The Buddha at Our Feet: The Wisdom of Annie

buddhist toesBecause life is short, and our intuition is bang on.

That’s why we need women in our lives like Annie.

Annie is my new pedicure professional. She’s voluptuous, has a full-rolling-belly laugh, and swears like a sailor. She also believes in spirits and the unexplainable.

I had stumbled into her shop after having a wonderful massage from another great lady, Erin, my massage therapist. She had just finished up our hour long appointment by rubbing sweet orange essential oil in my scalp on on my face. I looked the full part of a wild woman, and I smelled like heaven.

“Oh my god, it looks fantastic! I thought you had mousse in it.” Was Annie’s response when I tried to explain away my crazy she-wolf hair.

Annie could barely take her eyes off her phone when I walked in, no doubt skeptical about having to deal with another ho-hum woman who wanted her nails shaped just so-and-not-like-that-but-like-this. But both being straightforward and open women, it didn’t take long for us to connect.

Crouched at my feet was a wise-goddess disguised as a blue-collar-service worker.

Sometimes we stumble upon people in our lives that reinforce our own wild nature. Annie is one of those people.

At first, I thought, “Sweet Jesus, save me from the blabber-mouthed fool.” But she kept talking, and I realized that although some of what she said was shocking, it was all true. True to her, true in the world, and deeper than talking about the weather, or how our children were doing so well in school. Annie gets it.

She gets feeling nervous about firsts, body image, the plate full of worries that every woman sits down to every morning. She knows what it’s like to look down and think; I’d rather go hungry than digest this shit, and she carries on. We are kindred spirits.

It is so easy to slip into the Stepford-trap of conformity, of body-hating, of tame language, or wanting what the Jones’ have. It’s so easy to not be satisfied, to crave more, to fall into the trap of feeling not-good-enough.

Women like Annie are few and far between. I have been blessed to have her in my life; a Buddha at my feet.

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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.

 

Us vs. Them: A Dangerous Game During Dangerous Times

single-issues-struggleIt was super important to me to  able to take part in the Women’s March on Washington, here in my own country.

I have been sick like a dog for over a week, but felt the need to show up and be present.

As we gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto, I initially felt a little disappointed with the crowd, but estimates are that approximately 60,000 people attended. How they come up with these numbers, I will never know.

Standing on the muddy ground of our provincial legislature, I was humbled. How could I express my gratitude to be able to gather like this on public lands to advocate for human rights, when so many times in (relatively) recent history, people have been tortured, killed and imprisoned for doing the same thing?

I was also a bit cynical . I’d never seen so many pairs of pricey Blundstones and Doc Martin’s in one place in my life, and from where I stood, the crowd looked pretty darn, middle-class-privileged-and-very-white. Let’s face it, the folks working for minimum wage were working their minimum wage jobs while I was out there in my down-filled coat and Canadian made hat, looking forward to a warm pub and a hearty beer after all was said and done.

But that’s the point really. If people with some affluence and power do not advocate, the marginalized may never have a voice big enough to be heard.

singleissueslives

 

This all lingers under the shadow of the recent inauguration of a man who espouses so many vile qualities and completely lacks empathy. As a bit of an economic conservative and extremely social liberal, I fear the future. Even though I favour the left, this election wasn’t about Conservative vs. Liberal or Republican vs. Democrat. It was about how deeply disturbing it is that a man who is so cruel could be looked to as a leader by so many.

Kindness, above all else, matters. I’m not talking about  naivete or handouts.What I’m talking about is ensuring the basic needs of everyone are met; meaningful work that affords food on the table and a safe place to live. I know what it’s like to worry about both, and that kind of worry isn’t healthy.

What I’m trying to get at is that yesterday during the Womens’ March, I was very aware of how quickly my rights can be taken away. How easily it becomes an us against them game; I’m more of a victim than you because of my gender, my skin colour, my profession….in other words, how easy it is to fracture our basic bond as human beings, and how easily our political world can turn to horror.

We need to let the different freedoms we’re fighting for bring us together rather than divide us.

It was empowering to see so many of us care enough to get out of our comfort zones to gather together this weekend. I just hope that we can keep the momentum going instead of letting our privileged, North American apathy carry us back to relive a very dark time in our recent history. More than ever we need action. More than ever we need to be present.

 

 

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.

Life As Poetry: A Lesson From L. Cohen

bubblesI woke up this morning and don’t you know it, that tiniest bit of fear about change had crept in while I was sleeping.

