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Tag Archives: impermanence

Saying Goodbye

Our one of two cat food bowls sitting empty this morning took on a whole new and sorrow-filled meaning. We put our cat Juba down yesterday.

14-years ago, almost directly after filling out the paperwork to buy the house we still reside in, we went to the Humane Society to fetch ourselves a cat in which to accompany our fresh purchase. Over-run with a new litter of orange kittens – to the point of being out of cages to put them in – they offered us a two-for-one deal. After some minor hesitation, we accepted their offer and left with two brother kittens, one in each hand.

Over the years, we’ve often pondered how terrible it would’ve been had we gotten only one, as we had intended (though we wouldn’t have known it). Our 2 brother cats have been great company and friends to each other. A couple of years ago, I finally got around to something I’d wanted to do for a long while. I sent the Humane Society a card, thanking them for their generosity in giving us a buy-one-get-one-free kitten and providing such a wonderful service to our community.

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Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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3:36am Revelation

 

I’ve found that revelations are something that need to happen over and over and over – and over and over again. They aren’t a one time deal. We like to think revelations are a one time deal – that all it takes is one moment of clarity or realization or spark of insight and huzzah!, we’ll forever enfold that particular tid bit into our consciousness and put it into active play in our lives forever more. But that is decidedly not how it works.

I woke up around 3am today, earlier than usual, though my usual has been on the shift ever since coming back from retreat at Deer Park Monastery in January. At 3:36am, I penned this in my journal:

I have the delightful challenge of being someone who loves to organize events and also someone who loves doing things around town in a variety of fashions. The challenging part comes from there only being so much time in the span of a day. And the challenge also comes from having to rein myself in from time to time – like, say, nowish for instance. I have a plethora of events, meetings, and scheduled items on my calendar from now through June – and each one is something I want to be doing with my time. But aye, there’s the rub! That’s how it happens: exhaustion, running over-heated from moment to moment. I’m also aware of how the ability to be fully present greatly aids in the endeavor of not running out of steam. I can expend A LOT of energy – needlessly – by keeping my to-do list operating in the backdrop of my mental landscape. So the more I am fully present with whatever it is I’m doing, the more energy I have to devote into being able to do the things I enjoy and having it be sustainable, verses depleting. Gosh I love writing, it allows me cut right to the chase of things!

My 3:36am revelation can be solidified in a quote I just came across yesterday on twitter:

Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom.

— Henepola Gunaratana

Developing the power of presence – uniting the mind and the body together; not getting lost in thoughts about the past or the future or worries in the present – allows us to preserve our energy and invest it in other more productive ways. Mindfulness, when practiced diligently, has the capacity to give us more time. It can teach us how to reallocate our energy so that we are continually re-fueling and nourishing ourselves amid the seas and swells of life’s happenings, instead of getting burnt out, stressed out, and overwhelmed.

I’m someone who talks to herself a lot throughout the day. I even give myself advice – and it’s usually really good advice too, by the way. Lately I’ve been reminding myself: Okay Nicole, now look. You have taken on a lot of stuff again. You should really slow your roll and stop agreeing to do stuff and saying yes to organizing and attending events. You have a lot coming up. And then I counter myself by saying: I know, I know. But…it’s all great stuff! There’s so much great stuff to do and stuff I want to do and…. And so it goes.

What I’m rediscovering though – re-revelating, if you will – is that while it’s true that I have a lot of plans and events and meetings and things I’m organizing and attending coming up, it’s actually not too much. While I’ve been feeling the pull of my schedule and judging it to be too much, it’s actually more a matter of my mental gears running in the background that’s making it seem like too much, when it reality it isn’t. It’s an “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” sort of scenario – only in the reverse.

We all have a wealth of stuff going on – that’s life. And it’s often not that we need to DO less, it’s that we need to practice THINKING less, PROCESSING less, WORRYING less, STRESSING less. Mindfulness can give us the tools we need to keep doing all the things we enjoy doing, all the things we choose to prioritize in our daily/weekly/monthly/yearly schedule by saving the mental energy we so uselessly expend on matters that are either outside of our influence or simply a complete and total waste of time. I can drain my energy battery hella quick simply by over-thinking about what I have coming up and all the things I need to do tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

So, my newly forming dialog with myself is looking something like this: Okay Nicole. You have a lot of great stuff coming up, isn’t that delightful?! But right now you’re ______ (fill in the blank: eating, driving, writing, sipping tea…), so how about you just be all in right where you are with what you’re doing. And then I’m all like: Good call, Nicole. Good call.

