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Community Sharing

Thanksgiving Community Potluck

Thanksgiving Community Potluck

Community building is something I prioritize and greatly enjoy putting time and energy into.  If it involves bringing people together I’m all for it – whether it’s a potluck, celebration event, club meeting, sangha circle, sporting event, performance, getting tea with a friend, or a family gathering the power of coming together with others is just awesome!

I have the wonderful opportunity to come together with others in a multitude of ways from helping to facilitate my sangha on Monday nights to working with middle school students to volunteering with hospice to leading board meetings and hosting community events and potlucks.  It is a joy and a gift to be able to come together with others.

A few weeks ago I helped to host a community Thanksgiving meal at our house – last weekend I put on an open mic night at our local meditation center – yesterday I attended our annual solstice celebration at our meditation center – and tomorrow I’m looking forward to our annual white elephant gift exchange with my local sangha Be Here Now.  Sharing food over Thanksgiving, sharing music and creativity at our open mic night, and sharing silence and stories at the solstice event puts me in touch with a deep well of gratitude.  I am because my community is.  I am inspired, filled up, supported, and transformed by all of the many wonderful folks I come into contact with.

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Sangha Celebrations

 
Solstice Centerpiece

Solstice Centerpiece

On Saturday we had our annual sanghas solstice celebration at the mindfulness center.  Open Way has been putting these together for 20 years or so.  Our day started with sitting and walking meditation followed by a short dharma talk on the topic of beginning anew by our local teacher Rowan.  After his talk there was time for discussion and then we had our Bringing Back the Light ceremony which consists of each person going into the middle of the room and screwing in one of the lightbulbs in our lovely centerpiece (pictured above) until it lights up and then sharing an offering of story, song, poetry, or whatever else you’ve brought to share.  This circle of sharing took us a little while, as there were around 20 of us present.  After the sharing circle I led a deep relaxation and then we shared in a potluck dinner.  People came and went throughout the afternoon and early evening and we had a lovely day of practice together.

We also chose to combine the solstice celebration with the start of our winter series open mic nights at the mindfulness center.  This is our third year of offering once a month open mic nights at the center through the winter and we’ve been having a lot of fun with them.  So after our afternoon of practice, solstice celebrating, and potlucking we had our first open mic of the season.  We had magic, comedy, songs, show-n-tell, poetry, and instrumentals.  For our open mic’s we invite all ages and all types of sharing and have never been disappointed with the array of creative stylings we receive.  I look forward to hosting the rest through the winter!

Open Mic NIght at the Open Way Mindfulness Center

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Spoken Word

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For the third year in a row we’ll be starting our winter series Open Mic Nights at the Open Way Mindfulness Center here in town once a month starting in December.  They’ve been a wonderful way to bring folks together during our long, cold mountain winters and to share in the abundance of joyful creativity that is such a part of our mindfulness community.  Our Open Mic Nights welcome families and kids and my 14-year old step-son is often the first to volunteer to kick off the show with his comedic stylings :)

One of the things I have most enjoyed about these gatherings the last two winters is that we’ve had such a vast array of offerings.  We’ve had songs and instruments, rap, poetry, art work, comedy, readings, group sing-a-longs, tai chi and yoga demonstrations, improv group games, show and tell, dance, and more!  The variety has been just wonderful.

In my preparation for the Open Mic’s to start back up I’ve been inspired to write.  I play guitar, sing, and write songs and lately I’ve been drawn to spoken word pieces.  Spoken word can take many different forms and for me it has become a blend of rap, verse, and song with just my voice and no musical accompaniment (at least not yet!).

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Opening Through Music

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At our local Open Way Mindfulness Center in Missoula, Montana for the second year in a row we’ve had a winter series open mic night.  Last night was our last one for the season.  From December through March on the first Saturday of each month our mindfulness center communities are invited to come together for an evening of sharing.  We encourage all sorts of creative offerings and have had music, poetry, story telling, dance, art, comedy bits, Tai Chi demonstrations, rap, dramatic readings and the list goes on and on.

When advertising for the open mic nights I often add: Kids (and snacks) are welcome!  It has been a wonderful community builder for our Be Here Now Sangha (spiritual community) and has brought all ages together to share in the wide array of talents and skill sets that we all have.  To learn and be inspired by the diversity of one another’s sharing is what makes these evenings so rich.

I am a musician.  I love music.  I love listening to it, experiencing it in live shows, dancing to it, singing it and playing it.  I grew up playing the flute in band and orchestra from fifth grade through my senior year in high school.  When I was younger I took the usual ballet, tap and jazz dance classes and when I got a little older moved into hip hop.  After I moved to Missoula I started dancing with an african dance class teacher and then switched from dancer to hand drummer and played the djembe for a few years for the class.  African music makes sense to me and I love how it moves through my body whether through my feet or my hands.  I picked up the guitar when I was around 19 years old.  Mostly I write really simple songs of my own but I know a few covers by Bob Dylan and the Cowboy Junkies that I can pull off once in a while.  My most recent musical adventure has been with spoken word and rap.  Did I mention I love music?

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Me in my hand made duct tape t-shirt from my rap skit – to see the real rap video I copied off of go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RX_pZTlERaI

What’s important to know is that while I love playing music I only play in the solitary company of myself.  If I’m playing and singing and my husband comes home I put down the guitar.  When we were dating and I played for him for the first time I made him sit in the other room so I couldn’t see him.  I can play or sing with other people who are playing or singing but on my own is a different story.  I can talk in front of people with relatively little problem but when sharing music my heart starts racing, my breath becomes shallow and quick and my voice can get easily lost in the nervous response to my body’s fight/flight reaction.  I’ve spent some time looking more deeply into what the root of my fear is.  It isn’t about the audience.  I’m not afraid they’d throw tomatoes or shout obscenities or anything.  I hadn’t had a negative experience to warrant such fear or mistrust of the audience.  It was about me.  I, like most if not all of us, have a deep seed of being unworthy and inadequate.  This seed manifests for us all in differing ways and differing times.

In wanting to work through this fear I’ve been hosting these open mic nights and sharing every time.  Sometimes it takes me a little while to get started when I’m in front of everyone.  Sometimes I have to walk around a little bit first and start when my face isn’t towards anyone (for my spoken word pieces).  A few months ago I came to see how much storytelling before sharing a song was helpful so sometimes I talk a little bit first.  Getting up there, despite the racing heart and short breaths, has been such a beneficial process for me.  I have experienced the opening that the open mic night promises in its name.  A friendlier, more supportive audience I don’t think I could find anywhere.  And now with this practice of sharing my heart doesn’t race for as long or quite as fast when I get up in the front of the room.  My fears and struggles with inadequacy are settling down.  And I’m learning to embrace the musician part of myself and share it freely.

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Open Mic Night at the Open Way Mindfulness Center
March 2, 2013

It is easy to shy away from the places that are uncomfortable to us.  To create a small comfort zone and not go outside of it.  When we devote attention to where we are holding back and look deeply into those places we start cracking open.  We become more adaptable and skilled.  We grow and transform.  We start waking up!

Coming to the Open Way Mindfulness Center, if nothing else, is a great place to meet great folks.  My gratitude to everyone who shared your presence and supported my musical unfolding over the winter.  See you again when the snow starts to fly in the mountains!

 

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