Change often is an uncomfortable process that yeilds beautiful results – if you let it.

So, as I padded around in my bare feet looking for my glasses, I paused to open an email from a couple whom I consider kindred spirits.  It inspired me, motivated me, and chased that little inkling of fear right out of my heart. It reminded me that my life ought to be more like my poetry; free flowing and without too much overthinking.

It’s time for change. It’s time to give my creativity, ‘land, lots of land under starry skies above,’. It’s been fenced in far too long.

I have work to do, and what better way to get motivated to clear physical and existential space than to listen to the wisdom of Leonard Cohen???

Wishing you a beautiful day…xo

Pussy Grabbers & A Feminist Who Sends Christmas Cards

holiday-partyIf you’re offended by the headline, you might want to buckle up. If a disgusting greed-pig like Donald Trump can say the word on a global stage, any woman can use it to express herself. Suck it up.

I run a single-income, single family home, and I do it with chutzpah and pride. Until yesterday, I had forgotten about creating our annual dysfunctional-family-Christmas-card. Christmas here consists of a lot of visiting, a lot of food, lots of love, and a liberal sprinkling of wine. Self-described as a feminist-Buddhist-quasi-libertine, Christmas is another excuse to enjoy life. Don’t judge.

So this morning, job one (after making coffee and putting in a butternut squash to roast for a pot of soup) was to create our card.

Flipping through an old issue of the Shambala Sun (now The Lion’s Roar), I was reading an article about how a lady used to do the same thing, and how the card adapted to life’s changes; children, pets, grandchildren, her spouse…very sweet. But then one year when she placed her order and the question of quantity came up, there was no one left to send the card to. All of her contemporaries had passed away. Very sad.

So this is life. This passing of time. Just yesterday I was explaining to a colleague that I view ‘spending’ my time, much like a miser considers ‘spending’ their money. Time is the most precious thing that we have, and in the wake of the election results in the United States, I think that it’s important to take some of your precious time to consider exactly why and how the good ole’ U-S-of-A (and quite frankly, the rest of the modern western world), got where it is today.

And please, don’t misunderstand this as a jaded feminist perspective. It’s a justified, feminist perspective.

The most powerful ‘leader’ in the world, elected to office via a ‘democratic’ system, routinely and openly flaunted his disrespect for women, going so far as to comment that he would date his own daughter because she’s ‘hot’ (there’s a word for that  you incestuous slob), and how about his ‘grabbing them by the pussy’ moments? I’m sure a heterosexual man would be pleased if his fearless leader ok’d homosexual rape in the same nonchalant way.

When I think about how I spend my time, I can’t help but consider how much of the values of men (and women) like this steal my life, moment by moment.

I do not hate men. I happen to love men. But I will not abide this male-value-system, slut-shaming bullshit any longer. My life is too precious.

This year, I ordered my Christmas cards and remembered the story of the old lady who no longer had anyone to send them to. I will not live in anger as the majority of the world runs around chasing a commodity that will exist long after our last breath.

I will live freely. I will enjoy the finer things in life; friendship, creativity, meaningful work, making love with whomever the hell I like. You know, the things in life that don’t require a ticket, and  don’t require the approval of men who grab pussies.

 

 

A Place You Belong, A Sense of Purpose & Someone Who Loves You

storytotellYesterday I started reading The Rainbow Comes and Goes. Perhaps drawn by fame and perhaps drawn by the mother-son relationship, I lugged it in to my pedicure appointment and settled in for a bit of escape.

I have to admit, my first literary choice was Change Up, but I’d forgotten that on my way out the door. So, having had  a crap weekend, struggling with grief, belonging, and contemplating my very independent (aka alone) status in the world, I shelled out for a book that had piqued my interest, but likely never would have read had I not been so distracted. Ah yes, we must be thankful for serendipity and the overwhelming feeling that we need to disappear.

It’s interesting to me that the stories people tell themselves; the ones that shape their identity and perspective often go untold. It’s often the ugly-step-sister emotions, like not being good enough, that drive us to be better. They drive us toward what is right and good, because let’s face it, wrong and bad are only fun for so long.

Reading about Anderson Cooper and his famous mommy G.V. reminded me again that we’re all the same inside. Regardless of whether you’re just an average cog in the machine, or someone strapped with a moniker tied to family and wealth, I believe that we all seek the same things; a sense of belonging, purpose, and connection to someone who deeply loves us.

