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Nourish to Flourish

For those of you who follow along with my blog here, you may recall that I sometimes use this platform to work on upcoming practice related talks I’ll soon be giving, usually at my local sangha Be Here Now, as it helps me to plan out and organize my thoughts about what I want to share.  This time, however, I’ll be offering a talk to a group of volunteers with a local nonprofit called CASA, which stands for: court appointed special advocates. (From their website: CASA of Missoula provides independent, trained advocates for the best interests of children within the judicial system who are at substantial risk or have experienced abuse or neglect. We provide consistent, long-term advocacy until every child resides in a safe, permanent home.)

As I was asked to talk about the relationship between our energy output and our energy input, I’ve titled this talk Nourish to Flourish.

I’ve often thought about offering these kind of support sessions to volunteer organizations or in work-place settings, as both non-profits and many professions require annual trainings, continuing education credits or have wellness programs built-in. So, this is my first step in that direction.

Talk Prep:

I’d like us to start by having us all count how many breaths we take in the span of 1-minute. And we’ll try our best not to alter our natural breathing rate as much as possible. (Bring a timer and set for 1-minute – instruct folks to remember their number.)

Now, I’d like us to do 5-minutes of quiet sitting together, to settle into the room and this time here together, as simply a way to help us bring our attention and presence into this space and transition from wherever it is we just came from. So I’ll invite us to gently close our eyes and softly focus our attention on the sensations of our breathing in and breathing out…feeling as our chest expands and contracts….feeling as our stomach rises and falls…and noticing how we’re feeling, tuning into our body and our mind…(monitor time for 5-minutes, sound bell to start and end) (NOTE: I find that using the pronoun ‘our’ when doing guided meditations, deep relaxations, or in practice talks in general has a more communal and relational feel to it, verses the more common ‘you’ or ‘your.’ It is also has a less “preachy” or “instructional” air to it when I include myself in the mix by using the word ‘our.’ I mean, we’re all in this together, right? I’m practicing, too!)

So, let’s re-test our breathing rate. Again, for the span of 1-minute we’ll count how many breaths we take, without trying to alter our breathing. (Time for 1-minute.) Ask: How many people found that your number went down after the 5-minutes of sitting? How many people found that it stayed about the same? And did anyone find that it increased? It might interest you to know that the optimal breathing rate for highest functioning and good health is around 6 breaths per minute, with the medical norm around 12 breaths per minute, and the average adult is now breathing even faster, at about 15-20 breaths per minute. And severely ill patients have an even higher rate.

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Ode to Cantaloupe

Ode to Cantaloupe

Dear local Dixon Melons, vine-ripened in Montana,

As soon as I walked into the Good Food Store this morning, I could smell your delicious fragrance perfuming the air – it was then that I knew that today was the day I’ve long waited for, my most favorite day of the summer. Today, was Dixon Melon day!

I was there at the GFS only 3 days ago – I looked for you, then, but sadly you were not there. But today?! Huzzah!! I left the store victorious, with a joyful plan to feast upon you with every meal for the rest of the weekend!

So, thanks, and stuff, for like, ya know, growing and being super awesome – truth be told, though, I’m a little sore at you for spoiling all other cantaloupe for me. In the famed words of Sinead O’Connor: Nothing compares to you.

In gratitude for my local Dixon Melon farmers,
Nicole

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2017 in Creative Writing, Fun

 

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Sometimes that happens!

I use the phrase “Sometimes that happens” often enough that when the play-doh factory broke, one of the little boys I nanny for, who was 3 at the time, turned to me and asked, “Does that happen sometimes?” I answered in the affirmative and we went back to playing.

Side note: I’m thinking this might make for a great children’s book. I’d call it Sometimes That Happens, team up with a local artist, and include a variety of kid-related topics all ending with the catch phrase: Sometimes that happens!

Here are a couple of things I’ve experienced over the past week that happen sometimes:

– Your stint as Movie Captain with the online platform Gathr becomes more than you bargained for when you’re forced to field a wealth of confusion after they email your ticket holders about a change in venue to a theater located 2,500 miles away. Sometimes that happens!

– After finally deciding that no, you will not drive 4-hours south directly following a 4-day camping trip with friends in hopes of seeing the full solar eclipse and you’re perfectly happy to see the 90% visible from Missoula, you change your mind after listening to a NASA historian give a talk about the eclipse at your local library, where he offers the analogy that the difference between seeing a partial vs. a total solar eclipse is the difference between reading about chocolate and eating it. Sometimes that happens!

