Monthly Archives: December 2017

Day of Rest

Though you cannot
remember it now,
you have taken a vow
with the stars
as your witness,
to offer your heart
to this world.

You have agreed
to remain naked, raw,
and vulnerable forever,
to enter into
the heart of sadness
and the ocean of tenderness
if that is where love calls you.

Your only guide
is the unknown
and the only map
is found inside
the cells of your own heart.

~Matt Licata

December Reflections, Part Two

As I mentioned in my last post about December Reflections, it is hosted by Susannah Conway as a “chance to weave some mindfulness and calm into our days in the run up to 2018.” She posts a set of prompts, and participants post responses — mostly on Instagram but also on their blogs. It’s a lovely way to end the year. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, or even use it, here’s what you missed of the second part.

Day 25: Today is… Always bittersweet, for many reasons. We miss our families, all the effort of planning and buying and wrapping feels like it doesn’t amount to much, and this liminal season between now and the new year is a time of surrender, letting go of all the big plans and all the things that won’t get done, and at the same time it’s the opening of a new season of doing when I already feel so done. Today is also sweet, quiet, peaceful, and filled with love and light. As you celebrate (or opt out), take a moment to think of those who have broken hearts or no place to go this season (including yourself, if it applies) and make a wish that next year, things will be better.

Day 26: Evening. When we practice patience.

Day 27: 2017 taught me… Change and healing take so much longer than I expect, and I need to be patient. It can look on the surface like nothing is happening, can feel like being stuck, but something is being cultivated and will eventually arise.

Day 28: My wish for 2018…that humans cultivate compassion and wisdom, generate sanity and love, and act accordingly.

Day 29: My eyes. My mom and brother have blue eyes, my dad’s are dark brown. Mine landed somewhere in the middle, that magic no color and every color – hazel. The color shifts depending on the light or what color I’m wearing, and sometimes they even seem to be two different colors. When Ringo Blue was a baby, I was very excited because his were the same color, but they shifted when he got older.

Day 30: Thank you for…Light in the darkness.

Day 31: My word for 2018…is not a word. Last year I went with “I don’t know what’s going to happen.” For 2018, I have intentions. No resolutions, no word. In the coming year, may I practice right speech, may I be more compassionate, may I be comfortable not knowing, and may I continue to seek my own truth without needing it to be true for anyone else.

Happy everything and always, kind and gentle reader. ❤

P.S. Susannah is hosting the same sort of project in January, Gentle January — “The idea is to simply take a photograph every day in January (and share it if you wish) to give yourself a moment to pause and be present. Let’s start the year as we mean to go on, yes? I’ve created a list of prompts you can use — they alternate between an “I” statement (I am, I love, I believe, etc) you can riff of and easy shoot-what-you-see photo prompts. Use these as your starting points and see where it takes you!”

I Don’t Know

When we were on our morning walk earlier this week, Eric told me, “come down this way and take a picture.” In the spot where a makeshift memorial had been removed by the park services people, a strange face was hanging from one of the trees, some kind of mask or tree spirit. He’d wanted to take a picture of it earlier in the week, but it had been too cold to stop. He hadn’t told me about it because how would you even explain such a thing.

I don’t know. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know how you’d explain it, and I don’t know who put it there or why. There’s so much I don’t know, about everything.

Not knowing is a characteristic of wisdom and compassion. Instead of stepping in to give advice or offer your opinion, you stay with the quality of uncertainty. I forget this sometimes. I’m so quick to want to fix whatever is wrong that I speed towards knowing and being sure, to action, when maybe it’s better to be patient, to simply be present until I’m sure or until someone asks me for a specific kind of help.

Last week, one of my favorite dog people went through something horrific. She was out hiking with her dogs when one of them disappeared. Afraid he’d gone over the cliff where they were hiking, (he had), they stayed out looking for him as it got dark. They could hear him, but weren’t sure where he was, and it turns out they couldn’t have gotten to him anyway. I was glued to Facebook the next morning as someone flew a drone along the cliff, located him, and then a member of search and rescue rappelled down the cliff and retrieved him. See more about the amazing rescue here, here, here, and here.

