This is me…

This is me not knowing what to write; knowing only enough to know that I should just start clacking away and see what happens; knowing that if I allow my current state of I don’t feel like writing to continue that I’ll suffer more for it.

This is me amid a much longer process of inner recallibration than I would prefer, wishing I could just be onto the next thing already – whatever the thing is – with this clunky awkward exhausting stage behind me as something I could point back to and say I came out better for it in the long-run.

This is me, a usually very decisive, action-based dame, being un-nerved by not knowing what the heck comes next in the book of my life.

This is me being antsy & agitated on my meditation cushion in the mornings  (but at least still sitting); missing my time spent as a hospice volunteer; missing my time spent as a super amateur drummer for a local African dance troupe; missing spending time with my friends; missing gathering people together for the sake of helping to foster the building of community; missing the attending of music shows; missing the places I used to go and realize now I took for granted pre-virus; missing….

This is me wondering if I have what it takes to actualize my husband and I’s shared long-held vision of building a mindfulness practice center here in our much beloved home state of Montana.

This is me wondering if perhaps I could use a long stay at Deer Park Monastery, my home away from home, to help me refuel and re-hydrate and re-balance.

This is me wondering what my future holds, as I step back and away from certain roles I’ve been invested in for a long long time.

This is me wondering what comes next.

This is me, being human.

 

 

 

Turning 41-years-old

This body –
my body –
of flesh, bones, organs,
a forever pumping heart and breathing lungs,
turns 41-years-old today.

I wonder if my mom and my dad,
each in their own separate states,
will travel back in time today,
thinking back to the day I was born.
Will they will reflect on what it means
to be the parent of a 41-year-old woman,
self-possessed, dwelling in the mountains
so many hundreds of miles away
from the land of her raising?

This day is not in celebration of me,
as though I were self-created,
self-propelled, self-contained.
Today I want to elevate my heart
in celebration not of me but of my parents;
my grandparents; my ancestors, blood and land;
my tribe of people near and far, past and present;
the wealth of resources and privileges
I’ve been so richly and generously afforded.

Did I mention I am filled to over-flowing with gratitude?
Did I mention that I try my very best
not to take it all for granted?

Have I mentioned that each day
when I rise, I form a smile of love
on my lips for the sheer joy
that comes from waking?

Onward Ho

I imagine you’re wondering what this pic has to do with my post. Perhaps it’s even what lured you in.

The truth is: I just really like this photo. I find it hilarious. The way I see it: bigfoot’s facial expression just totally clinches this shot. I like to imagine he’s thinking: Well, whatareya gonna do, white girls be crazy. And then I’d be all like: Look here BF, bear dude started it.

I didn’t have any real plan in crafting this post. I figured I’d just start with the pic, start typing, and see what happened. What’s coming up for me now is this: for me, it’s important to play and have fun with no agenda in mind other than to play and have fun. To stay on the course of self-transformation, personal growth, societal engagement, and an aspiring agent of change for the betterment of all people and our planet the presence and practice of play & fun are a necessity to keep on keeping onward ho.

I often connect with how grateful I am that I have the opportunity to work closely with young children, as they’ve taught me, and continue to teach me, much of what I know in regards to play & fun. Kids are super masters at the art of play & fun so I get regular instruction in this regard by highly skilled teachers.

For me, my well-being is most supported and highly tuned when I am in balance with the following elements (in no particular order):

  1. Spiritual Practice
  2. Service
  3. Work
  4. Learning
  5. Rest
  6. Play/Fun/Creativity
  7. Connection/Relationship Building

So, this is me putting a plug in for having fun – simply for the joy of what it brings. As adults, we can often take ourselves and our lives too seriously. We can forget to smile and to laugh and to engage with humor and playfulness. There are hundreds of ways this can take shape too. Playfulness and having fun don’t just come in one package. What works for me in regards to practicing playfulness might not work for you. I’d like to encourage you to find your own pockets of joy and delight and to invest in them on the regular.

And maybe it involves taking a self-timer photo of yourself screaming back at a giant wooden growling bear statue – and, ya know, maybe not. :)

Stop Struggling

One of my new practices for 2020 is to enfold one card per week into my routine from Thich Nhat Hanh’s set of Everyday Peace Cards, 108 Mindfulness Meditations.

On Mondays, I pick out a new card and then I read it every day for the next week. In just the past 3-weeks, I’m finding that the teaching on the card then naturally percolates and bubbles up for me throughout the week and helps to inform my daily practice. And sometimes I’ll do a bit of free-form writing in my journal about the card’s teaching as well.