When those things are missing, getting out of bed in the morning can be a bit like taking the first step on the road to hell. Being tired is one thing. Being tired of it all is another. But we do it. We get up when we feel out of place and alone, and we carry on. We all must do it every once in a while, but lately, as in the past few years, it feels a bit relentless.

So, if you’re feeling out of sorts  (like me), you need to have some quiet time to see what’s out of balance, and what, if anything, you can do about it.

Reading a short essay about meditation and practice, I came across an idea that helped me during my last retreat. When we meditate we begin to ask ourselves basic questions. We may seek answers from books or teachers or friends. The reality is that no one has the answers, and just as importantly, no one can tell you which questions you need to ask yourself. But it always comes down to ‘why’.

During a walking meditation along the Ottawa river I came to my ‘why’. I was more than a bit surprised at what I came up with. Which of course led to a more important why, and I’m still working on that one.

As you work toward your ‘why’, may you have peace in your heart. Wishing you and I both a place where we belong, something to do that makes us proud, and someone who loves us deeply.

 

 

Cloud-Watching; Dreaming Back to Life

clouds

We are all music makers and the dreamers of dreams.

A brown painted fence. A gnarled and sprawling crabapple tree. The sky. Blue like the lake that was just a short walk away; always changing, wide open, endless and without possibility. This was the sky that was the object of my meditation as a child. It was second only to the endless landscape of water which met the horizon, always leaving me feeling full of hope, like the world had so much to offer.

In my grandparents side yard, facing a brown-painted fence, with my bum resting on the criss-crossed vinyl weave of lawnchair mesh, my bare feet dangling, not able to touch the ground, I would let my head fall back so I could take in the changing shape of the clouds.

Often my granny would be sitting next to me in deep daydream mode.Through squinted eyese, I could see airplanes  break up the serenity  of the sky, or the confusion of clouds twist and reform over and over again. Old before my time from witnessing so much of the of the broken world of adults, I remember often saying, “Granny, I wish I were on that airplane going somewhere far away.”  And just as often,  she would reach out her hand to mine and matter-of-factly reply, ” Me too. But you know, you always have to come back. No matter where you go, you always come back“.

I was never one hundred percent sure what she meant by that, but it made me just a little bit uncomfortable. I liked to think that one day I could just pack and up leave without coming back for anything, ever.As an adult, I know that she’s right. The things that we want to escape from and the things that keep us up at night, travel with us wherever we go; loss, love, fear and joy. They are silent, uninvited, travel companions.

This morning I had a rare opportunity to wake without an alarm. But I did wake with alarm. A difficult dream, but not horrific enough to drop in the bucket of nightmares. Dreaming now is left to rare moments when I forget my obligations, or when I wake slowly, aware that I’m dreaming, but not yet fully awake.

Quite often when our minds wander, daydreaming, lucid dreaming, or dreaming during our sleep cycles, they either bring great escape and offer wish fulfilment, or they take us back to unresolved elements of our life that dare rap on the door of consciousness for some attention. Such was the case this morning.

We are all still the child who daydreamed at the way the wispiness of the clouds changed shape from seashell to fire breathing dragon. We  all carry universal fears and dreams in our tender hearts.

I have learned that my granny was right though. No matter what I do; degrees attained, professional accolades, adventures sought and conquered, we all have to come back. We come back to our own selves, time and time again; vulnerable, fearful, curious, and always looking for the tiniest spark of hope.

 

 

Nice Luggage, Let Me Burn It For You

burning luggagePart of my spring ( and sometimes fall ) ritual is heading off to a silent, spiritual retreat. Lead by monastics, it’s an opportunity to sit with my own thoughts, emotions and reflection.

For most participants it’s a bit gruelling, myself included. It’s not the silence that we struggle with, it’s the constant clanging of our own thoughts echoing relentlessly in our own minds.

Silent, solitary reflection leaves no room to escape one’s own bullshit, as it were. There are many silent tears, some not so silent weeping, but much joy in having a sangha to practice with.

Trying to be a better person isn’t a one-shot deal. It’s a daily effort, and a life-long journey. I’m better than I used to be, but boy oh boy, do I ever eff it all up sometimes too.

And I’m not alone in the eff-ing it all up. We all do it. Because we’re all human, and we’re all afraid of something.

