In one month from today,
I’ll turn forty.
Does that mean something?
I think it might.
I think it might mean
bidding a fond farewell to a decade of time
book-ended by zeros
and ushering in a new one,
as though it were a crisp,
unwrinkled, never worn gown
to slip into and dance on
endlessly into the night.
Everything that meant anything important
I’ve learned so far,
I’ve learned from unlearning something else.
Like how love means letting go
not holding on,
and a life filled with meaning
has little to do with money.
Or how kindness is a superpower
not a weakness,
and angling towards joy
doesn’t mean to ignore the darkness,
it means to not ignore the light.
I have inherited a body of knowledge
not my own –
a body of paper skin and earthen bones, too.
scarred, broken, perfect.
Did I mention perfect?
There is nothing on this splendid,
spinning, blue-green marble planet,
strung like a pearl on its cosmic necklace,
that wasn’t supposed to happen,
simply for the fact that it did.
If my years so far could be distilled
into one sentiment worth mentioning,
it would be this:
To live a well-contented life,
it’s crucial to stop fighting.
To stop fighting:
To stop fighting with the truth of how every single thing –
and every single one of us, our self included –
is of the nature to change.
Tag Archives: joy
It feels worth mentioning that last night, I had my first backyard fire of the year. And it also seems worth haikuing about:
Flames licking wood
Chilled air breathing fire
A smile is lit
Last weekend, I was off on a solo saunter up north – and I enjoyed every bit of my travels.
This weekend, I set myself up so that I had zero cause to leave the house if I didn’t want to – and I’ve been enjoying every bit of it.
I’ve written before about the merits of not disobeying the call of the road when it summons thee. So this past weekend when it called, I went.
I’ve found that to satiate my “urge for going,” as Joni Mitchell once crafted into a song, I needn’t venture far. I live in Montana for pete’s sake, a truly uncompromisingly beautiful, wild state. And we’ve got a lotta land here, too. A person could spend lifetimes exploring here and never be able to see it all.
And not only do I not need to go far, I don’t need to spend a large swath of time either. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes venturing far and spending extended periods of time off and away from home is a lovely thing to do, but I’ve been finding that even weekend-long trips simply 2-4 hours from my doorstep are not only sufficient but immensely satisfying.
I wrote this on my writer’s Facebook page the night before setting out this past weekend:
For reasons I don’t entirely understand, I want to sleep under the stars in unfamiliar terrain. I want to wake up in a fresh locale and navigate my early morning rituals in a locale where no one knows me. I want to sit in a coffee shop in a small town and write unobstructed by the comfortable air of home.
And perhaps some of this allure has a little something to do with the fact that I know full well – as clear as the sound of a bell – that I grow little, if at all, unless I edge outside of my comfort zone.
So, this past weekend, I went here:
This post is part of a 5-week series in relation to the Five Bodhisattvas and a Reflection Group I put together and am part of with a few sangha friends of mine.
Bodhisattva literally means “enlightened being.” The Plum Village chant book defines it as such: One committed to enlightening oneself and others so that all may be liberated from suffering.
In our practice tradition, we are especially urged not to regard the bodhisattva’s as external separate entities but more as qualities in which to actively cultivate within our own self, for the benefit of all beings. While the Bodhisattva’s are mentioned as actual human beings – and disciples of the Buddha – in the sutras, we are encouraged to see them as representing skill-sets and capabilities in which to hone and sharpen in our own life.
We read and reflect on one bodhisattva at a time for one full week and then answer three reflection questions each Sunday, which we email out to the group of participants.
These are the bodhisattvas in the order most commonly encountered in our tradition:
Avalokiteshvara: Bodhi. of Great Compassion
Manjushri: Bodhi. of Great Understanding
Samantabhadra: Bodhi. of Great Action
Kshitigarbha: Bodhi. of Great Aspiration
Sadaparibhuta: Bodhi. of Never Disparaging
This last week was week #3.
