NaBloPoMo Day 20

I think if you teach yoga the week of Thanksgiving and you don’t theme your class around the idea of gratitude, they revoke your teaching certification. Of course, I’m joking — sort of. It’s an obvious thing to focus on, especially this week. As I was planning my class today, it’s where I went, but with a slight twist.

I was thinking in particular of this quote from Pema Chödrön that I’ve used in my classes before. It goes like this,

There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.

I’ve had students tell me this is a bit dark, this particular explanation of gratitude and joy. To me it feels exactly right. So often we bypass the reality of the bad things that happen and head straight for gratitude, looking for the lesson we are sure is present in our current suffering and offering thanks. We believe that we must force ourselves to always focus on the positive, the “good,” and reject what’s bad. We think this makes us kinder, wiser, more highly evolved spiritual people.

I don’t think we need to do this. We are perfectly capable of sticking with the awfulness of what is happening, making room for all of it while still managing to find our joy. To be aware that things are hard and bad things happen isn’t any kind of denial of wonder, delight, the potential joy in our lives. We can stay open, be curious, and be present for all of it.

To practice gratitude, we often skip past joy. We list the things we are grateful for with a sense of duty, of obligation — we give thanks, look for ways to return the kindness. Appreciation is something we offer, extend out. I am going to suggest to my class today that we spend some time sinking into the joy we receive, open to it, let ourselves notice it, allow ourselves to fully experience it. My suggestion is going to be that we embody gratitude by feeling our joy.

Something Good (NaBloPoMo Day 19)

The birthday cake Eric made me yesterday. He even made the chocolate covered pretzels and graham crackers himself. And yes, we have been binge watching the new season of Great British Baking Show.

1. The *new* Black Friday. “This Black Friday, go with the new black: Spend at least part of the day making a Love List as a holiday gift for someone you love.”

2. I’m Just Happy to Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering Kindle Edition, on Amazon for $1.99! Such a good book from such an amazing writer.

3. New report finds Cadbury has destroyed over 25,000 hectares of Orangutan habitat.

4. Serving Time, And Fighting California Wildfires For $2 A Day. This isn’t new news, but it needs to continue to be news until we wise up.

5. 70 Books Written by Black Women You Need on Your Bookshelf.

6. Cab Drivers Refuse To Pick Up Racists After Philly Rally With Proud Boys. In related news (as in “how regular people can be a part of the resistance”), White women saunter around in hoodies to prove Tennessee mall’s policy targets black people.

7. 11 Signs Of Gaslighting In Your Relationship, Beware!

8. In this week’s “People Behaving Badly,” Woman’s T-Shirt Made Someone Feel So “Unsafe” They Had To Call The Cops, and North Dakota Motel Won’t Rent Rooms to Native Americans, and A White College Professor Reportedly Called 911 Because A Black Student Put Her Feet On A Chair, and Man who called Pittsburgh synagogue massacre a “dry run” arrested days after brother’s suicide, and Hate crimes in America spiked 17 percent last year, FBI says, and Dunkin’ Donuts Owner Calls Cops on Black Woman During Dispute Over Free WiFi, and This man pulled over to berate a couple who was protesting a Confederate monument (video), and Indigenous women kept from seeing their newborn babies until agreeing to sterilization, says lawyer, and The Police Call Was Supposed to Be a Wellness Check on a Friend. So How Did Travis Jordan End Up Dead?, and What this “Nazi salute” prom photo says about the adults in the room.

9. This man left New York’s nightlife scene behind to bring clean water to over 8 million people worldwide (video). One of my favorite charities.

10. Joe Biden Adopts a Rescue Dog Named Major.

11. Trying to make balloon animals. (video) This guy’s videos where he tries to learn to make stuff are hilarious.

12. Neo-Nazis Have No First Amendment Right to Harassment, Judge Rules on The New York Times.

13. When White Ladies Act Like They Want That Action, Give It to Them. In related news, Why Do White Women Keep Voting for the GOP and Against Their Own Interests?, and Most White Women Are Very Happy With White Supremacy.

14. Georgia’s Stacey Abrams Admits Defeat, Says Kemp Used ‘Deliberate’ Suppression To Win. In related news, Georgia Lawmaker Arrested Amid Protest To Count Every Vote In Governor Race, and Federal judge finds Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act by rejecting ballots.

