Category Archives: Compassion


Yesterday I was supposed to take part in the blogging event 1000 Voices for Compassion. 1000 bloggers writing posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement, care for the environment, etc., all published on the same day (Feb 20th) to “flood the Blogosphere with GOOD!” I first heard about it from my friend Lisa, who has a blog called Flingo. I have a fondness for the number 1000 and as you might already know, compassion is one of my favorite subjects.

But things didn’t go quite as planned. I came home in the early afternoon because Eric was working late and I needed to take the dogs on their second walk. It was supposed to rain and then snow, so we went a bit earlier than usual. My plan was that after we walked, we’d all get in the car, go to the feed store to get dog food and treats, then to the grocery store, and hopefully we’d get back in time for me to finally take a shower (the whole day had been so busy, I hadn’t had time yet), and I’d feed the dogs dinner and write my blog post before Eric got home.

That’s not what happened. At the beginning of our walk, Ringo stubbed his injured toe, and I thought we were going to have to turn around and go straight home, that I might have to take him to the vet after all, but I checked his foot and it was fine, and he went on without any other issues. I however was close to the end of my rope. I’d been worried about him all week. My mind was absolutely fixated on it. It was the same old story — I had myself in knots trying so hard to do the right thing, to not make a mistake, to keep him safe, but was so anxious something would go wrong, was so aware that no matter how much I prepared or how hard I tried, something could always go wrong. I worried I should have taken Ringo to the vet sooner. I worried that we weren’t caring for the cut “right,” that maybe we shouldn’t be walking him so much. I worried it would get infected. I worried that maybe his foot or even the whole leg would have to get amputated. I worried he’d get so sick he’d die. This is how my brain works sometimes, kind and gentle reader. Losing Obi and Dexter to cancer has given me a weird case of PTSD when it comes to my dogs.

I was feeling frazzled. So when Ringo picked up the black knit toddler’s glove he’d wanted to get each time we walked past it, I didn’t tell him to drop it this time. He walks so nice when he’s carrying something that it’s tempting to just let him. Sometimes he finds a plastic water bottle or tennis ball or a single adult sized glove and I let him carry it for as long as he wants. It keeps him occupied (this boy gets bored on walks) and from eating other stuff off the ground he shouldn’t because something is already in his mouth. The kid’s glove was really too small, and I thought to myself “it’s probably a bad idea to let him have that, and for sure Eric wouldn’t want me to let him,” but in the moment I decided that something that would make him walk nicely for me for even just a single block was worth what I thought was a minor risk.

I was wrong. I let him carry it for a block, and as we rounded the next corner, I turned to tell him to drop it. At the same time, a dog in the yard we were passing started barking at us. This next part all seemed to happen in slow motion — I realized the challenge of the dog in the yard had made Ringo decide to swallow the glove. I threw the leashes down and grabbed Ringo, putting my fingers down his throat. I could feel the glove, but my fingers were too short and kept slipping. I couldn’t get a good grip and Ringo was biting down, fighting me. I had to pull my hand out and quickly try again. This time, the glove wasn’t there. He’d swallowed it and was looking at me like “what, Mom?”

He seemed totally fine, and there was nothing else to do but get home as fast as we could. My finger was bleeding and my hand was bruised and scratched up, my breath was shallow and fast, and I was crying a little. I called the vet as soon as we walked in the door and he said that even though Ringo would probably pass it, if I didn’t want to risk it, I could bring him in and they’d induce vomiting so he’d throw it up.

This wasn’t the first time Ringo ate something he shouldn’t have. I knew all too well the anxiety of waiting for something to pass through — rocks, sticks, a wooden peg from one of our dining room chairs, part of a leather glove. Wolverine, Hoover, Danny Glover, Ringo Blue is notorious for eating anything he can get in his mouth, no matter how gross or seemingly inedible. We once had an emergency vet recommend we walk him wearing a muzzle. We laughed at her suggestion, not because we thought it was a ridiculous idea but because we knew Ringo would just try to eat the muzzle. He doesn’t have a bed or blanket in the crate we leave him in when we go to work, and there’s no cover on it. The curtains that used to hang down near his nighttime crate are tied in a knot up high so he can’t reach them and are missing a chunk of the bottom corner to evidence why. I say “leave it” or “drop it” at least 50 times on every walk. Ringo can’t be left unsupervised in the backyard, and even supervised he can only stay out for 5-10 minutes because he’s gets into everything. The only time he gets to play with soft toys is for a few minutes while I’m watching him, taking it away as soon as he starts to try and shred or rip it — I don’t care if he ruins a toy, but any part he chews off, he wants to swallow. We pulled him out of daycare because they weren’t watching him closely enough when he was outside and one day he ate a bunch of rocks and sticks and got sick.

