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Sometimes I Forget

Sometimes I forget that we’re all – each of us – doing our best.

That we each march to our own drummer, sway to our own beat, hear the rhythm of life pulsating differently.

Sometimes I forget that there’s only so much time in a day – or a lifetime – to maneuver.

I am personally acquainted with people who’s spark comes alive through justice/support based work, such as: healing racism, translating for Spanish immigrants, volleying for animals on their way to slaughter, training underprivileged demographics in the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, de-stigmatizing mental illness, spending time with those who are in the process of dying, training women on how to navigate creating their own small business, supporting kids without active adult relationships to navigate through the court system, educating school-age boys about healthy masculinity and the subtleties of sexual violence, volunteering with local non-profits, engaging with people around policy change work, guiding early childhood development skills, and fostering opportunities for people to learn more about such matters as suicide, postpartum depression, homelessness, access to housing, global warming, and incarceration.

And I know people who’s spark comes alive through creative/self-expression based work, such as: gardening, cooking, baking, playing sports, traveling and playing music,¬†hosting standup comedy learning sessions for women, bringing African dance into the lives of those with disabilities,¬†organizing community poetry events, providing high school students with opportunities to craft and share their voices through the medium of written & spoken word, hiking, painting, photography, collage work, and role-playing games.

Me? My biggest most illuminating spark comes alive through sangha building. I am drawn to cultivating community through the dharma. Spiritual leadership is my highest calling. I love helping to support people, I love spending time with people. And I have a great love for and confidence in using and teaching about the tools and skills made available through mindfulness, meditation, and our Buddhist Plum Village tradition.

Creative/self-expression wise, my spark comes alive through: writing, spoken word, playing music, listening to music, dancing, solo traveling, spending time in nature, motorcycling, photography, volunteering with hospice, and working with young children.

We all have different callings. Different things that draw our attention and motivate us to action. And sometimes I forget this. Sometimes I think everyone is like me – or should be like me. And when this happens, I suffer.

Currently, I’m on a journey to find my people – those I resonate and have the most in common with. And I’m practicing to understand and embrace all those who are in my life who I don’t hold a lot in common with, but whom I cherish and value.

There’s a balance I am seeking in my interpersonal relationships right now. And it’s becoming clearer to me as of late, how often I forget certain elements of human dynamics and functioning that are crucial to remember, for the sake of my own and others quality of well-being.

The practice continues…

 

 

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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Home Sweet Home

Item for purchase in the MSP airport

Part One:

“Home sweet home,” as they say. “There’s no place like home,” as they say, too. And both are resoundingly true this morning, having woken up in my own bed, curled up with my cat, with the graces of my own shower and preferred tea close at hand.

Our home sweet home is where we’ve grown intimately acquainted with all the places in which to settle. The couches, chairs, and pockets of floor space we’ve sewn the groove of our impression into. The handholds we’ve traced our fingerprints on.

Home sweet home is the place that bears the highest concentration of the visible marks we leave behind.

Item for purchase in the MSP airport

Part Two:

Having ventured east for a week has me savoring the familiar symphony of morning in my own backyard: local birds, the hum of Sunday slow to start, a freight train’s distant call.

My lungs expand with the tidal waves of energy cast off by the mountains, amplified by the rivers and pines.

Ah. I am home.

And I’ve returned the same person as when I left, and also someone all together different.

 

Item for purchase in the MSP airport

Part Three:

I’m routinely reeling myself in from being cast out to sea in the net of debris of later, where there will always be a running list of to-do’s.

But right now, here in this moment, on this September Sunday morning, I am enjoying a cup of tea bundled in a blanket, sitting on the back porch we affectionately call the veranda.

Yes, there are suitcases brimming with dirty laundry to unpack. Yes, my email inbox is chock-a block with matters requesting my attention. Yes, our cupboards are bare and in need of restocking. Yes, our mailbox out front is full. But there will be a time to tend to it all in due course and that time isn’t upon me just yet.

So, I notice the tugging of thoughts and come back – notice and come back. Cuz right now, here in this moment, on this September Sunday morning, I am enjoying a cup of tea bundled in a blanket, sitting on the back porch we affectionately call the veranda.

