As winter acquiesces to springtime in the mountains,
light peals back the darkness of morning
earlier and earlier,
and stays later and later
Like a dinner party invitee,
The Light is akin to that dude who
awkwardly and unexpectedly arrives
way ahead of the appointed time of the soiree.
after all the food is gone and the dishes are put away,
and the roar of the fire is down to its flickering embers,
The Light is that last lingering guest,
begging the host to question:
What the heck is this guy still doing here?
Tag Archives: Montana
In preparation for our upcoming spring family retreat with our Montana sangha family, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh – for which I am serving as co-director – I worked on this fun project this morning. Ensos! An enso is a zen circle and is said to symbolize a number of different things: openness, awareness, strength, the universe. Enso’s can be created open or closed and are typically fashioned in one brush stroke.
Since our upcoming retreat will be a family retreat and we’ll have kids present, we thought it would be fun this year to create a small optional activity that we could simply leave out on a table in the main gathering area that all ages could engage in, if they so chose.
As I was brainstorming a simple community activity, I came across a post in my Twitter feed from the Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico that offered inspiration:
The tweet that accompanied this picture said something along the lines of having folks there at Upaya fill out an enso with their aspiration for their own practice during the retreat. So I took this idea and tweaked it a bit.
I made a total of 70 enso’s on small multi-colored squares of paper, using a calligraphy brush and some tempera paints I had on hand. Then I made a sample one posted with instructions that I’ll leave on the table, along with markers and some oil pastels:
This wound up being great fun to do this morning :)
I contemplated whether to put out paints and brushes for people to make their own enso’s but decided with the number of people we have attending and so many kids that it would best to keep the activity less involved/potentially messy. My plan is to collect all of the well wishes created and string them together in a collage for display. So stay tuned to see the final product!
It feels worth mentioning that last night, I had my first backyard fire of the year. And it also seems worth haikuing about:
Flames licking wood
Chilled air breathing fire
A smile is lit
Last weekend, I was off on a solo saunter up north – and I enjoyed every bit of my travels.
This weekend, I set myself up so that I had zero cause to leave the house if I didn’t want to – and I’ve been enjoying every bit of it.
I’ve written before about the merits of not disobeying the call of the road when it summons thee. So this past weekend when it called, I went.
I’ve found that to satiate my “urge for going,” as Joni Mitchell once crafted into a song, I needn’t venture far. I live in Montana for pete’s sake, a truly uncompromisingly beautiful, wild state. And we’ve got a lotta land here, too. A person could spend lifetimes exploring here and never be able to see it all.
And not only do I not need to go far, I don’t need to spend a large swath of time either. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes venturing far and spending extended periods of time off and away from home is a lovely thing to do, but I’ve been finding that even weekend-long trips simply 2-4 hours from my doorstep are not only sufficient but immensely satisfying.
I wrote this on my writer’s Facebook page the night before setting out this past weekend:
For reasons I don’t entirely understand, I want to sleep under the stars in unfamiliar terrain. I want to wake up in a fresh locale and navigate my early morning rituals in a locale where no one knows me. I want to sit in a coffee shop in a small town and write unobstructed by the comfortable air of home.
And perhaps some of this allure has a little something to do with the fact that I know full well – as clear as the sound of a bell – that I grow little, if at all, unless I edge outside of my comfort zone.
So, this past weekend, I went here:
Yesterday, I enjoyed a lovely Day of Mindfulness (DOM) with our sister Sangha Open Sky up north on the Flathead Lake, where snow, sun, and delightful people were in abundant supply. As part of our DOM, one of our local Dharma teachers, Greg Grallo, gave a talk on the Five Powers. As usual, I took a bunch of notes throughout his talk – and also as usual, I would like to share some of them here (along with some pics I took!) :)
In the back of the Plum Village Chanting and Recitation book, it includes this description in the glossary section:
Five Faculties: Faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom
Five Powers: Same as the Five Faculties, except that as powers they cannot be shaken by their opposites (e.g., energy cannot be swayed by laziness).
Notes I penned down during Greg’s Dharma talk:
Five Powers: faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, insight
Faith: not a blind faith but one based on personal experience; to have faith in our own capacity to awaken; to trust in our practice and our sangha.
It’s good to ask ourselves from time to time: why do I practice? why do I go to sangha? why do I drive on snowy roads to attend days of mindfulness like this?
When our faith is strong, our effort is effortless. Effort that isn’t based on trying to do the practice “right” doesn’t wear us out, in fact it gives us energy. This kind of effort is based on generating good seeds and keeping good seeds alive and active, and also involves working to not water negative seeds.
There’s a difference between avoidance of suffering (based on fear) and changing the peg (my wording, not his) in order to water the seeds of joy in an effort to help care for and tend well to our suffering with more skill. Denial can be fear-based OR it can involve turning away from it with conscious participation, with the intention to return to it once we have more strength and balance.
