Category Archives: Open Heart Project

Something Good

1. The Daily Dharma Gathering from the Open Heart Project. Susan says, “Together with Buddhist teacher and awesome guy Lodro Rinzler, I’m pleased to announce a new program: three months of live meditation sessions Tuesdays – Sundays with some of the most accomplished and wise dharma teachers in the world.”

2. A Beautiful (and Budget-Friendly!) Laundry Room Makeover. As a person who keeps myself too busy, and an introvert who doesn’t have many people over to my house, most of my spaces look more like the before picture. What I like so much about this though is that it makes it so clear that if you put forth just a little effort, you can have a beautiful space. I’d like to be better about that.

3. The Struggle Is Real from Baby Weigel. I’m not a mom, but I love what Aubrey has to say here about the difficult choices we have to make sometimes about the things we love and what we do, how we spend our time. May she have an easy transition back.

4. Elizabeth Gilbert Has a New Book (and We’ve Got the First Look at the Cover!) on the Etsy blog.

8. cArtographies – Crystal Pite, a beautiful, inspiring video which led me to a similarly beautiful and inspiring project, “BC filmmaker and visual artist Brian Johnson profiles 19 BC-based artists, from a variety of disciplines, who are both inspired and challenged by their geographic surroundings.” Too bad the full video can only be watched if you are in Canada — lucky Canadians. You’ve got all the good stuff.

9. The Radiance Sutras, a beautiful text I found by way of this post on Kintsugi Dance.

10. How To Get Your Writing Mojo On from Laurie Wagner.

11. Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Episode 05 – The Eightfold Path.

12. The Splendid Table’s Refried Beans with Cinnamon and Clove, a recipe I found by way of Kirsten’s In the kitchen post. Another good thing from Kirsten this week was her post, Yoga and men.

13. A Yoga Teacher Training Certificate is Just the First Step on Elephant Journal.

14. Here’s Tina Fey And Amy Poehler’s Opening Monologue From The 2015 Golden Globes.

15. Good stuff on Slate: Children Photographed With Their Most Prized Possessions and This Guy Took a Photo Every Time He Saw Someone Reading a Book on the Subway.

16. 25 Ways to Stop Feeling Overworked and Overwhelmed from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

17. unexpected california eclectic on SF Girl by Bay.

18. Wisdom from Rachael Maddox, “Magic is the natural and spontaneous aligned activity that happens on the other side of presence and compassion.”

19. Some things that made me really angry this week: Charlize Theron Negotiates $10M Raise After Sony Hack Reveals Male Costar Was To Be Paid Millions More, and 100 serial rapists identified after rape kits from Detroit Crime Lab are finally processed, and The brutal secrets behind ‘The Biggest Loser.’

20. Self-Taught Chinese Street Photographer Takes China By Storm With His Perfectly Timed Photos on Bored Panda.

21. My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward.

22. Trapped In His Body For 12 Years, A Man Breaks Free on NPR.

23. Ellen DeGeneres Humorously Responds to Pastor Who Accused Her of Promoting the “Gay Agenda” in Hollywood.

24. Quitting Sugar Is Not The Answer.

25. On Stuff by Meghan Genge.

26. Wisdom from Chögyam Trungpa, on how meditation leads to wisdom,

Out of that precision and refinement comes gentleness. You are not just paying attention, but you are also aware of your own pain and pleasure, and you develop sympathy and friendship for yourself. From that you are able to understand, or at least see, the pain and suffering of others, and you begin to develop a tremendous sense of sympathy for others. At the same time, such sympathy helps the mindfulness-awareness process develop further. Basically, you become a gentle person. You begin to realize that you are good: totally good and totally wholesome. You have a sense of trust in yourself and in the world. There is something to grip on to, and the quality of path or journey emerges out of that. You feel you want to do something for others and something for yourself. There is a sense of universal kindness, goodness, and genuineness.

27. 23andMe is a DNA analysis service providing information and tools for individuals to learn about and explore their DNA, ancestry-related genetic reports. I kinda wanna do it.

