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Tag Archives: Montana

Montana Open Way Sanghas Spring Family Retreat

Our 2017 Montana spring family retreat, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, in 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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On Grief and Loss

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Last night marked the fourth and final installment of a series I put together at our local mindfulness center entitled: Mindful Community Conversations. Once a month since September we’ve focused on a different topic, each featuring a different speaker. My vision was to help create and hold space within our mindfulness practice, in order to shed light on certain topics that are often very challenging and difficult to talk about and address. The topics I chose were: Chronic Pain & Illness, Depression & Addiction, Dealing with Difficult Emotions, and Grief & Loss. Our format started with 10 minutes of silent sitting meditation, followed by a 20-30 minute talk from the speaker and ended with an open sharing circle. As the facilitator for each evening, I prompted our sharing time by inviting folks to offer their name and a little bit about what motivated them to attend the particular evening’s topic. I found that the openness, intention, and strong mindfulness practice of each of the speakers allowed for a very powerful opportunity for community sharing and healing to take place. I continue to be moved and inspired by the coming together of sacredly held circles of people.

Our topic last night was on Grief and Loss. Our speaker was my sangha friend Greg, who’s one of our five ordained members of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing here in town. He’s also a hospice chaplain, so his depth of practice and experience with death and dying is vast. I greatly enjoyed his talk and the sharing that followed, from those who attended. I know that all of the words spoken last night will continue to slowly filter in and through me, and benefit my outlook and perspective in a myriad of unforeseen ways.

This morning, in the darkness of the hour of 5:00am so common and crucial to much of my writing, I wrote this:

To love is to know one day
you’ll grieve the loss of those you’ve extended yourself to,
and it won’t be pretty.
It’ll be devastating.
It’ll be devastating in ways impossible to comprehend until it happens.
And holes will manifest in the open field of your heart.
Holes that will remain as part of your landscape,
like the scars of a deforested hillside ravaged by wildfire.
But, eventually,
you’ll be able to find yourself in the emerging
from those dark places,
amid everything that has been lost,
and you will take back up
the tending of your field.

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Posted by on December 2, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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Fall Retreat, in Pictures

Our Montana Open Way Sanghas fall retreat just occurred over this past weekend. We were honored and delighted to have Sister Brightness and Sister Friendliness join us from Deer Park Monastery to lead our retreat. We had a lovely time practicing together as a harmonious sangha beside the beautiful Flathead Lake!

 

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Posted by on October 4, 2016 in Local Retreats

 

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14 Years and Counting!

14-years

(Stage direction: cue the slow opening of the curtains to a stage shrouded in darkness)

After a dramatic pause, a deep strong voice (not unlike James Earl Jones) says, from beyond the darkness:

14 years ago. (insert another dramatic pause) A community was born.

(Cue loud pounding drum noise)

The voice comes in again:

They called it: BE…HERE….NOW

(Cue the sounds of more loud pounding drums)

(Stage direction: bright lights are turned on, sudden and fast, revealing a stage crammed full of people on every possible inch of the stage – and the clincher: they’re stacked into a gigantic human pyramid)

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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Be Here Now Sangha

 

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Reverence for Life

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Now that autumn is underway here in western Montana, the local birds are taking full advantage of our bustling mountain ash tree in our front yard, which is chock full of bright, orange, and apparently delicious, berries. While the tree produces berries each year, similar to fruit trees it has an every other year cycle of having a much greater bounty than the year prior. So every other year we have to contend with the challenge of birds running into our large picture window on the front of our house. As I understand it, not only are the berries a hot commodity to birds soon taking flight down south but with the turning of the weather the berries also start fermenting, causing the birds to become slightly intoxicated. Hence, their judgement gets impaired and the window they once avoided skillfully the rest of the year suddenly looks to them like something they could fly through.

One such disastrous thud of a bird happened this morning, prompting me to finally put up the only thing I’ve tried that really works to keep them at bay from our window: an exterior curtain. I’ve tried a few other things over the years: cutting out pictures and taping them to the window, shutting the interior curtain, but to no avail. I thought the little robin that hit so hard this morning wasn’t going to make it. But after a little while of sitting beside him, shielding him from one of my approaching house cats, he made his way to his feet, then hopped up on my front steps, started making chirping calls, and then flew up into the tree. It’s hard to say if he’ll continue to heal or not, but sometimes they do simply get stunned after their impact and then appear to recover.

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The first mindfulness training, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, is Reverence for Life (see pic I’ve crafted together below). There are many ways to interpret, practice, and grow with these trainings, of which we have two sets: the Five and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. In my experience, and personal opinion, the sentence: “I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life,” causes some confusion. What does it mean to kill? My desk side Webster’s dictionary defines kill as follows: to deprive of life; to put an end to; also defeat; use up; to mark for omission. Commonly brought up is whether it’s then acceptable, in relation to this training, to euthanize our dying pets. A similar question was posed in the current edition (September 2016) of Lion’s Roar magazine (formally Shambhala Sun), in a section marked Advice for Difficult Times:

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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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