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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.

 

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2017- Wishing You Enough

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“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” ~Walt Whitman~
Enough.

It was a simple sign that hung above the chair of my friend’s father during the last years of his life. We were never sure whether it meant he’d had enough, or that he felt like all that he had was enough; a distinct difference.

It was a quiet transition from the old to the new this year, but a transition nonetheless. With change on the horizon at our home for  the slippery, tail end of 2017,  it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In the moment however, I feel like I have enough, and that’s an awfully nice feeling.

One thing that I’ve noticed contributes to much unsatisfaction and anxiety is how ruthlessly we subject the minutiae of our lives to the scrutiny of being under the microscope.

Enough navel gazing already!

Enough analyzing to death every, single, damn thing that you do. Be. In.The. Moment.

My wish for you during 2017 is that your, “Enough”, is the deep, soul-satisfying kind.

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Christmas: The Perfect Time to ‘Find Yourself’

vmask
What you see is what you get.
I had an interesting conversation tonight. Interesting in that I’ve heard it a zillion times from a zillion people; “I’m finding myself”.

Which, by virtue of the ability to be found, means that some element of oneself, was, indeed, thought to have been  lost.

After very little thought, and perhaps a dash too much  judgement, I came to the conclusion that those who have felt lost were not lost, but sold.

Sold as in; sold the big ol’ American dream. They have bought into the who, what, where, when and why of existence as deemed necessary by our completely make-believe economy. After all darlings, Just like Saint Nick, if you believe, it must be real.

Someone pass my wine….

What I think ‘finding’ one’s self truly means is that people find themselves in an unexpected solitude. Finally they have the space and time necessary to contemplate  mundane aspects of their life which have previously been taken for granted.

Daily routine for instance, or whether or not they like a certain type of music, sex, or art.

Finding oneself is often accomplished in the reflection of solitude against companionship; the interaction between contemplation and practice.

Finding oneself in the moment is all that there really is. What better time to practice than Christmas time, when we are often time and energy stretched and prone to  participate in more social interaction?

The present moment is where you will always find yourself. And you rarely find yourself the same way twice. Learning this will help you honour who you  are in each precious moment, in each exchange of energy with your colleagues, friends, relatives and lovers.

This is where your mask slips, allowing you see your reflection, frowning or smiling just as you are. Who you are is who you are, in each, precious moment.

 

 

 

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Boring Buddhist vs. Ballsy Buddhist; You decide

lotusmudAs many of you know, I’m a lover, philosopher, meditator, opinion-giver and writer.

I try to live by Buddhist philosophy, and also, when that doesn’t suit me, by the seat of my very well-tailored pants.

Lately I’ve been depressed, anxious, restless, and chiding myself for feeling this way, until I re-read part of an article about the virtues of boredom;

…Later on, in the bathroom picking up dingy wet towels, I notice the mildew creeping up the bottom of the shower curtain. This is not the life of precious tributes. It’s one you want to throw out. And many of us do. We replace people, places, and things that have grown charmless and tiresome – which they always do. Fascination fades and restlessness stirs.

Chasing the picture perfect, we can lose what we have in abundance – the times that teach us even more than the rare delight of butterflies or a robin’s blue eggs. We lose the hours, the days, and the decades when nothing much seems to happen at all. Time freezes. Paint dries. Mildew spreads. We’re bored out of our minds.

Boredom is the unappreciated path to patience, peace, and intimacy, so who would read a paean to it? Let that be your koan.

Booooring… by Karen Maezen Miller Shambabhala Sun, September 2012, p19.

Upon first reading, it makes sense, but then you think of attachment, and wonder what the virture is in remaining attached to people, places or things that may have already taught you what you need to learn from them.

What if this is just a platitude to keep us all little cogs in what really is a materialistic, capitalistic driven lifestyle in the west?

Hmmm?  Have a think darlings, but I know what my plan is for the next few years. It’s not about sticking with the charmless, or discarding it.

It’s about appreciating what I’ve learned and moving on to a more rich and full life, with new experiences. That doesn’t make me a bad Buddhist, that just makes me brave.

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The Angry Optimist

saidatallI’m an optimist and I frequently get pissed off. I’m also a Buddhist, so the apparent juxtaposition doesn’t bother me. Nothing is permanent, everything is interconnected, and damn it, it’s all going to be ok!

The idea of ‘choice’ has recently come up a few times during discussions with friends, and even people who are not friends.

Choice. Choosing. Circumstance. Karmic energy. Discernment. Biscotti.

Yah, that was a choice today too, and I enjoyed one dipped in my one and only coffee of the day.

More recently I have been choosing optimism. You don’t know if you don’t try right? You can’t change your circumstance if you disengage from the world. Yet, you can’t make healthy choices if you engage with the wrong choices over and over; finances, relationship and wearing white socks for example.

Lately, I’ve liked the way that the word discernment rings a bell of mindfulness in my wee, little girl brain. I like the idea of self-respect, time and thought-management. That’s right, thought-management.

Most hurtful things have nothing to do with us, it has to do with the person you think is hurting you. It’s likely their issue, not yours. You just happen to offer a sounding-board, and you can either absorb their toxins, reflect it back, or better yet, convert that energy to something better for you.

Bad choices, selfish people, rude people, hurtful people sometimes make me sad or angry , and I’ve discovered that as I become more discerning, I also become more optimistic. Anger forces optimism. Huh?

For example, this morning started with a wash of bad news even before I made it to my writing desk. But the beauty of the darkness was that, it was not my darkness to absorb. It was darkness to reflect upon, and then choose how I would frame my day.