The next day, with everyone home and safe, she posted a picture of them out for a walk, with a caption that mentioned something about the trauma of the day before, of the relief and gratitude they were feeling. Someone chose that moment, barely 24 hours after the drama and terror, to criticize her for walking her dogs off-lead. And when someone else stepped in and called her out for being inappropriate, she doubled down and restated the supremacy of the truth of her experience.

This is the opposite of I don’t know. It’s the opposite of compassion. It makes me think of when someone is diagnosed with cancer, and people start sending links to articles about alternative treatments, or talk to them about how eating sugar or sleeping on your back causes cancer, or says something dumb like “you’ll be fine” or “think positive and you’ll beat this!” Or when someone loses a loved one, and people say things like “they are in a better place now” or “it’s God’s will.”

It also reminds me of the people I see outside of the Planned Parenthood, praying and holding signs that say, “Abortion is murder!” People get caught up debating politics or social issues, and in the process they allow their righteousness to override their compassion, their humanity. For starters, the people outside of the clinic with their posters and prayers are too late. The only thing you can accomplish at that moment, in that place, is to announce your rightness, to flaunt your opinion, and to add to the suffering of others. You aren’t helping.

It’s not about your opinion on the issue. It’s about when and where it is appropriate to have the discussion — most certainly not with a woman who’s already made the decision and the appointment, or only 24 hours after someone’s dog has been rescued. Considering what she endured, both of them, it’s really not the time or place to share your opinion. And why do we think what is true for us has to be true for everyone else, a big T truth?

There are various teachings on right speech. One is a set of questions to ask your self in order to determine if you should speak. One teaching (from the poet Rumi) offers this instruction, “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” Another version offers, “1) Is it the truth? 2) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Still another describes right speech this way: “It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.”

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, and yet, I do have intentions. In the coming year, may I practice right speech, may I be more compassionate, may I be comfortable not knowing, and may I continue to seek my own truth without needing it to be true for anyone else.

Gratitude Friday (on a Friday!)

1. Morning walks. Because Eric and I are both off work this week, all four of us got to go the other morning.

2. Living close to the water. In a perfect world, it would be the ocean, but having the river and a few reservoirs, lakes, and ponds near by is workable.

3. Holiday food. Stuffing, apple pie, cheddar cayenne biscuits, and apple cider. All the extra candy, cookies, and clementines aren’t bad either.

4. Christmas presents. I was obviously a very good girl this year, also very aware of my privilege.

5. My favorite Christmas pj pants. My aunt/godmother got me these Eddie Bauer pj pants for Christmas at least 10 years ago, probably longer. At the time, they were too big; now they fit just right. I’ve worn them to open presents every Christmas morning since, but they are reaching the end of their life. The hem and waistband are frayed, the fabric getting thinner.

6. My tiny family. So grateful that everyone is healthy and safe.

We tried to get a picture in front of the tree with the dogs before we opened presents, but the dogs weren’t having it.

Making an effort

We give up

Bonus joy: Writing and hanging out with Mikalina, aqua aerobics and the sauna every day this week, pay day, a clean car, good books (just finished White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, am processing it a bit more before I publish a review), good TV (Eric and I just finished the first season of The Great British Baking Show), napping, vacation days, texting, baby pictures.

Three Truths and One Wish

I tried to find the origin of this image, and my best guess is it was made by this artist, Susann April

1. Truth: This year was a fallow period. Fallow is a farming term that means “plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility.” After “the election” last year, I spent time in shock, disbelief. When I came out of that, I was too distraught to concentrate, there was just so much wrong. After the dust settled a bit, I dove into educating myself, reading and taking classes, paying attention. With a fresh perspective, I suddenly was afraid to say the wrong thing, embarrassed that I’d been so ignorant, and didn’t know exactly how to make the shift from writing about my personal stuff to what’s happening in the world, or about how they might be connected. I got confused about my work, about what I had to offer. My weekly Something Good posts were easy to modify, and I could still find things to be grateful about, but everything else felt…weird, awkward.

