Category Archives: Buddhism

The Shit is a Metaphor

goldenraintreecolor02I find myself constantly amazed by the color this time of year, how everything is lit up, the way some of the leaves are so bright on some plants that they look like they must be plugged in, electrified. I’m also gripped by a tender sadness as our garden gets too cold and stops producing, as things begin to die off, as the trees drop their leaves and stand naked, gray and bare.

It’s necessary, this cycling between blooming and resting, this transition from awake to asleep, from life to death. It’s the way things are, the way this works. We can resist it or try to deny it, but that only leads to more suffering.

I was watching myself this morning on our walk, noticing how I deal with obstacles. I work so hard in my practice to allow things to arise as they are, to be present with reality but without judgment or agenda, to show up with an open heart, to maintain my sense of curiosity and humor, to be patient and kind. I work at it, but so often I fail. I get triggered, hooked, irritated, upset. I act out.

that's not dirt, that's shit

that’s not dirt, that’s shit

This morning, there was horse poop about every 20 feet on at least three of the miles of trail we walked. With a puppy who doesn’t have a very good “leave it” yet when it comes to something so appealing, that means I spent an awful lot of my time trying to keep him out of it and it out of him, either by having to pull him away from it or reach into his mouth after it.

So I spent a lot of our walk this morning covered in shit. It was on my hands, the leash, and my pants. I wanted to just accept it for what it was, no judgement, but I confess after a bit, I was frustrated and looking for someone to blame. I was mad at everyone: the horses, their owners, my dog, myself. All we were trying to do was have a nice walk, to enjoy the cool air and beautiful colors and quiet and time together, and instead our path was littered with shit.

There was so much of it that at a certain point it was comical. When we came up the hill and saw the bridge we needed to cross was covered in it, all I could do was laugh. In that moment, I felt myself soften, shifting from wanting to bag up all the shit and dump it in the living room of the first horse owner I could find to feeling a genuine sense of kindness towards all of us, how hard we try and how messy and challenging the whole thing is. We cling so tightly to our sense of security and comfort that we can completely forget to look up, to see how the sky is lit up, that the leaves are glowing, to know that it is fleeting, all of it, and we must pay attention because soon it will be gone.

Something Good


1. The Definitive Manifesto for Handling Haters: Anne Lamott on Priorities and How We Keep Ourselves Small by People-Pleasing on Brain Pickings. I saw Anne’s original post first and made a note to share it with you, but then I saw Maria’s commentary (and graphic) and liked it so much how she framed what Anne said, I’m sharing it instead.

annelamottquote2. Bunny eating raspberries.

3. Good stuff on Huffington Post: Once We Become Parents We Don’t Want to Hang Out With You Anymore (But Not for the Reasons You Think), and 10 Ways I Am Failing Adulthood, and Not Being a Mother Doesn’t Make Me Any Less of a Woman.

4. No is essential from Seth Godin.

5. Poetry Saves the Day * Meet Alison Luterman from Laurie Wagner on 27 Powers.

6. It’s Not About Doing What You’re Good At, a guest post from Rachel Cole on Create as Folk.

7. 10 Misconceptions about Buddhism on Tricycle.

8. 5 Details They Cut from My Season of “The Biggest Loser.”

9. What you see, a comic from The Oatmeal.

10. Beautiful and strange things from Colossal: Flocks of Birds Laser Cut from Maps by Claire Brewster and Tattooed Porcelain Figures by Jessica Harrison.

11. Dear Mom Judging the Mom on Her iPhone from Mother Wise.

12. How It Feels When A “Fabulously Creative” Business Coach Steals 23 of Your Blog Posts from Melanie Biehle.

13. The Movies You Definitely Need to See This Summer on Hello Giggles (with movie trailer clips).

14. Because Life is Messy on Elephant Journal.

15. The Gift on Zen Habits.

16. Good stuff on Medium: Storytelling Is A Magical, Ruthless Discipline (Zadie Smith’s full remarks from the 2014 Moth Ball Gala), and It’s Bikini Body Season! So What Should I Do With My Regular Body?, and The REAL reason you’re stressed out. P.S. That last one is so important. If you don’t read anything else on this list, read that.

17. Wisdom from Be More With Less: How to Enjoy a Digital Sabbatical and 7 Things to Do When You are Really Sad.

18. Truthbomb from Danielle LaPorte, “Seeing the futility is so liberating.”

19. Zosia Mamet on Why She Won’t Lean In, Thanks.

20. May: some notes from Jeff Oaks.

21. Comedian’s Response to Criticism of Her Red Carpet Look Deserves a Standing Ovation. Her response is definitely worth the read, Sarah Millican: Twitter was a pin to my excitable Bafta balloon.

