Category Archives: Three Truths and One Wish

Three Truths and One Wish

bigboyharness1. Sometimes having a puppy is boring. You have to watch them constantly when they are awake and loose, and even though they sleep a lot it’s in short bursts so you can’t really get a lot done. You are cautioned by your vet to not take them anywhere until they are 16 weeks and have had all their shots, so even if you cheat on that so you can socialize them, you are more isolated than usual. You get cabin fever, go stir crazy, and this particular puppy came in the middle of winter, so there was even more of that. After weeks and weeks of this, you kinda wish they’d grow up already. They are impossibly cute and loveable and sometimes hilarious when they are small and you know you’ll miss it when they get big, but at the same time they are making you crazy and boring you to tears.

Spend as much as you want on toys, an empty plastic jug wins every time

Spend as much as you want on toys, an empty plastic jug wins every time

Danielle LaPorte posted last week about being so sick she’d had to cancel lots of important things, stuff she’d really wanted to do. She said about it, “Sometimes life will bind you so you can feel how free and loved you are.” I feel the same about this moment in my life, this brief moment that I keep wishing away even as I work so hard to be here, to stay present.

Ringo's first bath

Ringo’s first bath

2. “The days are long, but the years are short.” I’m not sure who to attribute that to, as I’ve seen it assigned various authors. Whoever said it, it’s so true. These puppy days feel like they’ve gone on forever and might never end, but the almost eight years we had with Obi and the barely ten we had with Dexter felt impossibly short. I still have trouble believing they are really gone, struggle to understand how that could even be possible.

theboysbig3. You have to be a particular kind of crazy to raise a dog. It’s so much work and your time with them is so short. And the love sneaks up on you. One day you are fantasizing about running away from home or giving them back, and the next you are hopelessly and irrevocably bonded to them. There’s nothing else in my life I put so much effort toward only to have my heart broken in the end, knowing that’s the only possible outcome.

brothersparttwoOne wish (okay, more like many wishes): To keep my heart open and stay present no matter what arises. To not give up, no matter how hard it gets. To lean into love and joy as an antidote to suffering. To be gentle and forgive myself when I make a mistake. To know I am doing the best I can. To relax and stop trying so hard.

I am wishing the same for you, kind and gentle reader, in whatever way you need that in your life.

Three Truths and One Wish

bigdlittled04

1. Truth: Death is real. And it’s not always pretty. It doesn’t always happen painlessly at the end of a long, well lived and loved, full and finished life, with the one who’s leaving in a comfortable bed with candles lit and soft music playing and loved ones all around. It strikes those who are much too young, it is sometimes accidental, sudden, brutal, tragic. Sometimes it’s just not fair, not kind, not easy. But no matter how it comes, how it goes down, every mortal will go, be gone. No matter how well we love or how faithfully we care for each other, we will lose or be lost.

2. Truth: I am still trying to figure out how to live in a world where this is true, where what we love will die. Where we intentionally allow ourselves to be wounded, invite it, where we strip completely naked and hand the one we love the sharpest knife. I have seen death, understand it, have even felt a sort of peace in that moment of letting go, knowing that loved one has been released from their suffering. And yet, I am still trying to figure out how — how to fully surrender to this truth, accept it, stay open to it. Love unbound from form can feel almost like rage, running wild with the desire to smash and burn and break and scream, longing mixed with a strange confusion that insists someone must be to blame, must be punished, so much fierce energy with no place to go.

3. Truth: We are here now, together, and that makes all the eventual pain worth it. As much as I grieve those I have lost, I would not give up the time I had with them in order to avoid this suffering. And there is so much about this life to love. As I was reminded by one big heart today, when I reached out in my confusion, “and yet laughter and yet barbecued chicken and yet a glass of cold water on a hot day, Louis Armstrong, fresh raspberries,” and another reminded me that Winnie the Pooh says, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Magic is all around, waiting for us to notice and be amazed. On our walk this morning, a butterfly, busy feeding on a flower, let me get closer than I’ve ever been and stayed still so I could take a picture. Ram Dass says “we are all just walking each other home,” and when I can remember that, when I can slow down and see the vivid color and surprise of a butterfly, I feel myself soften, feel the whole tight knot begin to unwind.