28. How to set goals & commitments that you’ll actually keep from Alexandra Franzen.

29. Good stuff from Be More with Less: Defeat the Clutter that Defeats Your Purpose and Women Can Be Minimalists Too.

30. Please Don’t Start Meditating (Unless You’re Willing to Change) from Lodro Rinzler. Also from Lodro, A Meditation for Morning Intention.

31. My Accidental Book Deal from Laura Simms. I love this part,

The editor had already reached out to another coach about being the author, but she already had a book in the works and couldn’t take another one on. She recommended me.

That’s it.

Someone recommended me. I’m not close to this person, we’ve never met in person. We’ve exchanged some complimentary words on Twitter. That’s the extent of our relationship. She just thought I’d be a good fit for the book.

And I had almost four years of writing samples on my blog to speak for me. And had released two ebooks on my own. And built a decent social media presence. Of course, there’s that. Let’s not discount all of that work. If luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, then I had done my side of the equation.

So that’s my accidental book deal. The book that showed up when I was just minding my own business, doing the work, and being visible.

32. Good stuff from MindBodyGreen: Benefits of Massage (Infographic) and 10 Signs You’re In A Codependent Relationship.

33. Good stuff from Lion’s Roar: Buddha’s Daughters: An Interview with Insight Teacher Gina Sharpe and George Takei’s six best Buddhist posts.

34. Truthbomb #711 from Danielle LaPorte: “Make choices that liberate you.”

35. The 17 Naughtiest Dogs Of 2014.

36. Trust the Timing of Your Life, wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

37. Blink Now. “The BlinkNow Foundation’s mission is to provide an education and a loving, caring home for orphaned, impoverished and at-risk children.” This organization was founded by a single teenager, who is now Mom to 50+ children she’s adopted. Kinda makes you want to get off your ass, doesn’t it?

38. Sukha on the Squam blog.

39. Authentic Success in the New Year ~ with a little help from Liz Gilbert.

40. Your Turn Challenge, starts today. Read more of the backstory in Seth Godin’s blog post, Getting unstuck (a one week challenge).

41. Photo Battle: Katja Blichfeld vs. Ellen Van Dusen. So fun.

42. Neil Gaiman Shares The Easiest Way To Become A Successful Writer on BuzzFeed.

43. The unofficial comfort foods of every state in America. I wholeheartedly agree with the choices for Colorado and Oregon.

44. Syrup sandwiches and stolen toilet paper: Reddit users describe growing up poor.

45. A Note from the Universe, “All deliberate change, Jill, first comes from denying the logic that most gives you comfort.”

46. The Most Important Question of Your Life from Mark Manson. It’s not what you think.

47. Changing the World, One Word at a Time! | The Queen Latifah Show.

48. This Video Encouraging Women To Be More Active Has Gone Viral on BuzzFeed.

49. The Reason You Make Unhealthy Choices. Spoiler alert: “Self-compassion — accepting yourself without judgment when times get tough — is linked to better health behaviors.”

50. Rowdy Kitten’s Happy Links: From The Good Life to Gratitude. Tammy was one of the contributors to the Self-Compassion Saturday eBook and shared the link on her list this week.

51. The myth of perfection from Susannah Conway.

52. The things we’d rescue from the fire from Judy Clement Wall. The New York Times piece Judy links to is also worth reading, What Would You Grab in a Fire?

53. 19 Badass Instagrammers Who Prove Yoga Bodies Come In All Shapes And Sizes on BuzzFeed. Just one of the reasons Instagram is awesome.

54. When Their Cat Found Baby Ducks, They Never Expected This To Happen. So much cute.

55. Letter from the Birmingham Jail from Seth Godin.

Day of Rest

Recently I mentioned something I call the “sweet spot.” It’s a concept that for me has its origins in hiking. I started noticing that when we go hiking there is a spot, a moment that comes after miles of hiking, some of which were maybe difficult and even made me want to give up, a moment where/when we reach a vista with a beautiful view, or a spacious clearing under a vast sky, or a particular cluster of rocks or a specific tree or meadow of wildflowers, and I experience this moment of awe, amazement, gratitude. All the hard work is worth it to be able to see this — the sweet spot.

