Author Archives: jillsalahub

Three Truths and One Wish

1. I am working to stay open, but I get overwhelmed. I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), “a person having the innate trait of high sensory processing sensitivity.” This means that my starting point is raw and tender, no skin, every nerve exposed. What is a normal situation to someone else feels to me like I’ve shown up naked while everyone else holds a knife and yells. Everything seems too bright, too loud, too sharp. Add to that my practice of attempting to remain open no matter what, connected to reality just as it is, and you’ve got a pretty complicated situation.

2. I’m trying to figure out how to have boundaries, how to stay open but somehow protect myself, what it would mean to avoid practicing “idiot compassion” or what I might call “idiot openness.” In Buddhism, “idiot compassion” is essentially enabling, what Pema Chödrön describes as “the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering.” She says,

When you get clear on this kind of thing, setting good boundaries and so forth, you know that if someone is violent, for instance, and is being violent towards you — to use that as the example — it’s not the compassionate thing to keep allowing that to happen, allowing someone to keep being able to feed their violence and their aggression. So of course, they’re going to freak out and be extremely upset. And it will be quite difficult for you to go through the process of actually leaving the situation. But that’s the compassionate thing to do.

3. I’m learning new ways to soothe and protect myself, without numbing out, shutting down, freaking out and running away, or staying and allowing myself to be wounded. It’s complicated and confusing. I make mistakes, get it wrong, but I’m trying, making an effort. As Andrew Boyd said,

Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.

One Wish: That in this life which is such a mix of so much suffering and confusion and aggression, but also so much love and comfort and wisdom, we find a way to be “strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”

Something Good

Dadd's Gulch, image by Eric

Dadd’s Gulch, image by Eric

1. On Running a Web-based Business by Tammy Strobel.

2. Please ask yourself this question before you choose the “format” for your next product, service, art project, or heart project and How I met the love of my life. {A true story…about what happens when you say what is true} from Alexandra Franzen.

3. Wisdom from Jessica Patterson,

And real healing — of the body, the heart, the mind, and the soul — happens only when we are in the state of rest and digest. That is, when we show up and come into direct relationship with what is, we have a chance to heal into what and who we are really.

4. Good stuff from Bored Panda: 20+ Of The Best Packaging Designs Ever, and Japanese Flip Books Reveal Magical Stories With Negative Space and Secret Chambers, and Russian Miner Spends His Breaks Taking Photos Of Foxes In The Arctic Circle, and Goldfish Tea Bags Will Turn Your Teacup Into A Fishbowl.

5. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook: Time to Write, and Onward, and It Doesn’t Have to Be Easy.

6. Gross national happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world.

7. It is okay to need a lot of help, wisdom From Anne Lamott on Facebook.

8. The 8-hour rule is bunk: Why conventional wisdom about sleep is stressing us out on Salon.

9. On Doing the Work from Lisa Congdon.

10. sometimes happiness can only emerge from periods of unhappiness, wisdom from Justine Musk.

11. Mom lets her son pick his own outfit, and the results are awesome, especially this:

“For now we will just let him experiment and let him decide when he’s older what he wants,” says Dawn. “I feel like a great deal of the depression and hate in this world comes from children being raised to think who they are and how they feel is wrong, then they grow into broken, confused adults.” Dawn admits that when Kaige first expressed an interest in dressing like a girl, she was terrified — not because it bothered her, but because she feared the way the world would treat her child.

12. A Brief History Of Old Navy’s Troubled Relationship With Fat Women from xojane.

13. The Truth About Marriage, Monogamy & Long-Term Partnership on Elephant Journal.

14. 4 Surefire Ways To Make Your Partner Feel Loved on MindBodyGreen.

15. amy palko: talking about a revolution, an interview with Sas Petherick.

16. The Science Of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day.

17. A farewell to Dr. Sophia Yin.

18. Oh, the irony from Kat McNally.

19. devotion (all the ways life gives fire) from lists and letters.

20. trusteeship & coffee art on Chookooloonks.

21. An open letter to Oprah, whose ‘The Life You Want’ tour asked me to work for free.

22. Creative Giant Podcast Episode Four: Become More Mindful with Susan Piver.

23. Burrs, rough edges & tangled mats of hair by Laurie Wagner.

24. Could female self-hatred be the real cause of autoimmune disease? from Sarah Wilson. This made so much sense to me, but many readers misunderstood, so she followed it up with “Female illness is not all in the mind” and 19 other things I’d like you to know about unreasoned e-blowouts.

