I want excitement
to be born from
Like being presented
with another day
to live and breathe
Or knowing how very fortunate
to have all the
luxuries of life:
ready access to food
and countless modern conveniences.
I want excitement
to not be hinged on
having to go someplace
or do something
or be someone
I want excitement
to bubble up
from the deep cauldron
of my heart,
for the wondrous miracle to
This is my aspiration;
my winding path
through the thicket of collective hardships
and planetary throng of woes.
– penned today, July 10th, 2019, around 6am
Immensely inspired by a video interview I watched this morning, as part of a free Wellness Summit happening online right now, entitled: How to Set Yourself Free From Pain & Misery, with Dr. Sean Stephenson, I was called to craft this post focused on my own personal daily rituals.
In Dr. Stephenson’s interview, he said: I have 16 rituals and if I don’t do at least 4 of them every day, my insecurities will eat me alive.
He said a lot more that’s worth mentioning – I took over 5 pages of notes during the 60-minute video! – but there is much greater value for you, my friends, in watching it yourself (click on link above). It is one of the very best mindfulness-based talks I have ever seen.
So rather than using this post to relay all of my notes, I will instead focus on sharing my daily rituals, which isn’t new for me to do here on my blog but has perhaps been a little while since last I did.
Nicole’s DAILY Rituals (for Self-Care and Cultivating Ease, Joy, and Solidity)
Waking up early enough to enjoy a period of time connecting with myself, amid the graces of quietude and slowness
Writing (if even only a little bit)
Gratitude practice (which I created myself and involves certain verses I say each morning, along with prostrations to the earth)
Saying a connection/gratitude verse before I eat each meal
Watering my seed of joy, with intentional skillful effort
Guarding well my sensory input (TV/films, music, books, magazines, conversations, social media, news…)
Resting (which for me typically comes in the form of taking a nap every day; even on the days I work, as soon as I get home around 4:00, the first thing I do is lay down to take a short nap before preparing dinner)
Maintain consistency with when I eat each meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Wake up at the same time every day (5:00am) and go to bed around the same time each night (between 9-10pm)
Nicole’s WEEKLY Rituals (for Self-Care and Cultivating Ease, Joy, and Solidity)
Attend sangha every Monday night
Participate in my self-crafted Mindful Morning Saturday practice
Watch a Dharma talk and/or mindfulness-based teaching video online
Spend time dancing and exercising
Devoting one morning (usually Sundays) to Lazy Morning practice
Nicole’s YEARLY Rituals (for Self-Care and Cultivating Ease, Joy, and Solidity)
Attend our two locally held and organized mindfulness retreats with my extended Montana sangha family
Prioritize solo sojourns
Spend extended, concentrated time on personal retreat (or amid other practice-related spells of personal quietude)
Attend local days of mindfulness and special practice events hosted by our sister sanghas as much as possible
For those of you who haven’t read my most recent posts, you may be surprised to know that the picture above (taken yesterday) is of a person (me) who has been home sick for the past 7 days. I haven’t eaten a full meal and have only left the house to fetch the mail since last Friday. I have no appetite and am mostly bed bound, as sitting upright is taxing and uncomfortable after only a short period of time. I even did a short stint in the ER on Saturday, due to having a fever, weakness to the point of not being able to walk on my own, and belly pain.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I think this is a pretty good real-life example of what the heck the teachings of non-duality are all about.
It’s easy to look at this pic of me and think I look totally healthy and without cause for hardship. It’s easy to look at this pic and be totally surprised to find out that I’m barely able to get out of bed. We all get caught in dualistic thinking on the daily. Meaning, we don’t think two things can operate at the same time. Things either have to be this way OR that way. That’s what dualistic thinking is all about.
Non-dualistic thinking, on the other hand, involves being able to hold two seemingly opposing realities at the same time, allowing them to co-exist together as two parts of the same reality.
In this case, being able to accept and rest in a state of non-duality equates to seeing that both of these things are true: I am sick and not feeling physically well AND I’m able to smile brightly and keep a positive outlook and attitude. I am both sick and happy at the same time!
The more able we are to sit with ease in relation to life’s many paradoxes, the more content we will be as a result. The more we fight against them or attempt to figure them out intellectually, the more we will suffer.
It’s like two of my very favorite teachings say:
Note to self:
When people are in a frantic, manic, stressed out or washed out state, they are not in a place which affords them the ability to listen and absorb well-intentioned feedback.
No matter how good the suggestions are in attempts to alleviate their turmoil – even if they’re actively asking for input – it is not the time for solution based, problem solving tactics.
Amid such experiences of hardship or heightened states of dismay, the order at hand is to express unconditional, unwavering, unbounded acceptance, understanding, and love.
