On Mufflers

Prior to last Thursday, it’d been about 4 years or so that my ride: a ’94 Subaru Legacy, sounded akin to a small jet engine prop plane, due to a rusted out muffler. The fortitude of the car was such that when, alas, I pulled over upon getting off the interstate in town, directly following our local spring retreat back in April, to find my muffler adangle on the asphalt, I had to wrench and claw at the dang-blasted thing for 20-minutes to pry off what remained of it. And even then, I was only able to get about 80% of it off. I wound up having to send out the bat signal to Mike, so he could swoop in as the roadside cape-crusader and wrestle out the last 20%, which was both greatly appreciated and a large disappointment, given the fact that I really wanted to be victorious on my own accord.

I found it entertaining that the noise emanating from my car, pre muffler falling off, sounded absolutely no different than it did once it was gone. But, as I’d both gotten used to the rumbling and have a policy of not putting any money into the car that isn’t crucial to its functioning – given that at 337,000 miles, any day could be its last – the fact that everyone could hear my car in a 2-block radius didn’t really bother me. Besides, I mostly fly solo in my car and my love for loud music tended to drown out the ruckus. The only times I really noticed and was off-put by the muffler’s cacophony was when I’d have passengers riding along with me, as holding a conversation meant upping the volume of your voice, in regards to someone riding shotgun – and was pretty much a total lost cause all together if you were kickin it in the backseat – or when I’d start my car early in the morning or come home late at night: sorry neighbors!

Perhaps if I’d ridden in my own backseat more often, I would’ve been propelled to get a new muffler 4 years ago. A couple of weeks ago, I rode in the backseat from Spokane back to Missoula, to afford the dynamic duo: my husband and 18-year-old stepson, the chance to chat about all the things they wonderfully love to geek out on together, and I have little interest in, such as: science fiction related audio books, gaming, dark TV shows, politics, and, most recently, the art of magic, and was able to marinate in my car’s muffler musings on a much more intimate level. When we got home, the first thing I said when we walked in the door was: I think it’s time to get a new muffler.

So, last Thursday, I was the first appointment of the day at a place called the Muffler Bandit. I was told it would take about an hour, so I brought along a book and supplies in which to fashion a letter to my friend Daniel, who’s incarcerated at Montana State Prison. But perhaps because it was only 8:00am and things were still pretty quiet around town and in the shop, or perhaps it was due to the fact that there was nothing for the mechanic to take off of the car, my Sube was saddled up with a shiny new muffler in just 20 minutes. My car was serviced in such a short amount of time that I was even a little sad to have to vacate the premises, as I was just getting into the flow of writing my letter to Daniel. It also happens that I thoroughly enjoy writing in new and exotic places and I’d never had the chance to write in a muffler shop before (see pic above). But, I reluctantly packed up, paid my $160, and headed out. When the mechanic gave me the keys, I delighted in how he framed my new quiet vehicular stead. He said: Now you’re back in stealth mode. His declaration reminding me both of my secret longing to be a ninja and the time my stepson and I got busted trying to pull a prank on my friend Jennifer at 11:00 at night, last winter. We had parked 2-3 blocks away from her house, on account of my car’s loud rumbling, but it wasn’t the trademark sound of my car that tipped her off to our shenanigans. It was the fact that we managed to time our hi-jinks with the same time she was cruising home from the grocery store – which taught me, for future reference, that she seldom parks her car in the back by the garage.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Day of Mindfulness

IMG_7385

When I realized a few days ago that today would be a solo day for me I decided to have a 1/2 day of mindfulness to and for myself (which wound up being from about 10:00am-2:30pm).  With my stepson at his mom’s, my husband out on a paintball adventure with friends, and my having no set plans or scheduled to-do’s I had the wonderful opportunity of an open, free day.

You may wonder, “What is a day of mindfulness?”  In the Plum Village tradition (led by Thich Nhat Hanh) the monasteries, at least the ones here in the states, typically offer 2 days of mindfulness each week, which are open and free for people to attend.  They are a day, or rather 1/2 a day because they tend to go from 9:00am-1:00pm, of intentional community practice and often include listening to a dharma talk, having dharma sharing in small groups, outdoor walking meditation, and sharing a silent meal together.  We are encouraged as OI members (Order of Interbeing. which is another name of Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition) to  practice a certain amount of days of mindfulness throughout the year as part of the ordination vow we take.  There are many ways in which we can create our own day of mindfulness.  For me it involves slowing down, discontinuing certain things such as using the computer or listening to music (which I do A LOT), and setting an intention to do and enjoy one thing at a time.  I’ve recently started reading Brother Phap Hai’s book that just came out called Nothing To It.  A day or two ago I was reading a part in the introduction where he talks about the practice of Lazy Days, which are part of the Plum Village tradition.  Lazy Days are practiced at our monasteries and usually occur once a week, often on Mondays.  They are a day of no scheduled activities other than meals, not even morning sitting meditation.  Phap Hai writes about Lazy Days in this way:

Laziness is one of the hardest things for people in our modern society all over the world to practice.  We think we’re being “lazy,” but we spend all our time watching TV and reading books and writing emails and catching up on errands and paying that bill and seeing this or that person.  Laziness, in the Plum Village practice, means to allow the world to be as it is and to allow each moment to unfold just as it unfolds: to experience beauty, as I am right now, of the morning sun coming up; to watch the sky changing; to see the wind blowing in the leaves.

I very much liked his description of a Lazy Day so I decided to blend its spirit, as Phap Hai offered, with the energy of a day of mindfulness and see what unfolded.

Continue reading

Comparison is Never Helpful

relax-for-health

I wanted to share about an experience I had recently on our local fall retreat last weekend that served as a good reminder about how it’s never helpful or beneficial when I get caught in comparing myself to others.  While I practice not to use words such as always or never I think in this case it stands true: it’s never helpful to self-compare.

On Saturday evening during the retreat instead of eating dinner with the rest of our community those of us who were OI members (ordained practitioners within Thich Nhat Nhan’s Order of Interbing) were asked to eat together, along with our visiting dharma teacher Terry Cortez-Vega, downstairs from the main dining area.  We had some business to attend to after spending a few minutes in silence during our practice of eating meditation.  Normally all of our meals during our local retreats are held in silence and we’re invited to practice eating meditation during them.  Oftentimes during our retreats eating meditation instructions look something like this: After you take a bite of food put your fork down and chew slowly, savoring your food, until the taste has diminished.  Then pick up your fork and take your next bite.

While I used to be an incredibly fast eater when I was young, to the point of having unspoken contests with my cousins to see who could finish first, I no longer consider myself an overly quick eater.  Even so, the instructions offered above have never spoken to me.  It’s much to sluggish and un-enjoyable for me to eat that slowly.  I’m simply not a fan of putting my fork down after every bite and chewing each one long enough to lose its flavor.  That’s not to say things can’t change.  Perhaps one day I’ll connect with this level of slow eating.  There have been many other elements of the practice and things we’ve done on retreats that I used to really dislike but have changed my tune on over the years.  But for right now I alter the practice of eating meditation to suit what works for me and I have the greatest of confidence that that is precisely what we are encouraged to do in our mindfulness tradition.  We do what works for us.

Continue reading