So the next time someone hurts you or disappoints you, or makes you angry, take a few moments to figure out what within yourself is hurt, and then go love the hell out of that wounded spot. All, day, long.  Go ahead and say the ‘F’ word if you need to. Say it a few times in different contexts if you need too.

Regardless of ‘F’ word or not, you will soon figure out that if you’re not satisfied with what you have, it will push you to something better, but you have to be angry enough to be an optimist, and that takes guts.

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The Smile that Changes The World

lifeliveitSometimes a single smile can change your mood, and in such a way, your whole world in the present moment.

Those kinds of smiles are precious and rare. They are an outward expression of the divine within all of us. They make the smiler and the smilee better as a result of the spiritual alchemy between the two.

Quite often, it takes a lifetime to recognize the kind of smile I’m referring to; genuine, easy and radiant. Years ago I was given a compliment, that at the time, I didn’t fully understand. “You have an easy smile“.

No, it didn’t mean that I looked easy, or was easy. It meant that when I smiled it wasn’t put on, it was sincere. At the time I thought it was a really strange observation. “Isn’t every smile genuine“, I thought to myself, “why would anyone smile if they didn’t mean it“?

Ah, but there’s the rub my darlings. Smiles can be as deceiving as false promises and men with an itch to scratch. Yes indeed, having an ‘easy smile’ is a compliment.

Sometimes people who remain smiling and even happy despite difficult circumstances are accused of being fake, or even crazy. Just today I was mocked because I am generally cheerful as I go about my work-a-day business.  As the saying goes,

…and those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music

Indeed. I often hear the music of life that others can’t. It’s so easy to cast a dark shadow over light because it illuminates the cracks and flaws we all work to hide.

I am fortunate to have had the circumstance in life to be able to be peaceful within myself…sometimes. But I’ll take sometimes over never. I’ll take a genuine smile over a broken promise or frown-lines any day.

So, to everyone in my life who has an ‘easy smile’, thank you for believing that the glass is always half-full, that there is always a silver lining, that tomorrow is always  a fresh new days with no mistakes in it, and knowing that life is what you make of it.

If you see someone smiling, believe that smile. Take it with you, and then share it with someone else. Yours is the smile  changes the world, even if it’s just your own world.

Each smile has the power to change the world. Right now. In this moment.

 

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The Lazy Buddhist

"You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour." ~ Old Zen Saying~
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
~ Old Zen Saying~

I’m a lazy Buddhist.

Some days I’m more of a lazy Protestant, Hindu, Jew, Taoist, Muslim or Catholic. It just depends on how I’m feeling. I like to go with the spiritual flow, if you know what I mean.

How can I be all of those things? Well, it’s kinda like this;  I really struggle to wear the uniform of any single religion. I’m spiritual, and have found a home in my Buddhist practice. It  brought me to a much deeper understanding of my Protestant roots, and my academic study of religion.

But I’m lazy about it.

Today I put off a full day of meditation because I woke up with the same headache and sniffly nose that I went to bed with last night.

Mind you, I could have taken a seat in the meditation hall full of decongestants with a side of tissues, but it was so very much easier to stay in bed and cuddle with my 1500 count, aubergine-coloured sheets.

Granted the other folks attending today’s retreat are thankful that I didn’t come and clutter up their atmosphere with sniffles, bacteria, and a high level of shifting on my organic buckwheat hull-filled cushion, I could have gone.

Instead, I got up, had a glass of water and went back to bed, where, my body and mind rested for 5 more hours.

As usual, I made my way to my preferred coffee shop, sat back, and read the news. The piece that caught my ever-distracted eye was in the Focus section of the Globe and Mail. Crushed, by Erin Anderssen was a bell back to some thought about my own practice, and how, when I need it the most, I abandon it like a kitten distracted by an ant.

I have been worrying a lot lately. A lot. Worry is something that used to drive me toward my goals and accomplishments. Now it just drives me to bourbon, quick fixes and eventually, back to my breath.

Friendships wax and wane. Everyone has their own problems, and let’s face it, even though you may ask for someone to share their perspective, decisions have to be made with your very own unique concoction of rational thought and intuition. I tend to go heavy on the rational thought, and overboard on the intuition.

In the past, decisions that I’ve made from a place of fear or worry have been quick fixes that offered only temporary satisfaction.

For a week I’ve been stewing over something pretty hard. A simple ten minute session on my cushion mid-week, just before bedtime,  offered some release, and the most solid night of sleep I’ve had in months. I woke up with a new perspective.

So today I missed a great opportunity to share sacred, even holy, space with other people who know the power of practice within the safe space of a sangha. Instead, I chose to rest my own body and mind.

I felt guilty about not going, but then I decided to be at peace with peace. Both at letting myself get some solid rest, and for making a decision that wavered contrary to popular opinion. Just to be sure, I did some math, and realized that both my intuition and rational thought process were right on the money.

This week I had expressed my fears, hopes and thoughts to my friends, soliciting their perspectives and advice. They offered support  when I had come to a conclusion, and confided that with regard to this matter that was on my mind, I had made a poor decision before. I had to agree, and then, after calming my mind, I had to disagree.

This is life. Lived uniquely on our own, despite being surrounded by people; some caring, some sent teachers, and some we will never know.

Am I a lazy Buddhist, or am I just one who, working intensely with human loss each and every day, needed some space?

Breathing room and solitude are often mistaken for sloth. Don’t let anyone else’s ideas fool you.

When in doubt, hit the floor and give yourself ten for  zen. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.