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Mining for Gold

 

Photo by Bill McDavid

 

I know at times it feels dark and bleak

to encounter the news –

or another day, or life.

I know when you feel uncertain

it’s the best case scenario,

as the more common alternatives are

fear and anger

and hopelessness.

I know that sometimes you wonder

how things could possibly get any worse;

and then they do

and you feel broken

all over again.

________

I also know that raging beauty

and unbounded goodness

and decency exist –

not only out right for all to see

but buried like treasure in the hearts of men,

all men.

So please, dear ones,

take my hand,

and let us become miners

in search of it.

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Not Giving Up

In my last post, I shared: In regards to the friendship I’m currently in heartache over, I’ve come to realize – after much processing back and forth – that there is a way for me to keep my heart open to this person while also distancing myself from them.

Shortly after writing this, I came across a well-timed article on Twitter, entitled Why You Should Never Give Up on Anybody by Lodro Rinzler. Don’t you just love when things line up?

I clicked on the link right away and set to reading the article. Here it is, if you’d like to give it a gander.

I especially appreciated this segment from the article:

In the Buddhist tradition we refer to beings willing to keep their heart open no matter what as bodhisattvas. Bodhi is a Sanskrit word which can be translated as “open” or “awake.” Sattva can be translated from Sanskrit as “being” or “warrior.” It’s a person who is incredibly brave in maintaining an open heart, no matter what comes up in their life. This experience is something we can aspire to. The Zen master Seung Sahn once said, “Being a bodhisattva means when people come, don’t cut them off; when people go, don’t cut them off.”

I was so enjoying this article – that is, until I got to the end, where Lodro shared this practice:

HOW TO NOT GIVE UP

Pema Chödron is an American Buddhist teacher who has written extensively about the pain of a broken heart and I can’t recommend her work more highly. Below I have adapted an exercise she has recommended. It starts by taking a photo of the person you are having a hard time with and displaying it prominently in your home. This may initially cause you discomfort. So much of heartbreak is staying with our discomfort.

Every time you walk by the photo look at the being you are struggling with and simply say, “I wish you the best.” If that rings hollow to you instead say, “I know you are basically good” or “You’re not a jerk all the time.” Whatever phrase you choose, make it personal, but some version of acknowledging that they are not basically evil. Do this several times a day, whenever your gaze falls on the photo. Let your heart soften over time.

 

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Posted by on December 13, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Think Before You Depart

Sometimes – like now – my spirit wanes around the truth I’ve captured in this sentence, from a recent spoken word piece I’ve written: “Self-absorption is the rampant plague of our time.”

Recent example:
On Wednesday night, I attended a film showing of “500 Years”, as part of the Roxy’s current month-long series honoring Native American Heritage Month.

Following the film, there was a 3-person panel set up for a Q & A session. As the film credits rolled, over half of the audience left, leaving around 25 of us to engage with the panel members. This is something I experience a lot. (I’m now remembering the Hate Crimes Forum I attended a couple of weeks ago, where by the end of the evening only 10 of us remained in a sea of empty chairs.) I find this to be a sad commentary on our ability to act on behalf of supporting others in matters when in stands to inconvenience our own lives.

I’ll tell you, in both of the cases I just mentioned, I would’ve preferred to have left, too. I was tired. I was ready for bed. But I stayed, because it was the right thing to do. I stayed because those panel members deserved my attention and my presence. They were devoting their time and energy to a cause they believed in and were passionate about. And the very least I could do was stay.

Public service message:
Think of others before you depart for yourself.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Sometimes I Forget

Sometimes I forget that we’re all – each of us – doing our best.

That we each march to our own drummer, sway to our own beat, hear the rhythm of life pulsating differently.

Sometimes I forget that there’s only so much time in a day – or a lifetime – to maneuver.

I am personally acquainted with people who’s spark comes alive through justice/support based work, such as: healing racism, translating for Spanish immigrants, volleying for animals on their way to slaughter, training underprivileged demographics in the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, de-stigmatizing mental illness, spending time with those who are in the process of dying, training women on how to navigate creating their own small business, supporting kids without active adult relationships to navigate through the court system, educating school-age boys about healthy masculinity and the subtleties of sexual violence, volunteering with local non-profits, engaging with people around policy change work, guiding early childhood development skills, and fostering opportunities for people to learn more about such matters as suicide, postpartum depression, homelessness, access to housing, global warming, and incarceration.

And I know people who’s spark comes alive through creative/self-expression based work, such as: gardening, cooking, baking, playing sports, traveling and playing music, hosting standup comedy learning sessions for women, bringing African dance into the lives of those with disabilities, organizing community poetry events, providing high school students with opportunities to craft and share their voices through the medium of written & spoken word, hiking, painting, photography, collage work, and role-playing games.