2. Truth: I’m ready to be more present, more vocal. I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to put my foot in it. I’m going to fuck up. Some people won’t like me anymore. And yet, I’m no longer going to let any of that silence me. My path is one of discovery and devotion, and after a time of contemplation and confusion, that previous truth still stands.

3. Truth: I’ve changed, and I’m more myself than ever. My world view has shifted two clicks to the left, and yet after much deliberation and effort, I find myself exactly where I was. The things that mattered to me still matter, the things I teach are still what I teach, and my mission is still exactly the same: to ease suffering, in myself and in the world.

One wish: May we remember that our worth isn’t always about our doing. May our practice and effort be about being more present and authentic, which also means being more vulnerable. May we cultivate a strong foundation of sanity and compassion in the ways that feel right to us, thus encouraging wisdom and love in others.

Something Good

1. The best gift you can ever receive, wisdom and meditation instruction from Susan Piver, (video). Each week, she sends out a video — watch this one before next Monday, when it goes into the vault and you can only access it as a member of the Open Heart Project Sangha. In this one, she gives some of my favorite instruction, says that meditation isn’t about becoming good at meditation but rather becoming good at being yourself in the world, and we practice “to be good at meeting our experience with a full and open heart, to be good at extending that heart to others and to ourselves, and to be warriors in the world in the name of non-aggression and peace.” I’m down for that.

2. Kindness scales from Seth Godin.

3. “I just want to feel good in my body”, wisdom from Rachel Cole. The wish at the end made me cry, “May 2018 be the year that an army of women decides what this world needs more than their obedience or their beauty is their freedom, their joy, their unequivocal no, their fierce empathy, their unleashed power, their laser focus, their loud voices, and their embodied presence.”

4. Disrupting Systemic Whiteness in the Mindfulness Movement. “A Q&A with Dr. Angela Rose Black on the omission of the voices and wisdom of people of color in mindfulness research, teaching, and practice.”

5. 9 Essential Reads For Your Racial Justice Conversations. “These authors will help you talk about White supremacy by using reasoning and research rather than anger and frustration.” In related news, 14 Debut Books By Women Coming Out In 2018 That You Need In Your TBR Pile.

6. Why humans are cruel. “A psychologist explains why humans are so terrible to each other.”

7. 8 New Year’s Resolutions For Radical Resistance. “A progressive’s guide to fucking shit up in 2018.”

8. Easing into the new year, another month of prompts from Susannah Conway, “The idea is to simply take a photograph every day in January (and share it if you wish) to give yourself a moment to pause and be present.”

9. A Holiday Manifesto for Introverts.

10. I will disagree with food and body-shamers this year, wisdom from Isabel Foxen Duke. In related news, The Worst Holiday Diet Tips from Dances with Fat.

11. 31 Days of Devotion with Adreanna Limbach. “20 minute meditation videos, 8 contributing teachers, free for all, delivered fresh to your inbox every single day in January.”

12. Maxine Waters Is Reclaiming Her Time: BUST Interview.

13. P.T. Barnum Isn’t the Hero the “Greatest Showman” Wants You To Think. “His path to fame and notoriety began by exploiting an enslaved woman, in life and in death, as entertainment for the masses.”

14. Body Positive Rebellion, “a free, 7-day, self-paced course (December 31 – January 6) where we’ll explore making peace with our bodies, subverting the patriarchy, and living out loud.”

15. How to wrap your Cat for Christmas 101. (video)

16. “The First Noel” Leslie Odom Jr. ft. PS22 Chorus. (video)

17. Transgender Children Talk About Being Raised By Their Families. (video)

18. AG Celebrity Spotlight: Amy Grant by Kirsten Akens. Amy Grant was the first concert I ever attended.

19. Ridiculous video emerges of wealthy Koch heir — and the internet is dying of laughter. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

20. This man’s bond with his dog helped him off the streets. (video) “‘He loves me unconditionally, I count my blessings every day.’ The loving bond this man has with his dog helped take him off the streets – and even saved his life.”

