RSS

Tag Archives: Montana

Solitude & Community

Waking up, I smile to all of the causes and conditions that make life possible and full of richness.

I recently determined, after years of sporadic pondering, that 3:00am still constitutes as night, whereas 4:00am can be considered morning. Given that I went to bed last night around 8:00pm, I gave myself permission to get up at 3:44am this morning. Lately, though, as I’ve been waking up earlier than usual, I’ve been telling myself that I have to wait until at least 4:00am, when it’s morning, to get up. I mean, there is such a thing as waking up too early.

Recently, I’ve been filled with a sort of electric, buzzing, fertile energy. I think it has to do with my mind and body’s muscle memory kicking in, as I prepare to head back to Deer Park Monastery (DP) soon. I’ve been waking up earlier than usual, spending certain evenings staying up later than usual, and I’m filled to the brim and spilling over with flowing creative juices.

My husband and I will be going to DP on retreat for 3 weeks in early January. We’ve been going to DP every January, for what will be my 5th year and my husband’s 4th. It’s been a lovely annual pilgrimage. A replenishing source of both powers of fluidity and solidity – and of both elements of solitude and community.

Most of us – maybe even all of us – need a balance of solitude and community. Time to reconnect and recharge on our own accord – to dance it out in our living room or read a book uninterrupted or hike it out in the woods, or whatever your chosen “out” is – and time to be nourished by others, supported in the company of people that replenish and inspire us.

And, of course, we each have our own balance to find. I’m realizing that my particular balance is struck on the daily, as of late. I enjoy my solitude in the wee hours of the darkened, melodic spell of morning: writing, reading, sipping tea, and sometimes dancing, which sets the stage for a day of connecting with others, in a variety of ways. When I stay in close contact with myself, I am able to ascertain which type of nourishment I am in need of: that which comes from time spent flying solo or that which comes from cultivating connection and friendship, watering the seeds of love. Both are necessary and vital in the art of thriving as a human ecosystem. We need to know how to care well for ourselves – to know how to fill and strengthen our own reservoirs of joy and ease – so that we may know how, and be able to, care well for others, as part of the planetary organism breathing and pulsating all around us. We need to learn how to commune with ourselves, in order to commune with others. We tend to our own internal garden, so that we may be of service and benefit to others.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 17, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Love Poem for Montana

To hear this love poem being read: https://soundcloud.com/inmindfulmotion/montana

 

Montana is the blanket I wrap myself in when I have a hard time sleeping,
the warm elixir soothing my weary bones
when the cold is all I can feel penetrating into the crux
of my rampant misgivings of what it means to be human.

Montana never fidgets from boredom or agitation and, like a lady,
always knows when it’s the proper time to look you in the eye
and when it’s time to turn away.

Montana can cradle an un-soothed babe and carry a cord of wood
in the same arms it fashions to unfurl the ties that bind our troubled ways –
it speaks in fluid solitude in the rhythm of rocks and rivers,
a native tongue down in the valley,
with unfolding fields preparing to flourish and wither on the same breath.

If death were to come calling for me tomorrow,
I’d take solace in knowing that Montana stole my heart as a girl,
and in learning how to love it back with the same ferocity in return,
I became the woman I am now.

Montana is the thread I’ve mended the tears of my past with,
the melody I sing when the very core of my teeth ache
in unison with the heartbreak of the people, and
the tonic I swallow to turn the dials of my internal static
to a station of higher frequency.

I plan on loving Montana as hard as I can,
as long as it will have me and as much as it can stand
until at last I crack wide open and melt into its roots,
the cycle of life renewed by all that I’ve absorbed.

Montana is an impossibly still lake I hold up as a mirror,
reminding me who I am and want to be –
a guide that holds my hand and whispers softly in my ear
which direction I should tread, and
like no one else,
is able to keep up with me.

Give or take a couple of years,
I’ve spent just shy of the last 20 of em here –
all my loves made and broken
in the fragrant tides of winter and spring,
beneath the great expanse of sky
spreading like a crow’s wings overhead.

And I reckon I’m head over hills still madly in love –
Montana is the ink in my pen I put to paper every morning,
the heat curving outwards from the fire,
smoothing my skin with warmth like a lover’s touch.

