The Shit is a Metaphor

goldenraintreecolor02I find myself constantly amazed by the color this time of year, how everything is lit up, the way some of the leaves are so bright on some plants that they look like they must be plugged in, electrified. I’m also gripped by a tender sadness as our garden gets too cold and stops producing, as things begin to die off, as the trees drop their leaves and stand naked, gray and bare.

It’s necessary, this cycling between blooming and resting, this transition from awake to asleep, from life to death. It’s the way things are, the way this works. We can resist it or try to deny it, but that only leads to more suffering.

I was watching myself this morning on our walk, noticing how I deal with obstacles. I work so hard in my practice to allow things to arise as they are, to be present with reality but without judgment or agenda, to show up with an open heart, to maintain my sense of curiosity and humor, to be patient and kind. I work at it, but so often I fail. I get triggered, hooked, irritated, upset. I act out.

that's not dirt, that's shit

that’s not dirt, that’s shit

This morning, there was horse poop about every 20 feet on at least three of the miles of trail we walked. With a puppy who doesn’t have a very good “leave it” yet when it comes to something so appealing, that means I spent an awful lot of my time trying to keep him out of it and it out of him, either by having to pull him away from it or reach into his mouth after it.

So I spent a lot of our walk this morning covered in shit. It was on my hands, the leash, and my pants. I wanted to just accept it for what it was, no judgement, but I confess after a bit, I was frustrated and looking for someone to blame. I was mad at everyone: the horses, their owners, my dog, myself. All we were trying to do was have a nice walk, to enjoy the cool air and beautiful colors and quiet and time together, and instead our path was littered with shit.

There was so much of it that at a certain point it was comical. When we came up the hill and saw the bridge we needed to cross was covered in it, all I could do was laugh. In that moment, I felt myself soften, shifting from wanting to bag up all the shit and dump it in the living room of the first horse owner I could find to feeling a genuine sense of kindness towards all of us, how hard we try and how messy and challenging the whole thing is. We cling so tightly to our sense of security and comfort that we can completely forget to look up, to see how the sky is lit up, that the leaves are glowing, to know that it is fleeting, all of it, and we must pay attention because soon it will be gone.

Three Truths and One Wish

tinybook1. Sometimes I need to see myself the way someone else sees me. Sometimes that means I need to quiet my internal critic and see the way someone else loves and accepts me, listen to the way they honor what I do, feel their gratitude and kindness. Other times that means I need to interrupt my ego, its sense of my own importance and rightness, in order to see from someone else’s perspective the suffering I am generating.

2. It’s hard to be wrong. Especially when I try so hard to say the right things, to not make any mistakes, to be perfect. But when I’m wrong I have a choice. I can smash myself to bits or I can be kind, gentle, forgiving. I can try again, not give up, say I’m sorry.

3. “Every time I think someone has a hold on me, I realize I’m the one with the tight grip,” (Courtney Carver). The door to the cage is open, but I sit inside, not moving. In the most gentle way possible, I ask myself to relax, to let go. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

One wish: May we practice honesty but temper it with kindness. Where there is tension, may we release it with our breath, relax it with our willingness to surrender, to let go.

Something Good

miniaturepeonies1. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club, “Let yourself be a perfectly imperfect human being. Let yourself feel what you need to feel and process your life the way you need to process it. Let yourself BE in all your beautifully imperfect human-ness. And give everyone else the same grace.”

2. Don’t be original; be obvious.

3. 33 thoughts on reading (A manifesto of sorts) from Austin Kleon.

4. Dear Homeless Guy: I Don’t Care If You Buy Crack With The Dollar I Gave You on Medium. The last line of this really has me thinking.

5. Write from a full cup from Alexandra Franzen.

6. Truthbomb #648 from Danielle LaPorte, “I don’t want to change the world. I want to love it.”

7. Permission from Glenda Burgess, (thanks for sharing, Lindsey).

8. reasons for my leaving from lists and letters.

9. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more from Claws Carefully Sheathed.

10. Wisdom from Rachael Maddox, “Maybe the magic that was missing all along was the will to be all the way true to the call of your brilliant heart.”