dannygloverI took Ringo straight to the vet. I decided I’d rather get the glove out of him than risk what might happen if we left it in. When we walked in, the girls at the counter called out “Mitten Boy!” One of them took him in the back, and about five minutes later, our vet came up front with a rumpled black glove in a plastic bag.

We ran our errands and I got my shower, but I didn’t write a blog post. I worried that Eric would be disappointed or mad that I’d let Ringo carry the glove, but instead he was grateful I’d taken care of him, got him to the vet. He kept telling me what a good mom I was, that he was sorry I’d had to go through that, was so glad Ringo was okay. I didn’t even beat myself up for it, which is pretty unusual. Usually if something goes wrong, I’m quick to blame myself, smash myself to bits for it, but this time I didn’t. I could see things for how they were. It was a dumb mistake. It wasn’t intentional, and I dealt with the consequences. I’ll know better next time. And of course, I would never hurt Ringo on purpose.

I did freak out a little later, thinking about what might have happened if instead of swallowing the glove, it had gotten stuck where I couldn’t reach it, that Ringo could have choked on it before I could get him to the vet. That’s how life is — no matter how diligent we are, no matter how prepared or careful, we can’t control everything. Shit happens. Every moment of our life comes ripe with risk. We are never safe, even when we imagine we are.

The only thing we can do in the midst of this chaos, the only thing we can trust is compassion. We forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. We let others help us. We are kind to someone who is hurting, comfort them however we can. We try as best we can to ease suffering where we find it. We don’t give up.

Day of Rest: More on Compassion

birthdayorchidsI’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). In Feast it was the focus of our week, and Rachel introduced us to Kate Read and her work at Home for the Highly Sensitive. Kate references research on her site that “compares orchids to sensitive folks and dandelions to hardier people.” The suggestion is that someone who is HSP needs more specialized conditions and care to thrive, is more easily impacted by environmental factors including the energy of other people.

I am an HSP. I only discovered the label, the criteria in the past few years, but I’ve always known something was different about me. Actually what I thought for a long time is that I was simply crazy, confused, broken. I felt things so deeply, struggled with feeling raw and tender. I got easily overwhelmed by other people’s energy and my environment. I was told I was too sensitive and that my perception was wrong so many times that I learned not to trust myself. I looked outside myself to know what was “true” and how I was supposed to react. I let external expectations shape me, my thoughts and behavior.

This isn’t just my problem. Anyone living in a Western culture is potentially handicapped by two core and contradictory beliefs: you are basically bad and you are supposed to be perfect.

We assume that we are born basically bad — imperfect, flawed, broken animals. We come into the world with a black mark on our soul (“original sin”), and we must struggle against this fundamental nature even as we believe we will never be able to escape it, at least not without divine intervention. This belief turns our whole life into a desperate cycle of sin, repentance and penance. Every thought, feeling, and action are subject to judgement. We are keenly aware of when rules have been broken, when punishment is justified. We look for who is to blame and we lash out in increasingly aggressive ways. We pray that someone will save us from ourselves, from the conditions of our lives. We feel helpless, bewildered.

We also assume perfection is the goal of all our effort. It is suggested to us that if we work hard enough we can have perfect relationships, homes, children, bodies, and work. And what we can’t achieve through direct effort, we can buy. The external expectation we’ve internalized is that we can be perfect if we just work hard enough and purchase the right stuff. If we aren’t perfect, it’s our own fault. In this way, (because perfection is actually impossible), we live with a constant sense of not being enough, not doing enough, not good enough. This striving for perfection and falling short also breeds comparison and competition, aggression towards the self and the other.

Either way, we can’t win. The antidote to this dilemma, this confusion, to all of it is compassion. And to cultivate compassion, we must begin with self-compassion. We must befriend ourselves, allow space for all that we are, notice how we’ve internalized the assumption that we are basically bad and the expectation that we should be perfect. We can cultivate an awareness of how we get hooked, to notice this and pause before falling into habitual patterns in an attempt to get ground under our feet.

