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Why I Practice

Why do I practice? And more specifically: Why do I practice in this Plum Village mindfulness tradition, in all the ways that I do?

Why I do see fit to attend retreats, spend time at Deer Park Monastery, sit for 30-minutes in meditation each morning, show up to my weekly sangha every Monday night, read sutras, chant, and spend hours each week tending to our local and statewide sanghas and mindfulness center’s business turnings? Why do I put so much attention, effort, care, and diligence into developing and strengthening the seeds of mindfulness, joy, ease, liberation, and heartfulness in my daily life?

For me, the spirit of these questions is worth while to to keep alive and answer periodically from time to time.

Right now, here in this moment, I am inspired to answer in two different ways: a practical way and a poetic way.

First, the practical way:

I practice because I feel nourished and supported by my teachers, the dharma, and the sangha. I practice because even when it’s hard, it feels like the right thing to be doing. I practice because I am able to see the fruits that develop and strengthen in my daily life as a result of my efforts, such as growing my capacity for being more kind, caring, present, connected, open, and understanding. I practice because I know life would be hell if I didn’t. I practice in the interest of life being precious and time being short. I practice because I want to help support and care well for others and I see clearly that in order to do that, my own well-being must be continuously maintained and protected. I practice because this tradition brings me to a vibrant, joyful, and grounded frame of mind, body, and heart, over and over again.

And now the poetic response:

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Snippets of thought

Last week, I attended a weekend of mindfulness up on the Flathead Lake, hosted by our sister sangha Open Sky, entitled: Be Still and Heal. To help lead it, they brought in Dharma teacher Barbara Newell (formerly Sister Pine in our Plum Village tradition).

I thought I’d craft this post in order to share some pics and a few things I jotted down in my journal over the course of the weekend.

Dec 8th, Early morning journal entry:

Words can do only so much to incite action. Therefore, we should be advised as to when to put them down, in order to lift our gaze and set to the work of embodying their application in our life.

Words are nothing on a page. Words are empty of value when left to swirl around like a goldfish in the murky waters of our minds. And yet, words matter like the pulling of tides. They matter like thunder approaching warning us to weather coming. They can pierce our thickened armor as though it weren’t made of steel, penetrating our hearts like an assassin’s blade. And if I were told I would die tomorrow, I would cling to them for salvation, solace, and camaraderie.

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Warmth and Flicker

There’s a sigh of relief that only a campfire can foster;

a certain person we become – or rather return to – in the company of its flames;

and a unique opening of the heart that is only possible in its warmth and flicker.

_________

Having gone to bed a little earlier than usual last night, I woke naturally just after 4am this morning. It was 47 degrees outside, as I sat on the back porch, bundled up in a hoodie and blanket, sipping tea, and writing by lantern light. This is what I penned in my journal:

Quietude is more than the slowing down of surrounding sounds. It is an internal settling of our mental chatterings, too. Of course, each is affected by the other, but I reckon it is more realistic – and often more beneficial – to take charge of the latter.

To still the din around us is typically not a matter of choice. We can dampen it. We can ward it off for a bit. We can tuck into the woods and perhaps leave it behind for a while. But the clamor of living, sifting beings will be there to greet us upon our return.

There’s a quietude that can remain, however, amid even the noisiest of places. There are skillsets we can develop and hone, which will enable us to stay accompanied with a calm that is not easily tossed out to sea when a siren wales, or we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a throng of people.

_________

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Posted by on September 16, 2018 in writer's life

 

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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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Dancing It Out

I love that I found this above image on a web search: Breathe, smile, and dance it out. Yes!

On Thursday of this past week, I’d planned to go on a solo camping excursion to a new spot a friend told me about a few days prior. As it was going to be at a lake setting, I was going to bring along my SUP board too. But Thursday morning rolled around and I wasn’t feeling it. New plan! I stayed home. I hemmed and hauled a little bit though first, telling myself things like: Summer is short here in Montana Nicole, maybe you should push yourself today and just get out there and do it. But the prevailing response I got back in return was: Nope. Don’t feel like it. So I heeded that voice instead.

I had a leisurely morning and a lovely resting period in the afternoon. And in between? Yep. I danced it out. And it was glorious!

I saddled the neighbors with really loud music cranking from our guitar amp (which I can plug my laptop into for amplification purposes of any music I so choose), shut the windows (to help abate the noise), grabbed a water bottle from the fridge, and proceeded to dance it out to some of my favorite songs. It had been long enough since last I’d done so that it served as a reminder about how much I love, love, love to dance.

