Making Space: The Genius of Silence

coffee lakePractice makes perfect.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied upon this little nugget of wisdom as a parent when my kiddo whines about not being able to do something. My response has always been; “How do you think I got so good at it? Practice makes perfect; get to it.

Yesterday I was anxious. The kind of anxious that feels like you have a thousand bees buzzing in  your head telling you all of the things you need to do, have to worry about, and can’t control. I was miserable; inside and outside.

Fortunately for me, I had a few hours of quiet time at the end of the day .Quiet for me is heaven. Quiet in the morning gives me time to meditate, and to take in just how fortunate I am.  It’s never a process whereby I sit cross-legged on a cushion wearing a mala made in Bali or a tunic made of hemp. No. It’s simply sitting with my thoughts.

Last night, in the quiet of solitude, I was able to spend some time reading the words of Thich Nhat Hanh.   It reminded me that my practice is not perfect. Far from it in fact. Just because I studied at the temple, attended dharma classes and go to silent retreats does not mean that my meditation muscle is exempt from a good workout on a regular basis.

As adults, we forget that our health as a whole is something that we need to practice on a regular basis.

It’s time for me to make space for some of the books and advice that I’ve gotten in the past. It’s time to make an effort again putting theory into practice.

It’s time for the genius of silence, and for my practice of peace to become a little bit more perfect.

Work: The Soul-Sucking Reality of Adulthood

giphyDo you remember what it was like to take the first baby steps in your career? How great it felt to take a step toward what you’d worked so hard for in school, and on the bottom rungs of the grunt-work-we-suffered-through-it-so-you-must-suffer-through-it-load-of-sadistic-bullshit-ladder?

Oh sure, for a while in your twenties and thirties you feel like you’re going somewhere, and then after forty – BOOM- it’s like hot-tub-fucking-time-machine.

You’re back in high school.

Nobody likes to wake up to an alarm, battle traffic and then be told what to do all day. That’s why they call it work, and that’s why you get paid to do it. Keeping yourself busy throughout the day is a good thing. Keeping yourself busy all day surrounded by egomaniacs is not.

And that’s what’s wrong with the world.

It’s not a competition folks. It’s life. It’s short, and it’s precious and it’s way better if you’re kind to one another.  Take these words of wisdom that I shared with my son during dinner tonight, and heed them well;

Ask for help if you need it. People are always happy to help, unless they’re douchebags.

…and really, life is too short for egotistical douchebags…

For instance, this morning I received a text from a friend who was down because they had been really mistreated at work. Beginning a new contract, they were not given the courtesy of being told in advance that there would be a later starting date, or that their title had changed.

The only realistic conclusion with regard to this matter is that the boss is an egotistical turd.

We all need to make a living. It doesn’t matter what you do, or who you are, your single goal ought to be kindness.  The true measure of a human being is always how they treat others, how they contribute positively to the environment that they are in. I’m a firm believer in using everyone’s strengths and weaknesses to the advantage of the day, and the purpose of our work.

There is no psychic room in our lives for petty maneuvers that inflate  ego, especially in the work place.

giphy1If you are in an environment of Douchedom at work  where kindness does not reign as Queen, may I suggest a few things?

