Tag Archives: Awareness

Day of Rest

I went to the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning right when they opened to get strawberries from Garden Sweet, to be sure I got there before Amy ran out. They are so precious in Colorado, there are so few and the season so short, that we typically don’t waste them in a pie or jam, but rather eat them as they are, four boxes easily gone by the end of the day. We planted a small patch of our own strawberries this year, but they got too hot and didn’t all survive, and even if they did, it would be a few years before we’d produce enough ourselves to come even close to satisfying our hunger.

Strawberries are so much more than a fruit. For me, they embody my childhood, my home, where I came from, The Farm, Oregon, summertime. Growing up in the Willamette Valley, one of the first paid jobs a girl could get besides babysitting was picking strawberries. I don’t remember much about it, other than the early morning bus ride to the field, the wet bushes and muddy rows that would eventually dry out and warm up in the heat of the sun, getting paid by the flat, how at the end of the day you were sore and tired from squatting and bending and kneeling and reaching, crawling up and down the rows, and your fingers were stained with green and dirt and strawberry juice. I was allowed to use the money I earned for just about anything I wanted, and if I remember correctly (which I’ve been accused of not doing), the Sticky Fingers denim painter pants that were my uniform in the 6th grade were paid for with strawberry money.

strawberriesfarmersmarket

I first learned to pick strawberries in a field on my grandparents’ farm, The Farm. When I was only about 5 or 6, my cousin Christie and I would pick the same row, into the same basket, and when we had a certain amount, we were allowed to quit early, to go swimming in the pond or exploring in the woods. Grandpa always let us get away with not picking quite as much as we were supposed to, and with eating almost as much as we picked.

In Oregon in the summer, the most common restaurant dessert options are strawberry shortcake or marionberry cobbler. The closest I can get to marionberries in Colorado are frozen boysenberries (from Oregon) or something called a “Marion Blackberry” which are not marionberries at all. When I was growing up, I took for granted that the abundance of fruit was just what summer was like, anywhere. We had a Royal Anne cherry tree in our backyard, could pick and eat as many as we wanted, and my mom would can what we couldn’t eat fresh — we had so many it was possible to get sick of them. Now, I pay sometimes up to 6-8 dollars a pound, desperate for that remembered sweetness, and they are never as good. My Aunt Karen has so many marionberries that most years she is begging people to come pick them, to help her get rid of them.

blackberrybabies

I have newer berry memories too, from our time spend at Waldport, on the Oregon Coast. Mo’s Seafood has the best marionberry cobbler. The first summer we went, when Obi was only five months old, he found a patch of wild ones on our morning walk, picked and ate them all. We are usually there during berry season and there are three different farmer’s markets within driving distance three days a week, the berries are cheap, plentiful, and so delicious, and we are almost never without.

One year ago today, we were arriving at “our house,” beginning a month long stay. Not knowing when I can make the trip again (I’m most likely not leaving Colorado until Dexter is gone), makes me feel a particular kind of homesick. And yet, Eric and I have made a home here. We planted our own strawberry plants this year and yesterday, with some of the berries I got at the farmer’s market, Eric made me a strawberry pie, a dessert that comes from his family, has now become our tradition during berry season. I am content, happy here, in love with our little home and the place we live, and still, even though I am happily home, I am utterly homesick at the same time.

strawberrypie

This is how life is. A strawberry isn’t just a fruit, and yet in order to truly be content with life, we must put all our attention on it when we eat a strawberry, focus only on its essential strawberry nature, let go of the story we have to tell ourselves about it, and in this way we can truly taste it, fully experience its sweetness and its impermanence, as in the story Pema Chödrön shares,

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

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

Today, I am delighting in the preciousness. It seems like a good way to spend the day, to spend a life.

Day of Rest

Learning to pause is the first step in the practice of Radical Acceptance. A pause is a suspension of activity, a time of temporary disengagement when we are no longer moving toward any goal . . . The pause can occur in the midst of almost any activity and can last for an instant, for hours or for seasons of our life . . . We may pause in the midst of meditation to let go of thoughts and reawaken our attention to the breath. We may pause by stepping out of daily life to go on a retreat or to spend time in nature or to take a sabbatical . . . You might try it now: Stop reading and sit there, doing “no thing,” and simply notice what you are experiencing. ~Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the magic of pausing, about what is worth pausing for. On our morning walks along the Poudre River, the mosquitoes are now out in full force. They are murderous with hunger and they also carry West Nile Virus, so we make every effort to not get bitten. This means we have to keep moving, go fast, and yet, there are many things worth pausing for. I offer the following as my list from the past few days of what was worth pausing for.