11. Learning to Measure Time in Love and Loss on The New York Times, Modern Love.

12. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön

Instead of asking ourselves, “How can I find security and happiness?” we could ask ourselves, “Can I touch the center of my pain? Can I sit with suffering, both yours and mine, without trying to make it go away? Can I stay present to the ache of loss or disgrace — disappointment in all its many forms — and let it open me?” This is the trick.

13. 33 Mantras to Quickly Calm Your Stress Response: Because you deserve to live with ease. Sandra Pawula on Medium.

14. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook: Ultimate Forgiveness and Preach.

15. Wisdom from Phillip Moffitt,

The truth is that you will never be absolutely safe. All things change constantly, even what is most precious. You know that you and those you love will die, but not when or how. This is the angst of life, the price of being a conscious human being. It is not a flaw, although many people cannot let loose of seeing it in such a manner. It is just the way life is constructed. When your awareness of this vulnerability is triggered, you can be swept into panic, collapse into depression, or desperately try to distract yourself. One of the values of spiritual practice is that you are able to come to terms with this anxiety in a conscious manner. Your life becomes more integrated because you are no longer trying to deny or avoid what is true.

16. It Happened to Me: I Taught Fitness and Failed a Fat Test from Sadie Chanlett-Avery.

17. Wisdom from Rebecca Lindenberg, “I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you ‘have something to say.’ I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say.”

18. If People Were Honest About Women’s Bodies from BuzzFeed Video.

19. What Happens When Cross-Species Best Friends Reunite After Five Years? Hint: someone makes a video, I watch it and sob.

20. Wisdom from Adrienne Rich, “All new learning looks at first like chaos.”

21. Wisdom from Geneen Roth, “When you stop shaming and blaming and feeding the desire to be someone else with a different life, the war with food ends as well.”

22. a ghost’s schedule from Marc Johns. I love this so much.

23. Dear Body: I’m sorry for mistreating you on Hello Giggles.

24. 28 Teeny Tiny Wild Mice on Bored Panda.

25. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club, “Is it time to simplify? Instead of being spread in a too-thin layer all over the place, maybe it’s time to pare your life down to the handful of things that mean the most to you. Then let the rest go so that you can give the very best of yourself to the very best things.”

26. An Itty Bitty White Lie from Rachel Cole. Reason #238 why I love her.

27. Awake in the World: Waking Up Without Words — Ikebana by Alexandra Shenpen.

27. Wisdom from Hafiz,

I should not make any promises right now,
But I know if you
Pray
Somewhere in this world -
Something good will happen.

Satya Robyn shared this on Facebook today, and followed it with some wisdom of her own, “Pray, give thanks, ask for help, admit something to yourself or another human being, listen carefully, be kind, eat chocolate, stop blaming, love everything. It all works.”

28. To Hear the Falling World by Jane Hirshfield. (Thanks for sharing, Jessica).

Only if I move my arm a certain way,
it comes back.
Or the way the light bends in the trees
this time of year,
so a scrap of sorrow, like a bird, lights on the heart.
I carry this in my body, seed
in an unswept corner, husk-encowled and seeming safe.
But they guard me, these small pains,
from growing sure
of myself and perhaps forgetting.

29. There’s A New “Marcel The Shell” Video And It’s Freaking Adorable.

30. Wisdom from Sogyal Rinpoche, “Although we have been made to believe that if we let go we will end up with nothing, life reveals just the opposite: that letting go is the path to freedom.”

31. you are your own damn permission slip from Justine Musk. Word.

Day of Rest

a heron standing alone in the river this morningOn our walk this morning, we saw a heron standing in the middle of the river. Eric took this picture of it, barely visible against the dark water. Even though we stood there for a long time, the dogs didn’t even see it until it started to move, slowly lifting one leg and then the other, its neck and head gliding as if its whole body were underwater, so slow that the place it started was barely different from where it rested, where it stopped and was still again.

I’ve been contemplating the ways in which we move and stay stuck. I’m considering how I might change the way things are for me, shift my approach, alter my experience, transform my perspective, because much of what I do and think doesn’t work, but is also deeply habitual. I’ve been feeling like there is a weight on my chest, a heaviness holding me down. Every time I try to figure out what it might be, I come back to the awareness that it’s me. I am like a bird so used to being captive that even when the door is open, I stay inside the cage.