The card shown above is the one I’ve worked with this past week: Stop Struggling.

As soon as I first read it last Monday, I chuckled aloud. You have struggled in the past, and perhaps you are still struggling – but is it necessary? No. Struggle is useless. Stop struggling.

In part, I reckon that I find it funny cuz it’s true. And in part, I reckon I find it funny because Thay just slices right into the heart of things and tells it like it is, making it sound so easy to do, when in my view of reality it often seems impossible. So I find it funny because I know how stubborn I can be!

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Please Don’t Wait

Please, Don’t Wait

Dearest of friends,
sweet acquaintances,
kind strangers,
people I will never meet or know:
Please, don’t wait.

Don’t wait for the “right” moment
(whatever that flippin means)
to be caring and kind and full of splendor.

Don’t wait for someone to give
you approval for who you are
in this magnificent and heartbreaking world.

Don’t wait for all the stars to align
before you make good on the promise
to live a good life.

Don’t wait to do the thing,
whatever the thing is.

Don’t wait to tell that gal or dude
that you’re wild about them,
even – and especially – if you’ve
been partnered with that gal or dude
for hundreds of years.

Don’t wait to roll up on a crowd
of gathered people and extend your heart,
like an open palm waiting to be filled
with something you never want to let go of.

Don’t wait to move in the direction
of a calling only you can hear and feel.

Don’t wait to start.

Waiting is death
to possibility.

To wait is to die:
tomorrow, next year, decades down the line,
still waiting.

– a poem, penned by me, just now

Yep, here i am talking about gratitude…again

Gratitude is one of my favorite subjects. One of my favorite practices to engage with and invest time and energy into. One of my favorite mindfulness-related skillsets to delve more into and unpack. Gratitude is both in and of itself a virtue to continually nourish and strengthen and it’s also a gateway to other beneficial unfoldings.

Gratitude has many other companion seeds in the garden of life. When we water the seed of gratitude, we’re also watering the seeds of: joy, kindness, resiliency, equanimity, understanding, compassion, and ease.  I’ve stated in the past and stand by it: in my view, if we chose only one practice to nourish and develop, gratitude would be more than enough.

Given my affinity for the practice and development of gratitude, I especially delight in the moments when I stumble across insights from teachers or info from articles in regards to gratitude.

“What is the one thing that people who can fully lean into joy have in common? Gratitude. They practice gratitude. It’s not an “attitude of gratitude” – it’s an actual practice. They keep a journal, or make a note of what they’re grateful for on their phones, or share it with family members…

Embodying and practicing gratitude changes everything.”

Brené Brown, from Dare to Lead, pg. 83

 

And just today, I came across a link to an article in my twitter feed that said:

“Over Thanksgiving, in between mouthfuls of turkey and sweet potato pie, many of us will be asking ourselves: What are we grateful for?

Taking a moment to practice gratitude like this isn’t an empty holiday tradition. It’s good for our mental and physical health. And here’s another thing: It can actually change our brains in ways that make us more altruistic.

The past two decades have seen a flurry of research on gratitude, beginning in the early 2000s with a series of landmark papers by Robert Emmons, Michael McCullough, and other psychologists. In recent years, we’ve learned through several scientific studies that there’s a deep neural connection between gratitude and giving — they share a pathway in the brain — and that when we’re grateful, our brains become more charitable.”

– from Giving thanks may make your brain more altruistic: Neuroscience is revealing a fascinating link between gratitude and generosity

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Grief and Loss

This coming week, I’ll be speaking on a panel as part of an annual series I’ve been putting together at our local Open Way Mindfulness Center the past few years, called Mindful Community Conversations (MCC).

MCC takes place once a month from September through December and focuses on heart-heavy topics, or topics otherwise held in the shadows of our awareness and/or attention. This past fall we’ve covered the topics of: Prison Reentry, Working Skillfully with Sexual Energy, and Healing Journeys of Mental Health. Our next and last installment of MCC, which I’ll be on the panel for, is on the topic of Grief and Loss.

In past years, I set up each MCC with one speaker but this year I thought we’d try something new and I set up each topic evening with a panel of 3-4 speakers. Our speakers thus far have, almost solely, been members of our local sanghas: Be Here Now and Open Way – practitioners of mindfulness who have lived through or with a particular challenge and are able and willing to share their personal experience of healing and how their practice helps support them.