I’m living in a particularly sweet spot in my life right now. To get here I’ve experienced many difficulties, some that I’ve shared here and some I haven’t because they weren’t my stories to tell. At times I wanted to give up. I’m so glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this, this sweet spot, this particular magic, this specific moment in time.

I was contemplating yesterday how I sometimes get stuck, when there’s too much to do, so much I want, and I’m frozen in place, can’t seem to do anything. I understand that it’s because the awareness of all the things at once is too much. To be able to get anything done, I need to focus on just one thing at a time, the thing I’m doing right now. To be aware of it all at once is overwhelming, feels impossible, makes me want to give up. I have to break it down into smaller bits — what do I need, want to do right now? That’s it. Just do that one thing.

I read somewhere about a book or a class related to focus or organization or something that recommends an exercise where you set a timer for 30 minutes and clean your toilet. You gather all your supplies ahead of time so during the half an hour, you are only cleaning. For that 30 minutes, the full 30 minutes, you do nothing but clean your toilet, every nook and cranny. The intention is that at the end of that half an hour you have a super clean toilet, as well as a new appreciation for what it means to truly commit to doing something, to being present with it completely, to giving that kind of attention to one thing at a time.

I’ve realized that in order to offer and accomplish everything I wish for, I have to take this sort of approach — one thing at a time. It’s too much to focus on all the changes, all the miles at once. I have to take one small piece and work there, give it all my attention. Then, I move to the next small piece, take the next tiny step. It’s the only way I know how to get anywhere.

All of that effort adds up, and I find myself in the sweet spot. Rachel Cole creates a three month intensive program, Feast, that seems as if it was created just for me. My friend Courtney Putnam offers me a spot in her amazing writing class, Zen Pen. I go on retreat with Susan Piver and I write the opening to the book that’s been worming around in my brain for the past year. In her annual report for the Open Heart Project, Susan announces that one of her goals for 2015 is to offer meditation instructor training and certification. We figure out what is wrong with Sam and are able to help him, which means he’s a much happier dog. Ringo grows up so much, is so much easier to care for, is such a joy. I’m a yoga teacher. I quit working with a trainer and a whole new world of movement opens up for me. I take refuge vows. I stop coloring my hair and clean out my closets. I start cooking more and eating better. I finish the Self-Compassion Saturday eBook and almost 400 copies are downloaded within the first few weeks.

So a reminder for me, and maybe for you as well, kind and gentle reader: Don’t give up. Don’t be overwhelmed by what seems like a vast distance between where you are now and where you’d like to be. Take one small step, and if that’s too much, take a half step. Focus on one thing at a time, one breath. Have faith that all the tiny things, the small parts, the bits and pieces will add up over time. Know that there is a sweet spot, and if you keep moving, no matter how slowly, you will find yourself there. Maybe you are there right now?

Taking Refuge

my meditation shrine

my meditation shrine

The first time I attempted meditation was almost 20 years ago. I was reading Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart and books on writing by Zen Buddhist Natalie Goldberg. I was fascinated by the philosophy, the perspective, the practice, and willing to try anything that might help me cope with the difficulty of my life, my emotions and my mind. Even though I found it beneficial, sat regularly for a short time with a Zen meditation group and on my own, the practice didn’t stick. I didn’t even finish reading Kornfield’s book.

I continued to struggle for eleven more years before finding my way back to a cushion. A friend recommended Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart and mentioned that the local Shambhala Meditation Center had a program coming up I might be interested in, “The Art of Being Human.” I read the book and went to the training, and started to practice in earnest. For two years, one weekend a month I was either attending a retreat or staffing one. I read and studied and practiced. This was the same time I started to practice yoga regularly. Things were falling into place.

And then everything fell apart. I had already been dealing with a difficult work situation, was stressed and in crisis, when my Obi was diagnosed with a treatable but ultimately incurable cancer. At the same time, my friend Kelly was diagnosed with cancer. That summer I went to Shambhala Mountain Center to participate in a longer retreat, Warrior Assembly, the culmination of the two years of training I’d been doing. Not long after I returned home, Obi died. Six months later, Kelly died. Even though I didn’t leave CSU entirely, I effectively quit the job that was so problematic.

