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Solo Road Trip

I have the sense that few can keep up with me – with my exuberance for life, my joyfulness ever-present and available right as I wake up at 5:00am. Thank goodness, then, that I dearly enjoy my own company – because for much of my life that has not been the case.

I used to loathe spending time alone – cringe as I looked at myself in the mirror. I’d have used anything to distract my attention. My D.O.C’s were sugar and boys – and still are, though I no longer partake in either one the impulses are still active at times.

Now, though, I am the very best company I keep and I find that I am enjoying myself more and more each day. It’s been a glorious transformation.

On Tuesday afternoon, I returned home from a 5-day solo road trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. It was my 2nd ever solo road trip involving over-night stays – and my 1st one took place 10-years ago, so there was a pretty large gap in-between. It was a rather impromptu trip and I had a simply brilliant time.

Here are some trip pics & reflections of things I enjoyed from my travels:

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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Travel

 

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Beauty

Beauty changes you in the very instant it unfolds. And the longer you bask in it, the more its influence sways your countenance. And the less you talk, the deeper it penetrates.

The world is different when unaccompanied by your own external chattering – mountains grow more stately and majestic, everything becomes full of heart. It’s as though surface level distinctions sift down to an emission of energy where we’re all connected and intertwined by an infinite web of beauty.

In a manner of speaking, I am anything but solo traveling – I am in relationship with every other being that has ever been present on this mighty planet. I feel them in my bones, they carry on the breeze like the smell of pine when I breathe in and spread like seeds to germinate when I exhale.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2017 in Creative Writing, Travel

 

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Train Song

This is the un-earthing of a song I wrote around 10 years ago, while riding on a train bound for North Dakota. After scouring a dozen old journals for all the lyrics, I finally found them this morning!

Train Song

Written by Nicole Dunn

What once were mountains now are hills
under cover of night they’ll flatten still,
until little distinction can be made
between the icy landscape
and the over-casted sky

Winter comes but once a year
staying however long it takes
for mother earth to rest –
and we while cloaked in warmth,
know little of her journey

So rest now, if you can,
en route to your destination
on cold slick metal tracks –
Rest now, if you can,
sweet people,
through the clicks and the clacks
through the bumps and the jolts

With a gentle rocking beneath it all,
we’re on a land bound boat
gliding between ripples of time

And we ride on with a soft whistle
blowing early in the morning
or late at night
I’m not sure which

What once were mountains now are hills
under cover of night they’ll flatten still,
until little distinction can be made
between the icy landscape
and the over-casted sky

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

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Heart & Brain

Heart_and_Brain

Heart & Brain comic by Nick Seluk

 

Heart: Let’s take to the open road! Adventure is calling! Banff or bust!!

Brain: I’m not so sure that’s the best idea. I mean, we should really be focusing on getting our first book published and rededicating ourselves to the second book we started.

Heart: But, the road! Adventure! Let’s seize the moment!

Brain: Well, we DO have friends there now who will only be there for a short while. And it’d only be for a few days. It’ll start getting cold up there pretty quick, too – and since we’d be camping it does make sense to go sooner than later.

Heart: Huzzah! Let’s start packing!

Brain: Whoa there little fella. It’s still a couple of weeks out yet IF we go. I’m still on the fence.

Heart: Screw the fence! We only live once! Life’s too short to have fences! Open fields, that’s what I say!

Brain: What about the fact that we still have our taxes to do? Our 2016 taxes! And we have to work on those class proposals, finish painting the garage, do that one thing we talked about, and have loads of other adulting tasks to take care of?

Heart: Whee!! Look at me running in this open field! I’m freeee!

Brain: Okay. I’m in.

(Inspired by the Heart & Brain comic by Nick Seluk)

 

 

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Solo Retreat, Part 2 of 3

Written on Saturday June 17th, 2017

7:19pm

A few years ago, a university student, who was sitting with our sangha at the time, asked if she could do a video project of me on the topic of meditation for a journalism class she was taking. One of the questions she prompted me with on camera was to fill in the blank: Meditation is like ______. I said: Meditation is like stepping out into the first light of spring. It was simply the first thing that came to mind. Well, today has felt this way, too. It has been the loveliest of days. I feel light, refreshed, nourished, peaceful, and contented. What great fruits this practice brings!

