Going on Retreat

Pic: Me @ Deer Park Monastery, Jan. 2018

On Friday, Feb 7th, Mike and I will be jet-bound to southern California to spend some retreat time at Deer Park Monastery (DP), which is based in our Plum Village practice tradition.

If you’ve been following along here on this blog for a while, you might recall that this is typically an annual pilgrimage we both take together. Last year, however, we changed things up a bit and I stayed home, while Mike went to DP solo and stayed for 3-months. So the last time I was at DP was in January of 2018. This upcoming retreat stay will mark the 6th year for both of us going to DP for an extended period of personal retreat time (since I went solo w/o Mike when I went for the first year in 2014, and last year he went solo w/o me).

This time around, I’ll be there for just under 3-weeks and Mike will be staying for 2-months. Prior to having skipped my retreat stay at DP last year, I knew how valuable these personal, extended retreat stays were to my own practice and well-being, however, since the fall, I feel as though my understanding has been granted a more in depth look at the benefits I receive from going there.

In December, I had the chance to have a one-on-one consult visit with a lay Dharma teacher, who used to be a nun in our tradition, Barbara Newell. After sharing with her about how Mike and I were slated to go to DP in February, she commented about the great importance for laypeople – especially those of us in a leadership position – to make time for this type of extended, personal retreat time (where we’re not in charge or responsible for doing anything on the retreat organizational side of things). She said something along the lines of: it’s one of the most important things we as senior practitioners can do, and it’s something very few people make time for.

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A Piece of My Ongoing Work

In the capacity of leadership, one must come to proper terms with a number of realities:
– It’s hard to find and make close friends
– Others are easily intimidated by you
– You become the target of others’ projections, strife, misgivings, and illusory notions

Reminders I tell myself:
– As long as I’m working to show up in the best way I can, I must learn to let go of how other people see and regard me
– It’s often not helpful or kind to anyone if I dull my light in an attempt to lessen people’s inferiority complex reaction
– When anyone shows up big, they become a bigger mirror through which others see themselves reflected – and oftentimes, they don’t like what they see.

The Art of Organizing (part 2 of 2)

This is part 2 of a two-part post, to read part 1 click here: https://goingoutwordsandinwords.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/the-art-of-organizing-part-1-of-2/

Please note: All of these suggestions are simply what I find useful in my own life.

6. Meditate in the mornings. Starting the day with a few minutes of meditation helps to lay the groundwork for a more solid and stable platform in which to build your day upon. Having a regular meditation practice allows us to strengthen our inner muscles of resiliency, concentration, solidity, ease, patience, openness, and equanimity, all of which serve important functions in our day-to-day lives. And being well-organized internally translates, over time, to being well-organized externally, too.

7. Make self-care one of your priorities. I believe that for a person to be well-organized and have it be a sustainable and prolonged way of living, one must find ways in which to replenish their own energy tanks. If self-care is ranked low on the list of importance, the chances are good that eventually we’ll burn ourselves out and become stressed, overwhelmed, and utterly exhausted by all of the things we choose to do with our time. In an effort to address a common misunderstanding, self-care is not the same as being selfish or self-indulgent. For me, investing in acts of self-care has to do with understanding how my well-being affects that of those around me – when I’m taking good care of myself I am also taking good care of others, there is no separation. I practice to care well for myself in order to care well for those around me, and to continue being active and productive in all the ways I want to be without getting overly taxed and depleted. Self-care will look differently for each of us – for me, since I live with chronic pain and illness, I’ve found that taking a short nap most everyday is vital to my ability to function optimally and manage my pain levels. I also make sure to set time aside to do the things that I most enjoy, such as: writing, playing music, volunteering, going on retreats, paddle-boarding, and photography. It’s important to investigate what self-care looks like for our own individual needs and to practice not feeling guilty about making it happen.

8. Don’t compare. One of my favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt: Comparison is the thief of joy. To continue with his train of thought I’d like to add: Comparison is the thief of time and energy. From an efficiency standpoint, getting stuck in comparison games is a huge waste of time and energy that could be much better spent elsewhere. When we’re constantly weighing, judging, and re-evaluating what we’re doing in comparison to what someone else is doing, it often leads to second guessing, hemming and hauling, and non-action. Drop the tendency to compare and strengthen your confidence in your own capacity to take decisive action.

9. Practice belly breathing. When breathing, many of us use primarily our upper register to inhale and exhale, aka: our lungs. When we practice to deepen our breathing – bringing it from and into our belly – there are certain very practical and helpful benefits. Deep breathing aids us in raising our mental clarity, focus, and alertness – all of which, of course, are key to being well organized. It also helps increase circulation, reduces fatigue, lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, and bolsters our immune system.

10. Take responsibility for your life. It’s easy to operate in such a way where we feel life is rather heaped upon us, as though we were a victim of all the things needing to be taken care of. But the truth is, the life we lead is made up of our own volition, consisting of the results of our choices and decisions we make. The quality of our lives is up to us – we can either view challenges and difficulties as opportunities to grow or as occasions in which to complain about and blame others for, the choice is ours.

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