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

I was completely heartbroken, utterly lost, so confused. After two years of regular practice, I couldn’t do it anymore. Every time I sat on my cushion to meditate, I fell part, felt so raw, came unhinged and couldn’t stop crying. I was angry — if this practice couldn’t help me feel better when the worst happened, what good was it? I smile to remember it now, that way of thinking about what practice was supposed to do for me. What I understand now that I didn’t then is that my raw and tender broken heart, being able to feel that, experience it, sit and stay with it is exactly the point, not making it “go away” or fixing it like I thought.

Practice starts precisely where we find ourselves, which for many of us is a place of heartbreak, suffering, alienation and doubt. But it is precisely there, within those circumstances, that we start. ~Ryushin Sensei

For at least a year, I tried to find my way back to my cushion. I would practice in fits and starts, but it never seemed to stick. I continued to practice yoga and slowly started to write more regularly. I started taking ecourses and began this blog. I started building a routine, finding a rhythm. And then I found Susan Piver and her Open Heart Project, (OHP). I signed up for her newsletter and started meditating with her. Her wisdom, kindness, and friendship, along with the OHP community, helped me find my way back.

meditating with Susan

The great gift of a spiritual path is coming to trust that you can find a way to true refuge. You realize that you can start right where you are, in the midst of your life, and find peace in any circumstance. Even at those moments when the ground shakes terribly beneath you — when there’s a loss that will alter your life forever — you can still trust that you will find your way home. This is possible because you’ve touched the timeless love and awareness that are intrinsic to who you are. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking about taking refuge vows. I’ve been telling people for so long “I study and practice Buddhism, but I’m not actually a Buddhist, haven’t taken vows or anything,” that I wondered if I ever would. But I’ve been feeling a longing, a growing awareness — this is my path, I’m committed to it. Like I told a teacher once, “if this doesn’t work, nothing does.” For whatever reason, this is just what makes sense to me. It helps me to live my life, to be in the world, to cultivate kindness and wisdom, sanity. And yet, I have been waiting, for either an opportunity that was close to home or one Susan Piver could attend, because it felt important to me to have her there somehow, since she’s the primary reason I’d be there.

Then I got certified to teach yoga. We studied yogic philosophy as part of our training, meditated, did mantra and kirtan practice, learned various breath practices and the sanskrit names for the yoga poses, read the yoga sutras — and I loved it all, saw so many similarities between it and my tradition, but also became very aware that it wasn’t my path. Yoga is one of my practices, and part of my path as such, but I’m not so much a yogini as I am a Buddhist who does yoga.

Becoming a yoga teacher made it clear it was time to make a true commitment to my path. I searched to see where I might go to take my vows, and saw that the Boulder Shambhala Center was offering the ceremony two days before my birthday. Susan couldn’t be there, but she did write my letter of recommendation. The teacher who would be performing the ceremony had taught at my Warrior Assembly, and when I arrived the night we went to make our official request to make the vow, a friend was leading our meditation session. It was time.

boulderrigden

Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center Main Shrine Room

I asked Susan her advice about taking vows in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, and she said, “Relax. Watch your mind. Enjoy. Relax. Repeat … And remember, you have nothing to prove. This ceremony is to mark something that has already happened.” I tried to remember this as I waited for my interview with Acharya Ferguson (“Acharya” in this tradition basically means “senior teacher”), and even though he’s the kindest person and I’d met him before, I was still nervous. The purpose of the interview is to make a formal request to take the vow and for the teacher to come up with the dharma name you’d be given the day of the ceremony. We were told that he might ask us questions, but might not. The person who went in just before me was talking and laughing with him, and I wasn’t sure what to wish for — if he didn’t ask me any questions, was that good or bad? Part of me wanted him to see me and for my presence to be so vibrant, my true self so clearly embodied and present that he would know just by seeing me. I think I was also afraid if I opened my mouth, I might say something weird because I was anxious and end up with an odd name that didn’t fit, didn’t make sense to me.

