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Random Acts of Kindness Week!

From the RAK website:

TO CELEBRATE RAK WEEK 2018, we invite you to tell us about that one person who inspires you to be a better human being!

Was it a teacher who saw something in you when no one else did?

Is it a neighbor who mowed your lawn when you were sick?

What about a family member who always encouraged you to do your best?

Maybe it was your friend who comforted you during a difficult time in your life?

We all have someone who has gone above and beyond to show us kindness; someone who shifts our perspective, helps us through painful moments or inspires us to be kinder in our daily lives.

Snap a photo of that ‘one’ person and share their story with us (and the world).

Click here to share your person: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/rak-week

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Inspired by this RAK prompt, I thought I’d mention a few acts of kindness that I experienced recently, which are fresh in my mind and on my heart:

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Posted by on February 14, 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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For the New Year

The last couple of years, I’ve taken to following the example of a few mindfulness teachers that I follow online, who come up with some guidance to offer for the upcoming year. I figured since we were entering 2018, I’d come up with 8 practice points to usher us into the new year (see pic above).

I’ve written in the past about how I’m not a big fan of making new year’s resolutions, but what I do like to do is come up with 1, 2, or 3 new ways of engaging with my mindfulness practice. My favorite one over this past year was to stay in the bathroom while brushing my teeth, instead of wandering around the house multi-tasking, with the toothbrush comically protruding from my mouth while I proceeded to do a wealth of other things that had no business being done while brushing one’s teeth. So I enacted a “stay put” clause, whenever I set to brushing. It took me a little while to develop the new habit, but I’m happy to report that it’s going splendidly :)

I’ve been mulling around possibilities for 2018 and what new mindfulness exercises I might add to my tool belt, but so far I haven’t landed on exactly what I’ll include in my daily/weekly routine. I’d like to have one I can enfold into driving, as that is often where I need the most practice in patience and understanding. I have a number of things I do already when behind the wheel, but I really appreciate developing fresh approaches and new mindfulness techniques, as it keeps my practice from growing stale and/or too routine. I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, may the above list of 8 practice points be of service to you on the path of cultivating more joy, ease, and a true sense of connection.

To read the Five Mindfulness Trainings, click here.

 

 

 

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Wild Abandon

Just this morning, I hopped onto the BBC world news online, where I clicked on an article about the current fire and state of emergency in San Diego, CA. Accompanying the article was a short video taken by a motorist who had captured footage of a man on the roadside next to a raging bank of flames, who was trying desperately to save a wild rabbit who was clearly in distress. After running into the flames, the rabbit came back out and the man was able to scoop it up and rescue it.

Tears streamed from my eyes.

The sheer fortitude and concern this man showed for that one tiny rabbit is a powerful example of our capacity to love.

We are made and built from each other’s company – whether in people, animal, or nature’s form. We rise and fall together.

May we stop running and keep loving. May we open our hearts wide like the sky at dawn.

The more we love people, the better we live. The better we live, the more we love.

So, let us love on – even when it’s hard. Even when we don’t want to. Even when we don’t know how.

It’s easy to extend love to those whom we choose to share our lives with – but it’s not so easy with those whom we do not see a commonality with. Our time is short. We have such little time to love with wild abandon. Stop guarding your heart.

Let us express gratitude to all those who circulate around us, whether dear to us or nameless. Let us radiate love to all who are situated in the wake of our heart’s beating. Our time is short. May we love with wild, unfettered abandon, regardless of the company we keep.

 

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On Self-Absorption

I’m realizing that one of the big components of living and developing a spiritual life is to continually train in the art of lessening our tendency to be self-absorbed. The less we feed and nurture our sense of self-importance, the more we are able to build a strong foundation for living a happy and contented life.

For the sake of attempting to avoid misunderstanding, it’s important to mention here that self-importance and self-absorption are not the same thing as being self-assured or having self-confidence. When we are self-absorbed we have a heightened sense of self-importance. When this happens, we have the tendency to be very self-conscious, thinking that others are always paying attention to us wherever we go. We have little awareness of how others are feeling or what’s going on for them in their lives – everything is about us and how things affect us. We tend to get caught up in our own busy affairs and have little time to extend ourselves to others. I’ve also found that highly self-absorbed people tend to be surrounded with constant drama – there seems to often be something of a dire nature happening that consumes all of their time and energy (the law of attraction at play). This quality of being frequently presents itself as victim-hood, as well. People who are self-absorbed are filled with people to blame for their situation and have very little ability to take responsibility for things – they experience a problem and know right away who to blame for its creation, but are unlikely to do anything about it themselves, other than complain and point out problems.