In a recent Daily Dharma Gathering talk, teacher Angel Kyodo Williams suggested,

The doorway to liberation from the tyranny of mind that rejects parts of ourselves is actually being willing to sit with those parts of ourselves [that make us uncomfortable, that we wish away and try to ignore] and allow ourselves to feel the discomfort, to notice the quality of discomfort, to become aware of where this not being okay with parts of ourselves sits in our body, where it is that we carry it.

So rather than moving away, we make space for ourselves, all that we are. We allow things to be as they are. Angel went on to offer,

Allowing ourselves to feel, connect with, and create space for the parts of ourselves that we are most uncomfortable with, that we feel the most aversion to, gives us the opportunity to lean into love for ourselves and no longer be contracted and held in bondage by those areas that we move away from, and because we move away from them we’re not allowing ourselves to experience our whole lives.

In our fixation with perfection, and our belief that we are basically bad, we lose ourselves, we limit our experience.

The most basic truth, the one thing we all have in common, is that we just want to be happy, to avoid suffering. The problem arises in the ways we attempt to create or capture that happiness, the ways we define happiness. We make attempts to avoid suffering, to get safe and comfortable, and we actually end up generating suffering. We are confused about what will make us happy and how to get there. We get hooked, we get stuck, and end up repeating over and over methods that simply don’t work. We fall into blame, judgement, jealousy, depression, addiction, aggression, craving, competition, and self-aggression. We think that perfection is possible, and get caught up in all the ways we fall short of it. We think we are the problem rather than seeing the standard, the search as the problem. We cut off our connection to our basic goodness, our fundamental wisdom, our natural state, our basic nature which is open and spacious and compassionate.

In a free video introduction offered by Sounds True of an upcoming class with Pema Chödrön, The Freedom to Choose, Pema discusses the traditional Buddhist teachings on “Three Difficult Practices,” which are:

  • Acknowledging that you’re hooked, developing awareness
  • Doing something different — choosing a fresh alternative
  • Making this a way of life

It seems to me that I, that we all can apply these practices to all of it: being an HSP, external expectations of perfection, the internal sense of failure and falling short, our avoidance of the things about ourselves that make us uncomfortable, our bewilderment and confused attempts to find happiness and avoid suffering, the ways we generate suffering for ourselves and others — all of it. We can stay with ourselves and notice. We can allow whatever arises, make space for it. When something comes up and we feel ourselves get hooked, starting to move in the direction of habitual patterns, we can pause and notice this too. Maybe we might even choose to do something different. And if not, we can notice that too, without judgement and with gentleness. And we can keep trying, for as long as it takes. This is practice, this coming back, this not giving up. This can be our life, if we choose it. We can make space for all of it, and as Angel Kyodo Williams suggested, “space is love.”

Something Good

1. 31 Unmistakable Signs That You’re An Introvert on BuzzFeed.

2. Working with the Obstacles in Your Path and 6 Steps To Being More Creative on Zen Habits.

3. less stuff, less stress: 6 steps to declutter + destress on Positively Present.

4. Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes on BBC News Magazine. If I were planning on having kids, I might start looking into moving to Finland.

5. Sad Dog Diary from ZeFrank.

6. Found at Auction: The Unseen Photographs of a Legend that Never Was on Messy Nessy. I feel like I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth another look. It’s a fascinating story, and as a relatively unknown artist myself, for me it is a terrifying story, (to die and have no one know about your work?!).

7. dipping my toes in the ladypreneurial pond, useful and good real advice from Sas Petherick.

8. “My brain hums with scraps of poetry and madness.” ~Virginia Woolf. Yes, yes it does.

9. your daily rock : be gentle with your self, from Patti Digh.

10. Eye Candy: The Pantone Project on Pugly Pixel. This project is so cool, and I have since started following the photographer, Paul Octavious, on Instagram and his other work is worth a look as well.

11. Kaleidoscape: A Study in Double Symmetry, a really cool “museum exhibition and social furniture project,” (led in part by Andrea Scher‘s super talented husband, Matthew Passmore).

12. The 5000th post from Seth Godin. “For me, the privilege is sharing what I notice, without the pressure of having to nail it every time… I treasure the ability to say, ‘this might not work.’ ” I’ve written 710 posts, can’t even imagine 5000, and yet I absolutely understand what he’s saying here. As a writing practice, there’s really nothing like it.