15. This Bread-Baking, Ex-Con Entrepreneur Is Creating Jobs For Others With Criminal Pasts. They also make amazing bread.

16. Judge Orders White House To Reinstate Jim Acosta’s Press Credentials.

17. Enjoy this video of a girl who used to be paralyzed surprising her nurse.

18. Ever wondered how sounds in movies are made? (video)

19. What Is More Important Than Weight Loss? “F*ck you and your ‘Wellness Committee.'”

20. This immigrant-owned restaurant in DC always has its doors open for those in need. (video)

21. Generous but useless donations flood wildfire evacuation centers. Here’s what to send.

22. For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies.

23. 80 years apart and the best of friends. (video)

24. New Dallas district attorney wants to charge officer with murder for killing Botham Jean. In related news, White Man Who Shot at Lost Black Boy in Michigan Will Serve at Least 4 Years on The New York Times.

25. Doctors who support gun reform are showing the gruesome reality they deal with each day, after the NRA told them to ‘stay in their lane’. (video)

26. Russian Fisherman Posts Terrifying Creatures Of The Deep Sea, And People Want Him To Stop. Equal parts creepy and cool.

27. Freddie Mercury and the Erasure of Queerness in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’

28. Dogs working sheep…Impressive video!

29. Meditation Is a Powerful Mental Tool—and For Some People It Goes Terribly Wrong.

30. Creativity is Messy: Questions to Explore When You’re Being Harsh with Yourself from Jena Schwartz.

31. 25 Reasons To Keep Making Stuff from Chuck Wendig.

32. 100 Easy Ways to Make the World Better for Trans People.

33. Seattle high-school teacher shares ‘the wonder of books’ with students on a different kind of field trip.

34. Speaking of my husband, Hal Isaacson; 7/1/74 – 10/27/18 – Forever.

35. 9 Things I Wish People Knew About Me As A Highly Sensitive Introvert.

NaBloPoMo Day 18

It’s my 51st birthday today. I have very little time this morning before I need to shower and get to yoga teacher training, where I’ll spend most of the day. I slept in this morning, knowing I should prioritize rest over everything else, but that meant I lost two hours I’d normally have to meditate and write and take things slow. Instead, I got up and started working on my homework for teacher training. I was finished with it on Friday, but I keep futzing with it. There’s one part I’ll have to teach later this afternoon, and I wanted to run though it one more time, fine tune it. And knowing the way I teach (one part planning, one part showing up and responding to what happens), I’ll probably change it again while I’m actually teaching.

It feels a little unfair to be making so much effort on my birthday. I’d rather stay home with Eric and the dogs, relax, maybe go see a movie, go out to eat, but what I’m doing instead is important to me too. And I really can’t complain at all because I’m taking next week off from work. Don’t feel sorry for me for one second. Do something nice for yourself instead — it’s my birthday, I make the rules today and that’s what I want, kind and gentle reader. And if you can’t think of something nice to do for yourself, do it for someone else. Ease suffering, in yourself and in the world. That’s all I ever want, no matter what day it is.

NaBloPoMo Day 17

Four years ago yesterday, I took refuge vows and officially became a Buddhist. Five years ago today, I registered for my 200 hour yoga teacher training. Tomorrow is my 51st birthday. To quote myself,

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.

Gratitude Friday (NaBloPoMo Day 16)

1. I’m still here. For so many reasons, this is something I’ve been thinking about and feeling grateful for. The world seems to be burning down in all kinds of ways, but as that Buddhist saying goes, “practice like your hair is on fire.” It isn’t always easy, but I still believe it’s better than the alternative and I’m not giving up.

2. Teaching yoga. This has been a complicated situation recently — thinking about cultural appropriation and making my classes accessible to more people, starting a new weekly class, and spending every weekend working towards my 500 hour certification, as well as working towards two other specialized certifications. And yet, after all the effort and confusion, it still ends up being the right thing to do.

3. My boyfriend is better than your boyfriend. My birthday is on Sunday, and as he did last year, he ordered clam chowder base from one of my favorite places on the Oregon Coast. He made me a traditional old style meal — clam chowder, shrimp and cabbage salad, cheesy garlic bread, and berry pie. It got here early, so we got to have it last night, and he bought extra so we’ll get to have it a few more times. He also leaves me love notes on the kitchen counter. And he makes me laugh, and gives me hugs whenever and for however long I need.