One wish: That we stay awake, rather than denying or disconnecting, that we recognize our limitless potential, that we stay open to the connections that heal us, notice the magic and cultivate the medicine.

We are all just walking each other home.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: My body carries a deep wisdom, if only I would listen. And, if I refuse to listen, it will get louder and louder until I can’t ignore it anymore. This became very clear to me this weekend. I spent Sunday morning first in Urgent Care and then the ER. I’d been having chest pains and my jaw hurt for a few days (my body’s gentle nudging that got louder) and I knew that something about it wasn’t right, that I hadn’t just pulled a muscle or something.

It turns out that the sack of fluid around my heart was inflamed — Pericarditis triggered by an infection I’ve been struggling with, (which I was also trying to ignore instead of attend to). It’s completely treatable (steroids and rest), workable, okay, and yet it’s taught me that I really have to trust myself (specifically my body), that I need to listen, to show up, be present, to honor the wisdom available to me. I knew something wasn’t right, my body was telling me in the gentlest but most insistent way, and even though it seemed at first like I might be overreacting, I needed to get help.

My body knows. It knows how much to sleep, how to move, what to eat. If something I eat or do doesn’t work, isn’t agreeable, my body gives me the exact information I need to consider a different choice next time. It is directly connected to reality, this moment, through five powerful senses. It is constantly collecting information and making adjustments — heart pumping and lungs breathing with no need of my intervention, my control, my opinion.

A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ~Pema Chödrön

2. Truth: I can trust myself, my physical body, my intuition, my hunger, my longing, my desire, my suffering, my dreams, my fundamental sanity, my innate wisdom and compassion and power, even my emotions and thoughts are allowable and of value. I don’t have to reject, run away, deny, or hide.

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. ~Pema Chödrön

3. Truth: I am so grateful there are people to help, to keep me company as I stumble my way through, poets and artists and healers and friends and family and soft animal bodies, all of us messy but brilliant, clinging to each other on a boat that is guaranteed to sink, making each other laugh and offering comfort even as we crash and burn. Every single person I encountered in my time in various medical units this weekend was so kind and wise, wanting to help me, to help, and in the aftermath, I’ve been offered so much love from the people I am lucky enough to know. I mean it, dear people, this life is fucking brilliant, we are, (I’ve had to stop typing this paragraph twice to cry — is this what “Roid Rage” feels like?).

One wish: That we can continue to ask ourselves, in each moment, the question shared by my dear friend, poet and teacher, the amazing Julia Fehrenbacher, in her ecourse Getting Naked: “what would love do?” (this question has the power to change everything — you, your life, the world), and the additional wish that we have the courage to live the answer.

Three Truths and One Wish

before

Just last week, I was making wishes for space I’d like to create. In that post I said, “My initial response, first thought, immediate wish as I sit at my cluttered mess of a writing desk is to create space here, space for creating, contemplating, practicing. I wish to clean, clear, and organize, to get rid of what doesn’t belong here, what isn’t serving or inspiring me.” For the past few days, I’ve been working on manifesting that wish.

1. Truth: It’s hard to start. At first it feels too overwhelming, there’s too much stuff and too little time. It’s hard to know where to even begin when my space looks like an advertisement for an episode of Hoarders. But I think the Jeff Oak’s quote I shared on my Something Good list yesterday is what finally happened for me: “Breathe until the feeling of being buried brings the need to break open.”

deskhoard

2. Truth: In the end, you just have to start. I knew I couldn’t work in the chaos, so my first act was to take all the things on or around my writing desk and move them into the garage, clean the slate. A few required a quick sort before I could move them, but once that space was cleared, once I got started, I could move around, had a better sense of a plan.