Thay teaches that mindfulness is a pathway not a tool. Mindfulness as a path leads to the end of suffering. Mindfulness when used as a tool might be applied to acute stress but it isn’t addressing the underlying difficulties that exist; when used as a tool, our suffering will continue to resurface.
When our concentration is not strong, mindfulness can arise and then quickly dissipate. When our concentration is strong, it allows the other four powers to be strong.
The first four powers lead up to understanding/insight. And when we have insight, it gives us faith that our practice is working, so it loops back around.
When your faith is low, that is a wonderful time to go to sangha. Sangha practice encourages us to come back to the wheel of the Five Powers.
I penned this in my journal yesterday:
Like a sunflower’s face tracks the sun, my full attention falls in line with the sound of the bell.
I’m so very grateful for being part of this practice tradition and for having such regular and lovely opportunities to join together with my sangha family.
During our discussion group time yesterday, I shared my answer to the question Greg posed in his talk: Why do we drive on snowy roads to come here to sit and breathe? The short answer is that while I practice every day to water the positive seeds within myself – such as joy, ease, mindfulness, connection, friendliness, gratitude – that watering is more akin to a sprinkle here and a sprinkle there, as might be issued from a watering can, whereas attending days of mindfulness and retreats and showing up every week to sangha is like turning on the garden hose on those same seeds. Prioritizing my practice – which in this case equated to driving 2-hours north on winter roads to attend a Day of Mindfulness with my sangha family – is truly the best use of my time.
Just as a vegetable garden cannot be watered just one time and be expected to bear fruit, so too is the case for my internal seeds which bear the fruit of well-being. In order for beneficial seeds to continue growing and strengthening in our life, they need regular and ongoing tending to, which requires a good and thorough dousing from time to time :)
If you’re interested in listening to Greg’s talk:
Thankfully, I’m not easily intimidated by winter weather driving – I mean really, I have a Subaru for goodness sake, this is, in part, what they’re made for. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times when it would be ill-advised to venture out, but I did not deem today to be one of those days.
Instead, I labeled today’s blustery conditions and smoke-machine-esque ice-marbled roads as a prime time to uphold my self-proclaimed status as a gal who enjoys pushing against the commonly held feminine norms, such as exists around: traveling solo, driving in inclement weather on sketchy roads, and eating out in public with only the company of a good book and writing supplies.
After an hour spent at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, I landed at the Dixon Mercantile, a place so delightfully quaint that I instantly felt right at home.
There’s something extremely satisfying and life-affirming in skirting collective modes of operation, such as heading north on a solo saunter on Sunday February 3rd in near white-out conditions, and living to tell the tale.
P.S If you live in the area or are ever in the area of western Montana, the Dixon Mercantile (in Dixon, MT) is only 40 miles from Missoula and they are almost solely only open on Sundays from 9-2 for brunch. The owner Laura is super great, the food was really good, and they make homemade fresh bread and pastries. Need I say more?
Yesterday, I spent 5 uninterrupted hours writing, pretty well glued in the same spot the whole time with only the occasional tea making and bio break to incite bodily movement away from my keyboard. It was glorious.
Today, I road on up north, as any asphalt adventurer knows, it’s unwise to disobey the call of the open road when it summons thee. I followed tire tracks instead of painted lines and in an area thick with mountains, I managed to see none all the way to Arlee and then Dixon.
To be fair, I did consider not heading out on my drive-about prior to leaving the house, once I was confronted with the state of weather happening outside. But it was only about 2% of me that sat in question; the other 98% urged me eagerly onward ho.
Besides, I DID go to all the trouble of running a brush through my hair like two times before putting a winter hat on AND putting on cold-hardy clothes over the top of my pajamas. I was also well equipped with the essentials of winter travel: a fresh Contigo full of tea, my camera, writing supplies, a Subaru, and a good attitude.
And, I figured, one never grows familiar and accustomed to a thing, if said thing is never done.
Sometimes, what’s called for is to foster connection with members of my beloved tribe of humans, as I did last weekend. And sometimes, what’s called for is to bolster the relationship I have with myself, as I’ve been doing this weekend.
Every January, for the past few years, in an effort to keep my practice fresh, vibrant, and strong, I’ve come up with 2-3 new mindfulness-based practices in which to enfold into my daily/weekly life throughout the year. For me, these new practices each year serve as the ultimate homage to the tag line of this blog, the URL of my website, and my social media namesakes on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube: In Mindful Motion.
As I don’t think I’ve made much reference to them here over the course of the past calendar year, I thought I’d take the opportunity to do so, as 2018 comes to a close.
This past year, I’ve had two new practices. The first of which is shown above (my second practice will be fleshed out in a part 2 post). Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and coming across his set of Thirteen Virtues, which he formulated at age 20 in 1726 as a system to help him develop his character, I came up with a similar approach to the charts he made for himself in order to help keep track of his progress.