks to them like something they could fly through.

One such disastrous thud of a bird happened this morning, prompting me to finally put up the only thing I’ve tried that really works to keep them at bay from our window: an exterior curtain. I’ve tried a few other things over the years: cutting out pictures and taping them to the window, shutting the interior curtain, but to no avail. I thought the little robin that hit so hard this morning wasn’t going to make it. But after a little while of sitting beside him, shielding him from one of my approaching house cats, he made his way to his feet, then hopped up on my front steps, started making chirping calls, and then flew up into the tree. It’s hard to say if he’ll continue to heal or not, but sometimes they do simply get stunned after their impact and then appear to recover.

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The first mindfulness training, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, is Reverence for Life (see pic I’ve crafted together below). There are many ways to interpret, practice, and grow with these trainings, of which we have two sets: the Five and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. In my experience, and personal opinion, the sentence: “I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life,” causes some confusion. What does it mean to kill? My desk side Webster’s dictionary defines kill as follows: to deprive of life; to put an end to; also defeat; use up; to mark for omission. Commonly brought up is whether it’s then acceptable, in relation to this training, to euthanize our dying pets. A similar question was posed in the current edition (September 2016) of Lion’s Roar magazine (formally Shambhala Sun), in a section marked Advice for Difficult Times:

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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Writing My Obituary

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On Wednesday I found out that a sangha friend, three years younger than I am, passed away. I was emailed his obituary from our local Dharma Teacher. His name was Scott, and while he hadn’t recently been sitting with our Monday night meditation group, Be Here Now, he had been part of our sangha for the past couple of years or so and sat with us on and off during that period. I saw him just a couple of weeks ago walking by McCormick Park as I was driving by on Orange Street. He was walking alongside someone, talking and smiling. I remember thinking at the time, “I’m so glad to see him! He looks good…happy.”

Scott was bipolar, and often fluctuated back and forth between having a reliable place to stay and being homeless. His obituary listed no cause of death. Our assumption is he committed suicide. My heart swelled with sadness when I read of his passing.

While Scott was part of our mindfulness community, and has been to my house for sangha potlucks and gatherings, I didn’t know much about the conventional aspects of his life: where he was born, where he went to school, where he grew up, how many brothers and sisters he had, and the like. This isn’t unusual, for me, in relation to other casual sangha friends. Part of what I love about my sangha community is how connected I feel to people based on simply sharing our meditation practice together, sharing silence, and sharing mindful intention. While I may not know people’s last names or where they were born and raised, I feel an inherent closeness to them as a fellow sangha member.

Reading Scott’s obituary gave me a lot of the conventional information I hadn’t known, or really even thought about before. And it put me in touch with wanting to write my own obituary, which is nothing new in the world of writing-prompt ideas, for those who enjoy the art of the written word. So, here goes:

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Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Creative Writing

 

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Tipping Point

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In dedication for the lives lost, and affected,
in the Orlando shooting on June 12th, 2016

We as a global community,
regardless of race, creed, orientation,
gender, age, origin, likes/dislikes,
and any other category that may be used
to otherwise separate us from our shared humanity,
grieve in unison.

Our hearts are heavy
and full of sorrow.

Please remember,
we are all in this together,
both those we seek to understand
and those whom we seek to blame.
We are not separate.

Breathing in, we hold our grief and anger with love and care.
Breathing out, we look deeply and nourish our compassion.

 

Yesterday, while encountering the surgeons who had worked on those injured in the Orlando shooting being interviewed on the news playing at the laundromat, I realized that my own personal scales had been tipped in the direction of over-saturation. Otherwise stated, I saw that it was no longer beneficial for me to continue reading or watching news updates relating to the shooting that happened in Orlando. It’s easy to keep reading and re-reading the same news information. Easy to want to “keep up” with the small updates that unfold regarding a news story. But when I really tune into my experience I can see when that sort of obsessive behavior sets in and becomes detrimental. I do my best to practice engaging with the news to the extent that I am able to gain the necessary amount of information in order to expand my perspective and water my seeds of understanding and compassion. And once it starts tipping in the direction of simply acquiring minute details, re-hashing the same information, or inflaming the situation or my own emotions I do my best to practice stepping away.

It can be difficult to stay emotionally balanced during tumultuous times in world news or local politics, especially in this age of 24-hour scrolling television news and pocket Internet. But we can tune into our own experience and make a choice as to what seeds we’re watering and how we want to spend our time and then move forward from there accordingly. It’s easy to get swept away, in the news and in our own thoughts and feelings. May we practice being in touch with ourselves today. May we look deeply to see what seeds we’re choosing to water, so that we may hold our grief and upset with care and healing intention.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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A New Endeavor

So, I’m trying out something new: capturing things I’ve written on paper via audio (in poor recording quality for now, I might add). Some things I write just translate far better when listened to, as opposed to reading.

 

 

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