Here is the verse, my journal entries, and my answers to our group reflection questions for Samantabhadra:
We invoke your name, Samantabhadra. We aspire to practice your vow to act with the eyes and heart of compassion, to bring joy to one person in the morning and to ease the pain of one person in the afternoon. We know that the happiness of others is our own happiness, and we aspire to practice joy on the path of service. We know that every word, every look, every action, and every smile can bring happiness to others. We know that if we practice wholeheartedly, we ourselves may become an inexhaustible source of peace and joy for our loved ones and for all species.
This is the bodhisattva I resonate with personally the most. This is the bodhisattva of Great Action, and I often refer to myself humorously as a Woman of Action.
There are so many lovely lines in the verse – and I find the especially lovely because I’ve personally encountered and experienced them in my life. I am someone who puts great emphasis on practicing joy on the path of service. And in doing so, I’ve seen firsthand how true it is that the happiness of others is my own happiness; how every word/look/action/smile can bring happiness to others; and how when I practice wholeheartedly, I am able to becomes an inexhaustible source of peace and joy for others.
For me, cultivating joyful-based actions is my highest and most important aspiration on my path of practice. When I set my compass in this direction, I see clearly the ripple effects that occur as a result, everywhere I go.
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
With a 100.5 degree fever and feeling as though I’ve been run over by a truck, I’m athinking my planned solo saunter to JJ Hot Springs to celebrate Mike and I’s anniversary tomorrow is out. What can I say? Sickness happens. It’s part of life.
And now, please excuse me while I return to bed to languish. Alas, I fear that death is near. Go on without me!
Okay. Well. It would’ve been a lovely day to go to the hot springs today as I’d planned, to celebrate Mike & I’s anniversary – the sun is shining and the sky is blue here in Missoula. But I am still super sick – though my fever has come down a bit, which is nice. While I’m bummed my plans were thwarted, let’s be real, is it ever a “good” time to get sick?
Sick person cave checklist:
– Multiple blankets and pillows for managing my hot & cold flashes and shifting comfort levels associated with everything hurting: check!
– Heating pad and heating blanket: check!
– Can of ginger ale within arm’s reach: check!
– Thermometer: check!
– Handkerchief: check!
– Laptop with Netflix: check!
– Bottles of water (even though thus far they’ve gone untouched, because for some reason water sounds horrible to drink right now): check!
– Curtains drawn to keep out the light (because I have pronounced light sensitivity): check!
– Bag of Halls: check!
– A still pretty good attitude: check!
– A cat that is part super great (see pic below) and part super not, depending on the moment at hand: check!
I’m someone who has great confidence in the wisdom I first learned by attending 12-step meetings with my mom growing up: Fake it till you make it. However, and this is important, there are two main ways to go about this teaching: one which involves actually “making it” and one that doesn’t. It depends on what inward agency is driving the boat, as to which result is likely to manifest.
There’s a difference between pretending and practicing. Or as I sometimes like to say: pretending vs. rallying. I see the differences as such. Pretending is like believing in unicorns or playing hide & go seek and thinking the other person can’t see you under the blankets on a bed. It’s all in good fun, but you know on a realistic level that unicorns (unfortunately) are not real and that the other person will be able to know where you are as soon as they walk into the room. Pretending is based in non-reality, without basis of truth.
Practicing, on the other hand, is based on a deeper knowing of what is a real possibility. Everything takes practice. Everything. If we want to learn to play an instrument, we have to practice practice practice, in order to gain skill and mastery at it. If we want to learn a new language, we have to practice practice practice. And traits of character are the same. What seeds grow in the heart of our consciousness are the same. If we want to grow and strengthen seeds of joy, ease, kindness, honesty, authenticity, openness, understanding, and so on, we must practice to water those seeds often and ongoingly.
The outcome that results is dependent on whether we’re going into whatever it is we’re trying to do, fueled by the energy of pretending or the energy of practice.