22. Sia’s “Chandelier” Has Maybe the Best Video of the Year on Slate.

23. Find your rat people from Paul Jarvis.

24. Artist Creates Intricate Mud Paintings On School Walls To Bring Art Into Villager Children Lives on Bored Panda.

25. Sabrina Ward Harrison’s Creative Space in Silver Lake, a house tour on Apartment Therapy.

26. I haven’t said so lately, but I love Danielle Ate the Sandwich. Here’s an original from her, “What You Were.”

27. Sisterhood Manifesto from Awakening Women.

sisterhoodmanifesto.jpg-page-001

28. A poem, shared by Jessica Patterson this morning.

let it go
(By e. e. cummings)

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love

29. A Self-Made 12-Step Program for Living an Authentic Life from Rebelle Society.

30. What Makes you Happy? from Aarathi Selvan, “what I asked some of the fabulous bloggers, entrepreneurs and friends from around the world.”

31. Things You Say To Dogs That’d Be Creepy If You Said To People from BuzzFeed.

Something Good


1. This description of a good writer, from Isaac Asimov, “You are my idea of a good writer because you have an unmannered style, and when I read what you write, I hear you talking.”

2. Something you may need to hear today from Kat McNally.

3. To Succeed, Forget Self-Esteem, a post about self-compassion on, of all places, Harvard Business Review (?!)

4. On being copied from Andrea Schroeder, in which she says “people aren’t buying your product or service on its own – they’re buying your product or service animated by your creative essence.”

5. 36 Things You Will Naturally Understand If You’re From Colorado on BuzzFeed. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with all of these, and don’t get the childhood references since I didn’t grow up here, but it’s pretty funny.

6. Brave Love, “A love-based case for the what’s right in the world, curated by Brit Hanson.”

7. 30 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Die.

8. Sacred Love: 12 Things at the Bottom of Everything** from Rachel Maddox. P.S. There’s still time to donate to her Traveling Soul Circus project.

9. The Five Buddha Families and 10 Reasons why Buddhism is Better than your Religion on Elephant Journal.

10. Erica Staab shares a beautiful poem, Clearing by Martha Postlewaite.

11. From Brave Girls Club,

Beautiful, true, important things almost always take a long time to come to fruition. There are often very long stretches that are tedious, thankless, difficult and hard to measure. We get tired and that makes us weak and vulnerable to things that hurt our feelings or make us want to stop trying. There are often points in the journey when we feel absolutely alone, misunderstood and even cast out. There are sometimes points in our journey when we just want to be alone…and that is hard to explain to people we love. Making progress is not easy, is it?

With all of that in mind, however…think even more seriously about how miserable it is to stay stagnant. Think of how awful it feels to know in our hearts that we are meant for something, but to continue to ignore it, run away from it….or stay stuck just looking at it in fear.

12. The Well-Fed Woman: Tara Sophia Mohr on Rachel Cole’s blog, in which Tara describes something I know all too well, in a way I hadn’t quite figured out how to say it yet:

I grew up making art of all kinds – but when I went to college I couldn’t find a way to create comfortably in the highly competitive, hierarchical environment there. My center drifted over to my more intellectual, left-brain side, and that became my comfort zone. The more I was centered there, the harder it was to create. I became very, very afraid making art – so frozen in my creativity, afraid of failure, afraid of “not being good.”

13. Also on Rachel Cole’s blog, a brilliant reframing of perfection, The New (Im)perfection.

14. rodrigo y gabriela, and a lesson in passion on Chookooloonks.

15. your daily rock : love what you do

16. ZenPen: Body-Based Writing for Healing, Transformation, and Personal Growth, a great new offering from Courtney Putnam, a six week writing ecourse. I swore I wasn’t taking any more ecourses, needed to put my energy into creating my own, but this one makes that vow so hard to keep.

This microcourse, How to Create a Microbusiness that Matters, from Courtney Carver at Be More With Less, is also making this promise a tough one to keep.

17. “Often I busy myself trying to find the key – and fail to notice the door has no lock.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

18. The August Break with Susannah Conway is back! I’m in.

19. how joy is a toughie for me from Jessica Swift.

20. My Dog Got Kicked Out Of Daycare Today.

21. Rachel Cole linked to a song in her Midsummer’s Joy post, and I was so happy, not realizing that Mary Lambert, the gorgeous female voice on Macklemore’s “Same Love,” had her own full song, She Keeps Me Warm. I bought her EP Letters Don’t Talk and have been listening to it on repeat (it’s only five songs).