21. The Tarmac Dancer, (video). I wish I felt this way about my job. Or my life even.

22. How dogs move. (video)

23. Christmas Time Is Here – Daniela Andrade ft. Cutest Dog in the Galaxy. (video) I’ve shared this before, and probably will again, because it’s just that good.

Merry everything, happy always, kind and gentle reader. And as you celebrate (or opt out), take a moment to think of those who have broken hearts or no place to go this season (including yourself, if it applies) and make a wish that next year, things will be better.

December Reflections

The month isn’t quite over yet, but I wanted to share, while I have a moment, my posts for December Reflections. It’s hosted by Susannah Conway, as a “chance to weave some mindfulness and calm into our days in the run up to 2018.” She posts a set of prompts, and participants post responses — mostly on Instagram but also on their blogs. It’s a lovely way to end the year. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, or even use it, here’s what you missed.

December 1: Early. Not as early as usual. I slept in while Eric walked the dogs, skipped yoga for a bit more sleep, but still made it up in time to see the sunrise and the twinkle lights and hang out with these two, Sweet Sam and Ringo Blue.

December 2: Red.

December 3: Best day of 2017. It’s a four-way tie: the first hike I took after having a wonky knee all winter, the whole day I got to hang out with Mikalina, my 50th birthday, and any day I got in the pool.

December 4: Circles. Sure, clementines are the picture because they were on the counter right next to me when I checked today’s prompt, but when I think of circles the first thing that comes to mind are the earrings Laurie Wagner has been wearing lately – – large but delicate shiny orbs that dangle down, almost brushing against her shoulders. I’m obsessed with them, so in love with her. Each week I circle back to sit and write with her, and some weeks it’s the only thing that makes sense.

December 5: Best book of 2017. It’s a tie. There’s just no way for me to pick between the two. It’s not a secret that memoir is my favorite genre, and these are two that as soon as I was done, I wanted to immediately start over and read again, and even though I didn’t (even though I will), they’ve stayed with me, and from time to time, I find myself thinking about a particular passage again. I learned something from them, but also my heart got bigger. So grateful that these are authors of my time, this time in particular.

December 6: I was challenged by… For the past ten years, I’ve had injuries and chronic tendinitis in my knees, after decades of chronic back pain. This year, I was finally diagnosed with arthritis, only to find out most of the women in my family have the same – knees, elbows, shoulders, feet, hips, back, and hands. I had to give up most of the ways I used to move my body – running, elliptical and treadmill machines, aerobic and dance classes, hard lifting – things unkind to my knees. Walking and hiking can hurt too, but I won’t stop. I found new ways to move – yoga, Pilates, aqua aerobics. I also found workable healing modalities – massage on the regular, physical therapy when I need it, shots for my knees, some drugs, CBD oil, the sauna and hot tub, and now an infrared heating pad, (that’s what’s on me in the picture). It’s a constant process figuring it all out, a challenge.

December 7: Favorite photo of 2017. This one’s pretty recent, an accidental shot – I was taking a picture of the amazing sunrise over their heads when I looked down and saw how sweet they were, so knelt down and got one with them in it.

December 8: Green. It’s always been his favorite color. When we got married 24 years ago, I wore a green dress and he wore a green silk shirt and green cowboy boots.

December 9: Biggest change in 2017. Because of an arthritis diagnosis and pain in my knees, I had to find new ways to move my body. I tried aqua aerobics, first in the summer with classes at the Senior Center, then joining a new gym with a pool. I took swimming lessons as a kid, but a fear of the water (or more specifically, a fear of drowning and death) combined with impatient teachers meant it didn’t stick. Later as a woman I felt super awkward in a swimming suit. Turns out, I love being in the water and it feels fantastic, so now I’m in the pool every day if I can make it, class or no class, and I always smell faintly of chlorine. Next step: adult swimming lessons.

December 10: Softness. Baby Sam, back when his name was Jerry and he lived with his foster mom and his brother Jimmy, a few other dogs and some ducks. He wasn’t there long, barely a week before we brought him home. Today he turns 8 years old, the birthday we gave him, our best guess. He’s such a tenderhearted, sensitive pup, and I’ve had to always be softer with him.