  1. 1. Find solace in little things that you can focus on without anyone thinking you’re some kind of spiritual numpty.  For instance, a quirky little saying pinned to your board, a small photo of your next dream vacation, a stone from your favourite walking trail.
  2. Meditate on your beverage. Yes. It’s perfectly acceptable to have some sort of sipper at your station or desk, so put it in a container that brings you joy. Not a flask ( as much as a good snort of gin might feel mid-day). A pretty tea cup or a bright bottle. Whatever. Just remind yourself that you are taking care of you, and that a-hole-ego-maniac-ass-hat-of-a-co-worker can just sip on their own negative swamp water, because you are not having any of that poison.
  3. Before you lose your cool, quietly ask yourself, ” Who do you think you’re talking to”?  Take a deep breath, look directly into their eyes, smile, say “I see”, very calmly, and carry on doing exactly what you were before you were interrupted, attempted to be made a fool of, or lorded over. Carry. On.
  4. Use your commute to de-stess. Don’t call your bestie to bitch. Don’t text. Don’t drive in silence. Crank some feel-good music, roll the windows down, and envision all of the bad shit being blown away. Begin the transition to that hot soak in the tub, the novel you have beside the bed, or the long walk you’re going to take. Do not let bad mojo at work steal any more of your energy.
  5. Change before you leave the office. Change your whole outfit, change your shoes…whatever, just change something to symbolically get out of your ‘uniform’.
  6. Freshen up. That’s right. Twice a day go to the loo and fluff your hair, wipe your boob sweat, re-apply lipstick, pull up your socks, put cold water on your face….be creative, but come out refreshed.
  7. Look for a new job. I’m being serious. Even if you don’t really want to leave what you’re doing, it helps to know that there’s always other stuff out there. It was a piece of advice given to me by my mumster and it works. Knowing there’s gainful employment away from a bad environment helps strengthen your resolve to make it work, whether it’s from the desk you’re sitting at, or at  a new one.
  8. Accept that sometimes, no matter how great the calling, we do not find our joy in the workplace.  For instance, I find my joy in writing, reading, attending my kiddo’s sporting events, camping and even running. These are  great joys…small joy at work is a beautiful calendar, a dainty tea-cup, a smooth writing pen, having self control and coming up with witty comebacks in my own mind…If work is your joy, you do not have time to participate in pettiness. You only have time to become better at your craft. Keep your head down, your mouth shut and go for the gusto.
  9. Be nice. Have a candy dish at your desk, ask about somebody’s pet, kids or spouse. Be human and available. Don’t be the raincloud that dulls down the office. At the very least, on bad days, keep to yourself and enjoy your tea.
  10. Laugh. At yourself, at the douchebag who thinks they’re a big-shot, at everything. Just fucking laugh, because that my darling ones, is what life is all about.

Maternal In Memorium & Mother’s Day Manifesto

IshtarToday marks the second anniversary of my mother’s death.

Ours was an unusually complex relationship, with  complete estrangement over twenty years ago. Despite the common cry of making amends by well-meaning acquaintances who do not know the depth of the family’s dysfuncionality, I have no regrets when it comes to this relationship, or lack thereof.

My mother was a victim of her times and of abuse. She was the poster child of body loathing and repression.  I grew up surrounded by women’s magazines, and I confess, I still regularly take Woman’s World for their feel-good stories and their little strips of inspiration. It reminds me of a simple time when my paternal grandmother would clip the posts and pin them to the fridge, or tear out the Ziggy comics and pin them to her inspirational bulletin board in the sewing room.

My paternal grandmother was in touch with her power as a woman. She was wise, fierce, kind and strong. She lived fully and taught me what it meant to be my own person.

ziggy Times have not changed so much, and maybe even for the worse. Not only are we expected to manage our homes, but bear the burden of less feminine roles as well.  We are still surrounded by racks full of magazines, air-brushed images of the female form, with covers that imply we are flawed; how to be thinner, how to be happier, how to please our men, how to de-stress so we can be all of the above. We are ingrained in a culture who continues to devalue the natural life-affirming work of women.

You may wonder what this has to do with the anniversary of my mother’s death. Everything.

I was raised by a woman who was  estranged from her own beautiful, glorious and powerful self. I had a choice as a young woman, continue the trauma, or claim my own glorious divine feminine. I chose the latter.

So many of us hate our ankles, our bellies, our hair or our skin.  We punish our bodies and ridicule our own needs. We ignore the call of primitive intuition, and we diminish the great power of fertility and motherhood.

We live in the world of magazine promises; to create a common, submissive self that perpetuates a world where our value and spiritual gifts are damned.

As the years passed and I healed into my own femininity, into my own woman, forgiveness came. My mother was not a bad mother as such, she was  truly a victim of her times, of her inability to seize her own power, and grow into her own, always determining her own worth by the praise of abusive men.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I hope that all of the women in my life,  spend some quiet time, reflecting on their own beauty and how their body has served them well, their own natural, intuitive intelligence, and their own power to embrace the fullness of what it means to be a woman.

More than that, I hope that whether maiden, mother or crone,  that all of the ladies reading this live each stage of life and every transition fully.  I believe that is the secret to a well-lived life. That is the secret to having no regrets.

Just Because You’re Supposed To Doesn’t Mean You Should; Maiden Mother Crone

maiden mother croneI’m old now. Ok, not really old, but older, and women in their 20’s and 30’s think I”m the wise old owl. I kind of dig it.