Today I wanted to go get a puppy, eat Captain Crunch cereal for breakfast, and go out to stomp in the mud without combing my hair. In other words darling, I wanted to be a kid; A carefree, do what I pleased individual, immune from consequences. I wanted to escape.

Escape from what? I lead a rather charmed life, I’ve cultivated an image of  independent-do-as-I-pleaseness, and lots of women are a bit jealous of it. But it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. It’s a hard thing to change, this hard-won, Teflon veneer, (and just as hard on my sweetie), and quite frankly darlings, I’m way overdue for a change.

Alas, this morning I did not do any of those things that would have been escape-like. Instead, I made breakfast, threw a load of laundry in, and stared at my tired eyes in the bathroom mirror before sighing a big sigh and convincing myself to let it go and get on with my day.

In my previous post, Spring Road Tripping, I wrote about the rare sound of the laughter of friends. It seems that as adults, we’ve all over-packed and prepared an arsenal of protective gear  for our futures, based on past wounds. Whether you’re thinking the key to lifelong happiness is building a wall to keep everyone out,  blaming someone else for your own mistakes, or simply burying your head in the sand, rest assured, you’re only buying into your own bullshit. So don’t bring along a wardrobe for it.

Bullshit in a  frock is still bullshit. No one deserves to be judged based on someone else’s behaviour, no matter how you tart it up. Last night I did it, and my sweetie did it, and from the sounds of it, we’re not alone.

Time to let that shit go lovelies. For me, you, and everyone.

Can you enter into each interaction with a sense of generosity?”  That was the quote of the day, and immediately I thought, “Can I enter into each interaction and let all of my fears, baggage and hurt, go?” I figure if we can let that go, there’s really no other intent than generosity. If we can let that go, there’s really no expectation.

It’s the same for a lot of people. Can we enter into each interaction without casting a shadow from the past on something unspoiled, true and good? Can we?

Fear seems to be the beast, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been letting it get the best of me lately, when really, I should be rejoicing.

Life is good. Love is good. I think that’s all I should carry with me on the next stage of this strange and mysterious journey. That, and a little bit of emergency chocolate. Pass me a match and that bag over there, will you?

Decluttering; Physical Space for Our Spiritual Mojo

letitgoChange is the only constant. It’s one of those cliché sayings which sings a universal truth.

As a professional in the area of saying good-bye, I’ve had most of my adult life to contemplate what change and loss mean. I’ve discovered after all of this time and all of the practice I’ve had waving bon voyage to life, that I’m neither good nor bad dealing with my own emotions. I’m merely human.

I’m about three months late here getting to my annual decluttering.  I tend to start at the back of our little abode, and work my way to the front.  My walk-in-closet has become a repository for stuff I’m not ready to say a final adieu, and craft projects that moved with me here over eight years ago.

So often we equate loss to death or divorce, or the careers that build up our egos. But loss is as shapeshifter, forever appearing and then becoming invisible in our lives. It’s there, like music at the dentist’s office; for the most part you don’t hear it over your whirring mind, but every once in a while you notice the sound of the piano, or pan flute, and it either irritates the hell out of you, or lifts your spirits. Either way, it’s there.

One of my projects is to sift through a pile of photo albums. By pile I mean about 30 books.  They’re all little tickle-trunks of memory and persona that myself and my loved ones have tried on over the years.

It’s time to say good-bye to those things.  Keeping a few photos to pass along to my kiddo, and tossing the rest will not only give me more space, but also release some of the tidbits of  old memories that cling like dust-bunnies to my identity.

This morning I had a brief chat about building new relationships and not dragging shit from the past into them. That’s something I’ve become good at – not reliving my many adventures in man-land. At this stage, I do not want to punish any man for someone else’s behaviour, nor do I wish to relive any of my past relationships with anyone else. I certainly am not ready for a starring role as spectator to someone else’s ended love-affair. I’m too old for that darlings, and frankly, it’s a little dull.

At this age and stage, after all of my life experience, I appreciate true love, laughter, silliness and shenanigans. Kindness is king, and nice matters.

Decluttering is often the physical evidence of letting go of the past, and being able to step unencumbered into the present moment. Spiritually it’s a cleanse, and it re-invigorates us.

With the release of physical items that hold the energy of past experience, I often feel lighter, more grounded in who I am and what I’m about.  I also have room for fresh, new clothes and fresh, new adventures. There may even be some space in there for new memories that we declutter years from now, smiling and happy in our hearts about remembering-when.