Me? My biggest most illuminating spark comes alive through sangha building. I am drawn to cultivating community through the dharma. Spiritual leadership is my highest calling. I love helping to support people, I love spending time with people. And I have a great love for and confidence in using and teaching about the tools and skills made available through mindfulness, meditation, and our Buddhist Plum Village tradition.

Creative/self-expression wise, my spark comes alive through: writing, spoken word, playing music, listening to music, dancing, solo traveling, spending time in nature, motorcycling, photography, volunteering with hospice, and working with young children.

We all have different callings. Different things that draw our attention and motivate us to action. And sometimes I forget this. Sometimes I think everyone is like me – or should be like me. And when this happens, I suffer.

Currently, I’m on a journey to find my people – those I resonate and have the most in common with. And I’m practicing to understand and embrace all those who are in my life who I don’t hold a lot in common with, but whom I cherish and value.

There’s a balance I am seeking in my interpersonal relationships right now. And it’s becoming clearer to me as of late, how often I forget certain elements of human dynamics and functioning that are crucial to remember, for the sake of my own and others quality of well-being.

The practice continues…

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Everyday Practice

 

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Kinds of Love

There are some people I only love from afar.

The way one might revel in a painting in a museum

while standing across the room.

There are others I love like

dipping in close to smell a wild rose.

Absorbing it full throttle

but only for a short burst of time.

There are some I love like movie theater popcorn:

ravenously but only once in a great while.

And then there are those I love like music and tea,

drinking them in as often as I can.

 

 

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I Love People

Original spoken word piece (fresh off the mental press):

People are complicated, in more ways than one,
they are heart-felt and hollow – dirty and rancid,
they are magnificent and astoundingly talented and profoundly lost without direction,
they shine bright as a Vegas marquee and lack luster like flat brown earth in winter,

and I love every single drop of it

the taste of humanity’s vast spectrum coats and hangs and lingers on my senses
the same way watching a sun set or rise reminds us that there’s something….more –
more to connect with than securing our morning coffee,
more that getting transfixed with misplaced angst on social media,
more than our stone tower of impatience stacking ever-higher day by day,
more than the petty and over-dramatic utterances we think and hear and say,
more than being bound in the self-conscious prison we hold our own selves hostage,
more than constantly trying to assess who’s right and who’s…not

Me? I revel in the more –
from the enchanting song of pre-dawn silence to the interplay of colors interloping in the hills,
from the gentle sway of tree tops to the grace of birds in flight –
and I love people,
I love their fascinating awkwardness and amazing proclivities,
I love the way gals smile and guys walk,
I love watching people open up and talk in a way they never knew they could
and I love bearing witness to something new

I love being reminded that Yes we are all different and Yes we are all the same too
and I revel in the person I get to become when I’m around the all encompassing and collective You –
the You who allows the Me to interact more wholeheartedly
without fear of rebuke or ridicule or discontent
simply because you’re living how you’re living and now I get to be better for knowing

Cuz, when we stop listening we stop growing,
when we stop listening we stop loving the wet drops of humanity
falling like nectar in the valley gracing the fertile fields of our understanding,
cuz there is nothing more potent than befriending that in which our inclination
is to apprehend as suspect to our own discomfort

And one of the greatest misfortunes is that we run too easily,
we shut down too quickly when confronted with shaky ground
and we haven’t learned the benefits of sticking around,
even and especially when it’s hard

I love people because they’re messy and unpredictable
and pains in the ass
and full of surprises I did not see coming

I love people because I see my own self reflected
and they show me the work I have to do

I love people because
how can you not,
when the alternative is anything less

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

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The Shift of Perspective

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Snapshots

Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
Could be almost anyone right?
What if I said: Buddhist?
How does that change the image
developing in your mind’s eye?
Or, what if I said: Drummer?
Or: Nanny?
Did I mention she has long hair?

Switching.
Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
Hospice patient.
Beloved grandmother, close with her family.
Sharp as a tack.
Who do you envision now?

Switching.
Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
Super into screwdrivers (the tool, not the drink)
Enthralled with construction machinery
but off-put by vacuum cleaners.
Did I mention he was 1 1/2 years old?

Switching.
Two ears. A nose. A forehead. Two feet.
And two more feet.
Fuzzy.
Loves romping around at night and catching mice.

The more info we receive
the clearer our understanding can become,
until there is no more data left to collect.
And then,
we need to empty ourselves
back out again
of everything we think we know
about someone.

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Posted by on September 23, 2016 in Creative Writing

 

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