Note to self:
When people are in a frantic, manic, stressed out or washed out state, they are not in a place which affords them the ability to listen and absorb well-intentioned feedback.
No matter how good the suggestions are in attempts to alleviate their turmoil – even if they’re actively asking for input – it is not the time for solution based, problem solving tactics.
Amid such experiences of hardship or heightened states of dismay, the order at hand is to express unconditional, unwavering, unbounded acceptance, understanding, and love.
Tag Archives: self-care
When I was younger, I wanted to save the planet. Now, I want to save the people.
But my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to speak, and I need to remember that I can both only do so much AND what I am able to do is not only enough, but abundantly helpful and a direct manifestation of my highest calling.
I realized just this morning, that I have not only been over-extending my heartspace but also putting certain expectations on doing so. And it doesn’t feel good.
A little thing I tend to do is forget that there is only so much time in the day, only so much heart-full energy I can extend, before the day is over and/or before I find myself weary and forlorn. I’m certain that one of my superhero names could be the Reacher-Outer. It’s one of the things I do well. When loved ones or sangha members are struggling, I reach out. I check in, extend offerings of support, and send love. If I haven’t seen or heard from a friend in a little while, I reach out. I check in, say hello, and ask what’s shaking. I send emails, texts, Facebook messages, postcards, and letters. It’s what I do.
As I grow older and interact with more people, I’ve come to understand that most people are either not skilled in this department or are simply un-interested in developing this quality of character. Most of the time, I happily and gratefully fill this role. Then there are times – like now – when I find myself getting burnt out with it. When I reach out to folks, I’ll often hear back from them one way or another, but seldom do people reach out first. And it grows taxing to be that person on a regular ongoing basis, especially when I have a rather large network of those I hold dear. As a spiritual leader and sangha director, the number of those I care about continues to grow as well, as more people come to sit with us and engage with the community. So I find myself in a quandary: How do I continue letting people into my heartspace without depleting my inner resources? How do I keep reaching out, knowing not many are able to return the gesture?
Part of the answer I think is stated in the meme above, that I came across on twitter earlier today: Do small things with great love. (P.S And keep doing them.)
The other parts of the answer that I remind myself often about are as follows: Continue taking good care of yourself; Pull back when you need to; It’s okay to say no; Have confidence in your practice; Be diligent in sticking with the things you know are helpful for you; Keep the practice of joy as a top priority; Letting go is an ongoing and ever-unfolding art; Stay in touch with your priorities and don’t make compromises or excuses when it comes to manifesting them; You can only do so much, you can’t save people, you can only support and love them as best as you’re able.
My notes to self are rather extensive on this subject at hand. Sometimes, they’re all that keep me afloat.
It’s good to be BFF’s with one self. It can really come in handy during those lagging moments when our energy wanes.
My morning post on my writer’s Facebook page:
Why I meditate everyday:
It’s cuz love.
I meditate to restock it, replenish it,
reinvent it, recirculate it, and re-approach it.
Without its graces,
my powers of love would become null and void of merit and sense,
absent of the energy needed to propel it near and far.
Practice to let your feelings be as they are,
verses fighting or suppressing them –
but practice also not to let them run the show.
Practice to stay in touch with the woes and ills on the global front,
verses averting your eyes and ears and heart –
but practice also to stay in touch with the joys, beauty, and goodness that abound.
Practice to care well for yourself,
verses losing yourself in dispersion –
but practice also to extend outwards to others.
To loved ones and the underprivileged alike.
On Thursday, I strolled about on a Main Street in a town I’d previously only visited by driving on through and was wonderfully reminded of how much I enjoy being a tourist, even if it’s in a place situated just 2 hours north of home, which it is – and I am.
It’s worth mentioning, as a point of clarity, that I most enjoy being a lone tourist. As in: not saddled by anyone else’s agenda or having to negotiate with another human’s dynamic experience. This also includes not being terribly interested in getting led around on a local’s points of interest tour. Though, sometimes I do prefer that. It depends on where I am, both physically and spiritually.
As I meandered through downtown Kalispell, I came across a plethora of posters with my name displayed as: Headlining Poet Nicole Dunn. It was a rather exhilarating/peculiar/other-worldly experience – especially given that I’ve had very little to do with putting this particular event together and not done all the organizing/advertising/designing/postering myself, as is customary. And, hence, this is the reason I’ve come here: to teach a poetry workshop and regale an audience who’ve never heard of me with a one-hour set of spoken word.
