Gratitude Friday

sheopenendpeony1. Watching this peony open right in front of me. I was sitting at my desk and heard a rustle. I looked over at her, and in slow motion her petals started to uncurl, falling open until I could see all the way into the yellow of her center. It was so amazing, so precious, it’s still hard to believe it actually happened.

2. Sick days. I needed one this week. Actually I probably needed two or three but one was at least enough to keep me going just a bit longer.

3. Opportunity knocking. I have another chance to publish elsewhere (I’ll say more about it later when the details get worked out), and I didn’t ask for it, didn’t seek it out — it came to me. I’m here, doing what I do, and someone noticed and made me an offer. I love it when that happens.

ericreading4. Eric. How he takes care of me and the dogs, goes hiking and running with the dogs, makes me laugh, loves to read, has weird nerdy interests and habits that drive me crazy but are also adorable, how excited he gets to learn a new fact or hear something funny and share it.

5. My boys. Happy, healthy.

lastsnow15 couching03 ringoshardlife samfloodBonus joy: Good Earth Sweet & Spicy Tea, Netflix and Hulu, a hot shower, clean towels, sunshine, bees, bird song, mac & cheese with roasted veggies, naps, a good warm hat, space heaters, radio, and what she looked like when she opened.

What she looked like when she opened, lower left

What she looked like when she opened, lower left

Some Truths and One Wish

peoniesbuddhasandcandy1. Truth: I am obsessed with peonies right now. Just like I do every year around this time, I attempt to drown myself in them. I can’t get enough.

2. Truth: This post usually happens on Tuesday and is only three truths. But this has been a busy week, the last week on my contract, finals week at CSU, and I’m sick so that makes everything harder, and I wasn’t going to write this post at all this week, especially not today when I’m home sick and just want to sleep, but then I remembered…

3. Truth: Five years ago today, Kelly passed away. This day doesn’t pass just like any other. I’m not sure if it ever will. This whole season, the shift from winter to spring, all the blooms and the rain, the flowers and the flooding, reminds me of her, and then that reminds me of Obi, and that reminds me of Dexter. I’m acutely aware of everything I’ve lost, and everything I have because I was so hurt, all the ways I opened up and let life in because I had no other choice — tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal.

4. Truth: I’m sick because I worked too hard, didn’t take care of myself. More than anything I need to learn how to be of service, to give, to be generous and helpful and compassionate without running myself into the ground. I need to figure out how to care for myself as well as I do others, to make sure that it happens so I can keep going.

5. Truth: My life would feel like enough if I truly let myself experience each moment, each breath. For example, I could stay with the joy, the creative energy of learning and putting together yoga classes for yoga teacher training, just that and not project myself into teaching this weekend, worrying about maybe getting sicker, all the things I need to get done in the next few days, etc. — I could be calm, peaceful, at ease, well, content right now. All I need to do is be in this moment, rather than carrying the weight of all the possible moments.

6. Truth: I don’t practice to feel some things and not others, I practice to feel all the things. I want to meet whatever is arising in this moment, be open to all of it, be vulnerable. I put so much energy into resisting, forgetting, running away when it’s so much easier to relax with what is, to be here now. I listened to a Daily Dharma Gathering talk with Koshin Paley recently and he said, “The more I become intimate with old age, sickness, and death… the surprise is I feel more alive and joyful.”

7. Truth: I want the last thing Eric and I say to each other to be “love you.” I insist on it every time we part, so that our last words don’t end up being something like “are you coming home for the dogs?” or “don’t forget your lunch.” It might not work out, but I’m still going to try.

8. Truth: I’m so tired right now I’m about to fall over. So, I think I’ll go finally take a shower and then take another nap.

One wish: Even though the first noble truth is that life is suffering, may we find ways to ease suffering, for ourselves and each other and the world.

Something Good

springsnoweric02

What Spring looks like in Colorado: flooding Poudre River, a little snow, and a lot of green (image by Eric)

Those

Those ropes are what kids use in the summer to swing themselves into the water, which is much lower (image by Eric)

1. A Note from the Universe,

Courageous is the soul, Jill, who adventures into time and space to learn of their divinity. For while they cannot lose, they can think they have, and the loss will seem intolerable. And while they cannot fail, they can think they have, and the pain will seem unbearable. And while they cannot ever be less than they truly are – powerful, eternal, and loved – they can think they are, and all hope will seem lost. And therein lies their test. A test of perceptions: of what to focus on, of what to believe in, in spite of appearances.

