Tag Archives: Path

Day of Rest: New Year, 2017

pathwithtext

My guiding word for this year was path. The first time I picked a word, after I’d stopped making resolutions, it was retreat. That was followed by freedom, home, and then nourish. Every time, they never turn out exactly as I expect, end up meaning something other than what I predict.

In those years I did other practices at the end of the year, reflecting and projecting. This year I tried a few. I did both December Reflections and Unravel Your Year with Susannah Conway, but only half-heartedly, completely half-assed. Others I normally do and mostly enjoy I skipped altogether, completely opted out. This is a mix of two things — I’m tired and need to rest almost more than anything, and I feel so utterly IN my experience that being quiet feels more appropriate than answering prompts or making predictions.

This is what this year’s word did for me. It allowed me to sink into my practice, to deepen both my discipline and devotion. It made me kinder to myself, which in turn makes me kinder towards others. It taught me how to stay with my experience, not abandon my discomfort or give up and numb out. It gave me courage, vulnerability, the willingness to be wounded, and confidence in the way Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.” It taught me to be patient, to trust that if I waited I would know what to do. The way I described my word at the start of the year was this:

Path carries with it a sense of devotion — love, loyalty, and enthusiasm. It’s commitment, immersion, dedication, discipline, and joyful effort that springs from a place of love and attention. On a path, there’s a clarity of direction and intention, but also unexpected obstacles and surprising beauty. I show up, open up, stay with what arises without an agenda, thus sinking deeper into my innate wisdom and compassion, experiencing my life more fully. I encounter clarity and simplicity, ease and contentment, stability.

For maybe the first time, what I predicted for my word turned out to be pretty accurate. And now, at the time when normally I’d choose another word, I don’t feel the need to. For a while I toyed with the word “mercy” for 2017, but it didn’t really stick, and I felt particularly unmotivated to find another. Then the other day, I thought to myself (and posted on Facebook), “I think rather than picking a word for the year, I’m going with, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen.'”

bestnine2016

There’s a website (2016bestnine) that will look at your Instagram account and make a collage of the nine most liked images from your account for 2016. These were mine.

 

2016: One Word

bestnineThere’s a website (2015bestnine) that will look at your Instagram account and make a collage of the nine most liked images from your account for 2015. The above is mine. I’m a little surprised there’s no pictures of dogs, and only one food picture, since it seems like those are the kind of pictures I post the most.

I’ve been doing lots of year end things like this lately. Crafting year end reviews, and cultivating new year intentions. Letting go and looking forward. In a meditation this morning with Adreanna Limbach’s 31 Days of Devotion program, I contemplated the suggested question “what do I feel devoted to this year?” I was surprised and not surprised by what came up. There was nothing I hadn’t expected, but I was caught off guard by the intensity of my devotion in regards to some of the things on my list.

  • Health and well-being of my body. The intensity of this one was so strong. The desire was deep to care for it, let it rest, give it lots of water, feed it good food, take it on walks, stretch it, do yoga, lift weights — to be rested, well-fed, and strong, to feel good.
  • Reading and thinking and practicing. This is both in relation to my Buddhist studies and doing for the simple joy of it.
  • Intimacy. This in particular to my relationship with Eric, continuing to explore the ways we can be closer, familiar and connected and content.
  • Joy. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m realizing that when I lost Dexter I let my joy go with him. I’ve been so focused on the bad things that have happened over the past decade, so caught up in preparing for the worst and working with the hard stuff, that I lost my sense of joy. I’d like to open some space for it, invite it back in.
  • Writing. For this blog, for the book I’m writing, for publication elsewhere, for the fun of it.
  • Teaching. Yoga, my Wild Writing Crazy Wisdom workshops, and some online classes — both in service to my students and for my own sake.
  • Simplified, beautified space. With our bathroom remodel, I realized how good it feels to have a beautiful space, beautiful things, and to get rid of what no longer serves us. I want all my space to feel like that — cleared out and full at the same time.

After having picked a guiding word for the past four years, I wasn’t sure if I would this year. Last year’s word didn’t turn out like I expected, and one didn’t seem to be coming to me. I signed up for Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word free class, but I put off reading the emails, doing the work. I thought maybe I just wouldn’t have a word this year.

Then I went on retreat with Susan Piver, and she talked about the necessity of our writing and meditation practices having a path quality to them. I’d been feeling a longing to deepen my Buddhist studies, having taken refuge vows a year ago, so the idea of cultivating a path quality in my life, in my other practices, was very appealing.

I kept coming back to “path” as a possible word for 2016. For the past few days, I was planning to work through Susannah’s emails to be sure, but after listening to Adreanna’s video this morning, practicing with her, listening to her talk about devotion, I knew path was right.

pathwithtextPath carries with it a sense of devotion — love, loyalty, and enthusiasm. It’s commitment, immersion, dedication, discipline, and joyful effort that springs from a place of love and attention. On a path, there’s a clarity of direction and intention, but also unexpected obstacles and surprising beauty. I show up, open up, stay with what arises without an agenda, thus sinking deeper into my innate wisdom and compassion, experiencing my life more fully. I encounter clarity and simplicity, ease and contentment, stability. It’s a good word.