Montana is the drumming of my heartbeat,
the dance my hips sway to –
Montana is the monastery bell,
calling me like winter
inward home.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 16, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

Tags: , , , ,

Daily Rituals

Benjamin Franklin’s ideal daily routine, from his autobiography

Given this schedule snippet, I think ol’ Ben Franklin and I could’ve been friends. Last night, my friend Jeff lent me a book he thought I’d enjoy, called Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work, by Mason Currey. The image above is pictured alongside the title page at the start of the book, and right away I thought to myself: This is gonna be a good read.

I read the intro and the first 15 pages this morning and was hooked. Over 160 of the greatest philosophers, writers, composers and artists are featured in this collection of Daily Rituals. And I could relate right away with the author’s musings in the intro, which I took as a good sign of things to come. He writes:

 

My underlying concerns in the book are issues that I struggle with in my own life: How do you do meaningful creative work while also earning a living? Is it better to devote wholly to a project or to set aside a small portion of each day? And when there doesn’t seem to be enough time for all you hope to accomplish, must you give things up (sleep, income, a clean house), or can you learn to condense activities, to do more in less time…More broadly, are comfort and creativity incompatible, or is the opposite true: Is finding a basic level of daily comfort a prerequisite for sustained creative work?

…The book’s title is Daily Rituals, but my focus in writing it was really people’s routines. The word connotes ordinariness and even a lack of thought; to follow a routine is to be on autopilot. But one’s daily routine is also a choice, or a whole series of choices. In the right hands, it can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism.

And my favorite line from the intro:

A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.

With the catalyst and accelerate of going to Deer Park Monastery every January for the past 4 years, to spend a few weeks on retreat, I’ve parlayed myself into something I’d been wanting for a long while: a consistent and diligent routine, primarily to help me develop a writing schedule that I could stick with. As someone on disability, who works a job-job just one day a week, I have a lot of unstructured time on my hands. But, as I am also someone who is highly organized and manages, plans, and hosts a wealth of different things, I perform optimally when I come up with a schedule to follow.

Every day I am balancing my passion for writing with my to-do list associated with being the director of a mindfulness community center, serving in my capacity as a spiritual leader to my cherished sangha, and being a grateful home-maker, helping to take care of my household and the people who reside within its humble walls. There’s also the delightful element of cultivating friendships, which is a great joy for me that I prioritize in my life. And last – but actually first in the priorities department – comes the relationship that I build and strengthen with my own self and my mindfulness practice. So, these are ALL part of my every day balance: writing, to-do list on the mindfulness center/sangha front, to-do list on the home front, staying in close contact with friends, and staying in close connection with myself. And in all sincerity, I do each of these things with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Each element nourishes me in different ways. AND, I actively practice to keep it that way. How we live is a matter of choice – it really is – and I choose to fuel up my joy and gratitude tanks on the daily.

While it doesn’t speak to everyone, of course, having daily rituals and a schedule works really well for me. Lately, I’ve been stepping into sharing about this side of myself more, which can be challenging, as there’s a tendency for others to either feel bad for not having such a regimented accounting of their own time or for them to be rather incredulous about the nature of how I craft my daily routine. What?! they’ll say, you get up every day at 5am?! That’s crazy! And then I’m all like: Is it? I mean, on some level I get that it’s not super common and comes as a surprise to hear, but on another level I’d rather not draw unnecessary attention to myself and have to field people’s shock-and-awe response.

But, as I’ve been working towards sharing more and more about myself, in regards to both creative and mundane matters – in the last year especially – this new read I’ve just started offers a wonderful writing prompt for me to embark upon. So this is me, embarking upon it.

I wrote this in my leather-bound journal early this morning:

Just as the sun needs to trade places with the moon in order to construct the most suitable conditions for life-dwelling, so too does my desire for solitude and stillness sit in balance with the nourishment and inspiration I richly receive from being in the direct and precious company of others. Like the in-breath and out-breath, I require both solo and collaborative time, in order to thrive.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Befriending Hour

Pre-sunrise over the Flathead Lake, August, 2017

 

I have and could and will continue to write verses, haikus, opening paragraphs in letters, slam poems (no, not slam poems), and asides in my journal dedicated to the splendors of predawn early morning – the time when slumber is the collective activity most commonly engaged in.

And it’s not only the townly stillness that perfumes the air so sweetly, but it’s the dimming of heart-static, too. A time when communion with self is on an open frequency.