The rose bush next to my front door, which has gone mad with blooms this season.

This row of peonies, only half of what was planted along the front edge of this property and has made me revise my wish for three or four more plants in my front yard to THIS.

Mama turtle laying eggs next to the river.

Robin sitting on a fence in a sea of green.

Horses grazing.

Baby goose in the river.

Deer crossing the river, (there were two, but we spooked the other one back to the bank).

Twin baby deer. These were magic, because the place we saw them is an arboretum on campus at Colorado State University. Not in some far off wooded natural area, but smack in the middle of town.

Through the sacred art of pausing, we develop the capacity to stop hiding, to stop running away from our experience. We begin to trust in our natural intelligence, in our naturally wise heart, in our capacity to open to whatever arises. ~Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Wishcasting Wednesday

Yesterday, my therapist pointed out that I’m trying to find a formula. I was confused and uncomfortable and irritated by that — because she’s right. All of my research and work and searching and contemplating and pushing, all my suffering is a quest to find the right way, the perfect strategy, the foolproof plan, the trick to having a happy, content, successful, safe life. Every book I buy, every new blog I subscribe to, every new class I take, every workshop or retreat I sign up for, all of it is my tiny little heart looking for the secret to peace, to love everlasting and pure. I know it intellectually, but I can’t seem to get myself to accept that this is not going to work. I make grand gestures of letting go, only to feel again the familiar tightness in my chest, to look down and see my hands clenched into fists.

It’s Wishcasting Wednesday, and Jamie Ridler asks “what do you wish to discover?” To discover means finding something or someone unexpectedly, becoming aware — to find, detect, uncover, reveal, unearth.

I wish to discover my truth. The essential and fundamental fact of myself, reality.

I wish to discover my confidence. To manifest what Susan Piver describes as “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

I wish to discover my basic goodness. To be fully aware of and connected to my innate wisdom and compassion and power.

I wish to discover presence in each moment. To become aware of what is, exactly as it is, to accept it without judgement — to show up for my life, with an open heart, at ease in the vast space of now.

 

Day of Rest

strawberries

I shared this wisdom from Pema Chödrön earlier this week, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I was thinking of it again this morning — when I felt gratitude on our walk that today Dexter is doing well, even though his cancer will eventually take him from us, and when I checked on my new strawberry plants to see how they are settling in and dreamed of the future sweetness of their berries. I was reminded how important it is to “finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” Today I am going to keep in mind that “each moment is just what it is,” and that “is-ness” is precious.

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

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

Something Good

tulipbloom

1. “Find what you love and let it kill you,” James Rhodes (thanks to Jeff Oaks for sharing the link).

2. Middle Class Problems and The 13 Creepiest Things A Child Has Ever Said To A Parent on BuzzFeed.

3. A Story of Three Hummingbirds by Tracey Clark and Her Teen on Babble.

4. Wisdom from Susan Piver,

In meditation, it is not helpful to be mad at yourself for the inability to be peaceful. Start where you are. Start with sorrow. Start with rage. Start with boredom/anxiety. Start with high hopes. Start with disappointment. Start with your very own body, breath, and mind.

(PS This applies to everything.)

Your experience IS the practice. There is nowhere else to go. Within your own experience, the entire path can be found. I mean, maybe I’m full of it, but give it a try anyway and see for yourself. I will try too.

5. Why we rescueI’ve shared this link before, but at the time they only had one story. There are more!

6. Where Children Sleep Around the World, a really cool series of photos by James Mollison on Demilked.
earlyspringflower

7. This beautiful bit of poetry from John O’Donohuea reminder, a prayer, a mantra for a new day,

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

8. This wisdom from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “We do not have to be anything apart from who we are. We can just be.” What a relief…

9. This wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

Every act counts. Every thought and emotion counts too. This is all the path we have. This is where we apply the teachings. This is where we come to understand why we meditate. We are only going to be here for a short while. Even if we live to be 108, our life will be too short for witnessing all its wonders. The dharma is each act, each thought, each word we speak. Are we at least willing to catch ourselves spinning off and to do that without embarrassment? Do we at least aspire to not consider ourselves a problem, but simply a pretty typical human being who could at that moment give him- or herself a break and stop being so predictable?

My experience is that this is how our thoughts begin to slow down. Magically, it seems that there’s a lot more space to breathe, a lot more room to dance, and a lot more happiness.

