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Tag Archives: human behavior

On The Fence

Every month, for the past 4-5 years now, the same Jehovah’s Witness lady has been coming to visit me. Yes, it’s been that long. It may even be longer, as I can’t recall exactly when she started coming by. It’s worth mentioning, right off the bat, that I genuinely like this woman. She’s around my age and is very friendly and warm and kind. And, in the interest of expanding my own perspective and understanding of people with different views, I do read the publications that she drops off each month, namely: The Watchtower. She knows full well that I’m a spiritual leader in a Buddhist tradition and very invested in my particular community, and still she chooses to continue her visits.

For the past 2 years or so now, I’ve been on the fence as to what the best course of action was to take, in regards to her monthly visits. Part of me wanted to muster up the courage to ask her to stop coming, in light of it being sort of a waste of both my time and hers, and also that of the rotating friend that accompanies her. But the polite and friendly part of me that genuinely likes her, and appreciates her incredible diligence – even if I don’t subscribe to what she’s being diligent about – felt uncomfortable asking her to stop coming after all these years. So I’ve been teeter tottering on the fence of indecision about what to do.

Finally, about a month or so ago, I stopped hemming and hauling over what to do and made a decision. After contemplating the matter further and inquiring with myself about what was in the mix, mentally & emotionally, I decided I did not feel right in asking her to stop coming, and I also didn’t want to be on guard anymore either, not knowing when she’d be happening by while I sat writing or working on the computer – so the only other possibility I could realistically think to implement was to stop half-assing our limited time together at the door every month, which is what I had been doing. I decided to start practicing not being on guard; and instead of being wary of her intentions or frustrated by the interruption in my day or be relatively closed off during our interactions, I would invest my energy into opening my heart-space a little more and being more friendly when she came by. So, simply put, I committed myself to the practice of no longer looking at her visits as an intrusion on my day and time and see them instead as opportunities for me to engage more with someone with whom I judge to have little in common with.

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Posted by on November 18, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Discomfort

What do you do to make sense of the world in moments when you wish it were different? How do you run and where do you go? Have you found tools for working well with fluctuations of every conceivable flavor of situation and spirit or are you bound to the same detrimental deviations perpetuating a lifetime of remorse, beholden to the swift allure of misery?

It might be drugs or alcohol we turn to for solace, it might be video games or TV or sex, or maybe it’s food we lose ourselves in – it could be overworking or overexercising or overmaintaining our small bubble of comfort or over anythinging that helps to dull whatever pain is present if we were to press pause in the moment.

There are a myriad of ways to run from the same pains that affect us all – and while some cause less harm than others, they all have the potential to unravel us one thread at a time.

We would do well to practice how to sit, settle, and be with the nature that surrounds us like the air we breathe: the nature of discomfort. And we need tools and skillful practices and things we can do to move through what would otherwise be an unsettling, disjointed, unexpected sliver of unfolding time, the likes of which leave a bitter, bile taste on our pallet.

As a woman I know who was me once said: There is nothing more potent than befriending that in which our inclination is to apprehend as suspect, to our own discomfort.

We need to get our friendship on with ourselves and everything which offers itself around us to the point of where regardless of what’s happening we can meet it as an opportunity to embrace verses an obstacle to run away from.

And the more we embrace the less we evade – the more we embrace the more space we create to allow the results that come having less baggage pitching and heaving in our wake to take place. A joyful life is possible – absorb this truth into your bones.

 

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Can Men & Women Be Friends?

At first glance, this post title may seem a bit off-topic in the realm of mindfulness, but upon closer examination of the word ‘mindfulness’, we may come to realize that really anything can be included under this umbrella word when we apply the application of direct and engaged attention, spurred by a desire to come into a deeper relationship of understanding.

This topic has been coming up for me lately. Can heterosexual men and women be friends? Part of me says yes and part of me says no. I think it depends largely on the circumstances involved. Social friendships, where interactions occur mostly in group settings, are different than close one-on-one friendships, where you’re spending more concentrated time together. I think social friendships are much more plausible than one-on-one friendships, in terms of the likelihood of having romantic feelings develop on either or both sides of the fence.

I was interested in boys at an early age. I had my first boyfriend in third grade and stayed in a steady stream of romantic relationships up until I met my husband, at age 19. Growing up, I had mostly guy friends. And I falsely told myself that it was because I just related better with guys. When I encountered SLAA (sex and love addicts anonymous) at age 19, I realized I had developed a lot of patterns of behavior that were detrimental and destructive. I came to understand that a big reason as to why I surrounded myself with guy friends was because I got a certain amount of attention that I really enjoyed, craved, and used to assert my self-worth and feel good about myself. A hard truth to come to terms with, at that time, was realizing that while I may have had no intention of being physically involved with my guy friends, I got a certain high from knowing that it was an option.

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Posted by on October 28, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Familiar Suffering

17 percent:
the success rate of the oldest residential drug & alcohol treatment facility in the world.
17 percent
of people stay sober for a year after they leave.
17 percent.
And it’s the highest success rate of any treatment center in the w h o l e world.
17 percent.

*Data from the book A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, published in 2003.

One of the most recent studies on recidivism rates – which most often refers to the rate at which a person relapses back into criminal behavior after being released from prison – showed that 67.8% of people were rearrested within 3-years of being released from prison, within 5-years that number increases to 76.6%. And of those prisoners, a little more than half were arrested by the end of the first year of being released.

