Author Archives: jillsalahub

#NaBloPoMo: Questions Worth Asking

Five years ago today, I took refuge vows. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche described them this way, “In the Buddhist tradition, the purpose of taking refuge is to awaken from confusion and associate oneself with wakefulness. Taking refuge is a matter of commitment and acceptance and, at the same time, of openness and freedom. By taking the refuge vow we commit ourselves to freedom.” During that ceremony, I was also given my dharma name, which translates to Space Dancer. I still love how that name marries spaciousness and intention.

This past year has been a confusing one for my Buddhist practice. My primary sangha was in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, introduced in the west by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and continued by his son Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. I’d initially had issues with the lineage because (among other things) I had questions about Chögyam Trungpa as a teacher and student of the dharma whose answers didn’t sit right with me, but his teachings had made such a difference in my life. Pema Chödrön had been one of his students and Sakyong Mipham seemed to be an honest, generous, wise teacher, so I moved past my doubt, chose to trust, to invest.

It turns out my trust was misplaced. The more I learn about what has been happening, the more my original doubts arise and solidify, and there seems to me no repairing the situation. Which means I am suddenly without a sangha, at least not in the same way I’d experienced it before. The deeper lineage of the tradition is the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism, so I’m optimistic I’ll find a new teacher, a new sangha. For now, my sangha seems to be those of us who feel a little lost, who put our trust in someone or something that turned out to not be trustworthy, who stay on the path and continue to practice even when it feels like we are without company, even when we are lonely and our questions seem without answer.

Working my way through my email inbox today, two things in particular jumped out at me. In Jena Schwartz‘s newsletter, she asked, “What if it doesn’t have to be such a struggle? What if you could choose ease?” and in Julia Fehrenbacher‘s most recent newsletter, she asked, “What if you stopped making it about good and simply focused on being authentic and true?” As I continue to sit with my confusion, wondering who to trust, these questions are good reminders, a way of grounding my contemplation in wisdom and compassion.

Gratitude Friday

1. Morning walks. Even with the dark, this is my favorite time of the year for walking.

2. The color of the Colorado sky, especially when there’s moisture in the air and it’s cold out.

3. Getting the rest and support I need. After our scare with Ringo, I spent the next two days recovering, had a good session with my therapist and texted with friends, ate good food and took a lot of naps. Today Ringo is going to see our favorite physical therapy and pain management vet to get some extra love. He’s actually fine, but I will feel better if we go and make sure.

4. My birthday is coming. Because of that, I have a lot of fun plans coming up over the weekend and into next week. Instead of a cake this year, I asked for an apple pie.

5. My tiny family. They really are the best, my favorites.

I was sitting under my infrared heating pad and favorite blanket and Ringo decided to come borrow some of my heat

Bonus joy: San Pelligrino Orange, soft warm pjs, wool socks and sweaters, down blankets and pillows, a warm shower, a big glass of cold clean water, the dog walkers who say hello or good morning, the fact that our new neighbors across the street have two kids and three big dogs, getting to hang out with Mikalina and Chloe’ for three whole hours, toast with butter and jam, Henry the baby Corgi, teaching yoga, long naps, friends that have been friends for decades, good books, good TV and movies, good podcasts, good music.

#NaBloPoMo: Unsolicited Advice

This morning I took on one of those “never get around to” chores: taking out all the plastic lids and containers to match them up, recycle the extras. Official count: three containers without lids, 28 lids without containers. I cannot figure out HOW this happens. When I posted the above picture to Instagram, I made sure to add “The goal is to slowly replace all the plastic” because I suspected that someone would either criticize my use of plastic or give me advice how to replace it, and I didn’t want a critique or advice.

This has happened before. Once I posted a picture of a snack, and a person I barely knew commented to tell me there wasn’t enough protein in it. Another time I posted about Ringo being sick and even though he’d already been to the vet and was getting better, I got a comment and a direct message about things to watch out for, ideas about what might be wrong with him. I’ve even gotten advice when the original post I made specifically said I didn’t want advice.

I get it. If I’m not careful, I catch myself doing the same thing. People mean well, are just trying to help, and yet if I haven’t specifically asked for advice, the offer can actually cause harm. For example, the paperwork from my last doctor’s appointment had a whole “Tips for Healthy Living” section which essentially was a list of dieting tips. Then today, I got an email from my health insurance company announcing “Build healthy habits for real life with this FREE program from WW (Weight Watchers® Reimagined).” I am someone who has/had not one but three eating disorders, who will never be “recovered,” so this kind of “advice” and “help” is at best irresponsible and at worst super dangerous.