22. Note from the Universe,

Dreams come true, Jill, that’s what they do. The only variable is when. For the slow approach: Resist. Attach. Insist. Deny. Stop. Second guess. Whine. Argue. Defend. Protest. Cry. Struggle. And ask others, when you know the answer yourself. For the quick approach: Visualize. Pretend. Prepare. Dodge. Roll. Serpentine. Do not waiver over intentions, but over methods. Show up, even when nothing happens. And give thanks in advance. You knew that.

24. This wisdom from Henri Nouwen and his book Turning My Mourning into Dancing, (shared by Satya in Writing Our Way Home’s newsletter),

I am gradually learning that the call to gratitude asks us to say, “Everything is grace.” As long as we remain resentful about things we wish had not happened, about relationships that we wish had turned out differently, mistakes we wish we had not made, part of our heart remains isolated, unable to bear fruit in the new life ahead of us. It is a way we hold part of ourselves apart from God.


25. Your Permanent Record from Seth Godin, in which he says, “Perfect can’t possibly be the goal, we’re left with generous, important and human instead.” Also from Seth, People like us do stuff like this.

26. A birds-eye view of this right now {Just One Paragraph 4/30} from Christina Rosalie, in which she says, “Time is a trickster. A torrent one minute, then a slow as honey crawl the next.”

27. Amazing Plant Sculptures at the Montreal Mosaiculture Exhibition 2013 on Bored Panda.

Good Fortune

Two nights ago, Sam and I woke up to the sound of a cricket in the house. Before I woke up enough to understand what it was, Sam was already in the bathroom investigating. Once I got up and turned on the light, it stopped and I couldn’t locate it, so the cricket had to spend the night inside, behind a closed door because the tub and tile in the bathroom amplified its already too loud chirping. He woke me up at various times throughout the rest of the night, and I had to keep wrapping my head in a blanket to be able to sleep.

I looked again in the morning, but still couldn’t find it, so it spent another day inside. Eric said it probably would die, because something that small couldn’t survive for very long without anything to eat, and as far as I know, we don’t have anything in the bathroom that crickets like. But as soon as it started to get dark outside, a riot of noise started up again. This time, I snuck up on him, and before he saw me and stopped, I at least figured out he was somewhere on the shower curtain, which was bunched up at the end of the rod. I pulled it open, looked and looked, but still couldn’t find him.

Then something jumped or fell onto the pile of dirty laundry on the floor. I moved around some towels, and there he sat on one of Eric’s white t-shirts, practically glowing he was so green. He hopped around, so it took a few tries, but I was finally able to trap him under a water glass.

how can something so tiny make so much noise?!

Crickets are a symbol of good luck, fortune. People even make elaborate cages for them because they think keeping them inside your house brings extra good luck. I took him outside, released him into the yard, and as I did, I made a wish (not sure if that’s allowed, if it works in this case, but it never hurts to ask) that Dexter not suffer much, that he have an easy death when the time comes.

I also dedicated the merit of the “cricket rescue.” This is a Buddhist idea, that you shouldn’t hoard the merit of your effort, but rather offer it for the good of all beings. Through good deeds and practice, your hope is to benefit all, not just yourself, to somehow lessen suffering in the world through your effort. I find myself recently dedicating the merit of just about everything. I am trying so hard, that it all feels worthy of dedication. Not just when I meditate or practice yoga, but when I feel afraid or panicked, when I cry, when I am too tired to keep going so I choose to rest–all of it a genuine effort to make things better, to ease suffering. May other beings benefit from my effort, from my struggle.

And this morning, even though he’d reverse sneezed a few times yesterday, Dexter had a great walk. I let him lead, make the decisions about which turn or trail to take, which meant going backwards around the ponds and way back around by the edges of the horse pastures near the Farm. We even went to the little dog park, where I haven’t been with him since the last time we were there and he had an episode of reverse sneezing that was bad enough he asked to leave. He even found a tennis ball there, and on the way back, we all saw two white tailed deer. Dexter is happiest when he’s walking (hiking, running, or playing), so to give him that, to share it with him, is indeed good fortune.

Wishcasting Wednesday

from jamie’s post

What heights do you wish to reach?

In the Shambhala Buddhism tradition, “there is a developmental process for deepening and furthering authentic presence…called the warrior’s path of the four dignities,” (Shambhala Training Glossary). One of the four dignities is the Dragon. Sakyong Mipham Rinphoche describes the Dragon this way:

The dragon’s confidence is prajna, deep wisdom based on knowing how things are. The dragon knows we’re always trying to project a concrete world onto a fluid process, mistaking our ever-changing experience for a self. Like the elements, this kind of wisdom doesn’t need to be propped up. It is a direct experience of reality, empty and ungraspable.