I’m the lady younger women come to for advice, to air their worries, and that they see as some kind of icon of independence, strength and compassion. They also think I’m eccentric, old and clueless at times. It’s a fine balance,and I think I can handle it.

At the root of all issues for most young ladies and old alike is the fine balance of fulfilling our practical obligations and doing the things that make us feel good.

We slip into our roles as caregivers in a Stepford-kind-of-way. So much of what we do falls into a less-than-conscious way of being. We do because that’s what we’re supposed to do; because that’s what everyone expects.

And then we lose ourselves to all of that. We simply do not have time to do the things we love. We don’t prioritize it. Women’s soul-work is not valued. We become mothers to our partners subtle demands. Guilt can be sinister and subtle.

So, to the younger ladies who come to me with their relationship, career and creative struggles, my one piece of advice is to do what makes them feel alive, and make sure they have a solid resume to support themselves.

I’m as guilty as the next woman when it comes to romantic ideals, but I’m older and wiser now.  If a partner tells you they’re not good enough for you; they’re not. If they tell you they’re not sure where the relationship is going; it’s not going anywhere. Embrace what brings you joy and go do that .

 

Bottom line, do not stop prioritizing the things that bring you solitary joy. For me it’s writing, painting, going to art galleries and camping.  Stick with your tribe. You need your girlfriends and you need to keep your own zest for life alive.

crone poem

 

Body Image Issues; It’s not Me – It’s You, Pig.

oglingAbout a month or so ago, I had a really interesting conversation with my Mumster. She’s a wonderful woman, and someone whom I admire for her insight and brilliant sense of humour.

We were having side-by-side pedi’s and talking about the men in our life. You know, the oblivious sex. Particularly the middle-aged, if not beyond that demographic.

We were talking about how our confidence is much higher when we’re on our own, either completely out of the relationship, or at least not in the same room with them. I talked about this with other women as well, just to get a feel for it, and it seems to be generally true; women are most confident when not with their partners.

We feel capable and sexy when we don’t have someone around passively suggesting that we need to fix something about ourselves.

My oblivious man  is famous for patting me on my ample ass and asking if I’m going to the gym, or oggling another woman while we’re out together. Yes, it’s that obvious, and no, we don’t have to ignore it. Have some respect. You know what I’m talking about ladies, the general disrespect that has been deemed socially acceptable forever. Just last night it was, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but have you ever thought of having a breast reduction?” To which I thought, why yes darling, just last month when I was ready to dump your ass you ignorant tit.

Here’s a shocking newsflash; we live in our bodies. We know them, and we are keenly aware of their beauty and how they don’t measure up to society’s standards. And you know what, we love our luscious bodies anyway, because they are amazing works of art.

If you have a woman in your life who is vibrant, sexual and intelligent, you should appreciate and respect her.  Crawling out of the cave is a good start, it’s the twenty-first century after all.

If a man wants to be considered a gentleman, all of the high-priced grooming products in the world will not disguise his behavior as a douche bag.

 

sexy old man

Do I appreciate the physique of an anatomically-extremely-correct man? Absofreakinglutely. Do I rub it in my partner’s face that he bears no resemblance whatsoever to Channing Tatum or Dwayne Johnson by giving him a not-so-subtle smack on his ass and the condescending, “Are you going to the gym today baby. It’ll make you feel better?” No, I do not, but I think it may be time to start.

As a mother, it’s the last thing I want my son to have to worry about; looking like the cover of a Men’s Health magazine.

As a death care worker, I’m struck by the awesome beauty of healthy bodies every day, and I think we need to rejoice in that simple joy every day.

When your daughters, sisters and partners  struggle with mental health issues spurred on by body image (as most women do) your having the Swimsuit edition floating around your house doesn’t really help her. What it might do is fuel your fantasies of being a better lover than you really are, and makes every woman think you’re a pig. Oh yah, and that they never, ever want to get naked in front of you.

So don’t expect us to cower in our chubby bodies and be anxious about spending our days punishing ourselves with diets. We’re confident on our own. We love our bodies and quite frankly, if you want to act like you’re living in the mysogynist 60’s all over again; have at it, and while you’re there stud, get used to masturbating, because there isn’t a woman around who’s going to put up with your shit.

There are gentlemen out there who do respect their partners, and we have figured that out.