4. Morning walks. The sky has been particularly pretty.

5. My boys. They are the best companions for just about everything.

Bonus Joy: bran muffins with dried raspberries, fall break, a new person in my yoga class who has a sense of humor enough like mine that I’m funnier when she’s there, sleeping in, my infrared heating pad, Pilates, morning owl songs, good TV, good books, my Kindle, good music, people who are truly kind, the gooseberry jam my aunt made me, my friend’s little dog who I met for the first time and am totally in love with (she looks like Ringo and Sam had a baby), the same friend had a health scare but it turns out they’ll be okay, being able to spend the whole day at home in my pajamas even though I’m not sick or anything, cancelling plans because I’m just too tired to adult or even human knowing people who really love me totally get it, a crisp gala apple with crunchy peanut butter, pie crust, getting all the laundry done on a Friday, the house in our neighborhood that goes all out and decorates their entire yard for Christmas.

NaBloPoMo Day 15

I forgot to post something yesterday. Or rather, I remembered when I was on my way to bed, when my brain was no longer really working, so I decided there’d be no post for Day 14.

What I did instead: Slept in, because with two days of yoga teacher training over the weekend, and a super busy Monday and Tuesday, by Wednesday I’m ready for a day off, but couldn’t take the day off this week so I slept in instead. Sam had an appointment with his physical therapy vet, so once I showered and ate and meditated and wrote, I took him to that. He’s doing good, and at this point we might have to accept he’ll never go back to what he was. I brought him home after and fed both he and Ringo an early lunch before going to my CSU office. I met for a bit with a friend, fussed about and researched and texted Eric about the “grain-free diet danger” for dogs (because of Sam’s chicken allergy and the food Ringo was eating when he came to us, for the past almost five years we’ve had them on a salmon based kibble that just so happens to also be grain free), and then went to the monthly meeting for the communicators in our college, which I’ve missed the past two months. I avoid as many meetings as I can now because they only seem to mean more work for me, and I really don’t want or need more. Then I had to come back home and walk the dogs. Eric wasn’t going to be home until 6 pm and even though we were most likely just eating leftovers for dinner, I had to go to the grocery store — it had gotten to the point where there were things in our house that could be cooked, but we were running seriously low on anything “grab and go,” which sustains us during the week, (“grab and go” for me includes things like apples, yogurt, soups, and bread for sandwiches). So, I threw the dogs in the car and got groceries. Home, I unloaded the dogs and the groceries, put away the food and it was already almost time to feed the dogs again. Checked my work email and caught up on a few things, then changed into my pajamas and fed the dogs. This is the time of day I typically am DONE and have to get on the couch with my phone or turn on the TV, because that’s all I have left.

A thought I often have is something like “practice, then the laundry.” It’s a reference to that popular quote from Zen Buddhism, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” As practitioners on a particular path, we study and serve and practice. We put a lot of energy towards spiritual growth, undoing our neurosis and habitual patterns of reactivity, cultivating sanity and wisdom and compassion – and yet, most of us are also “householders” and as we practice, life continues to happen and needs our attention too.

Three Truths and One Wish (NaBloPoMo Day 13)

1. Truth: The way to do more is to do less of what you don’t want or need to do. I’m getting really really good at this. Of course, it requires a fully developed sophisticated sense of discernment and deep clarity about what I really want, because sometimes the choices I need to make aren’t obvious at all, and possibly complicated by external forces who want something entirely different from and for me.

2. Truth: Taking a pause before acting is usually a wise choice. I find if I act too quickly, I’m acting from a space of reactivity and possibly even confusion, rather than one of clarity, wisdom, and compassion. Of course, if something is on fire or someone is choking, there’s no time to pause, and taking immediate action can be the wisest choice in that case.

3. Truth: Rest is a necessary component of action, an essential counter. I know you might read that and think, “well duh,” but so often I seem to forget this. I go and go and go and go and don’t build in any time for rest and recovery. I go until I hit a wall, until I collapse and rest is no longer an option but rather is the only thing I can do, the only way I’ll be able to get back up, the necessary medicine and the magic.

One wish: May we have clarity about our path and know the right choices to make. May we act from a place of wisdom and compassion, clear seeing and love. May we pause and rest when we need it.