I often ponder why it’s so hard to break our cycles of detrimental behaviors and habits. These are more extreme examples, of course, but the thread is the same for all of us. We all have a hard time letting go of the suffering we’ve grown strangely accustomed to. Even when we know what we’re doing is not working. Even when we’re miserable. Even when we’re crippled by shame and guilt and fear.

A common deterrent towards making positive changes that I’ve heard often from people, in a variety of contexts, involves the deeply rooted and long-held view that they’re broken, un-fixable, damaged beyond repair. My husband used to think he was one of those people. I have at least two friends and a family member I can think of that feel this way, too. And it makes sense to me that if we think we are broken then there’s little sense in trying to change course – because there’s a core belief that nothing will work.

“Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to spiritual growth.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Sovereignty

The best definition I found for the word “sovereignty” is stated in the image above: autonomous; free from external control. I’ve been resonating with this word over the past year and find that my personal sovereignty is developing and deepening along with my mindfulness practice, as they seem to go hand-in-hand.

I’m finding that the state of sovereignty is much like the state of joy in that when I talk about it people inquire further, not knowing how to develop such qualities of being. So, this is my first attempt at trying to put into words what this particular characteristic is about, from my own experience that is.

Sovereignty, in regards to oneself, is about having a strong and unwavering sense of self-reliance, internal direction, and self-assurance (in a humble and well-grounded fashion) – it’s about taking and claiming full and total responsibility for one’s own quality of life and state of being. To summarize, sovereignty is about being at home with yourself wherever you go, regardless of outer circumstances. And this is the crux of Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness tradition: to come back home to ourselves in the here and now, with joy and ease, so that we can then be of service and benefit to others.

Developing our own sovereignty is not about disconnecting from others or regarding ourselves as superior or becoming a “lone wolf.” It’s about being able to depend and trust in our capacity to generate joyfulness and solidity no matter where we are or who we’re with – to befriend and keep good company with our own selves and emanate that outwards, un-tethered from the clutches of self-consciousness, self-judgement, and self-doubt. It’s a state born from mindfulness, concentration, insight, and diligent practice.

I’ve often mentioned my interest in breaking down mindfulness/Buddhist-based teachings in order to make them more palatable and practical so that they might become more applicable to a wider demographic of people, especially those who are looking for more straight-forward “how-to” guidance. So with that in mind, what are some actions we can take to actually practice the development of sovereignty? Let’s see what I can come up with:

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Posted by on September 21, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Diversity Training #4

For the purposes of this particular post, I plan on focusing on Diversity Training #4 – to read all 7 of the Diversity Trainings, please click here: https://goingoutwordsandinwords.wordpress.com/?s=diversity+trainings. Our local sangha, Be Here Now, which meets on Monday nights at the Open Way Mindfulness Center here in Missoula, MT, has taken up the 7 Diversity Trainings as a 7-month series. Once a month, on the first Monday, we have a different sangha member give a short talk on one of the trainings, and then we open up for community sharing centered around whichever training we’re on. Tonight, we’ll be on #4.

I only recently became aware of these Diversity Trainings this past January, so I am still getting familiar with each of them and forming my own relationship to them. As a writer, what better way is there to foster this relationship than by writing about it?!

Diversity Training #4:

Aware of the suffering caused by intentional or unintentional acts of rejection, exclusion, avoidance, or indifference towards people who are culturally, physically, sexually, or economically different from me, I undertake the training to refrain from isolating myself to people of similar backgrounds as myself and from being only with people who make me feel comfortable. I commit to searching out ways to diversify my relationships and increase my sensitivity towards people of different cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, physical abilities, genders, and economic means.

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Smoke

Missoula Valley. Photo Credit: Brian Christianson Photography

Here in Missoula, Montana we’re in the midst of our fifth annual season: fire season. In western Montana, the order is as follows: winter, spring, summer, fire, fall. So the “water cooler” talk right now in town is centered largely around air quality and wildfire activity. Whether at the check-out line in the grocery store or during a chance occurrence with a friendly acquaintance, the topic de jour is about how awful the smoke settling in the valley is, how sad it is to know our forests are burning, and how everyone hopes it’s over soon.

Regardless of the season, this dialog is no different than our collective griping about the weather. Come winter time it shifts to how cold and gray it is. Come spring time it’s too rainy, or not rainy enough. Come summer it’s too hot. Come fire season it’s too smoky. And fall’s biggest detractor is that it has arrived too soon and isn’t summer.

This post isn’t my own gripe about other people griping, but instead is my way of trying to process this cultural phenomenon and shed light onto an opportunity in which to practice. Despite my propensity for writing – which I do A LOT of – in person, I gravitate towards the quieter side of the verbal scale. So, when people I meet proceed to talk about how awful the smoke is, my tendency is to simply smile and listen. But I do invest contemplative time in trying to fashion some kind of response that would be an authentic expression AND also not be dismissive of what someone is saying. Once in a while I manage to say something that I hope will serve to rally against the commonplace mentality of complaining about the weather, but mostly I have found little to offer in return when it comes to this dialog exchange.

I’ve written about this topic here on my blog a few times over the years. How we engage with the weather is a litmus test for how we engage with life. Our reactions to the weather are an indicator of how well we deal with uncertainty and change, how well we are able to go with the flow of what’s being presented in the here and now, and how skilled we are in the art of letting go. It’s worth our time and energy getting in touch with what our own relationship is to the weather, and paying close attention to what it is we say and how often we talk about it with others.

Our quality of life depends on what we do in the in-between-the-cracks moments – those instances we disregard or let fall to the wayside or way underestimate as being important. There is no such thing as an insignificant moment. Every weather-based conversation and simple exchange matter.

So, as always, the practice continues…

 
 

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