In Tibet, children are given a nickname when they are born. This is what everyone calls them until they are old enough to take their refuge vows and receive their adult, Buddhist name. In that culture, everyone given a name uses it. In the West, many dharma students don’t actually change their name, but rather use it as a contemplation. We were told that the name isn’t meant as a compliment or a challenge, but rather something to consider as we practice, intended to offer insight, and that it was entirely up to us whether we wanted to officially change our name, use it in that way. I felt sure my name would be a message, that it would provide me a new understanding of my path. And during my meeting with Acharya Ferguson that night, he did ask me a few questions, and I could see the exact moment he knew the name he’d offer me.

heartgiftOn the day of the ceremony, I focused on Susan’s advice. I relaxed and enjoyed myself. Acharya Ferguson gave a talk in the morning about what it meant to take refuge, and then we did sitting and walking meditation until lunch, contemplating what we were about to do. After a break to eat, we came back and had a rehearsal and then the ceremony itself.

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. ~Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

The ceremony itself was a funny combination of something like a baptism and a wedding, along with something else entirely. After you take the vow, reciting it three times after performing prostrations, the teacher (referred to in this case as a preceptor) snaps his fingers, and it’s at that moment the vow is made. My favorite moment was that finger snap. It was so simple and yet so definite. My next favorite moment was receiving my dharma name.

As I stood in line, listening to all the other names, I wondered if mine would be so good. Every person’s name seemed so rich, so full of beauty and possibility and wisdom. Every name that was read, I thought “oh, I wish that was mine!” I worried I’d get something that would be awkward or confusing. I’d talked to other people about their names, and listening to them describe their lingering confusion, I anticipated my own.

dharmanameI didn’t need to worry. There’s a rightness to the name I was given. I will continue to contemplate it, but my first thought was an appreciation of the way it married the concept of vastness, openness, emptiness with embodiment, movement, physical expression. I used to long to be a visionary, an oracle, a seer, a prophet of some sort, but I’m understanding more and more than my purpose is to be a container, an embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

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.

The biggest illusion about a path of refuge is that we are on our way somewhere else, on our way to becoming a different kind of person. But ultimately, our refuge is not outside ourselves, not somewhere in the future – it is always and already here. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

Something Good

ericaspens05

image by Eric

1. Stop Fighting Food by Isabel Foxen Duke.

2. Unfiltered thoughts on a Sunday morning from Paul Jarvis.

3. Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project, because this, Who would you be without that thought?, and especially this, On 9/11…and 9/12.

4. 22 Harsh Truths that Will Jolt You Awake from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

5. Truthbomb #628 from Danielle LaPorte, “Blessing. Curse. It’s your call.”

6. 5 Tips for Butchering Your Life (So You Can Finally Live) on Elephant Journal.

7. IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Wrote An Article About Marriage, And All Anyone Noticed Is That I’m Fat on xojane.

8. Good stuff from Huffington Post: And So There Must Come an End, and A Dog’s Advice to Humans in Photos, and 15 Incredibly Talented Tattoo Artists You Should Follow On Instagram Right Now.

9. Yoga Journal’s “Body Issue” Rebranding: Encouraging, Disturbing, Contradictory by Carol Horton.

10. Funny stuff from McSweeney’s: A Generic College Paper, and So You Want to Get Into an MFA Program: A Decision Tree, and From The Complete Guide to the Care and Training of the Writer in Your Life.

11. Janine’s Story of Hope and Healing. Sometimes, we need a ritual, a ceremony to mark the letting go.

12. 20 Free Essays & Stories by David Sedaris: A Sampling of His Inimitable Humor from Open Culture.

13. Navigate Your Life: Sarah Selecky from Jennifer Louden. Such a great series.

14. Be stubborn from Sarah Selecky.

15. Words for the Day :: No. 41 from Lisa Congdon.

16. True Stories Series: Meet Andrea Scher from Laurie Wagner.

17. Postcards for Ants: A 365-Day Miniature Painting Project by Lorraine Loots on Colossal.

18. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook: Integrity, and Your Fear is Boring.