2. Good stuff from Alexandra Franzen, How to cleanse your calendar & life: part one [the easy part] and How to cleanse your calendar & life: part two [the hard part], which she introduced in her newsletter this way,

Socrates had it right. Being “busy” may provide a temporary hit of fulfillment, but when your life is choked up with commitments that don’t feel meaningful or energizing, that’s a pretty barren existence. It is difficult, if not impossible, to evolve into the person you want to be when you are so busy and burdened that you can barely breathe.

3. Meditating on Love – a Daily Dharma Gathering event, which happened live yesterday, but the video is available to watch for the next seven days — Susan Piver, Lodro Rinzler, Sokuzan and angel Kyodo williams in a special 4 hour retreat.

4. Beyond Mindfulness, a free online event. “Beyond Mindfulness will feature top thought leaders, social visionaries, and wisdom holders in dialogue with one another, presenting practical teachings for living a more mindful, compassionate life, and leading guided meditations. Presenters and hosts include Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Joseph Goldstein, Kelly McGonigal, Ken Wilber, Rich Fernandez, Rick Hanson, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Shastri Holly Gayley, Richard Reoch, Acharya Fleet Maull, Susan Piver, Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown, Lodro Rinzler, Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams and more!”

5. How to Overcome Victim Thinking: 3 Powerful Steps for a Happier Life.

6. Vanity’s Other Name from Rachel Cole.

7. ‘Alone time’ is really good for you. Duh.

8. May You Be Present and Clear from Be More with Less.

9. Bad Responses to Bad Fat Shaming – Starring Keath Hausher and Tony Posnanski on Dances with Fat. And in related news, I Was The So-Called Unhealthy Fat Woman At The Cardinals Game.

10. Good stuff from Susannah Conway’s Something for the Weekend list: Tired of having to wear a thick skin? Try this instead and Shades of Sensitivity.

11. Diet fads are destroying us: Paleo, gluten-free and the lies we tell ourselves.

12. Why diets don’t actually work, according to a researcher who has studied them for decades.

13. 23 Amazingly Ridiculous Things You Can Buy At Anthropologie.

14. Why We Need to Stop Hating Ourselves, Once and For All.

15. An Open Letter To All Of My Friends Who Take Selfies, (shared by Kirsten).

16. Wisdom from Valerie Estelle Frankel, (shared by Jen Louden),

While the hero journeys for external fame, fortune, and power, the heroine tries to regain her lost creative spirit… Once she hears the cries of this lost part of herself needing rescue, her journey truly begins.

17. What’s the Truth About Sugar Addiction? from Eat to Love.

18. Wisdom from Dita Von Teese,

You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.

19. A Photo Essay: A Creativity Reboot on Rowdy Kittens.

20. My Terrifying Tornado Story from Elizabeth Gilbert.

21. 6 Words That Are Guaranteed to End Picky Eating.

22. Why I quit dieting.

23. Cute bunnies working in an office.

24. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Truth in Nonfiction But Were Afraid to Ask: A Bad Advice Cartoon Essay.

25. Mourning the Death and Celebrating the Life of Dave Goldberg.

26. A Woman Uses Art To Come To Terms With Her Father’s Death.

27. “Mind creates the gap and then the heart crosses it.” Wisdom from Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (by way of Susan Piver),

28. Good stuff from Bored Panda, 23 Before-And-After Photos Of Pets Growing Up With Their Toys, and This Rescued Pet Rat And Dog Are The Best Buddies Ever, and Sad Vacation Guy Wins Second Vacation, Takes His Wife And Baby, Has Much Better Time.

29. How We Grieve: Meghan O’Rourke on the Messiness of Mourning and Learning to Live with Loss on Brain Pickings.

30. Welcome To “Bestie Row”: Lifelong Friends Build Row Of Tiny Houses In The Middle Of Nowhere.

31. This Kid Says A Lot Of Hilarious Sh*t And His Dad Gets It All On Camera.

32. The ‘Painful Personal Toll Lung Cancer Has Taken on My Life’ by Cheryl Strayed.

33. How not to say the wrong thing.

34. Lemon Blueberry Muffin Bread recipe.

35. 8 Body Positive Activists To Put On Your Radar, Because They’re All Badasses.

36. Stephen Colbert shocks South Carolina schools by funding every single teacher-requested grant.

37. In Which I Critique Your Story (That I Haven’t Read) from Terrible Minds.

38. Good stuff on tickld: 25 Of The Best Anti-Jokes Ever. #11 Is Gold. and Little Boy Gives The Best Response Ever. This Man Should Be Ashamed.