10. 30+ Confidence Vitamins to pump you UP! from Alexandra Franzen.

11. Auto-Tune the New Girl. Just like the show, this video made me laugh.

12. Feel To Live: The Secret Life Of An Empath by Jonathan Fields, (although I totally could have written it).

13. Anatomy of a Leap by Maya Stein.

14. Portraits of 4 sisters every year for 36 years, 1975 – 2010.

15. This wisdom from Chogyam Trungpa, “Appreciate yourself, respect yourself, and let go of your doubt and embarrassment so that you can proclaim your goodness and basic sanity for the benefit of others.”

16. This Facebook post from Anne Lamottin which she says,

That’s all you have to do today: pay attention–being a writer is about paying attention. Stop hitting the snooze button. Carry a pen with you everywhere, or else God will give me all these insights and images that were supposed to go to you. Hang up a shingle on the inside of you: now open for business. Wow! You won’t have to wake up at 70, aching with regret that you threw your creative essence under the bus. And if you already are seventy, then you won’t have to wake up at eighty, confused and in despair about how you let your gift slip away. Because you will have been writing–or dancing again, or practicing recorder–every single glorious, livelong, weird, amazing day.

17. 3 Words I Wish I’d Heard When My Boyfriend Cheated On Me on Upworthy, a video made using advice from Neil Gaiman.

18. Family life frozen in time: eerie images of the abandoned farm houses where even the beds are still made, cool but creepy photos by Niki Feijen.

19. How Plant a Kiss Day Saved my Life from Sherry Richert Belul on Simply Celebrate, in which she says, “Our lives get saved every single moment we are able to fill ourselves with joy. Even, and especially, when that joy is mixed with grief, sadness, and fear. We are saved by kindness, over and over again.”

20. 5 Core Skills Your Life Depends On from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

21. From Brain Pickings: The Secret of Life from Steve Jobs in 46 Seconds and
A Natural History of Love, which gives this amazing description of love,

We think of it as a sort of traffic accident of the heart. It is an emotion that scares us more than cruelty, more than violence, more than hatred. We allow ourselves to be foiled by the vagueness of the word. After all, love requires the utmost vulnerability. We equip someone with freshly sharpened knives; strip naked; then invite him to stand close. What could be scarier?

22. This wisdom from Geneen Roth, “Trusting yourself means being willing to discover the truth about yourself. And value the process of discovering that truth.”

23. One Tree HomeI want this in my backyard. And if I can’t have it, I want this forest summer house.

24. This video. *sob*

25. I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet.

26. Invitation to Basic Goodness Day.

27. “We shall be a mighty kindness,” Rumi.

28. A Show of Hands from Susan Piver.

29. The Wheel of Kindness on Kindness Girl. Such a great idea.

30. Seeing the World in a Coffee Cup on Dwelling Here Now.

31. The Ever Present Possibility of Change on Be More with Less. This makes me think of the delicate balance that exists between acceptance and change.

32. Guy Recreates The Matrix After Asking His Mom to Describe It to Him

33. The 30 Happiest Facts Of All Time on BuzzFeed. Apparently, turtles can breathe through their butts.

34. Should You Turn Your Hobby into a Business? on Create as Folk.

35. your daily rock : every day is day one! from Patti Digh. And from Patti’s Thinking Thursday list: Creamy, Brothy, Earthy, Hearty customizable soup recipes on the NY Times and Ridiculously Easy Curried Chickpeas and Quinoa on FatFree Vegan Kitchen.

36. Two Important Voices. Yours and Mine. from Rachel Cole, who says, “I have a deep faith that some people need to hear the wisdom I share from my voice in order for it to have an impact.” Yes. Yes I do, Rachel.

37. Baby goat plays with huge pig. I have never understood why goats love to climb on and jump off of stuff so much, I just know it’s super cute.

38. Shared by Kat in her Savouring my Saturday postLife in Movement, what looks like a beautiful and heartbreaking documentary, and I Am Her, a book I really really want which also looks like a great gift idea.

39. Finding Your Way Online from Susannah Conway. I originally shared this video when it was posted on Kind Over Matter, but then they took it down. I’m so glad it’s back.

40. Shared by Susannah Conway on her Something for the Weekend list: Thug Kitchen (warning: there is strong language, but also some amazing recipes, information, and tips), the Disapproval Matrix, The Power of a Single Intention interview with Patti Digh, and I’m Triggered on Funny or Die.