25. One Hilarious Video Perfectly Sums Up a Big Problem With Western Humanitarianism.

26. 9 strategies for surviving the holidays with an open heart from Gemma Stone.

27. Defining the Well-fed Woman from Rachel Cole.

28. Being Small is the Greatest Escape by Stacy Morrison.

29. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts. Embracing the totality of your experience is one definition of having loving-kindness for yourself. Loving-kindness for yourself does not mean making sure you’re feeling good all the time—trying to set up your life so that you’re comfortable every moment. Rather, it means setting up your life so that you have time for meditation and self-reflection, for kindhearted, compassionate self-honesty. In this way you become more attuned to seeing when you’re biting the hook, when you’re getting caught in the undertow of emotions, when you’re grasping and when you’re letting go. This is the way you become a true friend to yourself just as you are, with both your laziness and your bravery. There is no step more important than this.

30. Wisdom from Gertrude Stein,

Everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really. The second one is romantic, separate from themselves, it is not real but it is really there.

31. We are All This Golden Retriever Spectacularly Bombing an Agility Test.

32. Interesting stuff about Amanda Palmer, There’s More To Asking Than Just Art (a book review), and The Art of Asking Why We Hate Amanda Palmer.

33. Ursula K. Le Guin’s fiery speech, and the overwhelming reaction to it.

34. Short animation describes what drug addiction is like. *sigh*

35. ‘If We Left, They Wouldn’t Have Nobody’ from Story Corps.

36. More wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.

37. Less expensive options for a convertible desk: A Standing/Sitting Desk You Can Afford and Ikea’s New Desk Goes From Sitting To Standing With The Push Of A Button. Obviously I’m not the only one interested in this — look at how much this Kickstarter campaign earned!

38. Do great work. Live great lives. on Medium.

39. What Normal Looks Like on Huffington Post.

40. Groomer Shaves Homeless Dog. What She Found Underneath All That Hair Made My Eyes Tear Up.

41. 10 Great Privileges We Forget to Be Thankful For from Marc and Angel Hack Life. #5 isn’t true for me, but the rest certainly are, and I’m grateful.

Taking Refuge

my meditation shrine

my meditation shrine

The first time I attempted meditation was almost 20 years ago. I was reading Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart and books on writing by Zen Buddhist Natalie Goldberg. I was fascinated by the philosophy, the perspective, the practice, and willing to try anything that might help me cope with the difficulty of my life, my emotions and my mind. Even though I found it beneficial, sat regularly for a short time with a Zen meditation group and on my own, the practice didn’t stick. I didn’t even finish reading Kornfield’s book.

I continued to struggle for eleven more years before finding my way back to a cushion. A friend recommended Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart and mentioned that the local Shambhala Meditation Center had a program coming up I might be interested in, “The Art of Being Human.” I read the book and went to the training, and started to practice in earnest. For two years, one weekend a month I was either attending a retreat or staffing one. I read and studied and practiced. This was the same time I started to practice yoga regularly. Things were falling into place.

And then everything fell apart. I had already been dealing with a difficult work situation, was stressed and in crisis, when my Obi was diagnosed with a treatable but ultimately incurable cancer. At the same time, my friend Kelly was diagnosed with cancer. That summer I went to Shambhala Mountain Center to participate in a longer retreat, Warrior Assembly, the culmination of the two years of training I’d been doing. Not long after I returned home, Obi died. Six months later, Kelly died. Even though I didn’t leave CSU entirely, I effectively quit the job that was so problematic.

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

I was completely heartbroken, utterly lost, so confused. After two years of regular practice, I couldn’t do it anymore. Every time I sat on my cushion to meditate, I fell part, felt so raw, came unhinged and couldn’t stop crying. I was angry — if this practice couldn’t help me feel better when the worst happened, what good was it? I smile to remember it now, that way of thinking about what practice was supposed to do for me. What I understand now that I didn’t then is that my raw and tender broken heart, being able to feel that, experience it, sit and stay with it is exactly the point, not making it “go away” or fixing it like I thought.