What I know is that change begins with one tiny step, movement that might be so slow and so small it would look to someone watching like nothing at all. I’ve been wondering what small step I might take, to move towards living fully the life I want, into wellness and sanity.

I consider this knowing that in a real, fundamental way, I don’t need to change. I am already whole and well, innately wise and compassionate, sane. As Pema Chödrön says,

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves — the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.

Gratitude Friday

blooming021. Sick days. It was a rough week for the Salahubs. Sam’s yeast infection in his ears and on his mouth is back, Ringo has kennel cough, and the stress of that combined with a few other things had me not feeling too good either. I’m so lucky to work somewhere that provides the benefit of paid sick days, and that I typically use so few of them that when I really need them I don’t have to worry about taking them because I have so many banked.

2. Netflix. Being sick is hard for me, the not being able to do all the things. The first two days Ringo was sick, we spent the night in the living room so I could keep an eye on him, help him, and so at least Eric and Sam would be getting some sleep. Ringo and I were barely sleeping at night, so those first few days were spent napping on the couch most of the day. The days after that, I would make a pile of books I could read, my notebook and pen, my phone so I could watch some videos or listen to podcasts, all things I could “do” to somehow earn or make up for the downtime, but I was too tired to do any of it. When I finally felt up to doing anything, all I could manage was binge watching Parenthood on Netflix. It was the only thing I had energy for, and if I was doing it, Ringo was content to settle in and nap.

3. Ringo and Sam (and I) on the mend. Sam’s scritching is under control once we started treating his ears as well as his mouth, Ringo is doing better even though this is going to take some time, and I at least feel like I can handle my stuff, have a plan to go back to my doctor, ask to be sent to a specialist in auto immune disorders so I can learn to better manage my health.

sickday

sick day

feeling better

feeling better

4. Mike Birbiglia. Eric had bought us tickets to this show when this was first announced, but with the week we’ve had, we weren’t sure we’d be able to go. We did, and it was so good. We laughed so much. Mike’s comedy is such an elegant, sophisticated mix of complex ideas, personal stories, and humor. It’s a joy to see someone being exactly who they are, doing what they do, and with so much joy, being so successful at it. He talked last night about how his father was a doctor and his mother a nurse, and he was the artistic kid they were embarrassed to talk about, but I would argue he’s every bit as much a healer.

5. Friends who are excited to see me, who are huggers. I am so so so grateful for them.

Bonus Joy: laughing with Eric, watching Ringo play so happily after a few days of being so low and sick, Sam (fingers and paws crossed) not getting Ringo’s sick, Sam’s scritching only happening that one day and resolving once we started him on the ear medicine, my own chance to heal, fall colors, getting to sleep in my own bed after two nights sleeping in the living room, roasted vegetables, Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart, the Open Heart Project Sangha, yoga, the Lincoln Center and its awesome new patio, the little girl eating dinner with her parents at Mount Everest Cafe whose voice was the most powerful antidepressant I’ve ever encountered.

Something Good

1. My Sisters, The Sugar Junkies on Guinevere Gets Sober.

2. The Recovering Body: Physical and Spiritual Fitness for Living Clean and Sober, Jennifer Matesa’s latest book which releases in a few days. I was lucky enough to get an early copy, and it’s so so so good. It gives you the research, the facts, and examples of the stories of various specific people, as well as Jennifer’s own story of addiction and recovery. As with her other writing, this book is brutal in its truth, but elegantly written, compassionate, and so helpful.

3. I am so in love with the new banner on Rowdy Kittens. Tammy shared a link to the site of the artist who created it, and the first post on her blog is all about an offer she’s making to illustrate blog headers. I have been thinking about the site I’m building for the work I’ll be doing teaching and writing, and I am so excited about the opportunity to commission Philippa. Her work is exactly what I was picturing in my head. Thanks, Tammy!

4. 27 Stressful Things You Tolerate Too Often from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

5. Roasted brussel sprouts with bacon and apples recipe from Back to Her Roots. Roasted brussel sprouts are one of my favorite things.