It’s worth mentioning that while I did come up with a schedule to serve as a foundation for this weekend, I also intended on going with the flow of the day and following my intuition. Here’s what today wound up looking like:

5:30am Wake up
5:30-7:00am Sip tea, write, watch the morning sky
7:00am Sitting meditation
7:30am Sutra service
8:00am Stick exercises
8:30-9:00am Breakfast
9:15-10:30am Dharma talk video
10:30-11:15am Outdoor walking
11:30-12:15pm Yoga (using guided video)
12:15-12:45pm Picnic lunch outside
12:45-1:45pm Nap
2:00-4:00pm Sip tea, write, calligraphy, read
4:00pm Sitting meditation
4:30pm Sutra service
5:00-6:00pm Dinner
6:15-6:45pm Outdoor walking & sage picking
7:00-9:00pm Journal typing
9:00-9:30pm Read
9:30ish Bedtime

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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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Solo Retreat, Part 1 of 3

Written on Friday June 16th, 2017

7:32pm

The idea of doing a solo retreat has been a brewing interest of mine for a little while now. Then, after going to Deer Park Monastery for three-weeks this past January, my percolating idea bubbled up with a newfound vigor. So I emailed a few well-chosen friends who I thought might have some ideas of a place to go where I could be relatively secluded, surrounded by nature, and left to my own devices.

I’ve long been wanting to stay in one of the handful of local fire towers that’ve been converted to a reservable getaway destination spot, but I soon found out that those are in high demand and already fully booked up for the season, which makes sense. (Note to self: book early for next year!)

A sangha friend generously offered me the use of her and her husband’s cabin about an hour from town, which is where I’ve landed and am currently typing from. I arrived here, amid spectacular rolling sage-covered foothills, around 4:30 this afternoon. After finding my way around the house and unpacking the car, I set to making dinner, which I intentionally kept simple: a pre-made salad and a bowl of vegetarian chili, made and sold by our local organic market The Good Food Store, which I picked up this morning.

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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in Local Retreats

 

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Reactions Matter

Just recently, my husband, teenage stepson and I traveled to see my mom and stepdad in southern Arizona over spring break. Here’s a Facebook post I crafted the day after we were set to fly out of Missoula:

Have you ever gone to the airport only to discover that your home-printed boarding passes don’t scan at the security check-point and when you go the ticket counter to have them re-printed get told that your plane has been delayed two hours, so you decide to wait rather than have the same friend who just dropped you off come back to get you, only to find that a two hour delay really means 3 1/2, and when your plane finally does come in it turns out that it was making some weird noises on the way there and has to be checked out by a mechanic who will take about an hour to drive in from town to look it over, who determines the craft is unfit for air travel and will require a second specialized mechanic who they’ll have to fly in (hopefully on a more sound jet) so your flight, which was supposed to leave at 8:00pm, gets cancelled after waiting in the airport for 5 hours? Yeah, me neither.

I had written this post as a funny commentary, but instead people clicked the tearful-faced icon under the “like” options, indicating that they were saddened on our behalf. Then, when we finally arrived in Arizona, some of my mom’s friends that we met, who had heard tale of our flight ordeal, also seemed to be mildly upset on our behalf. But the thing of it was: we weren’t negatively phased by it at all! It was other people who were bothered by our flight delay and cancellation, not us. This got me to thinking about the importance of monitoring our physical reactions to external situations that arise. It’s very easy to put our own thoughts and feelings onto other people by way of how we react when hearing certain information or news being shared. And what we don’t often realize is that our reactions can fuel unskillful results.

For example:

Katie: Gosh, I’ve had a hard day. I got a flat tire on my way to work and then I was reprimanded for something that wasn’t even my fault – and then when I got home my new puppy had made a mess of the kitchen.

Julie: Oh, that’s awful! You poor thing! What terrible news! I’m sooo sorry to hear that!

Katie: Yeah, it was a pretty bad day. I can’t wait to put it out of its misery!

There’s a common tendency, from Julie’s reaction, to not only have unskillfully validated but exacerbated Katie’s hard day, in a negative fashion. While Katie may have simply wanted to share about her hard day with a close friend, Julie’s heightened, dramatic reaction may lead to Katie feeling even worse after their interaction – as a sort of woe-is-me situation gets fostered.

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