I’ve sifted through time,
right here to this spot,
influenced by every drop of sound
that has hummed itself in range of my countenance.
I am the manifestation of my mother’s walk to sobriety, and subsequent hard work,
my father’s grounded nature and integrity,
my best friends growing up,
like Jamie, who I lost over a boy,
and all the boys I crushed on and left for other boys;
my paternal grandmother’s adoration of babies
and my maternal grandfather’s sense of placement and orderliness;
and Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” song,
which served as my personal anthem, drumming me on my journey west away from home,
days before I would turn 19.
This one life, amid all my musings and ramblings and incoherent tangles of thought,
has been so artfully crafted and groomed by an endless sea of moments and influences
that it becomes impossible to discern where “I” begin and end –
as with any minor adjustment to my life,
I would be someone altogether different.
Tag Archives: wisdom
It’s easy to sometimes regard the practice of mindfulness and/or meditation as being some kind of magical elixir (especially by new practitioners), as though we could (and should) use them to cure us of our woes and ailments – that somehow if we are mindful enough and meditate enough, we’ll be able to fix whatever it is we feel needs fixing. But, the truth is, sometimes, things are just hard. Having a mindfulness practice and sitting in meditation can strengthen our ability to stay present, balanced, and well-grounded in our own experience of whatever is unfolding – which can be invaluably beneficial – but, in the end, neither mindfulness or meditation can alleviate the causes and conditions of struggle, pain, sorrow, and so on. Our relationship with life can change, but life itself will always entail a certain degree of suffering, difficulty, challenge, and heartache.
What I’m trying to highlight here, is that it’s important not to use the practices of mindfulness and meditation to form some kind of emotional smoke-screen to hide or otherwise distort the simple and very real truth that sometimes life is just hard. And, in my experience, there is a strange and great relief in coming to this understanding. There is a powerful release in being able to simply state, with clear intent, that things are just hard sometimes – without trying to explain further or apologize or rationalize or sugar-coat something for someone else’s perceived benefit. Sometimes, things are just hard. End of sentence.
I recently watched a TED talk given by Susan Kaiser Greenland on the ABC’s of Attention, Balance, and Compassion. In her talk she stated that mindfulness isn’t about changing or fixing, it’s about understanding and being aware. And on one of her slides, it stated: Wisdom comes not from being perfect but from being present. I think we can get carried away and swept up in the false notion of perfection when it comes to a lot of things. But perfection is a relative construct – and I would go so far as to call it a farce.
A few days ago I received a message on Facebook, notifying me that a friend of mine had mentioned me in a comment. When I clicked through, to find out what it was regarding, I read the following post, from a local wilderness group:
With warmer weather already here, or just around the corner, this is a good reminder from Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“Some people stack rocks…as a form of meditation. Some do it and call it art. More often than not, it makes for a neat Instagram picture and is never thought of again.
But what you may not realize is that stacking river rocks is doing serious damage to the delicate river ecosystem. And it’s not just cairns, the same goes for moving rocks and creating dams to make chutes or pools in a stream for tubing. Aquatic plants and animals make their homes on, under, and around these rocks. Some of the 68 species of fish in the park build their nests in small cavities under rocks. When people move the rocks, the nest is destroyed and the eggs and young fish die.”
My friend, knowing of my love for building cairns, then commented on this post with: Nicole Dunn uh-oh!
For a few minutes I thought about whether it would be worth my replying to her comment, or if it was better to simply let it go and not say anything. I decided I did want to voice my opinion, so here’s what I posted in response:
In the interest of buoying my new practice of Mindful Morning Saturdays (MMS), through the art of sharing my experience in written form, this is yet another installment to help me along.
This morning I especially enjoyed reading the Discourse on the Eight Realizations of the Great Beings, as part of my MMS sutra readings. The sutra starts: Wholeheartedly, day and night, disciples of the Awakened One should recite and meditate on the Eight Realizations discovered by the Great Beings. It then lists them in the order shown above and goes into short detail about each one. The concluding sentence of the sutra states: If disciples of the Buddha recite and meditate on these Eight Realizations, they will put an end to countless misunderstandings and difficulties and progress toward enlightenment, leaving behind the world of birth and death, dwelling forever in peace.
The Sixth Realization especially stood out to me. It seemed different than the other Realizations and it got my internal gears moving. Here’s the whole paragraph from the sutra:
The Sixth Realization is the awareness that poverty creates hatred and anger, which creates a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and actions. When practicing generosity, bodhisattvas* consider everyone – friends and enemies alike – to be equal. They do not condemn anyone’s past wrongdoings or hate even those presently causing harm.
* Bodhisattva: Literally “enlightened being,” one committed to enlightening oneself and others so that all may be liberated from suffering.
For the past few years I’ve been replacing the idea of New Year’s resolutions, which I’ve never cared for, with the development of new mindfulness exercises. I’m currently working with a number of new mindfulness practices to incorporate into my daily and weekly routine, which started at the beginning of the year. It’s worth mentioning, however, that typically I wouldn’t encourage the cultivation of so many new practices all at once, unless a practitioner has invested time in building a strong, diligent foundation in mindfulness, as trying to take on too much too fast is an easy undertaking, and an easy undoing of our stability.
My new practices include:
– Saying a short verse to myself upon waking up each morning
– Uni-tasking while brushing my teeth (verses multi-tasking)
– Saying a personalized closing verse to myself after breakfast each morning
– Jotting down observations I make in a small notebook when I’m in my car at red lights, or in other such instances where I’m stopped and waiting (at the bank, for instance)
– Mindful Morning Saturdays, where I devote the hours of 5:00-8:00am as a concentrated time to practice mindfulness (I read passages in our chanting book, do sitting meditation and three touchings of the earth, practice the 16 Qi Gong stick exercise routine, practice mindful eating of my breakfast, and watch a portion of a Dharma talk video online)
– Paying special attention to my preferences: what they are, how they show up in my life, looking deeply into whether they are helpful or harmful
I’ve recently taken to writing haiku. While I value all forms of creative and expressive writing, haiku had never been particularly appealing to me, from a writing standpoint, which was mostly due to my love of words and haiku being too short and succinct to embody all of what I wanted to say. But I’ve been learning more about the art of haiku, and developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of it. As I’m getting the hang of haiku writing, it’s becoming quite fun!
In reading online about haiku, a few things really resonated for me: R.H. Blyth, who was a well-known interpreter of Japanese haiku into English, explained haiku as “an open door which looks shut.” One definition of haiku said: a short poem recording the essence of a moment, keenly perceived, in which nature is linked to human nature. And another source whittled down haiku to three words: concision, perception, and awareness.
The art of haiku is not simply a matter of following a set pattern of syllables (5, 7, 5 as we’ve commonly translated it into English, though this can sometimes vary). Traditionally, haiku involves a juxtaposing of something nature/season related with something present tense/human world related. This is where I feel the art of haiku writing comes in. It’s not about penning any ol’ thing that comes to mind in the allotted structure of 5/7/5, it’s about relaying an insight or experience relating to the present moment – taken in this light, haiku is right up my alley :) Haiku is very relate-able and easily interwoven with a Zen-based practice.
I’m finding it a welcomed challenge to coalesce what I have to say in the simple structure of haiku. I figure that, as a lover of the Dharma and an aspiring Dharma teacher, if I cannot manage to offer what I have to say in a clear, precise manner, then I have more work to do in sculpting my experience and insights so that they may have the best chance of penetrating into the hearts and practice of others. Of course, haiku is a rather extreme and limiting way to offer full fledged dharmic teachings, but it’s affording me good practice in getting at the core of things.