13. Becoming Well-Fed with Soulsister, Rachel Cole on the Soul Sisters Gathering website.

14. This 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.

15. 20 More Baby Animals That’ll Make You Say “Aww” from Bored Panda.

16. Good advice from Franz Kafka, “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

17. Tumblr Gets Deep (25 Pics) on Pleated Jeans. There is a whole series of these posts, super funny and addictive. I don’t recommend going too deep into them if you don’t have a lot of time. I myself could get lost there, forever happy in funny land.

18. H&M’s NBD Approach To Plus-Size Model Shocks, Astounds World, on xojane, which says, “How to be beautiful naked: stand in front of a mirror, naked, and say to yourself, ‘My body is as unique as I am. It does not, and will not ever, look like any other body on earth, and that’s why it’s my favorite.’ ” I love that, couldn’t agree more, and yet am still bothered by the fact that “Jennie Runk is a size 10, which equals plus size for the purpose of the modeling industry.” Ugh.

19. Joy, a post Lisa Congdon wrote about her wedding, in which she says, “I have never felt so totally whole as I did that afternoon & evening.” I want this, for everyone.

20. This wisdom from Geneen Roth,

I was remembering yesterday what one of my beloved teachers once told me: that I was protecting myself from losses that already happened. I was remembering this because I was noticing how my mind tilts toward catastrophe, how even when things are fine, I look for how they are not. And remembering that the big losses, the ones that I was helpless and small and utterly unprepared for had already happened, allowed me to come back to the present. Which was good.

It’s not that losses don’t happen in the present. It’s not that there isn’t sadness or grief here. They do and there is. But as adults, it’s different. It’s different when you keep imagining how horrible it is or will be than when you are right in the middle of sadness or grief. As children, we might not have been able to get comfort. There might not have been anyone to whom we could truly speak or be ourselves. As adults, we have love in our lives. Our hearts break, and then they break open. And more comes in. Notice how you protect yourself from losses that have already happened. Notice how that closes your heart. Notice if, today, you can be with the raw beauty, and sometimes, broken-heartedness of the moment.

21. The Hidden Cost of Doing the Wrong Work on Create as Folk. This post cuts right through the crap and gets to the heart of the issue.

22. fed by everything, a poem by Tara Sophia Mohr, which ends like this,

In the end
maybe enlightenment
is a matter of being fed
by everything

23. Books to Inspire your Be Your Own Beloved Journey! from Vivienne McMaster. I already have some of these, but there are a few that are new to me, ones I clearly need to read.

24. 41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius on BuzzFeed.

25. Recipe I want to try: Grilled Polenta Cakes from Campfire Vegan.

26. Allison Mae Photography does it again. These two dogs remind me so much of my Sam and Dexter.

27. Trade Up for Your Best Life on Be More with Less.

28. Shared by Patti Digh on her Thinking Thursday list:

29. 30 Places You’d Rather Be Sitting Right Now on BuzzFeed. I don’t know about “rather be sitting” but they are pretty awesome.

30. Sarah DeAnna: Breaking the Cycle on The Conversation.

31. Shared on Susannah Conway’s Something for the Weekend list:

32. Pat the Cat. Reminds me of my Sam.

33. Wisdom from Marianne Williamson, “The ways of spirit are not the ways of sacrifice, but rather a way of opening yourself fully to the infinite glories of the universe. The glories are there. They merely await your acceptance.”

34. Patti Digh’s story about Tess on 3x3x365 is so sweet, so heartbreaking. Tess has Asperger’s Syndrome and Patti is generous enough to share her story. Watching that little girl walk through the world, navigate the bumps and the joy, is a beautiful thing.

35. “After I’ve lost 20 pounds, I’ll be happy with who I am.” on Elephant Journal.

36. 27 Stunning Works Of Art You Won’t Believe Aren’t Photographs on BuzzFeed.

37. Two more from Brain Pickings: Do It: 20 Years of Famous Artists’ Irreverent Instructions for Art Anyone Can Make and How We Spend Our Days Is How We Spend Our Lives: Annie Dillard on Presence Over Productivity.

38. The 32 Greatest Unscripted Movie Scenes.

39. 24 Grooms Blown Away By Their Beautiful Brides on BuzzFeed. *sob*

40. The Life’s Too Short Diet on Drop It and Eat, in which Lori F. Lieberman says “Don’t be fooled into believing that you’ll be happier if only you weighed a few pounds less, because it’s simply a moving target.”