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.

#smallstone: Path

Not all paths are the same. This morning on our walk, Sam and I traveled one section of trail that was covered in snow and ice. There were slick patches and in other spots it shifted under our feet like we were walking on sand. It took more effort and time to walk this.

It reminded me of something I told Eric last night, about how when this intense puppy phase passes our “normal” lives will seem so easy in comparison. I told him about how I’d sat on the couch eating a big salad for lunch and actually watched some tv, and even though I didn’t get to watch a whole show before Ringo woke up and needed to go out, it seemed like such a luxury. Eric suggested that while that might be true, after you feel normal for awhile you forget to notice that it’s anything special.

It was like that on our walk this morning. After walking the side trail, we landed on a section of cleared paved path, smooth and solid. It felt so easy to walk on it, almost like we were floating, but it didn’t take long before I forgot and it was just walking, the awareness of ease replaced by noticing how cold I felt, how far we still had to go before returning home, how much work I needed to get done today, the worries and concerns and busyness creeping back in, distorting and confusing the previous sense of ease and joy.

I watched myself do this, aware of the suffering I generated. As an antidote, I felt my breath, saw the deep blue flutter of a single Blue Jay, noticed the turning colors of the sky, and felt such deep gratitude for the heart-shaped patch of snow and tiny splash of white fur inbetween Sam’s toes.

#smallstone: Path

parkinglotpathI walk the “path” between parking lots on my way to my office. The ground is covered with wood chips, springy like the old growth trails we hike in Oregon where the ground is made of a tangle of roots, dirt, and hundreds of years of decaying wood and leaves. The trees here are evenly and perfectly spaced, all in a row, and the path is flanked by parked cars, but I walk the full length of it and for those few steps I’m transported to a place that is quiet and far away.

magicforest

Day of Rest

Sweet, lionhearted Henry, a beautiful beast of a dog, died yesterday. Only one day before, his mom learned he had an inoperable tumor on his liver and was already very sick, too sick, and she’d have to let him go. I never met Henry, or his mom, but the pictures and stories she’s shared made me love him, and her, anyway.

Every loss like this is folded into my own. I almost can’t separate the sadness of losing my Dexter (or Obi before him) from the loss of every other dog loved and missed by someone, just like me. And certain dogs, for whatever reason and especially if they have cancer, touch that tender raw spot that I carry with me everywhere, always.

That’s what they don’t tell you about a broken heart — it’s not that it gets broken and then fixed, restored to its former state, but rather it gets broken open. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking around in the world not just naked, no clothes on, but with all my skin peeled off, my chest cracked open, utterly vulnerable and wounded, nothing to hide behind, no armor or mask or shield, no protection.

Oddly enough, this is an experience I chose. This is my path. You can armor up and numb out, run away or reject this way of living. It’s entirely possible through all sorts of means to disconnect from reality, to opt out. And yet, two years ago I made a distinct, conscious choice otherwise.

Committing to benefit others is traditionally called the path of the bodhisattva…the path of the spiritual warrior whose weapons are gentleness, clarity of mind, and an open heart. The Tibetan word for warriormeans “the one who cultivates bravery.” As warriors in training, we cultivate the courage and flexibility to live with uncertainty–with the shaky, tender feeling of anxiety, of nothing to hold on to–and to dedicate our lives to making ourselves available to every person, in every situation. ~Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

This is my path, to ease suffering, in myself and the world. There are days like today when I am feeling sad and a little stuck that I wonder if I can really do this, and yet when I give any attention to contemplating the matter, I understand that for me there really is no other way.

Day of Rest

I am realizing that path is everything, a direct route to dharma, the truth. For the past few years, I have been so caught up in doing, in planning what I have to offer, striving and struggling, that I forgot I don’t need to work so hard, that if I simply show up, practice, move the way love makes me move, the way joy makes me move, I am already there.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
~Mary Oliver, excerpt from her poem Wild Geese

The truth is I am already free, what I seek is already present, I can be content now. I am already there, there is here, the exact place I long for is where I live. I can open my eyes, I am awake already. Awareness of how I want to feel, my open heart, the way I sink into my practice, soothing my spirit and letting my body relax, honoring my desires, is the path that will lead to the other, the offering. Instead of striving and pushing, I can relax into my life, my body, my self, my breath, this moment.

I am on the path, this is where I find the offering, and it’s not work, it’s like hiking, how the stillness and clarity and joy and connection come simply by walking the path. It’s easy, it feels good. Show up, do the practice, don’t abandon yourself. Trust what you want, what you love, the sacredness of an ordinary moment, the precious nature of your own heart, your messy and brilliant humanness, just as it is.

The place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you. ~Hafiz