19. Good stuff on Bored Panda: Writer Creates “Color Thesaurus” To Help You Correctly Name Any Color Imaginable, and Illustrator Creates Doodles That Interact With Their Surroundings, and Dog Owner Creates Fun Illustrations With His Bull Terrier.

20. The Mind and the Heart from Jack Kornfield.

21. Wisdom from Paolo Coelho,

Have courage. Open your heart, and listen to what your dreams tell you. Follow those dreams, because only a person who is not ashamed can manifest the glory of God. There is no sin but the lack of love. Have courage, be capable of loving, even if love appears to be a treacherous and terrible thing. Be happy in love. Be joyful in victory. Follow the dictates of your heart. Meet obligations in life. But obligations never prevented anyone from following their dreams.

22. It’s Like They Know Us: “Relax on your pristine white couch and enjoy these realistic depictions of motherhood.”

23. Good stuff on Be More With Less: Declutter and Downsize to Create a Life with Room for What Matters Most and What to Consider When Sharing Your Life on the Internet.

24. Good stuff on MindBodyGreen: Vegan Coconut Bliss Balls That Will Wow Your Taste Buds, and An Open Letter To Anyone Thinking About Trying Yoga, and Is Your Heart Chakra Blocked? Here’s How To Open It.

25. Here’s What Happens When You Give Play-Doh To A Bunch Of Adults on BuzzFeed.

26. Singing together: Lifting one another up on Visible and Real.

27. Watch As A Straight Man Tears Up At The Answers To His Question: Is Being Gay A Choice?

28. Alan Watts discusses Nothing. (Thanks for sharing, Mark).

29. A NYC Bartender’s Powerful Open Letter To The Hedge Funder Who Allegedly Grabbed Her Ass.

30. Control, Letting Go, and Finding Ease from Ishita Gupta.

31. Raise your hand. Say yes. (the podcast is here!) from Tiffany Han.

32. Good stuff on Create as Folk: A Heartbreaking Simple Truth (and what to do about it) and Purpose Profile: Super Love Tees.

33. To the humans wondering why I’m always late on Renegade Mothering.

34. Life, Legacy and the Final Episode of GLP TV???

35. Buddha Statue Brings Peace to Oakland Neighborhood.

36. 25 Famous Women on Childlessness.

37. Two elements of an apology from Seth Godin.

38. 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose from Mark Manson.

39. The Magic of Mandalas Blog Hop from Andrea Schroeder.

40. Fall Equinox Brings Kali and the Burning of the Old Self on Rebelle Society.

41. Dancers Follow A 2-Year-Old’s Dance Routine. (Thanks for sharing, Susan).

42. The happiest baby wombat in the world.

43. Wisdom from Mary Oliver,

The Writer’s Almanac once asked me, “What does loving the world mean to you?” Loving the world means giving it attention, which draws one to devotion, which means one is concerned with its condition, how it is being treated. I still believe that’s true.

44. Wisdom from Rilke,

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

45. Wisdom from Anita Krizzan,

When you just sit in silence
the wind blows through you,
the sun shines in you
and you realise you are not your body,
you are everything.

46. Almost there from Kat McNally.

47. Everything is changing for us (& how it could change for you too) on Writing Our Way Home.

48. Why Absolutely Nothing is Wrong With Your Highly Sensitive Personality on Medium.

49. Wisdom from Erica Jong, “The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk more.” (Shared by Positively Present).

50. How To Love Yourself (and sometimes other people) – Podcast Episode No. 50, a dharma talk by Lodro Rinzler.

#reverb13: Day Four

reverb13Today, one of my prompts for Reverb13 is up. No big surprise, it’s about grief and loss. I wrote,

This past year, we have all experienced so much loss and felt so much grief — in relationships, through sickness and death, from mental illness or abuse, because of finances, even due to the need for healthy change.

It is good to honor those shifts, to fully feel them, so that we can let go of what needs surrendered, and remember what is worthy of our love and gratitude.

