Filling the tank

In the wake of an especially difficult past two weeks, I’ve been upping my self-care practices and allowing myself to take some necessary time and space by pulling back from a few things.

Here are a few of my main go-to’s for self-care when I start getting depleted:

  1.  Sleep & rest. I allow myself to sleep more at night and rest more via naps during the day.
  2. Music. From listening to what I most enjoy to dancing it out in my living room to playing guitar and singing, my day is guided by music, and even moreso when I am physically taxed or emotionally challenged.
  3. Delicious & nutritious food. While I am closely tuned into what I consume and keep up a steady dose of wholesome, nourishing foods, I also allow myself to partake in comfort foods. Life is about balance and I practice to not to be too strict OR too lenient in my food choices when I’m struggling.
  4. Tuning out. When my cup is empty and I’ve worn myself out thinking and talking about a challenge, I practice to notice when it’s time to call a time out. Tuning out to a funny show on Netflix is sometimes in order. Again, life is about cultivating and maintaining balance. And in times of struggle, I practice to give myself some slack – but not too much slack – when it comes to watching TV.
  5. Getting outside. Being outside, whether in wild places such as the woods or simply for a walk around the block, helps restore my energy and refill my mental and emotional tank. Even if it’s a bit of a chore, when I push myself a little bit in order to get outside, I’m always glad I did once I get out there.
  6. Self-expression. On a regular and ongoing basis, my medium for self-expression comes through the art of writing. Even if I’m not feeling terribly inspired to write, I need to keep picking up the pen. If I stop writing when I’m struggling, I’m in trouble.
  7. Knowing when to reach out and who to reach out to. This is key. Reaching out for support is not a sign of weakness or defeat. In fact, asking for support is a sign of strength and resiliency. It’s also important to know who I can trust in to hold space for me and who I can really rely on when the going gets tough.
  8. Keeping my practice going. By practice I am referring to my daily sitting meditation practice and my daily mindfulness practices. If I let my daily morning sit slide off, it will effect my foundation for the rest of the day. Even when it’s hard and I don’t feel like doing it – even when the quality of my sit is poor – I keep on sitting. And I keep investing in: my daily gratitude practice; reciting my meal verse; pausing to take a breath when my home mindfulness bell chimes; smiling practice; cultivating joy; and tuning into my breath, body, and feelings throughout the day.
  9. Taking a break. This takes many forms. When my energy is waning and my internal gas tank is low, I often take a break from reading the news, so that I am not further depleting myself. I often take a break from participating in meetings or events that are taxing and/or have an element of difficulty embedded into them. And I will sometimes take a break from social gatherings or other such gatherings where I might be otherwise energetically dispersed.

These are some of the ways I restore harmony within myself. If you feel called to share what you do to help replenish and restore, I’d really enjoy hearing from you in the comments section below.

Courage To Heal

For the last few years, I’ve been honored to participate in Unity of Missoula’s Day of Prayer interfaith service. The service is tonight and I will be speaking on behalf of our Buddhist sanghas, as part of our spiritual leadership team.

A short snippet about Unity:

Unity Worldwide Ministries is a worldwide network of ministries, ministers, licensed teachers and individuals providing practical teachings to help people live healthy, prosperous and meaningful lives. Unity is a positive path for spiritual living. We teach the effective daily application of the principles of Truth taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ.

Here’s what I plan on saying, based on Unity’s theme this year, which is: Courage to Heal and their affirmation of: I am a healing presence.

Prior to watching the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor just last night, I had planned on talking about the unification of mind and body in the present moment, and how dispersing our energy into thoughts about the past or worries about the future greatly reduces our ability to be a healing presence in the world. But at 9:00pm last night, after I watched this remarkable documentary, I decided to go in a different direction.

I’d like to start with a 1-minute exercise that Fred Rogers liked to do with people – I’d like us all to reflect on someone who has helped us along the way. So let us take 1-minute right now to do this in silence.

(One minute of silence, followed by a sound of the bell)

We all have people who have helped us along the way. People who, as Fred was shown saying at the end of the film during a commencement speech, have: “smiled us into smiling, talked us into talking, sang us into singing, or loved us into loving.”

To help is to heal. To help is to love. And each of us has the capacity to foster a healing presence in the world. It’s imperative to the well being of humanity that we not shrink away from or underestimate our ancestral bestowment, which is the power to help, heal, and love: ourselves, our friends and family, our co-workers, our neighbors, all beings who cross our path, and the earth.

Every morning, I start my day with 30 minutes of silent sitting meditation, followed by a gratitude practice that I’ve come up with on my own, using certain elements of our Buddhist tradition, which includes 3 prostrations to the earth, down on the ground, and one final standing bow. With the first prostration I say the same thing each morning: I bow down to the earth in gratitude for this one precious life. With the 2nd and 3rd prostrations, I offer rotating gratitudes of whatever is alive for me that day. And with the final standing bow, I conclude with: In gratitude for this one more opportunity to live today, may I be useful, may I be kind.