And often times the “advice” isn’t even good. In an article I read today about taking a mental health day, in a part where the author was talking about how to relax, they included a list of “what not to do” that wasn’t just what not to do but “what NOT to do.” It was super judgmental, including a few things I do regularly to relax. It was making the assumption that while everyone should “spend time doing an activity that you find relaxing,” some things were inherently “bad,” such as binge-watching TV or “overeating unhealthy foods.”

The other place this happens is with experts and specialists. Everyone has a pill or a plan or a program to endorse. For example, I got my teeth cleaned today. At one point, the dentist seemed to recommend that brushing twice a day, as well as flossing with regular floss AND with a waterpik was a reasonable thing to expect from the average person. A nutritionist would most likely recommend cooking homemade and “healthy” food for every meal, a dog trainer would suggest your dogs have multiple “enrichment” activities a day along with a long walk and nutrient rich food, and a physical fitness trainer might prescribe a diet or supplement or particular exercise regime. When you add it all up, all the life hacks and ways that you can optimize your well-being and maximize your success, just putting together the list is exhausting. It’s unrealistic and out of reach for most people.

What I mean to say is we can trust ourselves, even though all the external messaging seems to say we can’t. Only we can know how we feel and what we need, what will work. Often times that means a lot of trial and error, effort we need to make space for, be patient with. Sometimes support is helpful and when that’s the case, we can ask for it, seek it out. In the end, we know best, if only we honor our hunger, our longing, our need. And as compassionate beings, we need to offer others that same respect, and give them the space they need, until or unless they directly ask us for help.

#NaBloPoMo: Resilience

From our walk this morning

Yesterday morning, it was 6 degrees. This morning, it was 50. Life is exactly like that, constantly shifting and changing. You never know what’s around the next corner. I was talking to my new therapist yesterday about resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness, or the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. I was telling her that I’d always assumed that the more hard things I experienced and survived, the stronger I’d get. Kind of like how lifting weights makes your muscles stronger. However, I explained, I feel like my experience has been the opposite — the more difficult things I live through, the less tolerance I seem to have for difficulty, the less able I seem to be to bounce back, the more worn down and weak I feel.

I also explained that my baseline now seems to be “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” I don’t experience joy or ease very often, but am rather waiting and preparing for the next bad thing to happen. I’ll be honest, part of that is because of my increased awareness of our current culture and climate, and my growing sense that this could get so much worse before it gets better, and that “better” isn’t something that even seems possible most days. Part of it is after leaving my CSU job after 19 years, I am suddenly confronted with all the things I’ve been able to avoid, hard things that happened but I haven’t fully processed yet.

Some days it can feel impossible, overwhelming. I thought I’d been doing the work, practicing and studying and evolving, but for all the work I still feel pretty unstable, unprepared. My therapist shared a theory she has, explaining there’s no research to support it, that it’s just an opinion from years of living and working with other people and their issues. She said she thinks when it comes to resiliency, we are like rubber bands. At first, we are supple and strong. We can stretch to our limits and snap right back into shape. As we are exposed to the elements, our experience, we lose our elasticity and can even be stretched to the point that we break.

It reminded me of something I wrote in a Wild Writing class. This is the relevant part:

“Bend and let it go over you.” I keep coming back to this when I’m teaching yoga — that balance isn’t about finding a fixed point and sticking there, stable and still, but rather it’s about all the tiny (and big) adjustments we make to keep from falling over, to stave off collapse, and how even collapsing, giving up and going over, is part of balance. We fall over, we soften into it, and then, if we’d like, we get up and try again.

It reminds me of the story Pema Chödrön tells about her teacher, how she asked Chögyam Trungpa in a moment she was having a really hard time what she should do, how to handle it, and he told her it’s like standing in the ocean, how each wave crashes into you, knocks you down, takes you in and under, but you get back up. And in time, you get stronger, you learn to move with the waves, and instead of feeling like you are drowning, like it’s so bad and so hard you are going to die, you are able to move with it, to meet and ride the wave. Bend and let it go over you.

This is one of my favorite things about blogging, being a writer. I so often find the answer I need, the wisdom I seek, the love I’m lacking in my own words. Some previous day, I took the time to write down what I was thinking or feeling or what I’d learned, and while it was relevant in that moment, sometimes the greater need comes sometime later. On some future date, I find exactly what I need, something I already knew but had forgotten. Today, these words I wrote were exactly the reminder I needed. Even more importantly, they remind me that the magic and the medicine are inside me, that the foundation I thought I’d made for myself is there, that I can trust myself to move through this.

