Monthly Archives: April 2012

Something Good

the lilacs are still blooming

1. 10 ways to view your fears with kindness on kind over matter.

2. Zencast.org, an archive of once a week dharma talks that dates back to 2005. And if that’s not enough for you, check out Audio Dharma, which has an archive that goes back to 1999.

3. The Crash & Burn Antidote (and why I don’t do gratitude lists) from Laura Simms of Create as Folk, who gives a great alternative to gratitude lists in this video, (and besides, she’s just so cute).

 

4. Acute How-To: DIY Fabric tape on Scoutie Girl. This one gets filed under “how I know I’m a nerd” because I can’t wait to try this.

5. This quote: To study the dharma is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. ~Dogen Holy Wow, and Whoa…

6. What is Mindfulness? 9 Points to Ponder on HealYourLife.com, a really great post that describes this important experience. For example, the first point is:

Mindfulness means observing things just as they are—our thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and what’s happening in the world around us. It shows us the world just as a mirror reflects images: clearly, openly, and without bias. It’s what happens when the mind watches and engages consciously with life, rather than being blindly caught up in what’s going on.

I want to go to there…

7. Book Title Poems. I’d really like to do some of these, but I think right now it would instigate a whole mess of dusting, organizing, and simplifying that I’m not ready for. One example is Nina Katchacourian’s Sorted Books project, (make sure to click on each image to see the full series). Another is from one of my favorites, Judy Clement Wall of Zebra sounds. And one more by Annie Neugebauer.

8. Radical Self-Love TedxCMU Talk by Gala Darling. This is a message that I just can’t hear enough times.

 

9. A Brief Manifesto On MAGNETIC CLARITY — & 3 Questions To Get You There from Alexandra Franzen on Unicorns for Socialism.

10. And my favorite something good for this week: yowayowa camera woman diary, levitation photos. I first read about this online at the New York Times Lens. There’s something so sweet, haunting, and magical about these images.

My cat Guru died this afternoon 14:27.
He had been suffering from congenital kidney disorder.
Thank you Guru. I was very happy to have met you.
黒猫のグールが今日の午後14:27に亡くなりました。
先天性の腎不全を患っていました。
ありがとうグール。あなたに会えて私はほんとうに幸せでした。

Z is for Zero Hour

Zero hour: the scheduled or planned time for the start of an operation or action, the moment at which it is set to begin, the exact time something will start.

It’s a very real possibility that yesterday I stumbled on the first line of the book I’m writing. When it arose in my mind, as I was falling back asleep after Eric and the dogs left for an early morning hike, that may have been the zero hour.

Or maybe it was later, when I wrote it down in my notebook, let myself follow that beginning for the length of a whole page.

Or maybe it was eleven years ago when the moment I was writing about actually happened.

Or was it that night almost 25 years ago when I stood over my first husband in the dark of the bedroom that had been ours, the night before our apartment was supposed to be vacated, when I’d already been gone for a month and I’d come back to do a final cleaning only to find him still living there, asleep in what had been our bed, and he told me he didn’t want a divorce, “please don’t leave me,” and I felt such compassion for him, knew I’d promised, made that exact vow, but also knew that by leaving I was saving my own life, so answered “it’s too late, I’m already gone.”

Or was it when I married Eric, my true partner, my only real husband? Was it when I went back to school, or when I finished my graduate degree? Was it when I first saw Obi, or was it when he was diagnosed with a treatable but incurable cancer, or was it when he died? Was it the moment Kelly passed, or was it later, in the moment I knew she was gone? Was it when I started Warrior training? Was it when I started this blog? Was it the moment when I made my first Mondo Beyondo list and I added this book to it? Was it on my meditation cushion or writing morning pages in the Rigden Shrine Room at the Shambhala Mountain Center during the Fearless Creativity retreat with Susan Piver?

Or maybe it was earlier still, in the second grade, when I first made the wish to be a writer when I grew up, the year Mrs. Heilbronner took to calling me “my little author.” Or maybe it was when I first learned to talk, to use language and words to communicate my experience, to name what I needed, what I loved.

Or maybe the true zero hour for this book was the day I was born.

It’s so strange to me still, how you can just start, simply begin, not even realizing until later, and even then not be entirely sure which exact moment was your zero hour.

Day of Rest

one of the last blossoms of early spring

Proclamation of Goodness
May basic goodness dawn.
May the confidence of goodness be eternal.
May goodness be all-victorious.
May that goodness bring profound, brilliant glory.

~Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

On this day of rest, dear reader, I want to remind you again that you are basically, fundamentally, innately good. You are whole and worthy and wise and brave and utterly loveable, just as you are–all of your confused, messy, stinky bits.

Even if you can’t adopt that belief as a constant reality, humor me and open yourself to the idea for just a single moment. Place your hand over your heart, feel its warmth, its constant and regular beating, and say to yourself “I am basically good.”

If that’s all you can do for now, that’s okay: I believe it with my whole heart, and I’m not the only one.

You are basically good.

