In Honor of National Poetry Month

All the necessary components for this dame to craft her own poetry:

a dark & early morning; the poetry of someone else; a cup of tea; candlelight; my notebook & trusty steed of a pen: a blue-ink, extra-fine, Pilot P-500.

Yesterday, not knowing it was National Poetry Month, I posted this on my Facebook page:

“I feel called to share about a project I have been joyfully working on as of late. I am putting together a homespun book of my poetry to make available for local sale. In honor of it being 2020, it’s called Hindsight is 20/20.

Here is what is likely to be the intro I include in the book:

If a poem doesn’t insist on closer communion with something ordinary and usual, or serve to blow at the dust laced in layers on the lens of our world view, I reckon it must be something entirely other than a poem. A head-heavy logical discourse maybe – or something else equally terrible.”

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Then, this morning, I discovered the reason that prompted my seemingly spontaneous calling to craft that post: it’s National Poetry Month! Perhaps I was tuning into the collective poetic vibration.

Recently, I have been receiving an abundance of nourishment and inspiration from poetry – moreso than usual. Just this past week, two new books of poetry I ordered arrived in the mail, which I’ve been taking great delight in:

I find that poetry, like music, bypasses my brain-heavy logical processing and sifts on down deeper into the soft organ of my heart-space, where intuit replaces reason and I’m guided by feeling instead of thinking.

So, this is me simply wanting to continue to elevate the platform of poetry during this time of global crisis, interlaced with loss, fear, and uncertainty. At first glance, it can be easy to think that poetry is not much to look at – and of course, poetry isn’t for everyone, because no one thing ever is – but I would encourage a second look to be given to the poetic masters. Folks like Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, and so many many others.

Poetry can prove to be a powerful salve to help tend to the tears in our spirit, and help heal our broken faith in something bigger.

Some of my most recent haiku:

Quietude in sound
Noise amid silence grows thick
All things shift with time

Our sky grows lighter
Earlier and earlier
A bit more each day

There is no more time
There is all the time we need
Death is far and near

Poetry in flame
A lit match of words is sparked
By a want for change

Mostly, this is it
A captivation of might
Harnessed through my pen

 

 

 

 

My Four Main Practice Threads

A little thing I made this morning :)

Most of what I have to share about in regards to the practice of mindfulness, rooted in the Plum Village tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, centers around these four main threads, which I personally weave into my daily life on a regular and ongoing basis:

  1. Cultivating joy
  2. Practicing gratitude
  3. Prioritizing rest
  4. Monitoring closely the power & importance of words

Of course, there are other threads I weave in too, like: comfort zone expansion work and investing in creative forms of self-expression, but both of these, and many others, could simply be enfolded into one of the categories above. This list of four threads is the foundation of my own personal practice; it’s where I dig my Dharma well.

In Thay’s book Interbeing, in the four principles listed for the Order of Interbeing, it states:

It is said that there are 84,000 Dharma doors through which one can enter Buddhism. For Buddhism to continue as a living source of wisdom and peace, even more doors should be opened.

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Poems In the Wake of Covid19

My morning writing today

Uncertainty

And so,
maybe we’ll see food shortages
from panicked people with ample freezer storage
and money to spare
stockpiling supplies.

Maybe in two months or three,
my husband and I will have trouble paying the mortgage.

Maybe I will lose my disability benefits
amid my current re-evaluation.

Maybe my husband will be stuck in CA
for longer than we have planned.

Maybe this social distancing
and stay-at-home approach
is only in its infancy.

Maybe it will be months
before I can hug my friends again.

Maybe my current enjoyment
of solitude and quietude on the home front
will turn sour and hellish in another 2-weeks.

Maybe our country and global landscape
will never be the same.
In fact: it won’t be. It never is.

Maybe this is what Rilke meant when he said:
you must change your life.*

Maybe this is the shaking up we need
to be shown what is most important.

 

– penned on March 24th, 2020; *I lifted this line from Mary Oliver’s poem Invitation

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Paramita #1: Generosity

Excerpt from The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh:

The Six Paramitas are a teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. Paramita can be translated as “perfection” or “perfect realization.” The Chinese character used for paramita means “crossing over to the other shore,” which is the shore of peace, non-fear, and liberation.

(1) dana paramita – giving, offering, generosity.

(2) shila paramita – precepts or mindfulness trainings.

(3) kshanti paramita – inclusiveness, the capacity to receive, bear, and transform the pain inflicted on you by your enemies and also by those who love you.

(4) virya paramita – diligence, energy, perseverance.

(5) dhyana paramita – meditation.

(6) prajña paramita – wisdom, insight, understanding.

Practicing the Six Paramitas helps us to reach the other shore — the shore of freedom, harmony, and good relationships. 

This past week marked the start of a 6-week, largely online based, self-propelled, group-supported reflection practice I put together in order to delve more deeply into the Six Paramitas. The group is free and open to our local sangha members and there are 6 of us participating. Each week starting on Mondays, we read and reflect daily on a verse I send to the group on the paramita we’re focused on and on Sundays we report back to the group, via a few typed sentences posted on a shared Google doc, about what was alive for us in relation to working with the paramita over the past week. I also send an audio recording for folks to listen to centered on the paramita at hand.