Day of Rest

fortuneloveIt has been raining every day for over a week now. Last night it turned to snow. My lilacs are frozen, broken lumps. It’s Mother’s Day and I know people who are sad today because they are children without mothers or mothers who have lost their children or women who want to be mothers but struggle with infertility. Three friends have lost dogs this past week. Yesterday morning, our friends’ beautiful, sweet black lab, only 5.5 years old and completely healthy, had a seizure and died instantly, most likely from an aneurysm. I’m so sad.

The first noble truth of Buddhism is life is suffering. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try or how careful we are, change and loss come, sometimes suddenly and without warning. Earthquakes and floods will come, accidents happen. We will get sick and eventually die, and so will every being we ever love. This is life.

What we CAN do is stop generating more suffering. Wherever we are making things worse — with our confusion, our willful ignorance, our laziness, our anger, our jealousy, our judgment, our various cravings and addictions and distractions — we can stop. Even if we can’t yet do anything to help, we can stop adding to the difficulty, aggravating the situation. We can work to heal ourselves, to be sane, and in that way, at the very least, not make things worse.

It’s the most important thing we can do with our life — get our shit together. Only then is there a chance that we might free up the time and energy, be able to access the wisdom and love we need to help. It’s so simple, so important.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche gave a talk in Chicago this past week, “Making Peace Possible: the Shared Wisdom of the Human Heart.” He talked about how with all the awful things happening in the world and our personal lives, it can be easy to become overwhelmed, to lapse into apathy rather than turning towards the possibility of peace — peace as not just the absence or war or suffering, but a true engagement with life, the vitality of love, joy, and celebration. He suggests that this peace is our natural state, and can be our personal, lived, embodied experience. To find this peace in ourselves and cultivate the same in our world, we have to take love seriously.

Love is not weak. Kindness and love are what give us strength, allow for transformation. We don’t have to have all the answers or know what to do, we simply need to stop generating suffering, stay open and curious, see what might arise. We must nourish our conviction that our natural state is peace, love, basic goodness, and not give up. As the Sakyong said in his talk “when we connect with our own sense of who we are as a human being [worthy, whole, basically good], we then value others,” and with that “people naturally look out for each other.”

Peace and love are hard work. The are expensive — in energy, emotion, effort. And yet, we can take small steps, realizing that these steps add up. We can cultivate peace, return to our natural state. We can be peacemakers. We can be the helpers. We can manifest the power of love, encouraging and uplifting others, allowing our innate wisdom to arise, enabling transformation.

Every living thing is beautiful because it is, as it is. The only thing hiding this beauty is the belief that there is no light, no innate goodness and purity at the heart of one’s being. Touch the inherent goodness at the center of your own heart and beauty will radiate through you, as you. ~Julie Daley

Gratitude Friday

From three years ago, but just what it looks like today

From three years ago, but just what it looks like today

1. Getting to work with good people. For example, I got a new camera for work this week, a fancy grownup one, and the day I took it out of the box, I was scheduled to take pictures of some interns in action for a series of blog profiles at CSU. I didn’t know what I was doing, either with the technology or setting up the shots, but with the help of my colleague who knows so much more than I do, the pictures turned out great and I learned some stuff.  Another example is I met with my interns for the last time this week, published their final profiles, gave them their parting gifts, and reflected on how lucky I am to get to work with such dedicated, enthusiastic, creative students. And finally, there’s that guy who stops by my office and steals my candy who always has such nice things to say about me, and seems to show up and say them just when I need to hear it.

2. Spring. The bird song, the blooms, the 1000 shades of green, the promise of summer break and a garden, and yes, even the rain, (although, after a week’s worth of it, I’m having to work really hard on that one).

blurry3. Healthy, happy dogs. We are nearing the sweet spot with these boys, that moment in our lives together where they are grown up enough to be easier, calmer, but they are also still young enough to have lots of energy and good health. We’ve got about 2-3 years of that, five if we are lucky, before the inevitable down turn starts to happen on the other end of things, where Sam starts to get older and can’t quite keep up — at least, that’s the hope. We’ll be so lucky if Sam gets old. Obi was still in the sweet spot when he got his cancer, and Dexter was just barely starting to slow down when he got his. I tell Sam and Ringo all the time that they are going to be my old dogs. #fingerscrossed

4. Sangha. Community and connection. My yoga friends, the Open Heart Project, the Daily Dharma Gathering, all the other creatives and healers I’m connected to, my writing companions, and all the other humans who help me to cultivate an open heart, softness and strength, practice, faith.

5. The ability to choose. The luxury to have space and time to listen, to sit quietly with myself and consider what I need, to contemplate what I want, and to be able to choose.

andreagibson6. Andrea Gibson. She’s an amazing performer, poet, human. I got to finally see her in person this past weekend, in the company of an equally amazing poet and human.