Y is for Yoga

image by lululemon athletica

I am embarrassed to say it happened again. I didn’t know what word I was going to use today, even though yoga is one of my four primary, regular, spiritual practices. I started brainstorming a list: yawn, yesterday, yes. I got as far as opening my dictionary to “y” and as soon as I saw that first page of words, I thought “yogi” and immediately after came the next thought: yoga. D’oh!

So again, I suppose it’s that thing about fish and water, it’s such a part of your world, your life, your environment that it becomes oddly invisible.

Yoga grounds me in my body, centers me there. As in other practices, the act of doing it regularly teaches me a lot about myself. I learn how I spend too much time comparing myself to others, judging and evaluating, and I realize that the practice, the experience isn’t about competition at all, with anyone. It’s about the reality of what is happening on my own mat, about cultivating compassion.

Some days, I move fluidly, am flexible and strong, can balance in tree for a full five minutes, can hover in crow or hold a headstand with confidence. Other days, I come to the mat shaky and raw, irritable, stiff and weak, one side works but the other needs extra understanding and gentleness.

image by lululemon athletica

And other times, I can trust my body, but my mind is a mess, a wreck, a wild animal. It won’t stay with me on the mat. It keeps wanting to rush off or draw me in to long conversations or even arguments. I stay with it, stay on the mat, and hope it will settle, be still. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t and instead spends the whole practice in another room, another moment, another universe.

For me, yoga is meditation in movement. I expand the breath focus of sitting meditation to include my whole body, moving my awareness as my body moves from pose to pose. It expands the practice of training my mind (as in sitting meditation) to training my body and mind to be in the same space at the same time, moving together.

I’ve been struggling a bit with my yoga practice lately, feel a bit stuck and bored, but more importantly I have been struggling with my body. As it ages, I have entered a new phase of being that is utterly confusing. I haven’t quite learned how to care for my 44 year old body. It’s needs are so starkly different. It feels fatigue in a way I have never experienced. I work to be gentle with my Happy Buddha belly, trying to see it’s roundness as lucky, rather than stubborn and ugly. I try to be compassionate towards this body’s need for rest. I really want to understand what it needs from me, I want to not just love it, but to care for it in a way that allows it to thrive.

I contemplate impermanence, cultivate gratitude for the chance to get older, a chance so many others will never have. I also remember that this “old” body will be the “young” one I remember later, maybe even mourn, and that my sense of age is relative.

image by lululemon athletica

And I practice, strong in warrior pose one day, needing to rest in child’s pose the next, accepting whatever my current reality might be, and when I am done, I dedicate the merit of my practice, offering it so that suffering might be dispelled.

Namaste, kind and gentle reader. The divine nature within me perceives and adores the divine nature within you. I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, light, peace and joy. When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one.

Gratitude Friday

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. Tulips from a dear friend. This one is my favorite color.

2. A/C in the Eddy Building. They finally turned it on! My office is on the third floor of an old cinderblock building with huge windows that reach wall to wall and from the ceiling to the height of my desk, so it gets HOT in here. My plants love it, but my brain and the chocolate have been reaching melting point with the 80+ degree temperatures we’ve had this week, so I’m grateful for freon.

3. Dance Walking. Eric and I were watching “Glee” the other night (or rather, as I have explained before, I was watching and he just happened to be in the room) and during a musical number, he said “I would hate living in a world where people just broke into big dance, musical numbers or had to sing everything. It’s like my worst nightmare.” I just smiled and stayed quiet. He looked at me and said, “You’d love it wouldn’t you?” Yes, yes I would…

I have always loved musicals (The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, Funny Girl, Lady Sings the Blues, Fame, Flashdance, Grease, Oliver, etc., and the TV show Glee). I was in theater and choir in high school. I long to be in a flash mob. I have been known to break into spontaneous dance parties of one. And this video makes me so happy.

 

4. Guess what I’ll be doing this weekend?

5. Susan Piver. I am still basking in the glow of the Fearless Creativity retreat I did with her and ten other lovely people two weeks ago, and for the Open Heart Project this week, she made a video about my favorite topic, basic goodness. I adore her.

 

6. I realized this week that in only two more weeks, I will be on summer vacation, my first one in about ten years.

Bonus joy, bliss, and gratitude: I had moments this week (you read that right, more than one) in which I felt like I was enough and that I had enough, and maybe more importantly, telling you this so publicly doesn’t even make me feel afraid that by mentioning it, I’ll somehow jinx it. I am cultivating confidence in enough.

X is for X-Ray

The last three “Blogging from A to Z in April” posts will be the hardest. There just aren’t that many words that start with x, y, and z. It’s like they put them at the end of the alphabet on purpose, or because they were at the end, by the time they got to them, there were no words left.

As for “x,” there’s only a single page, half the front and half the back of a single page in my dictionary, and most of the words listed are ones I don’t recognize, don’t understand, and certainly don’t ever use.

image by arztsamui / freedigitalphotos.net

X-ray has a technical definition (boring, or rather “I don’t really understand how it works or what it is, so I’m bored by it”). What’s more interesting about the concept is that there is such a technology, one that can see inside our bodies, under the skin, revealing the mystery of a broken bone, the surprise of a cavity, the shock of a tumor–the profound, precious, hidden mess and magic of the body.