Be Here Now as a working life motto is not just about the physicality of your presence. Be Here Now means to be wherever you are mentally and emotionally, too. It means to be all in with your whole being. Whether I’m working on managing logistics for our upcoming spring family retreat at the end of the month, arranging a public talk for our visiting Dharma teacher, working on PR materials for my friend Jeff and I to land gigs together around town, working on an article or bit of writing for one thing or another, running a meeting, or attending a conference, the energy of mindfulness is one that can travel into any and all situations. And thank goodness for that!

Mindfulness helps me to keep my feet well-grounded. It helps me to generate the qualities of ease and joy and deep connection from moment to ever-changing moment. Mindfulness enables me to live a good life. And it reminds me, over and over and over again, to keep coming back to the very here and now – the only place life is truly available.

 

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Living A Better Life

The Buddha said: If we keep death in front of us, if we are aware of it, we will live better lives.

Last fall, in preparation for a session of walking meditation that our sangha hosted at a local cemetery, I fashioned together a card-sized collage of pictures of friends and family members who’ve passed away, whether recently or many years ago. I continue to use this collage card as a bookmark in my spiral-bound notebook journal, which I write personal account entries in a few times a month. Encountering this bookmark of collaged pictures affords me the ability to practice staying in touch with the preciousness of life, by keeping death in front of me.

At the time of putting the collage together, I also saw fit to include three people who were still alive but nearing the end of their currently held life-cycle: my grandmother Claire, who’s since passed away, and my grandmother Mary and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, who are both still very much alive. I included these individuals as a practice of deepening my sense of gratitude and also further developing my ever-growing understanding of impermanence.

It’s easy to think that calling to mind our loved ones that have passed away will be too painful. It’s easy to avoid connecting with the memories of our dearly departed friends and family members and to occupy our minds with a cascade of other matters. But when we develop a way to actively practice staying in relationship with those who’ve passed away – with the nature and reality of death itself – the initial pain that will likely crop up for us will have the opportunity to become transformed into a furthering opening of the heart.

At first, and for a little while, it was uncomfortable for me to look at the collage card I put together. To connect with the images and memories of so many loved ones who’ve passed away was rather startling and unsettling. But, once again, everything takes practice. Truly. Now that I’ve been encountering this card – one side collage and one side a picture of my friends David and Alison from their joint memorial service last summer – on a regular, ongoing basis, I’m finding that the discomfort has largely dissipated.

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Lion’s Roar

Each of us is sifting in a myriad of personality traits and qualities of being.
Hold each one,
however contrasting they may seem to be.
Do not pick and choose which ones
to present to the people.
Do not hide or squelch or push away
those parts you wish were other than as they are.
Hiding does you no good, my dear.
Step into the light.
Step into it all the way.
Do not tow behind you pieces which stay
in the shadows of shame.
Bring fully of yourself to the glory of being human,
from the fluidity of liquids to the hardness of bones.

Life is short and ever-changing.

Absorb these truths like the most fragrant words
offered by your most beloved.
Let them give rise to freedom.

 
 

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Fused

I find myself wonderfully infused with a wealth of fantastic sources of input over the last few days. I’ve started reading the book pictured above: You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney. I watched a really good talk given by an OI member in Thay’s tradition at Google on the nature of self-compassion. And I watched another talk given by someone my husband has been getting into lately, an author, speaker, and neuroscientist named Sam Harris. Three powerhouse gents, I would say. Each one taking his own slant on helping to support the human collective.

From the good to the bad to the ugly, we are each an assembly of the scattered sources of input fused together into one collection we call the self. And it’s easy to forget the importance of closely monitoring what’s coming in through our sense impressions. Because it all matters. Every single drop of it. It all makes a difference in how we show up in life – and how we continue to show up in life.

Here’s an excerpt from the book I mentioned and picture above, which I found so glorious that I read it aloud to both my husband and 18-year-old stepson on separate occasions:

You see, being smart is a much more complicated and misunderstood state than you believe. Most of the time, you are terrible at making sense of things. If it were your job, you would long since have been fired. You think you are a rational agent, slowly contemplating your life before making decisions and choices, and though you may sometimes falter, for the most part you keep it together, but that’s not the case at all. You are always under the influence of irrational reasoning. You persist in a state of deluded deliberation. You are terrible at explaining yourself to yourself, an you are unaware of the depth and breadth of your faults in this regard. You feel quite the opposite, actually. You maintain an unrealistic confidence in your own perceptions even after your limitations are revealed.