6. Who is in charge of you? Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook. My favorite line is this: “ultimately, other people can only help me; they cannot save me.” Also from Elizabeth on Facebook, Every Journey is a Spiritual Journey and The Most Strangely Reassuring Advice I Ever Received.

7. 5 Signs You Are Coming Alive on Rebelle Society.

8. Wisdom from Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

9. Wisdom from Dilgo Khyenste Rinpoche, “Try to see all your joys and sorrows as if you were watching a movie, letting go of of the idea that you have to strive hard to avoid what is unpleasant. This will make your happiness indestructible.” (Thanks for sharing, Sandra).

10. ST. VINCENT – Official Trailer (2014) [HD]. This movie has some of my favorite actors. Anyone seen it yet?

11. The Dark Knight of the Soul on The Atlantic, which discusses the potential dark side of meditation.

12. Wisdom from Walt Whitman, “I am larger, better than I thought, I did not know I held so much goodness.”

13. Deep Thoughts From a Late Bloomer on Flingo.

14. A Loving Pledge to Smarten the Fuck Up on Rebelle Society.

15. At The Age Of 29, Brittany Is Ending Her Life In A Courageous Way.

16. Talking to a Dead Man: Conversation with a Gang Member in Detroit on Medium. The man in question says at one point, “More kids mean more poverty, more crime when they join the gangs, more trouble for everyone. It should just all end with us dying.” I sure hope there’s another way…

17. Video: Here’s Life Inside A Bed-Stuy Squat. So incredibly sad.

18. Mary Lambert talks her new album, new girlfriend and new attitude with the New York Post.

19. Wisdom from Tara Brach, “Mindfulness is a pause — the space between stimulus and response: that’s where choice lies.”

20. Wisdom from Chögyam Trungpa,

It is said in the texts that those who have attained the highest level of enlightenment suffer more than ordinary people. Their suffering is like the difference between having a hair in your eye as opposed to feeling a hair touching your palm. You feel much more. In other words, they are more in tune with how other people feel. That kind of discomfort is necessary in order to work for others. Positively speaking, it’s like the ache a mother or father would feel if their child cries. But there is another form of discomfort that arises from losing your grip on how to maintain your ego, which is not necessary. That kind of discomfort is an extra burden. So suffering could be very helpful or it could be somewhat of a nuisance.

21. 8 Compelling Reasons to Live with Less from Be More With Less.

22. Why You Should Start Blogging (Even If You’re Not a Writer) on Medium.

23. Unbearable Compassion from Ram Dass, in which he says, “if you armor your heart you starve to death” and,

Here’s where the faith comes and the faith is deepened through your own practices, through your own direct experiences. It’s not belief that someone hands you. It is faith that comes from your own direct experiences. So you learn to keep your heart open in hell. Finally.

24. Which reminded me of this, Louis C.K. Hates Cell Phones, and what he had to say about “the forever empty.”

25. Marriage by Jeff Oaks.

26. Wisdom from Jessica Patterson,

To do this work, you have to know center. You have to know it well enough to let circumference shift without collapsing the shape of you. You have to know center well enough that you can hold space for those you love when they lose their step, when they lose center, when they falter. To do this work, you have to be willing to hold center like a focal point so those who crash on your shores can do so without fear that you will make it about you. Even when it affects you to your core. Even when it hurts you to see them hurting or struggling or making dumb decisions or acting base or mean. Because to do this work, you have to be spacious enough to actually hold space for others. To do this work, you have to be committed to being a light in the darkness, an anchor in the many baffling storms we endure. If you drown every time someone you love is drowning, this is not the work for you. If you lose your center so easily when someone you love is lost, this is not the work for you. If your reaction to hard times or discomfort is judgment and aversion, this is not the work for you. If someone else’s trauma inevitably becomes your own, then this is not the work for you.

27. Big challenges and small wins from This (Sorta) Old Life. Because, this:

In the midst of a big hard time, it’s good to have some small wins. It’s good to be reminded that little fixes can make a big difference in how we feel. It’s good to feel competent. It’s good to remember that no time is all good or all bad, and that the important thing is to keep moving forward, doing what we can. Sometimes that’s the only way we can do home, and life.