What have you lost, what are you grieving?

olderdexterI can’t talk about what I’ve lost in the past year, what I’m grieving without mentioning Dexter. His cancer and eventual death was the most significant event of 2013. I emailed Kat yesterday, (she’s hosting the Reverb13 I wrote this and one other prompt for) and told her, “Almost every day, I’ve been writing about Dexter, as I reflect back on this year, and it’s helping me to honor that experience but also to let go in a way I still haven’t. I’m so grateful for this practice.”

Another big loss this year is my husband’s parents and his aunt moved. For the past five years, they were here, close to us. We’d lived here for almost seven years on our own before that and were fine, but then they came and we had someone else to call when we needed help, a built in dog sitter (one who washed dishes and did laundry when she came over), people to gather with for holidays or just a regular meal any time. We’d come home from work to a container of homemade cinnamon rolls or oatmeal cookies, and there was always someone to help Eric take a load of stuff to the dump or borrow a ladder from. We got used to it, so now being here by ourselves again feels a little lonely.

Another loss is not going to Susan Piver’s Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC) at the end of the month. The timing is just off for me this session, and even though I can do a writing and meditation retreat any time for myself at home, and I can drive up to SMC whenever I want, I am really going to miss seeing Susan again. The other grief related to her is the Open Heart Project Practitioner level didn’t end up working out. We aren’t completely disbanded or adrift, things are simply shifting, but we had just completed our 2nd virtual retreat when we got the news and it was sad.

There’s grief about other family stuff, things I don’t write about here, other people’s struggles and secrets that aren’t mine to share, but can’t be ignored, are hard to witness, generate so much suffering. I practice remembering, as Anaïs Nin suggested, “You cannot save people. You can only love them.”

When it was happening, and immediately after, there was a lot of grief around the session I had with a new doctor where she told me I was obese and tried to put me on a diet, told me to do more cardio — all this after I explained I was a dis-ordered eater and was hoping to heal that behavior.

handpocketsbyandrea

this is what obese looks like — when I look at her, all I can see is how hard she tries, all the ways she’s denied herself, how worthy she is of nothing but love (photo by Andrea Scher)

Which leads directly into my answer to the next prompt: 20/20: Hindsight is the one thing we never benefit from in the present.  Is there one moment you wish you could do over? I’m not usually one to wish for do-overs because it seems to imply regret, wanting things to be different, and if that were the case, I wouldn’t be where I am now. For example, from the visit to that doctor came the Self-Compassion Saturday project and the real healing that is happening now, something I had to do for myself. Yes, what she did was awful, but it was the catalyst for something good. Or, I could wish that I’d let Dexter go hiking that day, the one where he stayed home with me and hurt his knee chasing a squirrel in the back yard — and yet, without a hurt knee, he wouldn’t have required physical therapy, and we never would have met Dr. Lindsey Fry and the support staff at Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency Hospital. They gave both Dexter and I such good care in those final months. So, rather than wish for a do-over, I choose to accept what’s happened, to be grateful for what I can, learn what I can.

The Besottment Reverb 2013 prompt is “Did you discover a favourite song or musical artist in 2013?” I love music as much as I love books and dogs, so I can’t give just one. These are my three favorite new to me artists I discovered, my three favorite of their songs.

One eskimO, Amazing

Mary Lambert, She Keeps Me Warm

Furns, Power

#reverb13: Day Two

reverb13I remembered yesterday that there are three Reverb prompt options: #reverb13 hosted by Kat McNally (two of the prompts in this set were written by me), Project Reverb, and Reverb 2013 hosted by Besottment. As I did last year, I’m going to look at them all, write about some or all, and publish some of that — which could be total chaos or a brilliant beautiful mess.

Two I missed yesterday:Where did you start 2013?  Give us some background on this year.” and “Did you try anything new in 2013?

I started 2013 with a dog who had terminal cancer, who was predicted to be gone months before, which meant that we had to be prepared for every day to possibly be the last, and I was was actively wishing an easy death for him every one of those days. I was also taking him to physical therapy because in addition to his cancer, he’d torn something in his knee. I was doing my first session as a teaching assistant for Mondo Beyondo. I was in the same place with my work, feeling like I had two jobs, overwhelmed, not sure how I was going to manage it all, trying to make sure I would at least “shower, eat, and meditate,” and writing small stones. I was feeling so happy to have found Kat through Reverb12, and had just picked my word for the year, “freedom.”