 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2018 in Travel

 

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Restoring Balance

 

I wear a green shirt and brown pants every day that calls for me to leave the house and mingle with the weather and/or the people, which is to say, most days. My lounge-about/sleepwear, however, is slightly more varied, with purples and whites and grays. I have hoodies in brown and green but in the early mornings when I rise, perhaps in solidarity with the color of sky when I wake, it’s the black hoodie that makes the most sense to me to wear.

Yesterday morning, I grabbed a green hoodie because it was there and easy. I put it on, zipped it up, and set to making my tea and boiling my eggs, as though I hadn’t just monkeyed with the normal order of things.

I sat down at the table, next to a bobbing candle flame atop a beeswax base, and read the first few crisp pages of a new book I acquired the evening prior. But something wasn’t quite right. Like entering your house to discover a light left on that you knew you turned off, something was amiss. I knew straight away what it was: the green hoodie.

I got up and replaced it with the black one. Balance was restored.

Now, some might deem this an attachment I would do well to work on or an OCD moment I should tend to with greater skill. And if it weren’t for the fact that I was operating with self-connection in a spirit of befriending, verses that of compulsion and anxiety, I would readily agree. But I used my intelligence and made a conscious choice, and that makes a world of difference.

Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) is often instructing us to use our own intelligence when it comes to the use of the teachings and practice tools. This means that we would do well not to think that any one course of action can be applicable in all situations. This means that we must come to understand that to actualize the full breadth and spirit of the practice, we must be able to tune into our present moment experience and ascertain what’s called for, from our own perspective and knowledge, with clarity and ease. As our local dharma teacher Rowan says, and I just love: The classic Zen answer to any question is “it depends!” And it really does. The practice is not static or fixed in place. It’s alive, like the relationships we have with our dearest beloved.

My morning routine of communion with the greaterness that occupies space and time and joins us all miraculously together, is not something I find wise to mess around with. And if a black hoodie helps me in this process, then…shoot, I’m good with that.

 
 

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Kinds of Love

There are some people I only love from afar.

The way one might revel in a painting in a museum

while standing across the room.

There are others I love like

dipping in close to smell a wild rose.

Absorbing it full throttle

but only for a short burst of time.

There are some I love like movie theater popcorn:

ravenously but only once in a great while.

And then there are those I love like music and tea,

drinking them in as often as I can.

 

 

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Life is short, time is precious

 

In the time I spend weekly with elderly patients, I continue to learn and deepen my understanding of how life is short.

In the time I spend weekly with young children, I continue to learn and deepen my understanding of how time is precious.

And it’s these two sentiments cultivated on-goingly, that have sculpted my view of the world and my place in it.

It’s these realities that propel me to do what I do – and to keep doing it, with love and vigor.

 
 

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Re-Envisioning the Practice

This morning, I watched a portion of a Dharma talk on YouTube, given by Brother Phap Dung in Plum Village on July 29th, 2018. It was entitled: The Power of Cutting Off and Letting Go. (Here’s the link if you’re interested.)

How timely that it happened to correspond well with the reading I’d done earlier this morning from our Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book.

Once a week, I read a different sutra from the chanting book. This morning I found myself reading the Discourse on the Dharma Seal, where it gives mention to the “three defiling qualities of mind – greed, hatred, and delusion.” Brother PD also spoke to this list in his talk, though he referred to them as the three afflictions and rephrased them a bit as: craving, anger, and ignorance.

He also spoke about the three virtues – also referred to as gauges – of a spiritual person and/or leader:

  1. Compassion
  2. Wisdom
  3. Freedom (or cutting off or cutting through)

Some things from the Brother’s talk that I scribed down while watching:

– We must re-envision our practice so that it includes all activities, not just certain ones or the ones we find pleasing; this is what Thay meant when he coined the phrase engaged Buddhism. (this is a paraphrase)

– “Be ordinary, don’t stick out. Don’t over-practice.” – Brother PD on the practice of washing the dishes

– “Buddhist practice is like medicine. It helps us, frees us, and then you don’t go holding on to it.”

– Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t met Thay and I think to myself: my life was so much easier before coming to this practice. So, you might want to go somewhere else (for spiritual practice), because in this practice tradition you have to look at things you might not want to look at. (paraphrase)

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On Comfort Zones, Waiting in Line, and Home Touristing

The Missoula chapter of Tenacious Dames (Montana’s only all female motorcycle club)

So, there’s a good chance that this blog post will only track well from my own vantage point, given the last few days I’ve had. Translation: I’m fixin on covering a few topics that might not string together in a neat and orderly fashion from an outsider’s perspective :)

On Thursday, I decided to try something new and step outside of my comfort zone. I joined the Tenacious Dames (TD) – Missoula’s chapter of Montana’s only all female motorcycle club – for their monthly ride. I just recently found out about them from a woman rider I met at a car show in Phillipsburg, a couple of weeks ago. I looked them up on Facebook and reached out. Jeanette, the Dame of Affairs – seen up close in the pic above – got back to me and warmly invited me to join them for their August ride. So I did!

Normally, I’m a solo rider. And now that I have a bigger highway-worthy bike, I’ve been getting out quite a bit. I’ve had my new bike for about a month now and I’ve put over 1,200 miles on it already. I decided to join the TD partly because it was outside of my comfort zone. I’m someone who intentionally seeks out things to do from time to time which allow me the opportunity to expand my perspective and bubble of familiarity. And it’s also good to mingle and mix with folks I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to know.

Not only do I usually ride solo but I also have an irrational aversion to joining groups which are designed for women only. So saddling up with the TD was a double whammy, in the stepping outside of my comfort zone department. The TD were super welcoming. And I really enjoyed the pack ride experience and meeting other women that were as much into riding as I am. I’ve done only one other group ride before, just a few weeks ago with my husband and stepdad in Glacier National Park. I’m realizing that pack riding blends something together that I really enjoy but don’t often get the chance to engage in, which is to share space and energy with others amid a certain level of quietude and personal spaciousness. For instance, I love meditating and sharing silent retreats with others. It gives me the best of both worlds: being with others and also being with myself. In short: I like being amid others without the added activity of conversating. So pack rides are great! I’m able to share energy with others on a different, more personal level.

The TD were great, and I’m sure I’ll join them for another ride soon.

Lesson I continue to learn: Stepping outside of my comfort zone is the only way I grow and become more resilient and dynamic.

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Yesterday morning I found myself – for the second time in the past month and a half – waiting in line at the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) at the courthouse. The first time was to transfer the title into my name for my new/used Subaru. This time it was to do the same action for my new/used motorcycle. Having been to the MVD a little over a month ago, I knew to expect a long wait. I arrived about 40-minutes prior to the office opening at 8am and I was the 11th person in line. The dude behind me came supplied with a folding camp chair. People are getting hip to this waiting line epidemic here in town at the ol’ MVD. All in all, I spent a little over an hour and a half at the MVD.

As someone who is intrigued by observing human behavior – my own and that of others – waiting areas offer unique and ripe opportunities. We can learn a lot about ourselves in moments of waiting, such as: what our patience level is, how kind we are to others when our system is taxed, how we occupy our time and minds, what our quality of heartfulness and connection is to those around us.

There was an array of line conversations I overheard and a menagerie of reactions and responses to the whole waiting game that I witnessed, ranging from light-hearted to angry-ridden. Some knew what to expect and seemed to have a certain level of acceptance (and humor) about the situation, while others were clearly not anticipating the MVD to be such a hot spot at 8 in the morning and were quite affronted.

How well-balanced we stay amid such conditions as waiting in line, speaks directly to how we show up in all sorts of places in our life. If we regard waiting in line to be separate from life, as something we’re not “supposed” to encounter, then we’re setting ourselves up for pockets of misery and discomfort whenever we find ourselves waiting for something, which is to say: a lot of the time. The more I can infuse my mindfulness practice into all the things that I do, the more ease I experience as a result, and the more open and expansive my life becomes – whether it’s when I’m doing something I enjoy or something I’d assume avoid.

Lesson I continue to learn: There is no such thing as an insignificant moment. I am always practicing something.

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Posted by on August 11, 2018 in Everyday Practice, Fun, Travel

 

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