Bonus Joy: how curious Eric is, how excited he gets when he’s telling me about something he saw or read or heard, how he makes me laugh, how he makes himself laugh, the stability and comfort he offers me, sweet potato corn chips and hummus (yes, I’m still obsessed), lemonade, cabbage rolls, smashed potatoes, knowing that I can only do what I can do and what doesn’t get done is okay too, humans who care and are putting so much effort into making things better, how happy Ringo is when I get his favorite toy out for him to play with, how I’ve watched him lately catch himself when he’s about to make a bad decision and independently redirect, how sweet Sam is, how he just wants everyone to be calm and nice, books, being able to give — gifts and attention and effort and encouragement and attention.

Three Truths and One Wish

swoonlilacbloom1. Truth: This is one of my favorite times of the year, as well as one of the hardest. It’s the busiest part of my whole CSU work year, but it’s also spring — the smell of the lilacs, my irises starting to bloom, buds on my peonies, the trees getting their leaves, the bird song, the promise of a garden and summer, the rain, the rain, the rain.

blergh...

blergh…

2. Truth: I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’m very aware that S.A.D. is the kind of condition that if you don’t have it sounds like a made up thing, but trust me — it’s real. It’s some kind of trick the light and moisture and temperature plays on my brain. And when it’s as gloomy as it has been the past few days (and will be for the next few as well), I just want to stay in bed. I feel like I’m carrying the full weight of the sky and the weather in my body, like the whole thing sits right on top of my head, settles in my chest, and it’s too heavy. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I just thought I was a gloomy person. Then I moved to Colorado and realized it was actually the weather.

overit3. Truth: I’m ready for this semester to be over. I was playing around with my new work camera yesterday, and my friend who’d stopped by to have lunch took this picture of me. It makes me smile because it’s so ridiculous but also so accurate — this is exactly how I feel right now. I have two more weeks of CSU work (fingers crossed that I finish what I have to by then, but even if I don’t my office has to be packed up so they can move it back into our newly remodeled building, thus the chaos behind me in the picture) and three more Sundays of yoga teacher training, and I’m so ready to be done, to rest.

One wish: That even if we are busy, overwhelmed, sad, tired, confused, we are still able to see and appreciate the beauty amidst the mess, still able to laugh. That we do what we can to be gentle with ourselves and others. That even as we surrender to what is, we don’t give up.

 

Something Good

Glacier Peak, image by Eric

Glacier Peak, image by Eric

1. The Workhorse and the Butterfly: Ann Patchett on Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art on Brain Pickings. This book is on my summer reading list.

If a person has never given writing a try, they assume that a brilliant idea is hard to come by. But really, even if it takes some digging, ideas are out there. Just open your eyes and look at the world. Writing the ideas down, it turns out, is the real trick.

2. 10 Things to Remember About Toxic Family Members from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

3. A’driane on Chookooloonks. When I get some time, I really want to dig around A’driane’s blog. She’s talking about things that are really important. Really important and heartbreaking on Chookooloonks is Karen’s post Enough. And finally, this from Karen posted on Medium is fucking brilliant, To My White Friends Who Struggle With What To Say.

4. Good stuff from Dances with Fat: Colorado Preschool Takes Candy From a Baby and I’m Too Sexy For This Prom?

5. Are you certain that you’re trapped? from Seth Godin. Oh, snap!

6. The “After” Myth.

7. Wisdom from Mandeq Ahmed, (shared by Meg),

There are two
types of tired,
I suppose one is a dire need of sleep
the other is a dire need of peace.

8. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Fashion (HBO).

9. Good stuff on Bored Panda: Love Is In Small Things and Photographer Arranges Foods In Beautiful Color Gradients That Will Soothe Your Soul.

10. Obama on the Baltimore Riots: It’s About Decades of Inequality.

This is not new. This has been going on for decades. And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, we also know if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty, they’ve got parents, often because of substance abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education, and themselves can’t do right by their kids, if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead than that they go to college, and communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men, communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing’s been stripped away, and drugs have flooded the community and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a lot of folks, in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without, as a nation, and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem, and we’ll go through this same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities, and the occasional riots in the streets and everybody will feign concern until it goes away and we just go about our business as usual.

11. Wisdom from René Descartes,

If you would be a real seeker after truth,
it is necessary that at least once in your life
you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

12. ‘Ain’t no way you can sit here and be silent.’