Here is the verse our group has been reading & reflecting on daily this past week, which I took and pieced together from the section focusing on the First Paramita from Thay’s book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings:

To give means first of all to offer joy, happiness, and love. The greatest gift we can offer anyone is our true presence. What else can we give? Our stability; Our freedom; Our freshness; Peace; Space; Understanding.

The practice of giving can bring you to the shore of well-being very quickly. What you give is what you receive. Whether you give your presence, your stability, your freshness, your solidity, your freedom, or your understanding, your gift can work a miracle. Dana paramita is the practice of love.

So for the past week, I’ve been focusing on Giving/Generosity. Here are some of my personal reflections & other things I penned down over the last few days:

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Don’t Try to be a Good Practitioner

No photo description available.

 

I posted this on my personal Facebook page this morning (along with the pic above):

Since January, I’ve been choosing a new card every Monday from Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Everyday Peace Cards: 108 Mindfulness Meditations” to read and reflect on for the span of one-week. Yesterday, I chose this card out at random: Peace is contagious. Seems a good fit for the times we find ourselves in.

Just as a virus is contagious and transmittable to others, so too are such things as fear, panic, worry, and despair. And, thankfully, such things as peace, joy, ease, understanding, and solidity are also contagious and transmittable.

Please know that I am here for anyone in need of extra support. Dear friends, I am here for you. We are here for each other.

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In case you can’t read the card above in the pic, it says:

If you have been able to embrace your in-breath and your out-breath with tenderness, you know that they in turn embrace your body and your mind. If you have practiced meditation, you have already discovered this. Peace is contagious. Happiness is contagious.

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A little while after posting,  I thought to myself: Hmm. Oh dear. What if certain people read that post and receive a different message than I’m intending? A message people translate into: “Oh great. Now in order to be a “good mindfulness practitioner” it means I can’t be stressed out or worried about what’s going on in the wake of covid19. But the things is: I AM stressed out and worried, so I’m totally doing it wrong! I’m not a good mindfulness practitioner!”

The above scenario is a worse case situation to my heart’s calling, as someone sincerely invested in helping to support other mindfulness practitioners in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition and simply people in general. Whenever I write something practice related and post it on one of my many online platforms –  which is to say: pretty much every day – I am actively aware of how people might misunderstand or misinterpret what I’m saying. It’s a risk I choose to take, but I do not take it lightly.

So, this is me wanting to send out the bat signal to say:

Sweet community, whether we know each other or not,

whether you are a mindfulness practitioner or not,

please do not try to be a “good practitioner.”

Please do not think that to worry or to be fearful

translates to your being a “bad Buddhist” or a bad anything.

 

The teaching on Peace is Contagious

does not preclude us from experiencing feelings

of worry, upset, fear, or distress.

This is not an either/or situation.

Every time we take good care of our fear when it arises;

every time we take good care of our worry when it arises;

this too is a way we practice to cultivate peace.

Here is a short poem I wrote this morning and posted on my writer’s Facebook page:

Imagine I were lone paddling
in a kayak towards you,
growing larger and larger
as I drew closer and closer.

Imagine, as you began to see my face
with more detail,
you could feel my great affection
for you;
see it in my naked, shining eyes.

Imagine I docked my humble craft
on the pebbled shores
where you stood;
joined you on the solid ground;
greeted you with a warm smile,
and wrapped my arms around you
and never let go.

Be Good To People

At the end of January, I met someone who had a water bottle that donned the words: Be good to people and I fell in love with the messaging straight away. I even took a picture of it, so I’d remember it later on. Wanting to find the water bottle online for potential purchase, I looked it up on Amazon to no avail and simply gave up.

Flash forward to a month later (aka: late February). There I was in the Denver airport with a 3-hour layover, walking around and looking at the plethora of food options I had the luxury of choosing from, when what do I stumble upon but an entire BGTP kiosk!

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Deer Park, Departure Day

Tuesday February 25th, 2020
Departure Day

My departure day
Back to my winter mountains
With joy in my heart

5:10am (DH)

I slept fitfully last night and decided to sleep in a little past my alarm. Today is a big travel day for me and I want to go into it as well rested as I can. I’m looking forward to my travels and winged journeys today. I’m looking forward to landing in Missoula when the day ends, where my people and my sweet little house reside. I’m turning in ocean for mountains; warmth for cold; blooming flowers for snow – and I’ll tell you: it’s a good trade.

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One moment, here.
One moment, elsewhere.
An imprint of energy,
a momentary lingering,
a reminding fragrance
of something long ago.

I am a guest in this place.
I will be a guest in the next.
Just passing through.

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6:40am (DH)

My mental landscape was very much angled in the direction of home this morning during my sit. Few and far between were the moments when I was fully with my breathing in the present moment. Sometimes that happens.

The rising sun is slowly alighting the hillside situated out the west facing bank of windows here in the DH. It’s a blue sky day here in southern California. When I lay my head to pillow tonight, I’ll be in my own bed, in my own dwelling place, in my own town. And I’ll need to adjust on a few levels: of being back in the world of stimulus; of being solo without Mike; of having many things to do and places to go and people to check in with.

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