41. soundtrack to your life | susannah conway from Sas Petherick. Makes me smile.

42. Isn’t it amazing how fast things can change? on A Design So Vast. Lindsey is such a good mom, a wonderful writer with a tender heart.

43. DeCluttering: the Power of Purging Inclusively on Scoutie Girl.

44. The New Path from Vivienne McMaster. I love seeing someone get so clear about their work, their purpose, their focus. I also love this video she made.

Three Truths and One Wish (on a Wednesday)

I am a Practitioner in Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project, and we are currently studying the 59 lojong slogans. Lojong means mind training and these slogans “offer pithy, powerful reminders on how to awaken our hearts in the midst of day-to-day life, under any circumstances,” and help us to see that “we can use everything we encounter in our lives–pleasant or painful–to awaken genuine, uncontrived compassion,” (Pema Chödrön, Always Maintain a Joyful Mind).

As often happens on a Tuesday, I woke up yesterday knowing it was a Three Truths and One Wish post day but having no idea what I might write about. I was also extra tired, having been so worried about Dexter, needing to keep such a close eye on him. That worry and lack of sleep also brought back a little bit of the sick that kept me home from work last week. I didn’t feel great, had very little energy or motivation, and ended up not writing anything at all.

But if I had posted, I knew what I’d write. Even though I woke up not knowing, the email came from Susan with our lojong slogan for the week. It was a set of threes, an obvious sign from the universe that here was something I could write about.

Lojong slogan: Three objects, three poisons, three seeds of virtue.

1. Truth: three objects. These give the next three, the poisons, something to attach to, a place to focus their attention and energy. The three objects are what trigger the three poisons, what provoke us. These objects are everything we crave, fear, or ignore. They are all the stuff we try to get, reject, or don’t pay any attention to. They can be people, events, experiences, or things. The three objects are what give rise to the three poisons.

Pema Chödrön describes them as “friends, enemies, and neutrals.” An Everyday Buddhadharma post on Elephant Journal explains this further by suggesting that “Whether we are aware of it or not, we tend to categorize people into friends, enemies, or neutrals and we react with corresponding emotions to these categories as if they were fixed and unchanging.” In her commentary on this slogan, Acharya Judy Lief says “One way of looking at this slogan is that it is about the power of labels. It is about the way we categorize our world and what happens as a result.”

1. Truth: three poisons. These are passion (grasping or attachment), aggression (passive or active), and ignorance (dullness, delusion, or willful confusion). I can still remember hearing about the three poisons for the first time, being completely gobsmacked by the power and clarity of that view, this way of understanding how we generate suffering.

The three poisons are always trapping you in one way or another, imprisoning you and making your world really small. When you feel craving, you could be sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, but all you can see is this piece of chocolate cake you’re craving. With aversion, you’re sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and all you can hear is the angry words you said to someone ten years ago. With ignorance, you’re sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon with a paper bag over your head. Each of the three poisons has the power to capture you so completely that you don’t even perceive what’s in front of you. ~Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

3. Truth: three seeds of virtue. These are freedom from passion, aggression, and ignorance. It is the way we can interrupt our habitual response, disrupt our normal patterns, it’s how we can turn our regular way of being into one that manifests compassion and wisdom. We see the truth of our typical behavior, become aware and take responsibility, and plant the seeds of virtue.

Pema Pema Chödrön explains this part of the slogan in her book Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living and does so beautifully, with complete clarity.

In terms of “Three objects, three poisons, and three seeds of virtue,” when these poisons arise, the instruction is to drop the story line, which means-instead of acting out or repressing-use the situation as an opportunity to feel your heart, to feel the wound. Use it as an opportunity to touch that soft spot. Underneath all that craving or aversion or jealousy or feeling wretched about yourself, underneath all that hopelessness and despair and depression, there’s something extremely soft, which is called bodhichitta.

When these things arise, train gradually and very gently without making it into a big deal. Begin to get the hang of feeling what’s underneath the story line. Feel the wounded heart that’s underneath the addiction, self-loathing, or anger: If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart and to relate to that wound.

When we do that, the three poisons become three seeds of how to make friends with ourselves. They give us the chance to work on patience and kindness, the chance not to give up on ourselves and not to act out or repress. They give us the chance to change our habits completely. This is what helps both ourselves and others. This is instruction on how to turn unwanted circumstances into the path of enlightenment. By following it, we can transform all that messy stuff that we usually push away into the path of awakening: reconnecting with our soft heart, our clarity, and our ability to open further.