41. This wisdom from Sakyong Mipham, “If humanity is to survive – and not only that, to flourish – we must be brave enough to find our wisdom and let it shine.”

42. A Mood from Jeff Oaks, in which he says “Breathe until the feeling of being buried brings the need to break open.” As I said in a comment I left on this post, “The way that you are able to almost hide something so profound in the relating of the details of your daily life is a particular kind of magic.”

43. 50 Things to Love about Life That Are Free on Tiny Buddha.

44. What’s Wrong with Me? from Curvy Yoga.

Self-Compassion Saturday: The Beginning

i'm still standing

You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~Buddha

For just a minute, I am taking a deep breath and sinking into this moment. Eric is in the kitchen making pie crust — I’ve had a thing about pie lately, buying store made versions that claim to be Marionberry but aren’t quite, and he wanted to make me a “real pie.” Emeli Sandé is singing Next to Me, part of a mix I made myself on Rhapsody that I listen to while I write. Both dogs are asleep in their beds behind me. The window is open and I can hear the wind blowing, see the blue sky and bright green of my lilac bushes and the trees above. My hair is still wet from a shower, and I’m wearing clean soft cotton pjs and my favorite sweater.


I feel pretty content right now, in this moment. But I don’t always feel like this. I struggle, I suffer, I smash myself to bits. There are old, habitual ways of thinking and being that no longer serve me, and yet I still act them out, get stuck.

It came to me recently that at the heart of all of my issues, underneath every irritation or sadness was one thing. And when I realized what it was, I felt a deep longing, an intense hunger to understand, to heal, to transform that suffering, and I knew that I was connected to a tribe of wise and compassionate women who could help me, if only I was brave enough to ask.


So I sent a request to them. It started like this,

Dear Beautiful You,

I said a prayer and took a deep breath before beginning this message to you. I am so worried it will come off like a creepy sales pitch or inappropriate request — it isn’t. This email, this request is an utterly authentic wish from the deepest part of my heart, an expression of my ongoing longing to ease suffering, in myself and in the world, and to be of service. It isn’t about my blog stats, building my own worth or value, or any other self-serving, self-fulfilling ego bullshit. This is not about little me, this is about Big Love. In fact, it would be so much easier for me to not do this, to not ask, but I feel compelled to, and as Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.”

I am writing to you with a tender heart full of longing. I am writing to YOU because you are a wise and compassionate teacher, writer, healer, artist. I am writing because I have big questions and I think you can help me answer them.

“How can I help the harm that has been done unravel itself? How can I help others find their own wisdom, kindness, and sense of humor?” (Pema Chödrön actually said that, but they are also my questions). As a writer and a teacher myself, the spark for the enclosed request came to me as these things always do: I was curious and confused, felt a hunger to understand something.

I was struggling and went to a new doctor to seek medical advice, to determine if the cause for my suffering were in my body. The help I was offered, the “answer” I was given didn’t sit right with me. In fact, every cell of my body said “that’s not it.” That very afternoon, I left for a meditation retreat led by my dear friend and teacher Susan Piver. In that safe and supportive space of contemplation the real answer, the true path, revealed itself: self-compassion.

Great! – and yet, what is that, how do I do that?! Having been in a long term abusive relationship with myself, I don’t know how to be in love, to be loving, to fully and completely accept myself. The momentary sadness of not knowing faded when I realized I knew many amazing, wise and compassionate women who have been my guides already in so many other ways – I could ask them.

So I ask you, humbly and with such gratitude and love, these four questions:

1. What does self-compassion mean, what is it? How would you describe or define it?

2. How did you learn self-compassion? Did you have a teacher, a guide, a path, a resource, a book, a moment of clarity or specific experience?

3. How do you practice self-compassion, what does that experience look like for you?

4. What do you still need to learn, to know, to understand? What is missing from your practice of self-compassion, what do you still struggle with?

As a writer and a teacher, part two of anything I learn is the strong desire to share it, the knowledge that if this is helpful to me there are others who also must need it. So my intention, my wish is to not only benefit myself from your answers, but to share them in two ways:

1. “Self-Compassion Saturday,” a once a week post on my blog that includes an introduction to your other good work, explains why I asked you specifically, gives your answers and link(s) to your work.