Confidence is not the issue; respect is the issue.

When it comes to humour, the only thing that’s still acceptable is woman bashing by men. We’ve all agreed that gender identity and race are not a joke, but somehow, being a woman still is.

Confidence is not the issue, men acting like pigs is.

 

Letting Fear Scream Like the Child It Is

It’s April 7th and there is snow on the ground. I feel (physically) like I’ve been hit by a truck , and you know what? I’m so miserable I want to crawl out of my own skin.

zen circle.jpgWhich is really crappy. But sometimes crappy is ok. Sometimes we must embrace the tired, sore, discouraged and frustrated parts of our psyche and let them have their say.

Today I’m not in a shit mood, that’s why I’m writing about it. I’ve gained a little more perspective and had a little more sleep.

You see,  I was also in a shit mood on the 9th. Despite the sun shining in as I drove to work,  some poor sod got the finger when he rode my bumper, and not just a flip of the bird. I must have held it up there  and waved it around for a full 10 seconds like a hillbilly waving the confederate flag. I wanted to make sure he saw it. Yah, not a proud moment.
It’s in these moments, I want to not only be aware of, but practice, Thich Nhat Hahn’s famous teaching about cradling our suffering like a newborn baby. I want to be aware of that, but what I usually do is spiritually squirm like a spoiled toddler, wanting to stamp my feet, whine until someone gives me ice cream and then tucks me in for a nap.  But I am getting better at it.

Spiritual practice is long and sometimes it feels grueling. In a culture that praises speed, cultivating grace is a long, slow, lifetime process.

Recently I’ve had the benefit of more solitude and silence than usual. Unlike during years past, I’ve had questions of clarity pop into my mind about my attitudes, reactions and fears. Better still, I’ve had the opportunity to let the reasons why come to the surface.

angry trollWaving a white flag and needing a hug, all of these reasons have come crawling out of the past. Finally. Since the distillation of my emotions and thoughts, fear seems to be their leader.

When you’re angry, jealous, sad or hurt, ask yourself why? And then ask yourself why again. And again, and again….trust me, it always, always boils down to fear.

So give yourself the bad days, the pissy, miserable moods, and yah, every once in a while you might slip up and lay on your horn for thirty seconds or flip an intentional bird. Just look a little deeper if you can when the clouds have passed. You might catch a glimpse of your fear poking out of hiding, ready to make friends.

 

Empty Coffee Cans & Gas Tanks – The Small Costs of Living With Intention

 

empty_coffee_pot_blasphemy_in_the_morning_mugsThis morning I opened the top of the coffee container to find that someone had used all of my flavoured coffee while I was on vacation. In 2013, all of my delicious half-caf vanilla flavoured coffee would still have been there.

And without my current employment, I  also wouldn’t have been able to afford a little escape to worship the sun near the equator. So, I guess I’ll take the near-empty coffee can, thank you very much.

Without an awesome kiddo, I also could not have taken a break. I mean, how many parents feel comfortable leaving their kid home, with access to the car?

I am truly blessed.

Three years ago during my annual June life review (yah, I do it in June, don’t ask why…that’s another story for another time), I decided that there were a few things out of order in my life, and I set an intention to work toward them. One of them being a coffee-addicted-partner who leaves just enough of my favourite coffee for four cups and a kid who has such a busy social and sports schedule that he needs the car most nights. Good damn thing they’re both cute.

Lately I’ve been waking up with a health concern on my mind. First thoughts being hopeful; is it gone? No. Is it any better?

Health was at the top of my 2013 list, and I’ve been pushing my own self-care aside like most women do when they are juggling parenting, work and relationships. It’s evident that I need to adjust my priorities. It’s also evident that I can.

What I mean is, my life is pretty darn good right now (knock on wood).

So, if you are like me; A ‘Type A’ working mother with a creative streak, life can often seem overwhelming and time extremely limited to work on all of the clever projects that cultivate vital energy in us.

Just take a moment to let the piles of paper remain where they are. Take a deep breath and sit your ass down with a cup of tea. Count your blessings. If you don’t have that many, begin to think about what you need and how to get there. Live with intention despite being pulled in a million directions; resist distraction and carve out the time you need to apply for a new job, create a relationship with a loving partner, take a walk…

And be sure to be thankful for the near-empty coffee can and empty tank of gas. It’s all a matter of perspective.