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Tag Archives: spiritual life

Serving with Grace

Last weekend, we enjoyed our local spring family retreat up on the Flathead Lake with our Montana sangha family. Twice a year, we organize local 3-day residential retreats: one in the spring and one in the fall. And each spring is a family retreat, where we invite children to attend alongside their parents. This year we had 59 adults and 25 young people, aged 3-15, for a total of 84 people.

Each spring, I serve as co-director on the retreat planning team. I also head up the children’s programming with my good friend Amy, so essentially I am on two different branches for organizing the retreat. We have one team for: managing all of the logistics with the camp facility we use, registration, and organizing the schedule for the adults and program elements with our visiting teacher(s) and another team for planning the kids programs that we offer.

Knowing I serve in this co-director capacity each spring, friends often ask me if these spring retreats are an actual retreat for me. My reply this year has been: Not in the classic sense of the word, no. These retreats for me are a rich opportunity to engage with work as spiritual and joyful practice.

I’ve recently started reading this book:

Serving with grace is a deep aspiration for me on the path of practice. And to speak to my full aspiration, I would add: serving with grace and kindness.

Supporting our young people and their parents to come on retreat; to be in touch with the nature and landscape of the lake and the surrounding woods; to be in touch with the Dharma and the Sangha is a great joy and a true calling for me. It’s also exhausting work too. But gosh, I have no qualms about getting worn out temporarily from undertaking such a lovely endeavor. Sometimes, putting all of our physical fuel into something can fill up the heart tank and gear us up for the next thing that comes along. The physical tank is easy to refill: food, rest, movement. But keeping the heart tank full, that’s where the real work happens.

 

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Humility

I think a big part of developing humility

has to do with the ability and determination

to bow one’s head,

in gratitude and reverence.

 

I bow 5 times on the daily each morning,

plus an additional bow with each meal before I eat,

and I think this simple practice makes a profound impact

on how I show up in the world.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Growth Work

 

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On Self-Absorption

I’m realizing that one of the big components of living and developing a spiritual life is to continually train in the art of lessening our tendency to be self-absorbed. The less we feed and nurture our sense of self-importance, the more we are able to build a strong foundation for living a happy and contented life.

For the sake of attempting to avoid misunderstanding, it’s important to mention here that self-importance and self-absorption are not the same thing as being self-assured or having self-confidence. When we are self-absorbed we have a heightened sense of self-importance. When this happens, we have the tendency to be very self-conscious, thinking that others are always paying attention to us wherever we go. We have little awareness of how others are feeling or what’s going on for them in their lives – everything is about us and how things affect us. We tend to get caught up in our own busy affairs and have little time to extend ourselves to others. I’ve also found that highly self-absorbed people tend to be surrounded with constant drama – there seems to often be something of a dire nature happening that consumes all of their time and energy (the law of attraction at play). This quality of being frequently presents itself as victim-hood, as well. People who are self-absorbed are filled with people to blame for their situation and have very little ability to take responsibility for things – they experience a problem and know right away who to blame for its creation, but are unlikely to do anything about it themselves, other than complain and point out problems.

The more we come to understand that our life is not our own, the more we step into the interbeing nature of all that is. In my experience, living a spiritual life is a matter of learning how to care well for ourselves so that we are able to care well for others. It’s about making each aspect a priority in our lives: self-cultivation and care/support for others – time for ourselves and time for others, in an intentional and skillful way.

Here are some things I myself do that serve to help me lessen my own levels of self-absorption:

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Posted by on December 4, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Mindful Morning Saturdays

 

I was inspired by the new Thich Nhat Hanh film “Walk With Me” and made this video montage of a practice I call Mindful Morning Saturdays, which I do on Saturday mornings from 5-8am. Music by Ballake Sissoko; ending chant by Michael Ciborski.

Developing a spiritual component in our life

allows us to become both full and empty at the same time.

Full of connection with everything and everyone else –

and empty of a separate self,

the “I” that stands in our way of growth,

transformation,

and freedom.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2017 in video

 

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8-Minute Practice Talk: Living a Spiritual Life

 

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Spiritual vs Secular Mindfulness

Yesterday, I finished an online course offered through PESI by Dr. Christopher Willard, a licensed psychotherapist, educational consultant, and author, entitled: Mindfulness Certificate Course for Treating Kids and Teens: Interventions for ADHD, Anxiety, Trauma, Emotional Regulation and More

The course consisted of 9 modules, totaling in at around 18 hours worth of class time. To learn more about Dr. Willard: http://drchristopherwillard.com/

This class spurred in me a deeper consideration of determining for myself what the differences and pros/cons are in regards to developing mindfulness in a spiritual capacity, verses a secular one. Some people question whether it is even wise at all to separate the two: mindfulness and spirituality. Perhaps these folks are concerned about watering down the potency of mindfulness and losing its true spirit and intention. Or perhaps, like me, they might wonder how a person can teach mindfulness if they themselves do not have their own practice in which to draw experience and stability from.

So, is there a right and wrong way to offer mindfulness? Is there a point when it can become too secular?

As our local Dharma teacher says, and I very much appreciate, the classic Zen answer to any question is: It depends.

Has there ever been – and will there ever be – just ONE way in which to do ANY particular thing ALL the time? I think not.

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Childhood Cornerstones

Today, in my early morning writing session, I stumbled upon two particularly crucial elements of my childhood, which serve as vital cornerstones of my spiritual life now, as an adult.

The first of which is my having been raised in the rooms of recovery, as the only child of a single mother who committed to getting clean and sober when I was 3-years-old. Growing up going to AA and NA meetings alongside my mom, hearing hundreds of personal, hard, heart-wrenching, and inspiring stories trained me in developing a deepened sense of empathy, compassion, understanding, connection, openness, and authenticity. It also taught me how to be a good listener and afforded me a different perspective and a more genuine way of seeing the world.

The second one has to do with what may sound like an unlikely and strange catalyst for creating a positive foundation for a spiritual life: acne. Here’s what I wrote this morning in my journal:

I have a weathered face from so many tortured years plagued with acne – a scourge which still continues, albeit with less vigor and frequency – and I think, though it somewhat pains me to say (given how much torment it put me through), that it made me a better person. Sure, my ego could get embroiled by my long hair, but it was always cooled right down when I looked in the    mirror – it’s difficult to feel vain and over-inflated when the face you greet the world with is riddled with red swollen peaks and distressed pits and valleys, ravaging you in despair. But now, looking back, I think it may have been a good thing that my formative years were spent under such facial duress, as it put me in touch with something…more, something…greater.

Accruing acne so early in life (around age 11), and maintaining it steadily through early-adulthood, trained me in the art of developing humility. And it gave me countless lessons in looking beneath the surface, in relation to both myself and others, to find what cannot be ascertained by one’s deceptive outward appearance. It also taught me about impermanence. And the importance of cultivating a rich, full, and joyful inner landscape.

Thinking about these two elements in this specific context just arose for me this morning, so I look forward to further processing this new insight.

Thank you for reading, as it inspires me to continue on the path of writing – which is the best internal processing agent I know of.

 

 
 

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