Inspired by a blog post from: https://mywellbeingandlearningjourney.wordpress.com/, I thought I’d try my hand at following her lead:
50 Things That Make Me Happy
- Spending time with friends
- Taking photos
- The hours of early morning
- Community building
- Hosting potlucks at my house
- Animal friends
- My husband
- My stepson
- Taking road trips
- Pumping up my old Coleman camp stove
- Going on solo ventures
- Going on mindfulness retreats
- Deer Park Monastery
- Hearing about a loved one’s good news
- Being silly
- The soft glow of Christmas lights
- Buying little presents or cards for friends
- Engaging in random acts of kindness
- My dayplanner
- Organizing stuff
- Being efficient
- Volunteering with hospice and meeting with patients
- Planning events that help bring people together in an atmosphere of heartfulness
- Crows & ravens
- Recalling memories of spending time at the Jersey Shore when I was growing up
- Sitting with my sangha Be Here Now every Monday night
- Camp fires
- Good tea
- Soaking in primitive hot springs
- Hiking to the ‘M’ and overlooking the city of Missoula
- Spending time in hammocks
- Listening to the sound of meditation bells & wind chimes
- Seeing someone smile
- The experience of flight travel
- Properly cooked tofu :)
I could keep going…but I think I’ll keep to the prompt and stick to 50.
May this list inspire you in similar accord to how I was inspired. Let us get our happiness on together!
Lately, I’ve been reveling in the ability to thoroughly enjoy both staying at home and venturing out and about under the summer sun of Montana. In both instances, I am delighting in my own company. It’s a mark of inner contentment, I think, to feel at ease wherever we are. And I need not travel even one step to find where home is. I carry it within me. I am never without it.
My Happy Place(s)
My happy place is on a motorcycle, cruising at 70 over a smooth ribbon of asphalt.
My happy place is on a SUP board, on any body of water that will have me.
My happy place is being perched in front of a blank sheet of paper, with a blue P-500 in my hand.
My HP is in the woods, surrounded by elder trees and ancient wisdom.
My HP is on my meditation cushion, cultivating ease and spaciousness.
My HP is in the kitchen, preparing food to feed my friends.
My HP is next to a campfire, with a cup of tea and a guitar.
My HP is being solo on the road, inhaling music through my pores and exhaling it through my lungs.
My HP is in the Mission Lookout Tower, intimately rekindling my love affair with the sun and moon.
My HP is behind a set of drums, allowing others the chance to get their African dance on.
My HP is my humble abode, in a town I adore, close to my people.
My HP is Deer Park Monastery.
My HP is Banff National Park.
My HP is anywhere I haven’t been.
My HP is in the here and now.
My HP is doing something silly.
My HP is playing with small children.
My HP is watching fireworks.
My HP is within me.
More HP pics:
In a word, meditation allows me to build the quality of spaciousness. So, the way I see it: meditation = the practice of creating space.
Without a close kinship to, and practice of, spaciousness, our habit energies and conditioned behaviors run the show. They fuel and propel every thought we think, word we say, and action we engage in. And oftentimes, that fuel is old, gnarly and gunks up the whole system. It’s not clean burning fuel. It leaves foul, blackened smoke in its wake.
Developing, deepening, and expanding our relationship with spaciousness is elemental in our ability and capacity to live a kind, skillful, balanced, and well-contented life.
This is how I have it worked out: without spaciousness, we are led around by our reactionary tendencies, which are guided by past experiences. And sometimes that works out okay. And other times not so much.
For instance, just this morning, I think it was my level of spaciousness that afforded me the ability to not go into a frazzled meltdown, when confronted with the reality that I was not the only one who thought of arriving at the Motor Vehicle Division office prior to their opening at 8am. At 7:45am, I was somewhere in the neighborhood of being person #25, with more folks funneling in after me every minute. My number was called to the title transaction counter at 9:45am.
And it’s these sort of moments that show us where we’re at: spiritually/mentally/emotionally speaking. How is it we weather such times as standing around, waiting for our number to be called out – being in places we’d rather not be? How do we occupy our waiting time? How do we tend to our mindscape? How do we show up and interact with others, when faced with such states of inconvenience and displeasure? It’s worth personally investigating these occasions, as these moments will likely show us more about ourselves than anything else.
The quality of spaciousness allows us to respond, verses react. Responding requires conscious participation, whereas reactions are built in. In moments of discomfort or upset, it’s never the actual whatever it is that’s happening that creates the problem we’re experiencing. What unfolds is largely dependent on whether we’re engaging from a state of reacting or responding. Are we making ourselves a victim or are we claiming responsibility for our choices? This is the crux of figuring ourselves out, and growing along the path of practicing mindfulness.
Spaciousness is what allows us to see things as they really are – to see ourselves and others as they really are. It opens up the doorway to freedom and liberation from suffering. Spaciousness is what makes ease, joy, and healing possible. Without spaciousness, little, if anything, can change.
While it may not seem like we’re doing much by sitting daily in meditation, whether for 5, 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes, in reality it’s the most beneficial use of our precious time. Keep sitting, dear friends. Our health and well-being depends on it.