One Wish: That each of us develops an awareness of the ways in which we are generating suffering. That with wisdom and compassion and great gentleness we start to interrupt this behavior, to change the habitual patterns that lead to pain and poison. That we ease suffering, in ourselves and the world, and begin planting seeds of virtue instead.

May all beings be happy.
May all beings be well.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings be free from suffering.

Not Knowing Where to Start

This is one of those posts, kind and gentle reader, that is at this moment as much of a mystery to me as it is to you. All day I have been thinking about what I wanted to tell you, what I had to say, to share, without being sure exactly what I would write. There is a big shift happening in my life right now but it’s not entirely clear to me how this is going to work out so I haven’t formed a neat and tidy way of communicating it. All I know for sure is that I want to tell you the truth.

I finally had an appointment with my new doctor. I have been struggling with fatigue for the past few years, have hypothyroidism and a family history of diabetes, (all kinds, on both sides), am most likely perimenopausal, and don’t get enough rest. I am a highly functioning food addict who has struggled with disordered eating for 30+ years, having gained, lost, and regained the same 20 pounds at least that many times. I want to be free of it, this struggle and dis-ease. I want to be strong, healthy, and whole, with the energy and stamina necessary to do the work I long to do, to live a full life.

Things have to to change. A series of unfortunate incidents with my previous doctors made me realize that I wasn’t being cared for as well as I should be, that I needed to seek out a new perspective, someone who would view me as a whole person (not just a body) and consider all the potential healing modalities available. I chose someone who practices Integrative Medicine, which according to her, “evaluates the patient as a whole. It does not view the patient as a chronic disease, an illness, a list of medications, or a recent hospitalization–but rather as a complex being made up of physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual parts all interdependent and woven together. All of these elements are respectfully addressed in developing strategies to treat illness and more aggressively prevent disease.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

It was good. But, we have some work to do. I have something to teach her about dealing with people who have a history of dis-ordered eating and self-loathing. For starters: don’t call them obese, no matter what the BMI chart says. And for heaven’s sake, don’t call them obese repeatedly. Call them curvy, solid, voluptuous, thick, full, well-rounded, sturdy, slightly heavier than optimal, weighted down–but don’t call them obese.

Brave Belly

I get it. I need to lose some weight. It’s the same weight I’ve been losing and gaining for years. I already knew that. I get it. It’s there, in part, because I am an incredibly sensitive and porous person, without natural thick skin or any other kind of protective barrier between myself and the energy of my environment, the suffering of every person I encounter, the meanness and brutality of life. I am easily hurt, and I eat my feelings. This in turn makes me bigger, more stable and substantial, heavier, harder to knock down, safer, calmer (at least in theory).

What she said hurt me. I’m pretty sure she thought I was confused about my situation, didn’t realize it was serious, and that this “truth” would motivate me to change. In reality, it sent me into a shame spiral. Thank goodness that same afternoon I was leaving for a retreat with Susan Piver, had a safe, supportive space to go in which to process what she’d said. I truly believe that without my practices, the support and wisdom I have access to, she would have only made things worse with that one word. I’m hoping the next time we meet, I can effectively and kindly communicate this to her so that she is better able to help the next person like me, a person who might not have the support, the tools I do to process and cope.

whole

For now, I get back to the work of educating myself. Along with Susan Piver, her support and wisdom and our shared practice, I am so grateful for the work and friendship of Rachel Cole. Both of these amazing women, (along with such writers and healers as Geneen Roth and Tara Brach), remind me to always approach myself, my struggles, with gentleness, to give myself space and compassion. In this way I can face this transition, which is going to be so difficult, with wisdom and lovingkindness–because this is so much more about loving myself than about what I do or don’t eat.

I can also count on the people in my life who love me to support me, encourage and help me, to make me smile, to laugh. Like my trainer, who after hearing what my doctor had said was extra encouraging to me when we worked out, telling me much more often than normal what a great job I was doing, (seriously, it was adorable). And my husband, who told me “we’ll figure this out, you’ll know what to do, and I’ll help you,” who loves me, is more concerned with the size of my heart and how much I love him back than a set of numbers anyway, who won’t judge me when I eat a cinnamon roll the size of my head. And my courage circle and other friends who reminded me of how much I am loved, of my real value, my truth worth. And my friends who gave me recommendations when I asked them for a kind and gentle therapist who works with dis-ordered eaters.

I can find and accept help, but more importantly I can trust myself.