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Holiday Traditions

Pic taken Christmas Day 2016, on the trail to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs

Every year on Christmas Day, my husband and I venture to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs, for a 1-mile hike (one way) & soak in the woods. Neither of us connect with the celebration of Christmas. To us, it’s just another day on the calendar, which affords us a day off from our regular routine and to-do lists. We’ve been springing it on Christmas Day for quite a number of years now – it’s one of our very few annual traditions. And, I’ll add, is simply glorious.

Back when we first got married, in 2000, we tried our hand at celebrating the winter solstice and came up with a few possible traditions to carry forward each December, but it proved to be too forced for us and we soon gave up any sort of formal way of commemorating the seasonal changing of the guard. We both grew up celebrating Christmas – not on religious grounds but on consumeristic ones. And I have incredibly fond memories of it as a child. But neither of us were interested in fueling the drive of the holidays when we started co-creating our lives as adults together.

Many years ago, after receiving a plethora of well-intentioned but ultimately un-neccesary gifts from relatives in the mail each December, we decided to craft a letter to send to our dear family members. As the writer in our household, it was important to me that the letter both express our gratitude for their generosity and our firm desire to discontinue the further receiving of gifts, in as warm-hearted a way as possible. I wanted to do my best to create as little offense as I could, making sure to focus on our appreciation for their kindness and our love for them. And, rather to my surprise, it worked! While not everyone understood our position, they all respected our heartfelt request.

The month of December is the only time I’m grateful for living so far away from my family, as I really don’t know how I would negotiate this festive time of year if I had family around who were celebrating Christmas in the traditional ways that I grew up with and were requesting my attendance to join them. Fortunately, though, that’s not a thing I need to put much thought into.

Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to connect with all the ways that people find this time of year joyful, as I can grow callous in regards to the amount of waste, stress, hardship, and debt that accumulate around Christmas – and the furthering of such rampant, detrimental notions and ways of relating to each other and the world at large. But non-duality continues to ring true! In this case, the teachings of non-duality play out in the simple truth that both things are happening at the same time: there are elements of Christmas that are full of delight and joy and there are elements of great disharmony and destruction.

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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.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

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Solo Road Trip

I have the sense that few can keep up with me – with my exuberance for life, my joyfulness ever-present and available right as I wake up at 5:00am. Thank goodness, then, that I dearly enjoy my own company – because for much of my life that has not been the case.

I used to loathe spending time alone – cringe as I looked at myself in the mirror. I’d have used anything to distract my attention. My D.O.C’s were sugar and boys – and still are, though I no longer partake in either one the impulses are still active at times.

Now, though, I am the very best company I keep and I find that I am enjoying myself more and more each day. It’s been a glorious transformation.

On Tuesday afternoon, I returned home from a 5-day solo road trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. It was my 2nd ever solo road trip involving over-night stays – and my 1st one took place 10-years ago, so there was a pretty large gap in-between. It was a rather impromptu trip and I had a simply brilliant time.

Here are some trip pics & reflections of things I enjoyed from my travels:

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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Travel

 

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Beauty

Beauty changes you in the very instant it unfolds. And the longer you bask in it, the more its influence sways your countenance. And the less you talk, the deeper it penetrates.

The world is different when unaccompanied by your own external chattering – mountains grow more stately and majestic, everything becomes full of heart. It’s as though surface level distinctions sift down to an emission of energy where we’re all connected and intertwined by an infinite web of beauty.

In a manner of speaking, I am anything but solo traveling – I am in relationship with every other being that has ever been present on this mighty planet. I feel them in my bones, they carry on the breeze like the smell of pine when I breathe in and spread like seeds to germinate when I exhale.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2017 in Creative Writing, Travel

 

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This Day

I took this pic last summer at the Flathead Lake in Montana – and I wrote this passage last night, while sitting in Vietnam Noodle, waiting for our take-out order. Have I mentioned lately life is good?

 

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Solo Retreat, Part 3 of 3

Written on Sunday June 18th, 2017

10:40am

From my early morning journaling on sunrise patrol (hence pics above):

4:11am – A triangle of light glistens between two eastern peaks. 51 degrees.
4:22am – Outlines of each mountain are gathering distinction from their darkened counterpart above.
4:25am – A drop of light is tossed over to beckon through another soft dip in the ridge.
4:26am – An unassuming rain falls, almost as an afterthought. 51 degrees.
4:28am – Local bird residents become audible.
4:32am – An artistic rendering of budding light and swirling watercolor clouds paint the horizon in deep blues, black violet, and white turquoise.
4:41am – Pine tree silhouettes come into view, accenting the skyline with their bristled scruff tops.
4:45am – Dawn has penetrated the veil of night in every cardinal direction – no longer is coal the dominant hue of the sky. 51 degrees.
4:53am – The vertical ocean of clouds assumed a color scheme I associate somehow with the energy of dwindling hope.
5:01am – Almost all of the surrounding landscape is bathed in partial faded light.
5:08am – Foothills and fence-line reveal themselves anew, as though it were the first day of their creation.
5:17am – A sliver of brilliant golden rose appears right where the very first light penetrated the night sky.
5:28am – Sage, moss, and forest greens sip their first taste of the white-silver morning.
5:36am – Smokey pink-creme rays spiral up like tufts of steam into the soft din of low-hanging clouds.
5:39am – A lone cow elk cameos on scene. Still holding at 51 degrees.
6:08am – 50 degrees.
6:21am – 49 degrees. (Hmmm.)
8:31am – What I was waiting for to end this sequence has finally happened – 52 degrees!

_____________

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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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Solo Retreat, Part 2 of 3

Written on Saturday June 17th, 2017

7:19pm

A few years ago, a university student, who was sitting with our sangha at the time, asked if she could do a video project of me on the topic of meditation for a journalism class she was taking. One of the questions she prompted me with on camera was to fill in the blank: Meditation is like ______. I said: Meditation is like stepping out into the first light of spring. It was simply the first thing that came to mind. Well, today has felt this way, too. It has been the loveliest of days. I feel light, refreshed, nourished, peaceful, and contented. What great fruits this practice brings!

It’s worth mentioning that while I did come up with a schedule to serve as a foundation for this weekend, I also intended on going with the flow of the day and following my intuition. Here’s what today wound up looking like:

5:30am Wake up
5:30-7:00am Sip tea, write, watch the morning sky
7:00am Sitting meditation
7:30am Sutra service
8:00am Stick exercises
8:30-9:00am Breakfast
9:15-10:30am Dharma talk video
10:30-11:15am Outdoor walking
11:30-12:15pm Yoga (using guided video)
12:15-12:45pm Picnic lunch outside
12:45-1:45pm Nap
2:00-4:00pm Sip tea, write, calligraphy, read
4:00pm Sitting meditation
4:30pm Sutra service
5:00-6:00pm Dinner
6:15-6:45pm Outdoor walking & sage picking
7:00-9:00pm Journal typing
9:00-9:30pm Read
9:30ish Bedtime

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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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