This way of starting my day helps to angle me in the direction of my highest intention, which is to be a healing, supportive, loving presence throughout the day to all those I will cross paths with. And in order for this calling to be sustained into the future, I need to cultivate and strengthen the seeds of gratitude, ease, and joy every day.

My hope for all of us is that we find ways in which to continue to water these same seeds for ourselves, so the we can shine our light forward, helping to illuminate the beauty, goodness, and splendors that exist within and around us. And when we do this, it will naturally usher others to join us in the work of transformation and healing.

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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Allowing Others To Be As They Are

This is me crafting a response to a friend that I thought might prove helpful to post here as well. Recently, a friend approached me inquiring about how I was able to manage the ability to stop trying to control my husband. She had spoken to my husband, Mike, and learned that one of the components in his journey of getting clean and sober 5 years ago, while simultaneously healing from a long bout of depression, involved the work I was doing on myself, centered around, among other things, letting go of being so controlling.

With the crucial support of Alanon (a 12-step group aimed at helping people who have loved ones struggling with addiction), I was able to learn a key element in regards to how to cultivate my own sense of deep-rooted joy and happiness, which was to detach from Mike with love. Detaching with love was an alien concept at first. I was clumsy around it and fumbled with it for a while as I tried to understand what it meant, in a real-life application sort of way. But I slowly started to figure it out, using a slightly adapted version of the Serenity Prayer as a guiding principle along the way (see my own re-worded iteration above).

It is my opinion that most of us do not really and truly know that we are not in the position to change other people. I think we have an intellectual grasp that we cannot change others, but when it comes down to it, we think we’re right and others are wrong on a routine basis. And as long as we think our way of doing things is the right way –  maybe even the ONLY way – then we will continue to try to assert control over others, especially those closest to us, in an effort to get them to change.

5 years ago, the work I was doing on myself could be summed up with this statement: I was learning how to take responsibility for the quality of my own well-being. One of the biggest pieces of doing this work involved coming to see how much I heaped the quality of my well-being onto Mike. How oftentimes my mood depended on his. How I allowed his actions to affect my attitude and outlook. I came to see that as long as my mood, disposition, attitude, and outlook relied on his, I was powerless. If I was needing him to be a certain way in order for me to be a certain way, I was going to be miserable, and stay that way.

I’ll take the issue of cleanliness, as an easy and workable example. I am someone who greatly appreciates, and on some level really needs, a sense of spacial orderliness and cleanliness. However, one look through the window into his truck cab, and you would clearly see that my husband could care less about such things. I spent years and years being the sort of wife who mastered the common and destructive patterns of being passive-aggressive: huffing and puffing my way around him picking up dishes and dirty clothes, stomping around on my way to take out the trash or mow the lawn, and washing dishes or cleaning the house with the manic energy of the Tasmanian Devil. And, of course, no master passive-aggressive would be complete without having their own well-cultivated Tone of Voice, indicating to those that know them best to Watch the F*** Out. I remember my mom’s Tone of Voice while growing up. Like mother like daughter.

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The Befriending Hour

Pre-sunrise over the Flathead Lake, August, 2017

 

I have and could and will continue to write verses, haikus, opening paragraphs in letters, slam poems (no, not slam poems), and asides in my journal dedicated to the splendors of predawn early morning – the time when slumber is the collective activity most commonly engaged in.

And it’s not only the townly stillness that perfumes the air so sweetly, but it’s the dimming of heart-static, too. A time when communion with self is on an open frequency.

Hence, let us call the time before sunrise The Befriending Hour. And it is in this hour that we have the power to heal.

Stick Exercises

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This booklet (pictured above & below) was published by Plum Village and can be purchased in the book shop at Deer Park Monastery, rooted in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. I imagine our other monasteries in the US must carry it as well. As written on the inside of the booklet:

“The Qi Kong method “Duong Sinh” (life sustaining) Way of the Heart” consists of four exercises based around the use of a long light stick. Each exercise consists of four movements; giving 16 movements in all. The movements in this particular Qi Kong method were invented by the elderly Mai Bac Dau, and revised by Zen master Tinh Tu who put the instructions together in a compact form and added photographs to make them easier to remember and practice.

Virtues

Life sustaining Qi Kong, marvelous virtue,
Sixteen movements preventing disease and pain
Healing hundreds of different ailments
Long life, youthful health, peace of mind
Peaceful spirit shining snow-white
Qi’s rich life-giving force, a paradise for Man
Living with joy, walking with a light foot
Awake I smile, feeling free, I am home”

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FYI

ill-be-back

Howdy blogging friends :)

Just as an FYI I wanted to let it be known that tomorrow morning I’ll be heading off for shoulder surgery.  I’ll be in a sling for around 6 weeks and will have very limited movement abilities at least for the first 2-4 weeks.  Since I’ll be down a wing, and my dominant hand, I will be MIA here on my blog for a little while – only time will tell as to how long.  I’ll be back as soon as I can be!

I’ll be with you all in spirit – and reading your posts as I heal and recover :)