2. When all the answers I get have been posted, I’d like to collect them into a PDF ebook that can be downloaded by anyone for free – not a “follow my blog/sign up for my newsletter and get a free gift” thing, but a truly free gift to anyone who would benefit, an offering made from love.

This is the plan, kind and gentle reader: one post each Saturday until they stop coming, (29 women have said “yes”), and then I’ll create an ebook including the whole collection that anyone can download for free. These women’s willingness to be a part of this project, their generosity and kindness, has left me gobsmacked, so full of love and gratitude. And each response that I’ve received so far to the four essential questions has been a gift filled with compassion and wisdom that I can’t wait to share with you.

First up, next Saturday, is Artist, Author, Actionista Mary Anne Radmacher, (I’ve written about her before). She had her responses to me less than 24 hours after I asked, and even answered three extra questions! It’s so good.

I must go now. I smell pie :)

Wishcasting Wednesday


Jamie is back wishcasting today, and asks “how do you wish to spend your days?” I want to live inside this question. I love thinking about how I want to spend my time, what I want to do and how I want to feel, but I especially love that my answer is so close to the life I am currently living.

I wish to spend my days…

Awake. In awareness, practicing mindfulness, doing yoga and meditating.

Present and open, deep in basic goodness — wisdom and compassion and strength and gentleness.

Spreading love, making peace, writing love letters, love bombing the whole world.

Expressing creativity and experiencing joy, manifesting love.

Writing while the birds sing outside my open window, fresh flowers on my desk and dogs sleeping at my feet.

Long walks by the river, at the park, in the mountains, noticing all the subtle shifts and changes in those places, connecting with the vibrant life that fills them.


Reading in a chair in the backyard, under the shade of a tree, under the vast blue sky, the soft grass under my bare feet and two dogs lounging nearby.

Caring for my home — doing laundry, cooking, washing dishes, sweeping, gardening, all of the things that make the space we live in feel clear and clean, beautiful and safe.

Making Eric laugh, caring for him, letting him love me.

Sleeping, getting enough rest.

Connecting with friends, making friends.


Writing, making art, teaching, being creative and curious, making offerings and being of service.

Easing suffering, in myself and the world.

Opening my heart to all of it — beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible.

Gratitude Friday

1. Lee Martinez Park. Birds singing, mad with love for Spring. How green everything is getting. A lone goose gliding across the pond, a heron standing in the river waiting for a fish. Baby animals, including a litter of fox kits and a new baby cow at the Farm, (that I can’t get a good picture of yet, because whenever I get close enough, my dogs start barking at her, and I don’t want her to learn to be afraid of dogs, or suggest to my dogs that it’s okay to bark at babies).

2. Clarity and compassion. Being able to take a pause, a deep breath when I am confused, to contemplate and write, to look around and consider, to take a long walk, and through these things, with faith in my own truth and wisdom, I know.

3. A life partner. Someone to share the sadness and anxiety with, along with the joy. Someone who is all in, trustworthy, patient, smart, funny, and an introvert like me, happy to be at home with our dogs, sitting in the backyard with a book, or taking a long walk. Someone who likes to watch PBS shows about museums, but also loves Flo Rida as much as I do. Someone who doesn’t mind eating at the same three or four restaurants time and time again. Someone who will clean the bathroom, wash the dishes, and mow the lawn. Someone who loves me and thinks I’m awesome even when I’m being kind of awful. Someone who will send me pictures of my dogs while I’m at work, who leaves love notes for me on the kitchen counter, signing his name in case I wonder who it’s from. He’s my favorite.

20 years ago

20 years ago in our first backyard

4. Getting Naked, the ecourse. Specifically I am grateful for the lyrical, loving energy of our teacher and my friend, Julia Fehrenbacher. Yet again, she’s created a beautiful thing, sent light and love and wisdom out into the world.

5. A spoonful of crunchy peanut butter and a sweet crisp apple. If there is a better snack, I don’t know what it is.

Bonus Joy: Another week with Dexter. This past Sunday, Eric took Sam hiking, so Dexter and I walked to Lee Martinez Park. We forgot the Colorado Marathon was happening, that there would be so many runners on the Poudre Trail. The one time we had to cross over, stay on the trail for a few minutes to get to the path on the other side, we were running with everyone, and we both think that for those few moments, we were winning.