I find this phrase incredibly helpful and use it often throughout the day. It helps me to not get bogged down in my set expectations, plans, or attachments to how I think things “should” be. And it’s a work in progress, of course, too. Some things are easier to transition along with than others.

As I often say: The practice continues!

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Fireworks

I think part of why I love to watch fireworks is that they can express how I feel about life in a way in which I am unable. The overall sentiment being:

What a miraculous vibrant spectacle this one precious life is!

 

 

 
 

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Home & Happy

16358333_10206152087401458_1902787074_nBe Here Now Sangha at the airport!

Mike and I returned home around midnight on Friday, January 27th, after spending three weeks on retreat at Deer Park Monastery, and were greeted at the airport by some of our sangha friends sitting on meditation cushions in front of a bell – it was such a lovely welcoming! In one instance I was feeling tired and weary from a long day and late night and in the next I was refreshed – what wonders a community can bestow! My heart filled with so much joy when I saw their smiling faces. It was the best surprise!

Yesterday, I began feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the things needing to be done. Then I practiced to recognize my feelings and embrace them with care. My next step was determining what needed the most tending to and what could wait. It’s important to me to transition slowly and not do too many things right away, or all at once.

I went to the Good Food Store (our local, natural food market) and managed to time my trip there in what is often their busiest period: around lunchtime. I stood outside by my car for a few breaths, contemplating briefly whether or not I did, in fact, have to go in there. Quickly determining that being out of food in the house wasn’t really manageable, I took a few more breaths, grounded myself in my body, and prepared to enter the store with openness and joy. All things considered, it went swimmingly, though I was quite relieved when I was done and leaving.

After being sequestered in a monastery for three weeks, external stimulus takes some getting used to. There’s an adjustment period involved. So, I’m adjusting to a new rhythm and pattern and sway.

AND, I have daily writings that I’ll now start to share that I wrote while on retreat – so get ready for lots of words and pictures!

 

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Bumper Sticker Practice, Part 2

t2ec16hzqe9s3sufkfbse9lrlmg60_35This is Part 2 of a two part blog post, to read Part 1 click here!

From Part 1: “Earlier this year I came up with a new mindfulness practice: bumper stickers! OK, let me explain. I like finding new and inventive ways to cultivate daily mindfulness, which means paying intentional attention to something in particular. Being mindful means being mindful of something. And that something can be anything! Anything that allows us the opportunity to practice getting in touch with and connected to the present moment can be considered a practice of mindfulness. And it’s fun to find new things in which to practice with.

So, in January this idea of bumper sticker mindfulness came to me. For each month in 2016 I would practice noticing bumper stickers, while cruising around town. In order to put a little extra weight on this new mindfulness practice, to help encourage me to do it, I would also write down the bumper stickers that caught my eye as being especially odd, funny or interesting. I then also resolved to write a blog post about it further into the year (with Part 1 having been written in June).

As an FYI: my bumper sticker rules included only writing down bumper stickers I saw in action, meaning displayed on cars – so bumper stickers I saw for sale in a store didn’t count. I have a nice little notebook and an easily accessible pen in my car that I scribbled down all of the ones I saw that I deemed worth noting.”

I was a little bit concerned that I had exhausted all of the good bumper stickers in town after posting Part 1, given that Missoula is a smallish place. But I’ve been delighted to find a wealth of interesting new stickers over the past 6 months. I’m also brainstorming for my next new mindfulness practice come January and feel fairly confident that it will once again involve something I’m able to do while driving. As it turned out, my bumper sticker practice wonderfully aided in reducing the frustration I routinely experience while driving. I found myself willing lights to turn red, so I could stop behind a car sporting a new sticker to read. It was like a great treasure hunt every time I took to the streets!

Here are the stickers I jotted down, in order of date seen, since June:

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Posted by on December 14, 2016 in Everyday Practice, Fun

 

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Winter Ocean

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Winter Ocean

Snow drapes the town in satin white,
tucking us warmly into shelter.
I see the ocean in its crystalline form,
saturating flat undulating ground.

Transported to the sun-drenched Jersey shore days of my youth,
I feel the salt water tangle in my hair,
as swells of laughter and gulls peak between the ocean’s inhale and exhale.
Bare skin and unadorned feet browning and cracking.

My gaze catches on the snow when it falls
and on the ocean when I’m near it,
the same way it used to when I’d primp on the beaches
to flirt with boys.
My gaze, while peripheral, was held steady by them, too.

But, in the cute, summer boys I would lose myself
in romantic sojourns –
and in the shifting forms of water,
I regain my sovereignty amid each circulating droplet,
remembering with quivering assurance,
that I, too,
have been part of this landscape
since the very beginning.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2016 in Creative Writing

 

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