13. Wisdom from “The Other America,” a speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Grosse Pointe High School – March 14, 1968, (which except for a few of the details reads like it could have been written this March 14th),

I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

…we must still face the fact that our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nations winters of delay. As long as justice is postponed we always stand on the verge of these darker nights of social disruption. The question now, is whether America is prepared to do something massively, affirmatively and forthrightly about the great problem we face in the area of race and the problem which can bring the curtain of doom down on American civilization if it is not solved…

The first thing I would like to mention is that there must be a recognition on the part of everybody in this nation that America is still a racist country. Now however unpleasant that sounds, it is the truth. And we will never solve the problem of racism until there is a recognition of the fact that racism still stands at the center of so much of our nation and we must see racism for what it is…And we’ve got to see that this still exists in American society. And until it is removed, there will be people walking the streets of live and living in their humble dwellings feeling that they are nobody, feeling that they have no dignity and feeling that they are not respected. The first thing that must be on the agenda of our nation is to get rid of racism.

14. He shows how the news talks about black people by talking about white people instead.

15. This teen boy got Instagram famous because of his campaign encouraging teen boys to support their female classmates.

16. Louis C.K. On Life And Stand-Up: ‘I Live In Service For My Kids,’ a Fresh Air interview.

17. Welcome Everybody, “a grassroots, nationwide project to demonstrate our collective strength against the continued attacks on civil liberties around the nation.”

18. Racism is Real, a short film.

19. Bud Light Withdraws Slogan After It Draws Ire Online.

20. I don’t know shit about Baltimore on Renegade Mothering.

21. What If I Discover I’m Horrible at What I Want To Do? from Laura Simms.

22. Swarming Hummingbirds. I want this in my front yard.

23. Baby pulled from Nepal earthquake rubble after 22 hours.

24. when all else fails* from Karen Maezen Miller.

25. Our Witnessing Must Be Sustained.

It’s one of the most complex, urgent American stories being told. The cameras might stop rolling, but it won’t end anytime soon. Don’t let it. Keep reading. Keep watching. Keep listening. Keep looking for a way to be a part of the crowd with its hands on the moral arc, bending, bending, bending. However long it takes.

26. ‘Getting old ain’t for sissies': Cartoonist Jack Ohman draws his dad’s final years.

27. Maybe Gluten is Not the Devil after all.

28. David Whyte Recites “The Journey.”

29. Reality check: ALL eating is “emotional” from Isabel Foxen Duke.

30. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

When things fall apart and we can’t get the pieces back together, when we lose something dear to us, when the whole thing is just not working and we don’t know what to do, this is the time when the natural warmth of tenderness, the warmth of empathy and kindness, are just waiting to be uncovered, just waiting to be embraced. This is our chance to come out of our self-protecting bubble and to realize that we are never alone. This is our chance to finally understand that wherever we go, everyone we meet is essentially just like us. Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us to a loving relationship with the world.

31. Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Struggles With Suicides Among Its Young.

32. SLyme Disease: How A Speck Changed My Life Forever by Amy Tan.

33. One year of emptiness at the Krach Leadership Center.

34. Shared on Rowdy Kittens Happy Links list: go to the woods, find your original medicine and How to Write a Memoir: 6 Creative Ways to Tell a Powerful Story.

35. Shared in this week’s edition of Austin Kleon’s newsletter: Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, and
The Referendum, and David Letterman Reflects on 33 Years in Late-Night Television.

36. Freddie Gray’s death ruled a homicide and 6 Baltimore Police Officers Charged in Freddie Gray Death.

37. Bothered by Baltimore’s riots? Where have you been — for decades? and I’m white. I flew to Baltimore to protest. Here’s why.

38. Proof of Hope, “An honest depiction of the positive actions taking place in Baltimore, which have not yet been widely acknowledged.”

39. For the one who… from Isabel Faith Abbott.

40. Good stuff from Allowing Myself, a blog you should be reading: Energy All Over and On My Walk and On Being A Badass and, one of the most beautiful things ever written, Have Love, Will Travel.

41. Kristen Wiig plays Daenerys Targaryen—and it’s all we ever wanted, which made me laugh even though I’ve never watched Game of Thrones.

42. Yes, Unsubscribe From Netflix: These Small Steps Matter for Native Self-Esteem.

43. Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up, (shared on Positively Present Picks).

44. Good stuff from Susannah Conway’s Something for the Weekend list: Emotional Intelligence: The Social Skills You Weren’t Taught in School, and How to find time to read, and Things That Scare Me.

45. A University Is Not Walmart.

46. Carol and Flora Bowley. What cancer looks like. What love looks like.

47. Health Experts Recommend Standing Up At Desk, Leaving Office, Never Coming Back. Funny, because it’s true.