New things I tried in 2013: I went to California by myself three times for workshops, renting a car each time and using my Google Maps app to get around. I also tried letterpress and Nia for the first time.

Today’s Prompts:What made your soul feel most nourished this year?” and “What was the most memorable gathering you attended (or held) in 2013?” and “Shine: What was the best moment of 2013?

Nourishment: Creativity, practice (writing, meditation, yoga, and dog), meeting people in person that I had adored from afar (teachers, writers, artists, healers), self-care, self-compassion, rest, therapy, retreats (both in person and virtual), Open Heart Project, walking, hiking, being outside, eating food from our own garden, reading.

Most memorable gathering: This is a three way tie, the retreats I did at 27 Powers this fall were all amazing — a writing workshop with Laurie Wagner and Jen Louden, a creativity workshop with Laurie Wagner and Andrea Scher, and a hunger workshop with Rachel Cole. Brilliant teachers, vulnerable and beautiful attendees, laughing and crying and creating and being present, showing up, opening up, being at ease, getting flooded with magic and medicine.

Best moment of 2013: This was hard, to select a single best moment, but when I thought of one, it was the clear winner, and yet I think it’s going to seem like an odd choice to you. The day that Dexter died, when I was sitting on our back step and he came out and put his front paws on my leg, standing in my lap while I pet him, him as his full and alive and well self for a brief moment on a day when he’d been feeling pretty awful, the way the light was, how content and together we were in that space, on the worst of all days. I could list other highlights, successes or moments of validation, or times when I felt a rush of relief and ease, but this moment, one of the last ones with Dexter when he wasn’t suffering, shines the brightest. I miss him so much…

sweetdex

Gratitude Friday

I know that yesterday, Thanksgiving in the U.S., is when most bloggers make these sort of posts, but I skipped it yesterday, because gratitude for me isn’t just one day a year, it’s a regular practice — although, as such, it was really really hard not to post yesterday.

1. Humans of New York, especially the new book, which I’ve been savoring. This morning, I was looking at one image that had the most amazing caption, “She had the most beautiful awkwardness.”

2. Food of the season, things like apple pie, sweet potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts. Although, I am still missing fresh tomatoes.

3. A clean house. We always say one of the best things about having people over is how clean the house gets in preparation. I mean, I even dusted.

4. Sleeping in. I’ve been doing a lot of that this week, and Sam has been joining me. He gets up at 4:30 like we normally do, eats breakfast, goes potty, and runs back to bed with me.

5. Support, connection, companionship, and guidance. Family, friends, my Intuitive Eating book group, the Open Heart Project — Susan Piver did a beautiful video and meditation instruction about gratitude yesterday, talked about how the best way to show gratitude is to live a really good life.

foot stool or dog bed, whatever

foot stool, dog bed, whatever

Bonus Joy: Sam. On our walk yesterday, he did the cutest thing. He was tracking squirrels and I accidentally dropped his leash. I decided to let him keep going, see how far he would get. He was so intent on following the scent trail that he didn’t realize I wasn’t holding him. We were on campus (CSU) so I trusted he wouldn’t get too far or in too much trouble. Even if he found an actual squirrel to chase, they go up a tree pretty quickly. So he went maybe 25 feet, and then stopped to check in with the humans, only to realize they were way behind him. I gave him the hands out shoulder shrug that means “what are you doing?” and he gave me the head down ears back sign for “sorry, my bad” and hurried back to us, waiting for me to pick up his leash once he got close enough.

sometimes he gets into Dexter's bed and sleeps, it breaks my heart a little every time

sometimes he gets into Dexter’s bed and sleeps, it breaks my heart a little every time

Any moment like that which reinforces that we can trust each other is so good. Underneath his reactivity, his struggle to control his impulses, his surges of adrenaline and anxiety, his sometimes too muchness, Sam is the sweetest and most gentle of dogs. As I was with Dexter when we lost Obi, I’m glad to have this brief moment of time with just him, so I can really see, know him before another dog with its own needs comes to distract me.