Practice starts precisely where we find ourselves, which for many of us is a place of heartbreak, suffering, alienation and doubt. But it is precisely there, within those circumstances, that we start. ~Ryushin Sensei

For at least a year, I tried to find my way back to my cushion. I would practice in fits and starts, but it never seemed to stick. I continued to practice yoga and slowly started to write more regularly. I started taking ecourses and began this blog. I started building a routine, finding a rhythm. And then I found Susan Piver and her Open Heart Project, (OHP). I signed up for her newsletter and started meditating with her. Her wisdom, kindness, and friendship, along with the OHP community, helped me find my way back.

meditating with Susan

The great gift of a spiritual path is coming to trust that you can find a way to true refuge. You realize that you can start right where you are, in the midst of your life, and find peace in any circumstance. Even at those moments when the ground shakes terribly beneath you — when there’s a loss that will alter your life forever — you can still trust that you will find your way home. This is possible because you’ve touched the timeless love and awareness that are intrinsic to who you are. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking about taking refuge vows. I’ve been telling people for so long “I study and practice Buddhism, but I’m not actually a Buddhist, haven’t taken vows or anything,” that I wondered if I ever would. But I’ve been feeling a longing, a growing awareness — this is my path, I’m committed to it. Like I told a teacher once, “if this doesn’t work, nothing does.” For whatever reason, this is just what makes sense to me. It helps me to live my life, to be in the world, to cultivate kindness and wisdom, sanity. And yet, I have been waiting, for either an opportunity that was close to home or one Susan Piver could attend, because it felt important to me to have her there somehow, since she’s the primary reason I’d be there.

Then I got certified to teach yoga. We studied yogic philosophy as part of our training, meditated, did mantra and kirtan practice, learned various breath practices and the sanskrit names for the yoga poses, read the yoga sutras — and I loved it all, saw so many similarities between it and my tradition, but also became very aware that it wasn’t my path. Yoga is one of my practices, and part of my path as such, but I’m not so much a yogini as I am a Buddhist who does yoga.

Becoming a yoga teacher made it clear it was time to make a true commitment to my path. I searched to see where I might go to take my vows, and saw that the Boulder Shambhala Center was offering the ceremony two days before my birthday. Susan couldn’t be there, but she did write my letter of recommendation. The teacher who would be performing the ceremony had taught at my Warrior Assembly, and when I arrived the night we went to make our official request to make the vow, a friend was leading our meditation session. It was time.

boulderrigden

Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center Main Shrine Room

I asked Susan her advice about taking vows in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, and she said, “Relax. Watch your mind. Enjoy. Relax. Repeat … And remember, you have nothing to prove. This ceremony is to mark something that has already happened.” I tried to remember this as I waited for my interview with Acharya Ferguson (“Acharya” in this tradition basically means “senior teacher”), and even though he’s the kindest person and I’d met him before, I was still nervous. The purpose of the interview is to make a formal request to take the vow and for the teacher to come up with the dharma name you’d be given the day of the ceremony. We were told that he might ask us questions, but might not. The person who went in just before me was talking and laughing with him, and I wasn’t sure what to wish for — if he didn’t ask me any questions, was that good or bad? Part of me wanted him to see me and for my presence to be so vibrant, my true self so clearly embodied and present that he would know just by seeing me. I think I was also afraid if I opened my mouth, I might say something weird because I was anxious and end up with an odd name that didn’t fit, didn’t make sense to me.

In Tibet, children are given a nickname when they are born. This is what everyone calls them until they are old enough to take their refuge vows and receive their adult, Buddhist name. In that culture, everyone given a name uses it. In the West, many dharma students don’t actually change their name, but rather use it as a contemplation. We were told that the name isn’t meant as a compliment or a challenge, but rather something to consider as we practice, intended to offer insight, and that it was entirely up to us whether we wanted to officially change our name, use it in that way. I felt sure my name would be a message, that it would provide me a new understanding of my path. And during my meeting with Acharya Ferguson that night, he did ask me a few questions, and I could see the exact moment he knew the name he’d offer me.

heartgiftOn the day of the ceremony, I focused on Susan’s advice. I relaxed and enjoyed myself. Acharya Ferguson gave a talk in the morning about what it meant to take refuge, and then we did sitting and walking meditation until lunch, contemplating what we were about to do. After a break to eat, we came back and had a rehearsal and then the ceremony itself.

In the Buddhist tradition, the purpose of taking refuge is to awaken from confusion and associate oneself with wakefulness. Taking refuge is a matter of commitment and acceptance and, at the same time, of openness and freedom. By taking the refuge vow we commit ourselves to freedom. ~Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

The ceremony itself was a funny combination of something like a baptism and a wedding, along with something else entirely. After you take the vow, reciting it three times after performing prostrations, the teacher (referred to in this case as a preceptor) snaps his fingers, and it’s at that moment the vow is made. My favorite moment was that finger snap. It was so simple and yet so definite. My next favorite moment was receiving my dharma name.