I continued my dancing streak by attending Reflective Morning Movement (RMM) at the dance studio downtown on Friday morning. I’ll use the woman’s write up who puts on this offering to help explain RMM:

7:00 We arrive in silence and gather for a short sit.
7:15: Music begins, and we allow natural movement to emerge from the stillness.
8:10: Music ends and we sit together for few minutes of silence.
A bell rings to end our experience.
We leave in silence to allow each mover the gift of natural time and reflection.

We come in silence, we sit together, we dance together, we feel the music underneath the music, we feel the mercy of what it means to be in community, we listen to our fierce aliveness, we invite our wholeness, we re-member our true home in the ever-changing web of experience and feeling and thought, we move a prayer wheel of hope from within, we settle into belonging, we rest in the silence, we listen for the bell, we leave in silence.

RMM combines two of my favorite activities: dancing and sharing energy with people without the need to converse in dialog (as we enter, dance, and exit in silence). There’s no instruction or guidance offered. You come, music plays, and you move/dance however you want.

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50 Things That Make Me Happy

This pic combines three of the things from my list: #2, #5, and #29 :)

 

Inspired by a blog post from: https://mywellbeingandlearningjourney.wordpress.com/, I thought I’d try my hand at following her lead:

50 Things That Make Me Happy

  1. Trees
  2. Writing
  3. Spending time with friends
  4. Taking photos
  5. The hours of early morning
  6. Community building
  7. Hosting potlucks at my house
  8. Animal friends
  9. Paddleboarding
  10. Motorcycling
  11. My husband
  12. My stepson
  13. Taking road trips
  14. Camping
  15. Pumping up my old Coleman camp stove
  16. Going on solo ventures
  17. Meditation
  18. Going on mindfulness retreats
  19. Deer Park Monastery
  20. Montana
  21. Missoula
  22. Hearing about a loved one’s good news
  23. Music
  24. Dancing
  25. Singing
  26. Flowers
  27. Children
  28. Being silly
  29. The soft glow of Christmas lights
  30. Buying little presents or cards for friends
  31. Engaging in random acts of kindness
  32. My dayplanner
  33. Organizing stuff
  34. Being efficient
  35. Volunteering with hospice and meeting with patients
  36. Planning events that help bring people together in an atmosphere of heartfulness
  37. Crows & ravens
  38. Recalling memories of spending time at the Jersey Shore when I was growing up
  39. Sitting with my sangha Be Here Now every Monday night
  40. Camp fires
  41. Napping
  42. Good tea
  43. Swimming
  44. Soaking in primitive hot springs
  45. Hiking to the ‘M’ and overlooking the city of Missoula
  46. Spending time in hammocks
  47. Listening to the sound of meditation bells & wind chimes
  48. Seeing someone smile
  49. The experience of flight travel
  50. Properly cooked tofu :)

I could keep going…but I think I’ll keep to the prompt and stick to 50.

May this list inspire you in similar accord to how I was inspired. Let us get our happiness on together!

 

 

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My Happy Place(s)

Lately, I’ve been reveling in the ability to thoroughly enjoy both staying at home and venturing out and about under the summer sun of Montana. In both instances, I am delighting in my own company. It’s a mark of inner contentment, I think, to feel at ease wherever we are. And I need not travel even one step to find where home is. I carry it within me. I am never without it.

____________

My Happy Place(s)

My happy place is on a motorcycle, cruising at 70 over a smooth ribbon of asphalt.
My happy place is on a SUP board, on any body of water that will have me.
My happy place is being perched in front of a blank sheet of paper, with a blue P-500 in my hand.

My HP is in the woods, surrounded by elder trees and ancient wisdom.
My HP is on my meditation cushion, cultivating ease and spaciousness.
My HP is in the kitchen, preparing food to feed my friends.
My HP is next to a campfire, with a cup of tea and a guitar.

My HP is being solo on the road, inhaling music through my pores and exhaling it through my lungs.
My HP is in the Mission Lookout Tower, intimately rekindling my love affair with the sun and moon.
My HP is behind a set of drums, allowing others the chance to get their African dance on.
My HP is my humble abode, in a town I adore, close to my people.

My HP is Deer Park Monastery.
My HP is Banff National Park.
My HP is anywhere I haven’t been.

My HP is in the here and now.

My HP is doing something silly.
My HP is playing with small children.
My HP is watching fireworks.

My HP is within me.

More HP pics:

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