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Smoke

Missoula Valley. Photo Credit: Brian Christianson Photography

Here in Missoula, Montana we’re in the midst of our fifth annual season: fire season. In western Montana, the order is as follows: winter, spring, summer, fire, fall. So the “water cooler” talk right now in town is centered largely around air quality and wildfire activity. Whether at the check-out line in the grocery store or during a chance occurrence with a friendly acquaintance, the topic de jour is about how awful the smoke settling in the valley is, how sad it is to know our forests are burning, and how everyone hopes it’s over soon.

Regardless of the season, this dialog is no different than our collective griping about the weather. Come winter time it shifts to how cold and gray it is. Come spring time it’s too rainy, or not rainy enough. Come summer it’s too hot. Come fire season it’s too smoky. And fall’s biggest detractor is that it has arrived too soon and isn’t summer.

This post isn’t my own gripe about other people griping, but instead is my way of trying to process this cultural phenomenon and shed light onto an opportunity in which to practice. Despite my propensity for writing – which I do A LOT of – in person, I gravitate towards the quieter side of the verbal scale. So, when people I meet proceed to talk about how awful the smoke is, my tendency is to simply smile and listen. But I do invest contemplative time in trying to fashion some kind of response that would be an authentic expression AND also not be dismissive of what someone is saying. Once in a while I manage to say something that I hope will serve to rally against the commonplace mentality of complaining about the weather, but mostly I have found little to offer in return when it comes to this dialog exchange.

I’ve written about this topic here on my blog a few times over the years. How we engage with the weather is a litmus test for how we engage with life. Our reactions to the weather are an indicator of how well we deal with uncertainty and change, how well we are able to go with the flow of what’s being presented in the here and now, and how skilled we are in the art of letting go. It’s worth our time and energy getting in touch with what our own relationship is to the weather, and paying close attention to what it is we say and how often we talk about it with others.

Our quality of life depends on what we do in the in-between-the-cracks moments – those instances we disregard or let fall to the wayside or way underestimate as being important. There is no such thing as an insignificant moment. Every weather-based conversation and simple exchange matter.

So, as always, the practice continues…

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Go with the Snow!

snowheart3

Going with the flow of life for many of us does not come naturally, it’s something we have to practice.  Our tendency, more likely, is to fight against what’s happening.  I’m seeing this currently play out with many people in town who are dismayed at our recent arctic blast from the north which plummeted our mountain town into an early winter spell.

In talking with my husband Mike about the common, yet fairly ridiculous, notion of complaining about the weather he made a comment that I hadn’t thought of before, which helped to shed light on this rather challenging issue for me (I really don’t enjoy hearing person after person continually gripe about the weather).  He said that people tend to complain about the weather because they’re uncomfortable and people aren’t used to being uncomfortable.  This was a great insight for me.  Many of us can spend our whole lives trying to avoid, cover up, forget, ignore, or otherwise distract ourselves when feelings of discomfort arise.  So of course it makes sense that to be inconvenienced by the icy roads, low temperatures, and blasting winds is not a welcomed state of being!  I used to think that an insight had to be some new, fancy, grand idea but, more often, insights are more unassuming and involve simply helping to develop a deeper understanding of something or someone.

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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Everyday Practice

 

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Relating to the Weather

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How we relate to the weather says a lot about how we relate to life.  And we can use our relationship to the sky as a mindfulness tool (a barometer if you will) to look more deeply into our conditioned responses in our daily lives.

The first step is to shine the light of awareness onto how we perceive the weather day in and day out.  Do we find ourselves obsessively worried about it, checking the forecast often?  Are we disappointed when anything other than sunshine happens?  When the weekend rolls around do we find ourselves saying, “Man, I really hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow, that would suck.”  Do we describe the day as dreary, awful, or some other adjective for unpleasant when it’s simply cloudy out?  How quick are we to label the day as “bad” solely based on the weather?  Do we dread any sort of physical discomfort or complain about the cold, heat, rain or snow?

This may seem trite but I would counter that indeed it is the areas that we label as un-important in life that can often bear the most fruit.  If we get bent out of shape over the weather, which is almost entirely out of our control, it stands to reason that there are other areas in which we are not grounded in our lives.  Getting bent out of shape can take many forms from anger to mild irritation to simply carrying your hope for “better” weather around with you in the back of your mind.

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If our relationship to the weather is that of it never being just right or commonly waiting for the promise of tomorrow to bring more sun, more warmth or more whatever it is we think will make us happy this provides a mirror for us to see how we relate to the present moment.  When we spend our present moment waiting for something better to happen in the next moment, whether it be in regards to the weather or not, we carry with us the stress of never being satisfied.  When we spend our lives waiting for better weather we spend our lives waiting for a day that never comes.  Learning the art of Be Here Now is the most valuable practice we can offer to ourselves, our loved ones, our community, and the world.

Being here now is not an ethereal idea or intellectual thought it is a true practice – a practice that you engage with and bring alive.  The practice doesn’t just happen on its own when the conditions are “right”, you have to actually do it.  It can be easy at first to think that Be Here Now means to deny your feelings or cover up certain parts of your experience but this is not the case.  To Be Here Now is to let go of the stories we attach to life’s unfolding that are neither skillful for our process of moving forward or provide value.  When we practice letting go of our regrets about the past and worries about the future the present moment is available to us.

We create the internal garden that we water.  When we water seeds of negativity, self-doubt, self-pity, complaining, worrying, stress, fear, anger, and so on those are surely the seeds that will grow inside of our mental, physical and emotional states of being.  When we water seeds of joy, ease, acceptance, openness, connection, adaptation, letting go, and so on those are surely the seeds that will grow.  What kind of garden do we want to nourish right here in this present moment?

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Everyday Practice

 

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Embracing the Weather

Greenough, MT

Inevitably talk of the weather ensues pretty much in any type of situation – at the grocery store checkout line, on the phone with a friend or relative, at social gatherings, and the list goes on and on.  In the winter it’s, “burr, cold enough for ya out there?” in the spring it’s, “man, all this rain’s a bummer eh?” in the summer it’s “geese, I can’t stand this heat, it’s pretty bad out there isn’t it?” and in the fall it’s, “the summer’s always over too soon, ain’t that always the way?”  Our human western collective can often be counted on for holding crazy tight onto our points of view and then putting them onto others as though there were only one way of thinking.

One of my practices is to embrace the weather regardless of what is happening in the sky.  This is not to say the weather doesn’t effect my mental and emotional landscape but that I try not to get consumed by what is not only out of my influence but more importantly is a necessary and natural unfolding of the web of life.  We need the rain, the heat, the snow, the clouds, the sun, we need the seasons in all of their differing splendor.

I am often at a loss for what to say when someone comments about the weather and tries to get me to agree with their way of experiencing it.  In an attempt to respond in a short, polite and authentic way to this common exchange without simply agreeing to someone’s perspective (which tends to be negative) I have been offering responses like, “Actually, I think it’s quite nice outside,” or “Oh, I think it’s just great weather out today.”

I have been seeing more and more how the pessimistic side of myself shows up in my everyday living, the side that looks at what’s wrong with things, people, myself, rather than what’s right with them.  It’s this side that I am trying to nurture and cultivate a new path with in this small step in regards to my relationship with the weather.  When I nourish my appreciation for the weather regardless of its attire I am also nourishing my capacity to embrace and care for my own internal weather, one cloudy day at a time.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Everyday Practice

 

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