As the wisdom of the dragon destroys our illusions, we begin to understand basic goodness, the unconditional purity and confidence of all. With this view, life itself becomes our source of energy, and the enlightened world begins to appear. The wish-fulfilling jewel of wisdom and compassion are liberated, and we can play in the blessing and magic of our everyday existence.

I wish to reach the heights of the Dragon, to soar in the sky, gentle and wise, above all my illusions and confusion and suffering, to “play in the blessing and magic of our everyday existence.” More specifically, if I had to guess, that might look like this:

  • Doing work I love, work I’d do anyway, for pay. To spend my days writing, making art, practicing yoga and meditation, engaging with amazing women, studying and serving. I would make a loving living, with the same quality of benefits and pay I have now. I’m not going to rush or push this, don’t need to force what I love to pay my bills, but I think that eventually it’s possible, and that I would be of more value to others, be more personally satisfied if this were how things were.
  • Yoga and Meditation Instructor Certification. These practices have meant so much to me, been so helpful, that I want to be able to share them, teach them, and want the proper training and wisdom to do so ethically and safely.
  • To reach my optimal physical strength and health, quickly and without obstacle. Resting when I need rest, practicing loving self-care, enjoying moving through the world in this body with minimal pain, breathing, walking, hiking, headstands in yoga, running, playing, eating, being nourished.
  • To be in a position to give, to help, to decrease suffering in the world.
  • Published and paid writing. Again, I don’t necessarily want to strip the joy from my writing by making it too work-like, but I also think there’s value in being recognized, validated for that work in these tangible ways. I don’t have a specific idea of what this might look like, but it would make me happy for my books to be a physical manifestation in the world, to be held in people’s hands.
  • Confidence. To manifest the funny, silly, brave, confident, open-hearted, generous, wise, gentle, kind, and creative women that lives deep in my heart. I want everyone else to know her like I do. They don’t all have to love her, I know she’s not for everyone, but I want her to be seen, to be known, to be realized and embodied, instead of a secret I kept, instead of a quiet whisper in the dark. To be confident in the way Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: Pain is inevitable. There really is no way to be in this world, live this life without getting your ass kicked. Just showing up guarantees it. You can try what you might to numb yourself to the pain, but what you do to numb it only brings about more, which you then have to numb, which brings more, and so on and so on until you are dead. It won’t work.

Reality is brutal, and that’s the truth. You will get hurt, you will lose things, you will fail, bones will be broken, angry words will be said that you can’t take back, you will get sick and old, things won’t be fair, and a mess will be made. Your boss will be a jerk. You’ll get a dog, love it with your whole heart, and before you could ever be ready for it, before you’ve had enough time, he will die. Someone you love will get cancer, the treatments won’t work, and she will die too. In fact, everyone you ever love is going to die. The end.

2. Truth: Suffering is optional. So, yes, all these bad things are going to happen to you, but it is entirely up to you how to respond. Suffering is our habitual pattern, the way we’ve trained our mind to respond to pain. It’s the choice we make to wallow in our suffering, indulge our feelings of being a victim, cling to our tragedies and hurts, tell ourselves long and ongoing stories about how horrible everything is for us, obsess about all that is wrong in the world, catalog our complaints, feed our suffering as if it were a treasured pet.

It is absolutely appropriate to notice pain, to do what we can to address the situation (if anything), respond with wisdom and compassion, but then, if we don’t wish to suffer, it is necessary to let it go, not to reject it or push it way, but to open our heart and allow it to dissolve as it will naturally, to float away from us. Once this happens, we can shift our attention to something else, (suffering would require that we continue to dwell on it), we let go and move on. Depending on the pain, this process of noticing, letting go, and shifting attention will take on different forms, require different approaches, take varying lengths of time. Sometimes we can work through the whole process in minutes, other pain will require more, like water wearing away at a rock.

3. Truth: There are three root causes of suffering–ignorance, attachment, and aversion. In Buddhism, these are also referred to as the “three poisons.” Ignorance is actually the starting point for the other two, the center, the hub of all suffering. Ignorance is delusion, confusion, bewilderment, a basic misunderstanding of reality, a confused relationship with ourselves and our feelings and our thoughts and our bodies. Attachment is clinging, passion, greed, grasping for that which we think will please us or make us happy. It’s what George Carlin was referring to when he said, “Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.” And the third poison, aversion, is rejection, aggression, hatred, animosity, dread, dissatisfaction, wanting things to be other than they are.

One Wish: That we all would be free from suffering. You, me, all of us. It’s the wish at the heart center of every other wish I ever make.