As I stood in line, listening to all the other names, I wondered if mine would be so good. Every person’s name seemed so rich, so full of beauty and possibility and wisdom. Every name that was read, I thought “oh, I wish that was mine!” I worried I’d get something that would be awkward or confusing. I’d talked to other people about their names, and listening to them describe their lingering confusion, I anticipated my own.

dharmanameI didn’t need to worry. There’s a rightness to the name I was given. I will continue to contemplate it, but my first thought was an appreciation of the way it married the concept of vastness, openness, emptiness with embodiment, movement, physical expression. I used to long to be a visionary, an oracle, a seer, a prophet of some sort, but I’m understanding more and more than my purpose is to be a container, an embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

You go through this ceremony which is like part baptism and part wedding and you expect to be born again somehow, cleansed or something, a new beginning, but really I’m just back in the heat of my own stew, laughing at how silly I was to think anything was going to be magically changed by it. I have to do the work, show up and practice, it’s up to me and that’s never going to change. This is my path, for sure and for real.

The biggest illusion about a path of refuge is that we are on our way somewhere else, on our way to becoming a different kind of person. But ultimately, our refuge is not outside ourselves, not somewhere in the future – it is always and already here. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

Gratitude Friday

birthdayorchids1. My birthday. All the love sent my way, the pie Eric made me, the permission I gave myself to be exactly who I am, to do what I wanted and feel how I wanted all day long. The realization that I’m having more of an impact than I knew.

2. My refuge vow ceremony. I’m going to write more about it this weekend, share what it was like and what it means, but for now I’ll just say I’m so grateful, for the clarity and connection.

3. Kale and Brussels Sprouts salad. I’ve been obsessed with this lately, buying it from the Whole Foods deli, and finally got time to try making my own. It turned out really good, cost way less than was I was spending to buy it premade, and this way I can play with the recipe, making it exactly what I want.
kalesalad4. My boys. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you already know about Ringo’s “couching” antics. He has his own ideas about how you are supposed to lounge. He just turned one year old and is a total clown, as well as a real terror sometimes. Sweet Sam is so patient with him, so easy to be around and take care of.
couchingboys5. Gemma Hayes’s new album, Bones and Longing. It’s so beautiful and I can’t stop listening to it. It was released the day before my birthday and was the best present.

Bonus Joy: Laughing with Eric, snow, walking with the dogs, messages from the Universe, the Open Heart Project Sangha, Susan Piver, a lunch and movie date with a friend, watching A Letter to my Dog Exploring the Human Condition and crying and laughing with a friend who’d never seen it and then sharing it with a few other people who’d never heard it, a new ibex wool jacket to replace the one I lost two years ago, a new rain jacket that’s so nice I almost wish it would rain so I could try it out … almost, new neighbors who are quiet, really good chocolate, Beavers Market, down and wool, wild turkeys and rabbits, the chance to start over again and again.

Three Truths and One Wish

from our walk this morning

1. Today is my birthday. I am 47 years old, and it’s wonderful to be alive, awake, still here. I feel simultaneously older and yet so much younger than that number. I am not at all where I expected I would be, and my life hasn’t gone the way I imagined it would, and yet where I find myself is so right, so much better than I thought, while also so much more difficult. More than anything, I promised myself I would spend today being exactly who I am, loving and celebrating myself. It’s still morning here, and I think what I’ve given myself today might just need to be the way I live all the time.

2. Susan Piver is brilliant. Her latest video for the Open Heart Project suggests a simple question that she labels “a life changing question.” I finally watched it this morning and it was so perfectly timed, such a great way to start my day. Spoiler alert: the question is “who would I be if I took myself seriously?” It reminds me of what Rachael Maddox said recently, how “maybe the magic that was missing all along was the will to be all the way true to the call of your brilliant heart.”

3. I’m still grieving the loss of my Dexter. It’s been almost a year and a half, and I’m only just now able to touch the center of that sadness, which is very much alive, fierce and tender and raw.

One wish: That we take ourselves seriously, and that we celebrate and love and grieve fully, each in exactly our own way.

Something Good

 

bouldershambhalacenter1. Success Redefined from Rachel Cole.