In my Main Street/downtown walkabout, I ducked into some local shops and took my time poking around. Upon exiting a particularly delightful store with an assortment of uncommon wares, I had a total of 3 new items in the bag I’d brought along to cart my zafu (meditation cushion) in, to a meditation group I would be attending a little while later, which was located in the downtown area, a 10-minute walk from where I was staying. The three items were as follows: a pair of colorful socks with narwhals and scuba diving rhinos, to give as a gift to a friend with an upcoming birthday; a pair of colorful socks with sloths hanging from palm trees with gold gangster medallions a dangle from their necks (for personal use); and a novelty note pad with post it’s stating NAILED IT, at the top, followed by a list of options you can choose between for how you deemed whoever you’re giving the note to “nailed it.” And at the bottom of every note, it says: GOOD FOR YOU, PAL. Once I got in the spirit of thinking about all the possibilities that existed for using the NAILED IT notes, I couldn’t not get it.
I arrived Thursday afternoon to the house of a friend of mine who is away on a trip, along with her husband. So not only do I have the house to myself, but I was left to feel a bit nervous when I rolled into town, having never been to their place before. What if I had jotted down her address wrong and wound up situating myself in someone else’s house who also happened to leave their door key under the mat, which is not an uncommon practice? Would there be other telltale signs (pictures on display with no one I recognized; decor and nick-knacks that told a very different story of the friend I thought I knew…) that I had made a ghastly mistake before the residents – who were assuredly not well-acquainted with me – made their way back home to find me there with my feet up, sipping tea? Thankfully, crises was immediately averted when, in looking for the best place to park, I drove around back through the alleyway and saw their last names scribed on a wooden plank atop the garage door. Found it for sure! Whew!
We all have ways in which we compare ourselves to others and come up short. My ways take shape through people who are either artful/masterful at baking or cooking or at tending a garden. As in: so-and-so can bake amazing bread or craft complex meals with an arsenal of liquids in bottles that I would have no idea what to do with – like raspberry balsamic vinegar, avocado oil, and cooking sherry. Maybe I should be a better cook or learn how to bake bread from scratch. Or: so-and-so has a bustling garden filled with wonderfully greening leaves in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sigh. That’s what people do, isn’t it? Garden. I really should be more into gardening.
The wildly entertaining and hilarious part is that we took out our garden plot a year ago – allowing the backyard grass to reclaim its swath of ground – and it was the best decision ever! It’s soooo nice not to have the neglected garden plot we installed years ago sneering at me to become a gardener. The pressure is off and it’s glorious! I’m the sort who loves the idea of gardening more than the actual act of gardening. It’s rather like how you might be super into a romantic interest but then once you get to know them more you’re all like: I think I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’m the sort who would revel in watching a garden grow and equally delight in its bounty of edible content, as long as someone else tended to all of its needs along the way.
So, the thing is, I don’t want to be a gardener of things and I have no desire to be a masterful baker or chef, either. And yet, I STILL compare myself to people who are! How peculiar! We are a strange and complicated people folk.
I mean, there’s only so much time in the day, is what I’m saying. And I choose to fill my time with other things. Gardening and fashioning together gourmet meals and baking artisan bread simply aren’t high on my list of priorities. I think we have a very ingrained, very detrimental, collective mindset that we should be able to do, like, everything. We set the bar so incredibly high that we’d need superhero powers to even get close to reaching it.
It’s been extremely liberating for me to do the work of cultivating a deep and penetrating understanding of how everything I do with my time is a choice. And with this work, I’ve been able to accept and embrace my limitations of time and energy and interest in things. It’s allowed me to set realistic goals and drop the bar down to a level that doesn’t taunt me and hold me slave to ridiculous notions of how a life can NEVER by ANYONE under NO CIRCUMSTANCES be led.
So, I’m learning how to befriend the non-gardener in myself; the non-gourmet chef; the non-master-baker. To stop the powerfully common tendency to compare myself to others and come up short. It’s such an incredible drain and waste of my precious time.