December 11: I discovered… Pilates. More specifically, Perk! Pilates with the amazing Ashley. I’d known her for years and always wanted to try, and when I was diagnosed with arthritis and had to rethink how I moved my body, it was the right time. I love it so much. It makes me strong, but also feels amazing, a little like you are training for Cirque de Solei. I did it for my knees, but an added bonus is my back pain is more manageable than it’s been for 30 years.

December 12: Reflection. Me, heading into the building where my office and department are located on campus. This job and I (and even this building) have shifted shapes together over the years, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like a good fit. Sometimes I want to break up, can’t stand it for another second, but so far I keep coming back, (18 years and counting). One thing is for sure – this is where I work, not who I am.

December 13: Five things about me. 1. I haven’t had my hair cut in over a year. 2. You can contact me for advice when your dog is diagnosed with cancer, cause I’ve been there. 3. It took me 12 years and three different schools to finish my undergraduate degree. 4. I chose writing and my own healing over being a mom. 5. I’ve been married twice.

December 14: Ten years ago. This is me today. Ten years ago, I’d just turned 40 and had only just begun this journey – had a book recommended to me which led to my first meditation retreat and the beginnings of my now decade of practice. I had no idea then where it would lead, this journey that goes nowhere, that is simply a return to myself, a softening, a spaciousness, a particular sanity that makes me feel more in the world at the same time I’m less of it. This morning I feel tender, sad, lonely, lost, found, and so grateful.

December 15: Best decision of 2017. Staying with this guy, choosing him again and again.

December 16: Sparkle. Lotus globe on the Rigden shrine, represents awakened mind.

December 17: I let go of… Sweet Lianore was born 12-17. When I first found out my niece was pregnant, one of my thoughts in those first hours was, “why does she get to have a baby and I don’t?” You see, I chose to not be a mom, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy choice. When she was being born, I was getting texts and then at 6:09 am, there she was, and my mom sent an email to tell me a few more details, (they are all in Oregon). I was writing this morning and realized I didn’t feel jealous, not even that someone else had an experience with my mom I never would. So, I let go of regret, jealousy, anxiety, and confusion around my choice, at least in small part because how can you feel anything but squishy and tender when you see that sweet tiny new face, who belongs to me even though she’s not mine. Welcome to the world, baby. I’m doing my best to make it a tiny bit less shitty for you.

December 18: Favorite photo of me…that I never posted anywhere. I texted this to Eric on his birthday, when I was gone on retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center. We do this a lot, send a picture of ourselves wherever we are, no words, a conversation in selfies. This one makes me smile because I’m such a dork but he also loves these photos most, when I just woke up, my face softer and eyes brighter.

December 19: Brings me joy. At first, I saw my Christmas tree all lit up with presents underneath and thought about how all that sparkle makes me happy. I took the picture, then saw this boy on the couch, watching me, and I realized he needed to be included in this too.

December 20: Sweetness. The sweetest love note from this morning.

December 21: This year was…hard, confusing, painful, busy, too much too fast, and it was also super educational. I am better equipped now for another year like this one, and also ready to slow down for a bit, get some rest and find some comfort, joy, ease.

December 22: Skyline. The view from my front porch, morning after we got a bit more snow, only about 3 degrees out there.

December 23: Secret. I’ve taken vows, been certified to teach, have available time and accessible space, experience a longing, know the benefits, have even had my life saved by it, and yet practice is still hard for me sometimes. I resist, don’t want to, get lazy, forget, am too busy, find myself distracted. The ordinary magic is that no matter where you are or how long it’s been, you can always begin again.

December 24: Stillness. Early morning, Christmas eve. Eric just left with Sam and Ringo to attempt a run in the cold, (it’s anywhere from 0 to 6 degrees, depending on who you believe). I turn the radio off so it’s quiet except for the washing machine and the hum of the furnace. *sigh*

Merry Everything and a Happy Always, kind and gentle reader.