The more we come to understand that our life is not our own, the more we step into the interbeing nature of all that is. In my experience, living a spiritual life is a matter of learning how to care well for ourselves so that we are able to care well for others. It’s about making each aspect a priority in our lives: self-cultivation and care/support for others – time for ourselves and time for others, in an intentional and skillful way.

Here are some things I myself do that serve to help me lessen my own levels of self-absorption:

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Posted by on December 4, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Strange Hope

This morning, on my way to turn on a small light to illuminate the darkness of 4:00am, my right foot rolled over something unfamiliar in the living room. It was a dead mouse – an offering no doubt thought worthy of praise, brought in through the cat door some time over the course of the night.

Later, at 4:47am, through a window I had cracked open to invite the cool air of pre-dawn in, an un-welcomed sound pierced the lovely quietude. A neighbor was outside somewhere close by, rehearsing their smoker’s cough in violent fits and starts.

And isn’t this the way of things? The unexpected, unpleasant stuff keeps happening. Yet, we hold out some kind of strange hope that it won’t. That maybe one day, when we’ve figured out the right alga-rhythm or when the stars align just so, the unexpected and unpleasant stuff will just stop happening. But it’s the darnedest thing: despite our strange hope, that stuff keeps happening.

Perhaps, then, it would serve us well to lay that strange hope down – to place it with care in an ornate box, close the lid, say a fond farewell, and then grab a shovel and bury the freakin’ thing in the woods.

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Each time we cringe, ruffle, shutter, or wince is a calling and an invitation. A calling to return back home to ourselves in the here and now and an invitation to do the work it takes to cultivate a less friction-filled way of living and being.

A happy life is possible. But, it’s only possible when we create it for ourselves in the present moment and tend to its ongoing development.

As long as we’re in a state of waiting, as long as our happiness hinges on something or someone, our quality of life will remain in disagreeable flux, punctuated with bouts of great turmoil, upheaval, woe, struggle, stress, and hardship.

“Constantly apply cheerfulness, if for no other reason than because you are on this spiritual path. Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.”

– Pema Chodron, from Always Maintain a Joyful Mind

A joyful mind, like the almost full moon that sits aglow in the sky just outside, is always present, even when clouds of uncertainty, agitation or sorrow roll in. If well tended to, a joyful mind is indestructible and inexhaustible.

 

 

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Divine Goodness

In my Webster’s dictionary, circa the year I graduated from high school: 1997, under the word Thanksgiving it states: 1. The act of giving thanks 2. A prayer expressing gratitude and 3. The fourth Thursday in November observed as a legal holiday for giving thanks for divine goodness. That last one is my favorite. I love that it stipulates how Thanksgiving is a legal holiday for the express purpose to give thanks for divine goodness.

Not only is Thanksgiving my favorite holiday but it’s also the only holiday I choose to celebrate throughout the year. And a big part of that has to do with how Thanksgiving focuses on togetherness and gratitude. There’s of course a feast we share as well, which helps to celebrate the bounty of the seasons but there’s no other consumeristic focus, and I really resonate with that aspect of things.

Last night, I was invited to take part in a Thanksgiving eve interfaith prayer service at First Presbyterian Church here in town, as a faith leader and Buddhist representative, and I was asked to do a reading with Father Rich Perry from St. Francis Xavier Church. In the interest of brevity, I’d like to share the portions that I read:

We give thanks for this world created in beauty even as we remember how fires, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes cause devastation and destruction. We give thanks for those who first respond: medical personnel, fire fighters, volunteers, neighbors and strangers even as we remember the work of rebuilding and restoration continues. Open our eyes to care for this world created in beauty.

We give thanks for strangers who became lifesavers even as we remember all who carry the scars of terror, violence and assault. We give thanks for the all who welcome strangers with gracious hospitality even as we remember the many refugees who are fleeing for their lives. Make a way, where there seems to be no way.

We give thanks for this Thanksgiving Eve where people of faith have gathered to pray and remember those who this day are searching for food, or housing, or friendship, or hope. Spur our grateful hearts to share our resources and hope with others.

 

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