I know this from just about every project or task I’ve ever undertaken — I just have to start, do one small thing, take one tiny step, keeping my focus on the thing directly in front of me, fully present for the doing. When I get close to done with this, the next step is clear, there is a natural progression.

space

3. Truth: When it comes to sorting and getting rid, editing, two questions are helpful:

  • Is this useful? is this supporting the work I’m trying to do, how I want to live? Is it functional and workable, related to my goals and values?
  • Is this beautiful? Does it inspire and encourage me, give me joy and ease simply by being present? Is it precious?

Anything that doesn’t fall into either of these two categories, utility or beauty, has to go — donated, gifted, recycled, or trashed.

peoniesonmydesk02

One Wish: That we all can have spaces where we have easy access to the tools and support we need to do our work, to live our lives, and that these spaces inspire us, fill us with joy and good energy and a sense of peace.

Day of Rest

This is what the river looked like just two weeks ago. The water was low and filled with dark ash from last summer’s fires, green algae growing in the stillness, with a spot in the middle where the bottom was completely exposed, the trees at the edge reflecting off the quiet surface.

To see it this morning was a reminder that things change, ebb and flow, always arising and falling away, constantly shifting, beginning and ending.

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity. ~Gilda Radner

I woke up this morning in the still dark, two warm dog bodies smashed against mine, and I started to worry. I was thinking about all the things I needed to do today, all the things that needed done this summer, all the work and the projects and the play I keep trying to stuff into every minute of every day and how there is just never enough time.

sixpacks

Later on my walk with Dexter, feeling sad about his eventual death, wishing again that it’s easy for him, still anxious about having so little time, I realize three things, Three Truths coming to me a few days early.

1. Truth: That’s really all we ever want for anyone in the end, (including ourselves), for death to be easy.

2. Truth: Dexter carries no sadness about his own death, if he even thinks of it, has any awareness of it at all.

3. Truth: In every way that I am stuck, struggling, not free, I am my biggest obstacle.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small. ~Tara Brach

As I was walking, I was noticing shadow and light, the wabi-sabiness of the world, of life. Wabi-Sabi is a concept I’m a bit obsessed with right now. Essentially it is acceptance of that which is impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete, and beyond acceptance, being able to see it clearly, to understand it as beautiful, to love it even. This is the reality of our lives if we are brave enough to open our hearts to it.

This stump is wabi-sabi. It is what remains of a tree no longer alive in the way we understand that particular animation, and yet it is surrounded by life, anchored in it, present with it. In this sense, what does death even mean? Where do we begin, where and when do we truly end? If we are made of love, come from love, live surrounded by and imbedded in love, can we ever really be separated? Aren’t we always completely and utterly free?

I’d like to think so. My wish is to believe that, to trust it, to accept it — all of it, with open eyes of full awareness and an open heart full of compassion.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
~Rumi

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.

Three Truths and One Wish

The function of a torii gate is to mark the entrance to a sacred space.

1. Truth: Really, really bad things happen all the time. I don’t need to tell you what they are or give you a list of examples. You already know, have seen and experienced it for yourself, and will do so again and again, over and over. There is no safe place, no protection, and no magic that can change this truth.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ” ~Pema Chödrön

2. Truth: There is no stopping all the bad things from happening. We simply don’t have that kind of control, that power. People are hurt and confused, all of us generate suffering at some level, for ourselves and others, and there’s just no way we can stop all of it, no way to consistently interrupt aggression before it turns toxic, dangerous, before it hurts someone.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” ~Pema Chödrön

3. Truth: There is something we can do. When bad things happen, when we are confronted with suffering, instead of numbing out or running away or looking for someone to blame or something to fix, we can settle our minds and open our hearts. We can stay with what is happening, with reality as it is, as we are. We can drop our judgements, our agenda and simply be with what is. We can soften and open up, approach ourselves, the situation, the environment, and others with gentleness and compassion, allowing enough space for wisdom to arise. In this way, we will know what to do, if there is anything that needs doing.

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.” ~Pema Chödrön

Shinto shrine at Shambhala Mountain Center

One Wish: That when we are in the midst of suffering, we can approach it with compassion, can be gentle and allow space for wisdom to arise. That we can be brave and keep our hearts open, that we can be tenderhearted warriors.