#NaBloPoMo: Anxiety

We had a bit of a scare with Ringo last night. We were watching TV and he was sitting on the couch and I realized he was shaking. He wasn’t cold and he’s never done that before, so I started thinking maybe he’d eaten something he shouldn’t have. This is not unusual for Ringo. He’s always eating something gross, something that isn’t food, something he shouldn’t. We once had a vet recommend having him wear a muzzle on walks. My anxiety spiked, having heard stories of dogs starting to shake, then having a seizure and dying within 20 minutes of their first symptom. I put him and Eric in the car and drove to the emergency vet. They checked him out and drew some blood, determined he’d somehow tweaked his back and that’s why he was hurting. He has been running a lot the last few days and also playing frisbee in our snowy backyard, so he most likely just overdid it. He’s on pain meds for the next few days and luckily I have a direct connection to a physical therapy clinic for dogs, so I’ll be taking him in to get a fuller exam and some treatment. Honestly other than the 10 or so minutes of shivering, he’s fine.

I’m not so fine. I don’t know how much I’ve talked about it here, but I’ve got pretty bad anxiety. Developing complex ptsd only seemed to make it worse. As soon as I realized something was really wrong with Ringo, my jaw started to lock up and my teeth started chattering. This is an anxiety response I get that can be triggered by sometimes something small, and it really hurts. It’s essentially a panic attack, just with atypical symptoms. It only lasts about 5-10 minutes, but the tension it causes in my jaw and head usually lingers.

Once we got home, we gave Ringo his pills and went right to bed. I normally take 10 mg of a THC gummy at night (with the pain in my knees, it’s the only way I can sleep), but I skipped it. I wanted to be “present” if something came up with Ringo during the night. I was having hot flashes all night but also freezing cold so I slept terrible, constantly too hot or too cold or both. My stomach was also a mess. Everything was fine, but my hypervigilance was in high gear. This morning, I feel hung over.

I meditated this morning. Eric did what he could to make me feel better and Ringo is clearly fine. I taught a yoga class. We laughed a lot. One of the vets I teach brought her new puppy, an eight week old Corgi named Henry. I texted some friends and made dinner plans with some others. I’m going to make myself a yummy breakfast bagel and watch a little TV, maybe take a short nap. Later I have therapy. It’s a strange thing — to be a total wreck and also completely fine. To think that things will never get better and to know I’ll be okay, that it will all work out. To want to give up and keep going no matter what. To feel like the world is an awful place and be surrounded by nothing but love.

Something Good

From our walk

Today is Veteran’s Day. I’m grateful for all the veterans. Those who served, the ones who left their family and friends and homes and put themselves at risk in order to keep us safe. Those who never came home. Those who came home broken. Those we have forgotten. Those we have failed.

1. Love is a verb, a recent newsletter from Abigail Rose Clarke.

2. Your other account balance, this week’s Sunday Dispatch from Paul Jarvis, in which he says, “Work is one way I deal with stress. And not just stress about work itself, but any kind of stress in my life. If I’m focused on work, I can’t be as stressed out or unhappy. The problem, and it’s obvious, is that whatever sucks that I’m running away from will be there once I stop working.” Oh, snap. This describes me exactly, and why now that I’m no longer working, I had to get a new therapist to deal with all the “whatever sucks that I’m running away from.”

3. 4 Questions to Kick-Start a Stalled Life.

4. The World According to Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

5. 5-Hour Workdays? 4-Day Workweeks? Yes, Please an opinion piece on The New York Times.

6. I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike on The New York Times. “Mary Cain’s male coaches were convinced she had to get ‘thinner, and thinner, and thinner.’ Then her body started breaking down.”

7. Experts Worry Active Shooter Drills In Schools Could Be Traumatic For Students.

8. Being Surrounded By Chronic Complainers Could Be Damaging Your Health.

9. How to cut a pomegranate. (video)

10. I Went to Mexico to Meet Asylum-Seekers Trapped at the Border. This Is What I Saw.

11. The Billionaires Are Getting Nervous an opinion piece on The New York Times. “Bill Gates and others warn that higher taxes would lead to lower growth. They have their facts backward.” In related news, The worship of billionaires has become our shittiest religion, and Ok Billionaire: Why Do the Opinions of 600 Americans Get So Much Airtime?, and Think billionaires are just super-rich people? Big mistake.

12. How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit.

13. Is modern mindfulness a corporate scam? This management professor thinks so. “There’s a lot of money to be made by telling people that they’re responsible for their own problems.”

14. Latest gender reveal disaster causes plane crash in Texas. Just stop it.

15. This dad follows his kid’s PB&J sandwich instructions very literally. (video)

16. 27 Sturdy Chairs for Fat People (Up to and Beyond 500lbs!)

17. Liz Phair’s “Horror Stories” chronicles the real ghosts that haunt us. “In her new memoir, the legendary indie rocker shares tales of the shame, fear, and violence of ordinary life.”

18. White Supremacy Is America’s Original Pyramid Scheme. “Ijeoma Oluo on the roots of police brutality, the model minority myth, and the school-to-prison pipeline.”

