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.

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.

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.

Inspiration: As Far As You Can Carry It

Artists know that inspiration comes in waves; sometimes in the gentle, steady rhythm of a lake waking up to the sunrise, and other times overwhelming, crashing into you like the Pacific coast tide.

The thing about inspiration is it’s only as good as how far you can carry it. After all, we can only balance so much. The mundane tasks of everydayness often take up both hands.

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talked about inspiration as a living thing, that moved on if it wasn’t nurtured in our care.  What she had to say as a professional writer resonated with me, and made me feel a bit better. Careless with inspiration, but at least not the only one.

As a full-time working, single mom, my second novel kind of bit the dust. But I’m nothing if not resourcesful, and optimistic too. Instead of trying to twist it into some kind of tome, I’m going to use what I have and craft a short story. I’m also hoping that by doing this, the inspiration my be wooed back, and stick around for the long haul required of a novel. I know if that does happen, that the success or failure of the project will depend on me; on my dedication, devotion and prioritizing.

Either way it will be fine. The inspiration will be freed; to move on, or to take up residence in the pages of my creation.

Inspiration comes my darling friends, but how long it stays with us depends entirely upon how long we are able to carry it.

One in a while we have to reassess what’s weighing us down in favour of what lifts us up.

Sports Moms – When It’s Your Turn to Be Inspired

football benchAbout two weeks ago I was brought to my knees by sharp pain and then was overcome with panic.

I thought I had a heart attack.

A little thick around the middle, and always in the kitchen, I made a quick decision to become more active. Not running-marathons-and-and-eating-kelp-sandwiches-active, but more active.

Flashback a billion years to all of the summers, winters, springs and falls that I sat on the sidelines cheering on my athletically gifted kiddo. I drank a lot of tea from drive-thru windows and kept the company of other parents doing the very same thing.  As he ran and played, I was plopped in a lawnchair, making sure that when he looked up, Mom was there. I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking at 11pm after late baseball games so he went to bed with a full tummy. So my  butt got a little chunky.

I have been all of the following; a baseball mom, a football mom, a cricket mom, a basketball mom, a curling mom, a badminton mom and  a did-you-do-your-homework-mom.

During the past two weeks, I have developed a greater appreciation of my child’s experience during his childhood of sporting.  How much did my presence feel like pushing? How much did it feel like support? I guess I’ll never really know.  What I always hoped was that he was doing something he loved, that made him feel good, and made him feel proud of himself. I wanted my boy to have confidence.

What I do know is that pushing through the discomfort of new levels of physical movement takes some grit. Trust me, I’ve had to have grit a’plenty during my lifetime, but it’s been a mental grit. A determination to get through one day at a time. Physical grit, not so much.

My body has always had a comfortable ease about it. I was built for hugging, cuddling, and lounging during long, philosophical conversations about religion, politics and gender equality issues.   Wine adores my body. So does chocolate, champagne and puff pastry.

So I’m swinging a golf club for the first time, and running my ass off, and sweating. Like a man. It’s not pretty, and parts of me actually hurt.

I can’t help but think of my son. I think of how hard he as worked to accomplish the things that he has. He’s on a national sports team, plays a bahzillion sports, and maintains his grades, and also puts up with a rather flamboyant mamma.

My old bones ache in places where I forgot it could possibly hurt in the first place, and it reminds me of how hard my son has worked and what strength and grace he’s had to develop in order to accomplish  it all.

Running at my little gym, I have an extraordinary view of a public play-space and just beyond that a beautiful lake in the middle of our bustling city. I watch parents come out and play with their kids, some of them shooting baskets, and others, likely tired single-moms like I was, sitting in a chair and keeping an eye on their kids as they play.

portable locker roomI want to go out there and tell those weary parents that it’s all worth it; that team sports and athletics are worth every early morning, every weekend taken up with tournaments, and all of the leaving early and working overtime that has to happen to make it work.  Not because it just keeps their bodies healthy, but because it develops character and forms strong bonds of friendship. I want to tell those parents that gaining an extra ten or twenty pounds is not the end of the world. Missing your kids’ childhood is.

So, this afternoon, when what I really want to do is nap with the cat. I will likely be running my little 30 minute marathon, because my son sets a damn good example and if he can push himself to do it, damn it, so can I.

When you raise an athlete, there comes a turning point where you are no longer their inspiration. Instead, they become yours. It’s a very hard feeling to describe. Pride doesn’t quite cut it, but joy comes close.

 

 

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.

 

Wharehouse Shopping & My Mortality

shoes

I’ve been feeling miserable as hell, but faking it quite well.

Sounds like the lyrics of a B-class rock song, but  it’s true.

I’ve been on the downhill slide of feeling like absolute shit for months, and mostly successful at ignoring it. Until yesterday. Yesterday was not a good day in the health diary of your-fabulous-one.

But here I am, at home, and not dead. Go figure.

Haruki Murakami wrote that pain is inevitable and suffering is optional. It’s a particularly Buddhist quote and it resonates with me as does the fact that the natural state of our bodies is one of health.

So, today, faced with setting up more appointments that will see me sitting in dirty yet sterile looking waiting rooms, I decided that despite pain and suffering, I was going to get on with the business of life.  I mean, I have shit to do man.

Spring has sprung in our little corner of the world, and I fully intend on taking advantage of it.

 

Today after my appointment with the doctor, who confirmed that I am indeed NOT dead, I went to get myself a new pair of  shoes. While I was shopping at one of my sketchy wharehouse sales that make me feel the essence of living on one salary, cue the gunmetal steps with the wood two by four railing and bald fluorescent  lighting….

Anyway, I needed these damn walking shoes…at about twenty five steps into what I am convinced is the next best thing to illegal merchandise, the namesake of the wharehouse gets on the intercom and I shit you not, he says this…

….You’ll have to excuse me because I don’t speak Chinese, so you’ll have to put up with my English. To all of you who are tearing apart my store, I’m going to have my staff ask you to leave. I paid for this stuff and I don’t want you ruining it. I’d rather you shop somewhere else because I don’t need your business…

At first I was appalled, and then I almost died laughing. What a circus!

Often I’ve been accused of being too direct, too bold, too independent, too smart,  wearing clothes that are too loud, and having boobs that are too big.

“Have you ever thought of having those reduced?” Um, yah genius. Would you like to pay my bills while I heal? No? Then shut up.

"No, no, no! It's longer with a bigger blade!"Having been feeling loogy for the past few months, I’ve had some time to reflect. I’ve actually been scared. Yes, afraid. I’m not often afraid of things, but the thought of really, really bad news about your mortality can make you a bit anxious.

What I realized is that I have very few (if any) regrets. Other than having my finances in better order, or a little less clutter for my son to clear out, or maybe not being able to be a mom for longer, I really have had a life well-lived.

Most of that is because of my too-muchness. I have lived out the curious corners that most people avoid as they tread the safe line of social acceptance and keeping up with the Jones’.

what are you talking aboutSo I had to give kudos to the man who called out the rabid greed of warehouse shoppers today. I love being with people who know how to cut to the chase when it’s necessary. Life is, indeed, short.

The last thing I want to waste time on is bullshit, and the first thing I want to waste time on is good conversation, delicious food, wonderfully thoughtful company, playing, laughing and being present in the joy that the present moment has to offer.

For now I will cope with this ill-health in the best frame of mind possible, remembering the comforting truth that the natural state of my body is one of health, and that although I may be in pain, suffering is optional.  I will also wear bright clothing, speak my mind, and laugh at everything.

So, if you’re mucking up my present moment, I’m going to ask you to leave. I don’t need your business.