2. Truthbomb #668 from Danielle LaPorte, “Surprise your doubts with action.”

3. Grace of Beginning, lines from a John O’Donohue poem shared by Erica Staab.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awake your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

4. Rewriting the Book of Belonging: Anne Lamott on the True Gift of Friendship and the Uncomfortable Art of Letting Yourself Be Seen on Brain Pickings.

5. All Good Things from Pugly Pixel.

6. Pulling the trigger, a final post on This (Sorta) Old Life. This happens sometimes, and it’s good to honor it. I’m going to miss it though.

7. A Meditative Moon Salutation from Yoga International.

8. Good stuff from Bored Panda: I Create Installations In Public Spaces To Bring People Happiness, and A Coworker Asked This Guy To Watch Her Plant For 4 Days. Here’s What He Did, and 20+ Mesmerizing Mosque Ceilings That Highlight The Wonders Of Islamic Architecture.

9. {After} thoughts on Wellness by Design.

10. Why Fame Doesn’t Matter, with Dallas Clayton.

11. Recipe for Brussels Sprout Fried Rice from Kris Carr.

12. Good stuff from Buzzfeed: 42 Pictures That Will Make You Almost Too Happy and 40 Inspiring Workspaces Of The Famously Creative.

13. Know where you have power, and where you do not have power, wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

14. Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down To 2 Basic Traits.

15. “Every year, 750,000 Chinese die prematurely from pollution.” This post includes disturbing images and facts. Maybe just skip this one. It’s not so much “something good” as shocking and heartbreaking, but it was also weirdly helpful to me, inspired me to do better, make better choices.

16. The Next 5 Most Frustrating Things About Simplicity from Be More With Less.

17. The YES Movement on Painted Path.

18. My Plan for a Free and Open Internet from President Obama on Medium.

19. The Experience of Enough an interview with Geneen Roth.

20. Learning To Read Tarot Cards on Free People.

21. I’m Wanting What I Want. You? from Rachael Maddox.

22. Afterlight 1080, “a short hand made film that explores both one’s inherent darkness and one’s inherent lightness.”

23. Austin Kleon: Show your work, video of his talk from Confab Higher Ed 2014, available to watch streaming for two more weeks.

24. The Life Of A Project from Steal Like An Artist. Such a great graphic.

25. Shared on Positively Present Picks list: Love Yourself Pinterest board, and 5 Life Lessons to Learn From Your Dog, and this quote from Nelson Mandela, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

26. From Susannah’s Something for the Weekend list, Sausage, Potato, Kale Soup recipe.

27. Shared on Rowdy Kittens’ Happy Links list, Amanda Palmer on the Art of Asking and What Thoreau Teaches Us about Accepting Love on Brain Pickings.

28. From Chookooloonks this was a good week post, A Solar-Powered Glow-in-the-dark Bike Path by Studio Roosegaarde Inspired by Van Gogh.

29. What I Learned From a 30-Day Social Media Detox on Medium.

30. Good stuff from Create as Folk: Purpose Profile: Sarah Selecky, and this shared link to a post on Saray Selecky’s blog, Be grateful for your crazy, active mind, and Quitting Your Job? Don’t Be Dumb.

31. The 10 Most Important Questions You Can Ask Yourself Today from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

32. Wisdom from Terry Tempest Williams, shared in Hannah Marcotti‘s weekly love letter,

For far too long we have been seduced into walking a path that did not lead us to ourselves. For far too long we have said yes when we wanted to say no. And for far too long we have said no when we desperately wanted to say yes. . .

When we don’t listen to our intuition, we abandon our souls. And we abandon our souls because we are afraid if we don’t, others will abandon us.

33. Why You Creating Stuff Matters from Jennifer Louden.

34. The “Breakthrough” Myth from Isabel Foxen Duke, in which she says,

Sanity around food is not something that we achieve once and then never have to think about ever again…sanity around food is a meditation  — a thought pattern — that we practice coming back to again and again, watching that thought pattern feel more natural overtime.

Little by little, our sane thinking patterns become easier to come back to,

Until at some point, practicing our new way of thinking creates grooves in our mind and we don’t have to actively remember anymore, it’s just happening — a new natural way of being takes over.

35. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön, on why to meditate,

Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness… [We] work with cultivating gentleness, innate precision, and the ability to let go of small-mindedness, learning how to open to our thoughts and emotions, to all the people we meet in our world, how to open our minds and hearts.