19. The Thanksgiving Tale We Tell Is a Harmful Lie. As a Native American, I’ve Found a Better Way to Celebrate the Holiday. “The thing is, we do not need the poisonous ‘pilgrims and Indians’ narrative. We do not need that illusion of past unity to actually unite people today. Instead, we can focus simply on values that apply to everybody: togetherness, generosity and gratitude. And we can make the day about what everybody wants to talk and think about anyway: the food.” In related news, Sean Sherman’s 10 Essential Native American Recipes. “The founder of The Sioux Chef, a company devoted to Indigenous foods, created recipes to showcase tribal diversity across the lower 48 states.”

20. I Draw Comics To Explain What It’s Like Living With Depression And Anxiety.

21. Lindy West Explains How South Park Paved the Way For the Alt-Right. “Talking with the author of The Witches Are Coming about memes, media, and how not to become an American sucker.”

22. Vaping Illnesses Are Linked to Vitamin E Acetate, C.D.C. Says. “Samples of lung fluid from patients with the mysterious illness led to a breakthrough in finding a possible cause. More than 2,000 people have been sickened, many from illicit marijuana-based products.”

23. What to Read When You Are Ready to Be Done Crying.

24. To Heal From Trauma, You Have to Feel Your Feelings.

25. Yoga Is Finally Facing Consent and Unwanted Touch on The New York Times. “Yoga students and studios are grappling with inappropriate, manipulative and exploitative teachers and teachings.”

26. The NYPD Bragged About a Big Pot Bust. Turns Out It Seized 106 Pounds of Legal Hemp.

27. “Happy Ball Want Outside:” Dog Learns To Talk Using A Word Machine, Already Knows 29 Words. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog regularly that I’m now following Stella and her human on Instagram.

28. Rachel Cargle Insists Rest Is the Real Revolution for Black Women.

29. 12 Native American Authors to Read During Native American Heritage Month.

30. The Obamas keep attacking “cancel culture” because they are scared of being held accountable.

31. Trump rallies aren’t a sideshow — they’re his entire campaign.

32. Keystone pipeline shut after spilling 1.4 million litres of oil in North Dakota.

33. There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground.

34. 7 Reasons the Internet is Loud and Wrong about ‘Harriet’.

35. Mary Lambert: Leaving Record Label Was “Important For My Mental Health”.

36. When Being an Opponent of White Supremacy Means Being Not Nice.

37. Nigeria’s First Oscars Submission Disqualified For Having Too Much English, Which Is the Country’s Official Language.

38. Louis C.K. Doubles Down on the Value of Saying the Wrong Thing on The New York Times. “On his first tour since admitting misconduct, the comedian’s theme was the cathartic release of transgression as he delivered bits about his mother’s death and religion.”

39. Presidential Proclamation on National American History and Founders Month, 2019. November IS Native American History Month. This is some white supremacist bullshit. In related news, Trump Gives National American Indian Heritage Month an All Lives Matter Makeover That Nobody Is Here For, and Trump Says Native American Heritage Month Is Also for the White Men Who Stole Their Land.

40. Why did no one warn the housekeepers about the Getty fire?

41. ‘Untold human suffering’: 11,000 scientists from across world unite to declare global climate emergency.

42. Lauren Bowman’s poetry on Instagram. “I want to be so wrecked by this world that there will be little pieces of me everywhere.” *sigh*

43. Three FREE classes being offered by the amazing Alexandra Franzen.

44. What Happens To The American Dream When America Wakes Up?

45. Whodunit in the Library: Someone Keeps Hiding the Anti-Trump Books on The New York Times. “A public library in northern Idaho says its books about gun rights and President Trump keep wandering far from their correct spots on the shelves.”

46. ‘It Felt Like a Betrayal’: Researchers Won a $2-Million Prize. The University Wants to Take It.

47. Student’s clothing line designed to Indigenize popular fashion.

48. What Are the Three Poisons? from Lion’s Roar. “The three poisons are the energy of ego’s three basic attitudes — for me, against me, and don’t care.”

49. 15 Things to Stop Telling Yourself Right Now.

50. Be the Priority of Your Own Life (starting now) on Be More With Less.

51. These Dog Playing Cards Have The Most Brilliant Illustrations.

#NaBloPoMo: Day of Rest

from our walk

I love challenging myself to posting here every day for a whole month. I appreciate how it wakes up and strengthens my creative energy. When I know I am going to write and publish something every day, I look at the world differently. I look for the moments, the stories, the signs, the patterns, and the deeper I get into the month, the more clearly and easily I can find things to write about, the more I understand and accept my own experience, the more things make sense. It also takes the pressure off — if I’m posting something every single day, I can’t expect every post to be good. I let go of expecting ANY of them to be good, and rest in a sense of freedom and spaciousness, a state of peaceful awareness. This is the magic and the medicine of a writing practice, if we can just get out of our own way.