I gave a talk at the Open Sky Sangha in Kalispell, Montana last night, Thursday June 14th. (Open Sky is one of the sister groups of my home sangha Be Here Now.) Below is what I wrote out ahead of time, to help me prepare for the talk. If you’d prefer to listen to the audio recording, vs. reading it, you can venture here:
Title: Creating Balance
Subtitle: Cultivating self-care while also staying active and engaged in the world
Last month, for the week leading up to and including Memorial Day weekend, I went on a solo sojourn and stayed in the Mission Lookout Tower, which is just outside of Swan Lake. So, for 5 nights and 6 days, I situated myself 40-feet up off the ground in a 15X15 glass nest perch in the pines, with a 2-3 foot wide wrap-around deck, which afforded me sweeping views of the Swan Range to the east and the Mission mountains to the west.
I reserved this recent solo stay at Mission Lookout back in November, because I knew that come mid-late May, I’d be in need of some time of restoration and refueling of my energy tanks – and boy was I right! Prior to heading to the tower, my energy was sorely waning and I was feeling over-extended and organizationally meetinged-out. I recorded my debut spoken word album and had a release party and performance in March; I was one of the directors of our statewide spring retreat in April; and was in charge of our big annual community yard sale fundraiser at our mindfulness center in Missoula two weeks after the retreat – on top of working part time as a nanny, being a weekly hospice volunteer, taking care of my family household, having a regular writing regiment, and so on. And this isn’t anything special or unique – we all have a myriad of things that we tend to on an ongoing basis.
No matter how glad we may be to invest our energy into all the different things that we do, there comes a time that in order to continue doing those things, we will need to find, create, and make important the art of resting and self-care, lest we become completely and utterly exhausted and kaput. So, developing a relationship with cultivating our own sense of balance between being active in the world and learning how to rest and replenish is not just something nice to do, it’s vitally important to our ability to continue beautifully into the future – to keep actively practicing in our spiritual mindfulness tradition and in all of the endeavors we participate in: work, school, family life, social life, home upkeep, traveling, volunteering, recreation, hobbies/interests, etc. We extend ourselves out and about in so many ways and we can liken ourselves to a car: our gas tank can only take us so far before we need to refuel. If we have more energy going out than that which is coming in, we will find ourselves eventually broken down and stranded on the side of the road. And this is a position that is all too commonplace in our culture. We are a nation of doers. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
The hitch in the giddy-up is that we are not well-acquainted with how to ongoingly restore ourselves. We don’t prioritize – alongside of: work, family, friends, and so on – the practices of stopping, resting, nourishing, and healing.
I’ve been watching this state I find myself in slowly developing over the past month, like witnessing the moon gradually go from full to new. This low energy state; this I quit state; this I’m tired of taking care of everyone and tending to every little thing state; this I’m done and everyone’s on their own state.
It’s a rather important practice to know what it means to rest and how to do it, rather than throw in the towel and quit, when confronted with running on fumes – or being out of gas entirely and breaking down on the side of the road.
Today, I slept in and then stayed in bed till around 1:00pm. Having foreseen that this time of the year would be a exhaustive time for me after a few big planning events I’ve managed in the last couple of months, I reserved a stay (six months ago) in a fire lookout tower for the whole of next week for myself, starting on Monday. So, off I will go into the high elevation of the mountains for a solo stay in the woods.
I’ll play guitar, write, rest, sip tea, make campfires, and watch the sun rise.
I won’t have anyone to tend to other than myself…and it will be glorious.
I’ll recharge my tank and re-hydrate my spirit.
Once or twice a year, I find that I need this kind of time to myself. I need to reconnect: with my own person in a concentrated fashion; with silence; with stillness; with the rising and falling of the sun and the moon; with the simplicity and beauty of life that I often take for granted.
Off into the woods I will go come Monday. And I will return home with a rejuvenated inner landscape, I’m sure of it.
Just before I awoke this morning, at 4:49am – 13-minutes before my alarm was set to sound – I remember these words clearly entering my dreamscape: It’s a good thing happiness isn’t waiting for you in the future; it’s waiting for you right now!
When my eyes popped up, a smile alighted my face and I recited this morning verse:
Waking up, I greet the new day with a smile.
May I engage with openness, kindness, and gratitude on my path of practice today.