Hence, let us call the time before sunrise The Befriending Hour. And it is in this hour that we have the power to heal.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 6, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Diversity Training #4

For the purposes of this particular post, I plan on focusing on Diversity Training #4 – to read all 7 of the Diversity Trainings, please click here: https://goingoutwordsandinwords.wordpress.com/?s=diversity+trainings. Our local sangha, Be Here Now, which meets on Monday nights at the Open Way Mindfulness Center here in Missoula, MT, has taken up the 7 Diversity Trainings as a 7-month series. Once a month, on the first Monday, we have a different sangha member give a short talk on one of the trainings, and then we open up for community sharing centered around whichever training we’re on. Tonight, we’ll be on #4.

I only recently became aware of these Diversity Trainings this past January, so I am still getting familiar with each of them and forming my own relationship to them. As a writer, what better way is there to foster this relationship than by writing about it?!

Diversity Training #4:

Aware of the suffering caused by intentional or unintentional acts of rejection, exclusion, avoidance, or indifference towards people who are culturally, physically, sexually, or economically different from me, I undertake the training to refrain from isolating myself to people of similar backgrounds as myself and from being only with people who make me feel comfortable. I commit to searching out ways to diversify my relationships and increase my sensitivity towards people of different cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, physical abilities, genders, and economic means.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Smoke

Missoula Valley. Photo Credit: Brian Christianson Photography

Here in Missoula, Montana we’re in the midst of our fifth annual season: fire season. In western Montana, the order is as follows: winter, spring, summer, fire, fall. So the “water cooler” talk right now in town is centered largely around air quality and wildfire activity. Whether at the check-out line in the grocery store or during a chance occurrence with a friendly acquaintance, the topic de jour is about how awful the smoke settling in the valley is, how sad it is to know our forests are burning, and how everyone hopes it’s over soon.

Regardless of the season, this dialog is no different than our collective griping about the weather. Come winter time it shifts to how cold and gray it is. Come spring time it’s too rainy, or not rainy enough. Come summer it’s too hot. Come fire season it’s too smoky. And fall’s biggest detractor is that it has arrived too soon and isn’t summer.

This post isn’t my own gripe about other people griping, but instead is my way of trying to process this cultural phenomenon and shed light onto an opportunity in which to practice. Despite my propensity for writing – which I do A LOT of – in person, I gravitate towards the quieter side of the verbal scale. So, when people I meet proceed to talk about how awful the smoke is, my tendency is to simply smile and listen. But I do invest contemplative time in trying to fashion some kind of response that would be an authentic expression AND also not be dismissive of what someone is saying. Once in a while I manage to say something that I hope will serve to rally against the commonplace mentality of complaining about the weather, but mostly I have found little to offer in return when it comes to this dialog exchange.

I’ve written about this topic here on my blog a few times over the years. How we engage with the weather is a litmus test for how we engage with life. Our reactions to the weather are an indicator of how well we deal with uncertainty and change, how well we are able to go with the flow of what’s being presented in the here and now, and how skilled we are in the art of letting go. It’s worth our time and energy getting in touch with what our own relationship is to the weather, and paying close attention to what it is we say and how often we talk about it with others.

Our quality of life depends on what we do in the in-between-the-cracks moments – those instances we disregard or let fall to the wayside or way underestimate as being important. There is no such thing as an insignificant moment. Every weather-based conversation and simple exchange matter.

So, as always, the practice continues…

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

“Me”

Every influence I’ve ever encountered has shaped my character and disposition. I am who I am because of an endless parade of circumstances, people, and input. There is no “me” in which to point to directly. Instead, one must point to every single other person and everything else – and continue pointing, as the “me” you’ve grown accustomed to is always shifting.
 
I would be someone all together different if I wasn’t a student of Thich Nhat Hanh’s – if I wasn’t a devoted listener to Ani Difranco or, back in the day, the Grateful Dead – if I hadn’t moved across the country to Montana days before I turned 19 – if I had had different BFF’s growing up, different boyfriends, different parents – if that grade-wide ecosystem project hadn’t happened in 8th grade – if I hadn’t been raised by the Jersey shore in the summers of my youth – if I had shaved off all my hair only twice, instead of three times – if even one flower or butterfly I’ve met had not caught and held my breath in its beauty. 
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 28, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,