As a kid, I totally believed in the possibility, eventual reality, of x-ray glasses. Although, at that time, the only use I could imagine for it was spying on people in the next room or seeing someone in their underwear.

image by chris willis

If someone looked inside of me, took an x-ray, they’d see a malformed and damaged right hip, leg bones that aren’t the same length, an old break in the right pinky finger, lungs that are clear, weakness in the right shoulder, a mind that might be smaller than normal but is healthy, a spine that is slightly bent and sometimes weak but mostly strong, and a heart that’s simultaneously whole and broken.

image by arztsamui / freedigitalphotos.net (with a slight modification by jill)

W is for Writing

Okay, come on, really–who are we kidding? Was there even a question about what word I’d pick for “w”?

Wings

Well, (I’m almost embarrassed to admit this) actually, there was a question, and it even lingered. Yesterday, when I realized “w” was the next letter, I tried thinking of a word, and I couldn’t. I thought this would be another a-z post where I’d have to get out my dictionary and start flipping through the “w” entries, waiting for the magic word to shimmer and float off the page. Late yesterday, that was the plan, and that was as far as I went.

Then, on our walk this morning, I thought I had a brilliant moment of insight: Walk! Of course, I’ll write about walking. I say that dog is one of my primary spiritual practices, and walking is an essential…wait…what?…my practices? What are they again? Oh, yeah: yoga, meditation, dog, and WRITING. D’oh!

Here’s my explanation, my story for why “writing” wasn’t immediately obvious to me: if you ask a fish “how’s the water?”, it will answer “what’s water?” Writing is so essential to me that it’s become automatic and invisible in that way breathing or my heartbeat are things I don’t “do,” they just are.

Scribble

And when thinking about my practices (writing, yoga, meditation, and dog), writing is the one that won’t leave the others alone, won’t keep to itself. It imbeds itself in the others, is tangled in a way that it can’t be separated. It tries to interrupt the others, asserting its need, its desire. And yet, it needs the others to function, to continue to do what it does. It would be nothing, empty without them.

Sitting on my cushion, phrases form, ideas and answers arise. Even though it’s not recommended, goes against what you are training your mind to do, (you should label it “thinking” and return to the breath), sometimes I can’t help it, I have to get my notebook and write something down, and that something might lead to something else, and a half hour later, I still haven’t returned to my breath.

My writing is embodied, my body a partner in my writing practice, in the process, and there is a merging of movement and manuscript. In this way, writing is also happening when I practice yoga or when I walk my dogs. Things I’ve been struggling with become clear and new ideas form. I notice things, see patterns and make connections, relax and soften to what is, allow it to touch me, to catch up.

On our walk this morning, when I was trying to think of that line I just used, “merging of movement and manuscript,” I couldn’t think of a “m” word that meant writing to pair with “movement.” As we neared the small wooden bridge at the back of Wood Duck Pond, it came to me–“manuscript!” I celebrated, but I was alone in it. The birds were too busy singing, the clouds too busy floating and shifting color, and the dogs think writing is the dumbest thing ever. For starters, they can’t read. They also think it’s a waste of time to write, to standing in front of a box, push buttons and click keys, or to sit and scratch a pen on the paper–dumb. Especially when you could be playing or patrolling territory, or even napping.

Last night, Eric and I were watching the most recent episode of Glee (well, I was watching it, Eric just happened to be in the room with me), and when Finn was talking about not knowing what his dream was, Eric said “I never had a dream.” I smiled, because we’ve talked about this before. I leaned in and whispered “I’ve had the same dream since I was in the second grade.”

And as I have told you before, kind and gentle reader, I also had writer’s block, on and off and to varying degrees, for at least the past 25 years. I’ve told you before that this yearning to be a writer was something that I kept secret, locked in a box in the very, very center of my heart. It was a tiny bird that I fed lovingly, kept it warm holding it close, tight in my hands, whispering all my secrets to it, but utterly unable to let it fly.

But I finally released it. My heart cracked open with grief, my love was unbound by form, and I let it go. Now my mission is to write wildly and poorly, all the time. The magic is that somehow, out of all that, something beautiful sometimes happens. It must be like fertilizer is to a garden. There is only my tender, open heart, raw and brave, desiring to stay awake. On my writing desk, the tulips my dear friend gave me the other day are as beautiful almost dead as they were in those first moments. They remind me that there is enough time, but time is short.

Writing this blog, knowing that you are sometimes there listening, has been such a blessing to my writing practice, such magic, such medicine. Each post is the beginning of an essay or the whisper of a book chapter. I take part in a larger conversation, with this space acting like my kitchen table. I cultivate connection, community, and compassion. I make a record, a map of the landscape of my experience, the territory of my heart. I feel a deep knowing, a confidence as I string the words together.

Like everything else, we learn by doing. You can only talk about riding a bike for so long, study it as an object only so much before you have to start. And you do so knowing that there’s a risk you will crash, fall over, break bones and draw blood, get hurt–but that feeling you get when it works, when it happens, like you are flying, is so worth it.