Three Truths and One Wish (on a Wednesday)

I am a Practitioner in Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project, and we are currently studying the 59 lojong slogans. Lojong means mind training and these slogans “offer pithy, powerful reminders on how to awaken our hearts in the midst of day-to-day life, under any circumstances,” and help us to see that “we can use everything we encounter in our lives–pleasant or painful–to awaken genuine, uncontrived compassion,” (Pema Chödrön, Always Maintain a Joyful Mind).

As often happens on a Tuesday, I woke up yesterday knowing it was a Three Truths and One Wish post day but having no idea what I might write about. I was also extra tired, having been so worried about Dexter, needing to keep such a close eye on him. That worry and lack of sleep also brought back a little bit of the sick that kept me home from work last week. I didn’t feel great, had very little energy or motivation, and ended up not writing anything at all.

But if I had posted, I knew what I’d write. Even though I woke up not knowing, the email came from Susan with our lojong slogan for the week. It was a set of threes, an obvious sign from the universe that here was something I could write about.

Lojong slogan: Three objects, three poisons, three seeds of virtue.

1. Truth: three objects. These give the next three, the poisons, something to attach to, a place to focus their attention and energy. The three objects are what trigger the three poisons, what provoke us. These objects are everything we crave, fear, or ignore. They are all the stuff we try to get, reject, or don’t pay any attention to. They can be people, events, experiences, or things. The three objects are what give rise to the three poisons.

Pema Chödrön describes them as “friends, enemies, and neutrals.” An Everyday Buddhadharma post on Elephant Journal explains this further by suggesting that “Whether we are aware of it or not, we tend to categorize people into friends, enemies, or neutrals and we react with corresponding emotions to these categories as if they were fixed and unchanging.” In her commentary on this slogan, Acharya Judy Lief says “One way of looking at this slogan is that it is about the power of labels. It is about the way we categorize our world and what happens as a result.”

1. Truth: three poisons. These are passion (grasping or attachment), aggression (passive or active), and ignorance (dullness, delusion, or willful confusion). I can still remember hearing about the three poisons for the first time, being completely gobsmacked by the power and clarity of that view, this way of understanding how we generate suffering.

The three poisons are always trapping you in one way or another, imprisoning you and making your world really small. When you feel craving, you could be sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, but all you can see is this piece of chocolate cake you’re craving. With aversion, you’re sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and all you can hear is the angry words you said to someone ten years ago. With ignorance, you’re sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon with a paper bag over your head. Each of the three poisons has the power to capture you so completely that you don’t even perceive what’s in front of you. ~Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

3. Truth: three seeds of virtue. These are freedom from passion, aggression, and ignorance. It is the way we can interrupt our habitual response, disrupt our normal patterns, it’s how we can turn our regular way of being into one that manifests compassion and wisdom. We see the truth of our typical behavior, become aware and take responsibility, and plant the seeds of virtue.

Pema Pema Chödrön explains this part of the slogan in her book Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living and does so beautifully, with complete clarity.

In terms of “Three objects, three poisons, and three seeds of virtue,” when these poisons arise, the instruction is to drop the story line, which means-instead of acting out or repressing-use the situation as an opportunity to feel your heart, to feel the wound. Use it as an opportunity to touch that soft spot. Underneath all that craving or aversion or jealousy or feeling wretched about yourself, underneath all that hopelessness and despair and depression, there’s something extremely soft, which is called bodhichitta.

When these things arise, train gradually and very gently without making it into a big deal. Begin to get the hang of feeling what’s underneath the story line. Feel the wounded heart that’s underneath the addiction, self-loathing, or anger: If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart and to relate to that wound.

When we do that, the three poisons become three seeds of how to make friends with ourselves. They give us the chance to work on patience and kindness, the chance not to give up on ourselves and not to act out or repress. They give us the chance to change our habits completely. This is what helps both ourselves and others. This is instruction on how to turn unwanted circumstances into the path of enlightenment. By following it, we can transform all that messy stuff that we usually push away into the path of awakening: reconnecting with our soft heart, our clarity, and our ability to open further.

One Wish: That each of us develops an awareness of the ways in which we are generating suffering. That with wisdom and compassion and great gentleness we start to interrupt this behavior, to change the habitual patterns that lead to pain and poison. That we ease suffering, in ourselves and the world, and begin planting seeds of virtue instead.

May all beings be happy.
May all beings be well.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings be free from suffering.