Here’s what I plan on sharing:

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The Dharma of Conflict

I am currently working with what feels like a sea of disharmony in regards to my inter-personal relationships, and also in some larger contexts as well. And through this challenging time I am learning a lot about myself. I’m also learning a lot about conflict and how there are different types of conflict and different ways to approach it, work with it, and transform it depending on the situation and the person with who I am experiencing disharmony with.

As I’ve been intentionally working on dismantling what I call my mode of “over-caretaking” for the past 2-years, I feel as though the turbulent waters I am swimming in are very much related to this work as sort of a next-leg-of-the-journey sort of deal – a leveling up into advanced practice, if you will. In short, my brand of “over-caretaking” involves trying to meet people where they’re at to the detriment of my own truth, needs, and/or well-being. It involves me trying to go above and beyond what makes reasonable and good sense in order to alleviate or manage other people’s feelings of upset or discomfort. While I am very much interested in remaining sensitive and tuned in to people’s needs in order to be of skillful support, I am working on finding a balance to ensure that I am able to do so without compromising my own needs. It’s been a fruitful practice – and I am very much still in the learning process.

I’m coming to understand how very many different ways conflict can show up and manifest – which also means there are many different ways in which to work with it. There is no one right or particular way to be in relationship with conflict. Some conflicts will never be fully resolved or come to a place of complete closure. Some conflicts are terribly difficult to untangle because the other person involved is unable or unwilling to participate in engaging in open dialog. Some conflicts will fade over time while others can linger for years. Some conflicts point to a need for direct and honest communication and others point to a need to distance one self from certain individuals in an act of self-care. Some conflicts require silence and personal reflection before speaking and others require using our voice in the moment. Some conflicts can be tended to and resolved all on our own and others need to be worked through directly with the other person we’re in disharmony with.

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100 Percent

Yesterday morning, I started watching a recent Dharma talk given by Brother Phap Dung at Plum Village Monastery, as part of the three-months Rains Retreat. In it, he spoke of a practice tool that I’d heard about a while back but had forgotten about (one that I intended to remember and put into use). He held up a business-sized card and in large bold type it read simply: 100%.

The Brother shared about how Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) once gave all of the monks and nuns those cards as a practice tool, encouraging them to practice 100%.

In relation to the cards, the Brother also spoke about how we are the CEO of the business of making togetherness – how together, we are one. So, in a way, these cards can also serve as our actual business cards as practitioners and students of Thay. Our job is to practice mindfulness and connection; to show up in the world with compassion and kindness and curiosity; to build and strengthen and nourish community; to engage skillfully with our self and others, 100%.

I decided to make a stack of these cards with some cardstock I had on hand and a calligraphy pen. I placed one in my wallet and I made more to give out at my local sangha, for those who might be inspired to utilize its teaching. And at a gathering I went to last night, where there were some art supplies set out for community use, I fashioned a small wooden pendant with “100%” scrolled on it with colorful markers, which now dangles from the rearview mirror in my car.

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Words Matter

Yesterday morning, I found myself in line with my favorite cashier at a local store I frequent. As she was ringing me up for my purchase, she asked me if I was ready for Thanksgiving. At first, I was confused by her question. Given that it’s 3-weeks away, T-day simply isn’t high on my mental radar. But I re-calibrated quickly and responded in a lighthearted tone: Yep, I’m ready.

It’s important to mention that her question was front-loaded with a tone that clearly relayed not only her own lack of readiness but also a thick air of obligation. It felt very much like she was fishing for a certain stock answer she was looking for – an agreeable party that could share her own sense of misery inherent in the upcoming holiday. I then went on to tell her that we were hosting a community potluck gathering at our house, like we do every year, to which she replied: Oh, that’s good. That way you don’t have to do all the cooking your self. She then told me about how her kids now have kids and even though it’s just her own family attending, her family is growing and it’s a lot of work to host Thanksgiving. Part of me wanted to say: don’t do it, my friend – if you don’t enjoy cooking and hosting, don’t do it. But even though she and I have a lovely rapport together, it’s not like I know her well enough to say something like that.

It seemed very much like she was putting herself in an obligatory state of relationship with Thanksgiving, rather than a choice-state. And having a fondness for her, my heart went out to her, wishing she didn’t feel as though she had to cook and host if that really wasn’t what she wanted to do and could find joy in.

Switching.

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