David McRaney from You are Now Less Dumb

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From OI member Tim Desmond’s talk at Google, published on February 23rd, 2018:

“There’s a capacity that we can develop that allows us to stay human. To be able to stay present. To be able to care and stay connected in whatever situation we find ourselves in.”

He goes on to talk about how this capacity is that of generating mindfulness. Later, he speaks about how we must pair both qualities of compassion and equanimity together, in order to be in balance. Compassion without equanimity leads to burnout and compassion fatigue. Equanimity without compassion leads to lack of empathy and indifference. To pair both together means to say: Whatever is going on is okay, and I’m here for you.

If you’re interested in checking out Tim’s talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV9VeNE_R1g

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A Happy Person’s Response to an Un-Ideal Situation

 

Today’s post on my writer’s facebook page:

This is me willing my voice to be strong and dynamic come showtime. This is me doing a metaphorical shout-out to whatever mythological god is in charge of creative surges and vocal wellness, in hopes that they will anoint me with the magical powers bestowed upon them.

This is me flirting with the incredibly disturbing possibility that I will not be in top form when the time comes.

This is me coming to terms with the simple and sticky truth that despite my actions or power of will – despite how much I’ve prepared, invested in, and advertised – the reality of laryngitis could swoop in and change everything. And there wouldn’t be a thing I could do to stop it.

_______

 

Today’s post on my personal facebook page:

For those of you who don’t know, I experience frequent and chronic bouts of laryngitis throughout the year. Welp. My ol’ friend has come calling again – and just in time for my big show coming up!

I’m relatively confident I will regain vocal function by Friday but I’m pulling out all the stops this weekend, including heeding the advice from my good friend Ashly: a day of vocal rest. Here’s the sign I fashioned to show Jaden & Mike when they woke up this morning (see pic above)

 

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An email I sent tonight @ 6:19pm to my team of three friends who have wonderfully agreed to help me on the evening of my upcoming gig:

Hi team :)

Sooo, as you may know (from social media or me texting you), my ol friend laryngitis has seen fit to visit me. Hooray! Just in time for my upcoming show! :)

I read online that cortisone steroids can help so I went to the doc and got those and started taking them today. Since I still have a few days to rest up, I feel fairly confident that I’ll be up in vocal functioning by Friday but it’s really hard to know for sure. In the past, my L bouts last typically 4-7 days, but sometimes it takes over a week for me to regain proper function.

As a precaution I’d super appreciate hearing any input/feedback/ideas you might have for a plan B, in the event I’m unable to perform on Friday. Do I postpone until a later undisclosed date? Do I simply cancel altogether? Do I still hold the show but figure out something else to do? Hmm.

Thank goodness for the practice of mindfulness and being able to stay well grounded in the present moment even amid life’s unexpected twists and turns – while this is certainly not ideal and I’m REALLY hoping I can perform come Friday, I’m aware too that life is impermanent; sometimes there’s only so much we can do to affect the sway of things. The worse case scenario is canceling and that’s really not the end of the world :)

 
 

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Bright & Shiny

Over the past few months, I’ve been experiencing a re-surfacing of an old habit energy. The sort of pattern of behavior that we all have – stemming from long ago – that we thought was relegated to the past. The kind we think we had transformed and grown out of. Yeah, it’s like that.

Something I’ve come to understand is that transformation of unskillful behaviors and thought patterns is an ongoing journey. So, just because something is re-surfacing now doesn’t mean the work I’ve done in the past becomes null and void. It doesn’t mean I’ve done something wrong or even that anything needs fixing. This re-surfacing simply speaks to the nature of impermanence and how everything is always changing and shifting. Deeply rooted habit energies can go dormant for long stretches of time and then re-appear, indicating that the journey continues. It’s nothing to fret or worry about. These truths comfort me during times such as this.

What interests me about this old habit energy arising is that while some part of me know it’s groundless, another part is lured in by it. Groundless in the sense that it’s based on fictitious notions and fleeting desires – full of holes, hollow. And still…

A source of suffering is to be forever tempted and swayed by something bright and shiny and new. Something outside of our grasp and ownership, whether it’s an object, an adventure, or another lover. What is it that beckons us? The prospect of a happiness we have yet to find but hope is out there? A temporary filling up of a hole we’ve been aching to not trip and fall into? What are we looking for?! What am I looking for? Am I looking for something? Is something operating subconsciously that I’m not tuned into? Or could it be that this old habit energy simply needs more tending to, more caring for, more befriending?

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Posted by on February 10, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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