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Tag Archives: zen

Discomfort Practice

The more we attempt to regulate our environment to suit our preferences, the less resilient we become in managing fluctuations when they occur. This week: practice weathering (and perhaps eventually embracing) small discomforts by doing such things as:

  • not putting on the AC in your car when running a short errand around town
  • eating a meal without being on your phone/laptop/TV
  • foregoing your favorite morning beverage for one day
  • doing something you’ve been putting off because you don’t feel like doing it
  • eating something that you tend to generally avoid
  • listening to a song you would otherwise thumbs down on Pandora
  • doing something nice for a co-worker who you don’t particularly like
  • voluntarily standing in the longest check-out line at the market
  • walking much slower than your normal pace when going a short distance from one place to another
  • not falling asleep with the TV on for one weekend
  • intentionally leaving the house without your phone for a whole day (or 1/2 a day – or even 1 hour!)
  • not using your phone to kill small increments of time (when stopped at a red light, waiting in line, in-between errands or bites of food…)

We’re becoming a culture unable to forge strong, intelligent relationships with our own selves – so quick are we to run, distract, intoxicate, ignore, and fight against even the slightest of uncomfortable situations. If we are incapable of managing the small stuff, how will we be able to sort through the big stuff, like dealing with grief and loss, handling stress, or going through emotional/physical/political/societal upheaval?

Valuable practice: Start small so you can work big.

 

 
 

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Time

Last week I turned 38 years old. On the eve of my birthday, a sangha friend passed away. Alison Matthews, age 63.

63 is an age generally considered to be on the younger side of someone passing away. 63 is not old age. I am continually reminded about the preciousness of life, especially in the wake of others who have passed on. Earlier today, I was visiting with a hospice patient. During our weekly visits, I’ve taken to bringing a newspaper with me and reading aloud the news. As I was reading the Today In History section I came across this: In 1937, American composer and pianist George Gershwin died at a Los Angeles hospital of a brain tumor; he was 38.

One never knows when our time will expire. So often, we live as though we have a limitless supply of time. In reading world news and local obituaries, however, I routinely come across people who’ve died at all ages and stages in their life. For me, this serves as an important reminder: there’s no guarantee that we will see old age. And that applies to myself, as well as my beloved family and friends.

Being in touch with death and dying keeps me in close contact with my gratitude for life. Volunteering with hospice affords me the opportunity to train in the art of living life well, with however much time I have. And I am deeply touched and nourished by all of the patients I have the honor and privilege to meet with, who serve as my teachers in this regard.

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Posted by on July 11, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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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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Absence of Sound

For a brief interlude, I could detect nothing audible. 
No whirling of the refrigerator, 
no distant whooshing of passing cars, 
no song chatter of birds. 
It was as if all the world had tipped over a precipice 
and was free-falling amid the din of there being nothing left to do but let go.

It was a rare and fragile moment I was only half prepared to savor.
Mostly I was caught off guard,
wondering what had suddenly changed.
When I realized I was cradled in the absence of sound,
I took one breath and it was over,
my ears and heart re-attuned,
so as to be ready in case it happened again.

 
 

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Comparison is the thief of joy

One of my most favorite quotes:

Comparison is the thief of joy. – Theodore Roosevelt

Two of my own specific examples of how I get caught in this particular comparison trap are with those who garden and those who have a work-out/exercise regiment of some kind.

I find that gardens and physically fit people abound here in Missoula. I sometimes find myself thinking: Man, I should be more into gardening or: Man, I should get a gym membership – and, ya know, go, or whatever.

But I don’t. I don’t do either one. And I can make myself feel bad about it. Until I remember, once again, that I’m very content and happy with everything I prioritize my time with – that there’s only so much time in the day and I make conscious choices about how I spend that time, and it all suits me just fine.

 
 

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My Practice Today

My practice today is to remember:

I can’t do everything.

I cannot “save” anyone else.

I practice for myself, not to affect change in others.

I need to keep my own tanks full (mental, emotional, spiritual, physical) in order to be of support to others.

I can take refuge in the island of myself – and I can sing this lovely practice song, as an added support: “Breathing in I go back to the island within myself, there are beautiful trees within the island, there are clear streams of water, there are birds, sunshine, and fresh air, breathing out I feel safe, I enjoy going back to my island.”

Breathing in, I come back to my own practice

Breathing out, I let go of my feelings of needing to fix someone else’s difficult situation

 
 

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Seeds of the past

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.

 
 

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