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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Ringtones, Podcasts & Cupcakes

Today my phone chimed in with the famous ringtone I used to assign to men worthy of the term, ‘lover‘,  Let’s Get it On. Yes, I’ve a twisted sense of humour and I’m a phone screener extraordinaire. This ringtone used to either inspire my laughter or disgust, and based on my reaction, I knew whether I wanted to pick up or not.

 

What are old lovers if not opportunistic? Having known my preferences for well over a decade, he was fulfilling his annual happy-new-year-can-I-get-up-your-skirt-check-in-requirement, that quite frankly, had served him  well throughout the years.

Despite my hands-off status, it was interesting to hear from him. You see, besides his jack-of-all-boudoir-trades skills, he was quite a companion of intellect as well.

Which got me to thinking about thinking.

plato-s-symposium-anselm-feuerbach-1873Intellect and thoughtful conversation have always been a huge turn on for me. In our fast-paced lives of distracted-attention-deficit-afflicted-engagement with our loved ones and contemporaries, who has time to think? Like, really take time to put an idea on its’ axis and examine it from all sides? More importantly, who even realizes that we don’t do that? Most importantly, who takes time to set aside a few hours to have meandering discussions about ideas or the creative process, or how we found ourselves at the bottom of the political wheel again? Very few people even have the time, attention or inclination to actually read books (yes, plural) with fully expounded upon ideas, let alone form any original thoughts all on their own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scolding anyone, I’m as guilty as the next cog.

Tonight, the noise from the television was right up with there with the noise from a leaf blower (a contraption I believe proves our culture has lost it’s collective fucking mind). With dramatic music playing in the background, and a black and neon blue-lit set to match, celebrity couples were  being pimped on one of those disgustingly pretentious cooking shows.  Le sigh….

Has the world seriously come down to this? Really? We’re judging other people’s fondant and cupcakes with more earnest than our national leaders? Buh. Arf. Do something worthwhile for crying out loud! Sit at the table and eat wieners and beans, but for the love of all that’s holy, try to have an intelligent, engaged conversation.

The poop on the television was in direct contrast to the entertainment I chose on a short road-trip this afternoon. A phone call from a previous lover inspired me to take  time to indulge in some exercise for my intellect. It was refreshing to step away from the madness and listen to someone who has taken the time to do some thinking for us.

 

In a world filled with entertainment that at best can be a terrific study in dramatic background music (queue the chocolate cupcakes ), podcasts can offer us  something more substantial.

Trust me, I understand the value of small talk to safely test the waters of new acquaintances. For every discussion about philosophy, spirituality, art, or global justice, there is also a place for sports and fashion, but now, more than ever, we need to nurture our collective spirituality in order to hang on to not-so-long-ago-hard-won-social-justice.

Set the table and I’ll bring the cupcakes.

Can I Get a Witness?

old-man-kissing-old-woman-on-foreheadSome time ago, I stared across the table at a man who used to be my lover. The menu wasn’t all that spectacular, but that didn’t matter.

What mattered was that after all of this time, we were still close in one another’s hearts.

What mattered was that we were there.

Back almost where we started so very long ago. Less than a block away from his old place, and the same distance from where I spent some of my most difficult and formative months at work.

It was fun to listen to him. Another man of privilege, just starting to find himself on the other side of the horizon of adulthood.

For people like me, who’ve had a harder than normal life, who’ve been alone, had no one to turn to at times, watching someone get to know themselves is an eye-opening process. It always makes me thankful that I had to be grounded in my own personal ethic and morals for so long.  It also frightens me thinking that so many adults wreak havoc with one another’s hearts trying to ‘find themselves’.

It can be frightening to watch someone twist and morph into a thousand different personas that they are not, being a bystander until they finally settle into who they are. Sometimes settling at peace, but more often catching peace in fleeting moments of sunlight, solitude or minor successes, and still not understanding that these small moments are peace.

Sometimes having the luxury of luxury isn’t such a great thing. You have the time and means to run away via travel, hobbies that require gobs of accessories, and buying highs (whether that comes in the form of delicious meals, booze, drugs or expensive cars and toys).

Ah yes, to be able to run away. I’ve done it, enjoyed being away, but also know the feeling of having the weight of a shadow on my back, despite being half way around the world.

To be at peace means to find joy in moments, and to come to uncertain feelings, thoughts and emotions without letting fear cloud the path to clarity.

Sitting across from this man whom I’ve known so well, I sat forward, happy to hear about his journey to becoming. What I forgot was that throughout the years, he had also been witnessing mine.

 

Giving Yourself the Moments

pandaplay

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all we ever have.” ~Eckhart Tolle~

Simultaneously I was voice-dialing my mumster and buckling my seatbelt when I was caught up in a moment.

Not a moment of city-driving-get-the-hell-outta-my-way. It was a moment of, “Ahhhhh…..” As in; big sigh of relief. Big sigh of, “I feel like I’m starting to pull myself together“.

After a long day, feet-throbbing, and 5:00 a.m. starts, I felt good. Satisfied, content, like maybe, just maybe I was ok.

As you all know, life has a way of knocking us around, and shaking our confidence. It also has a way of forcing you to surrender when the only fight you have left in you whispers, “I give up,” and then rolls over, gives your broken heart the finger, pulls the blankie over its’ head and goes to sleep.

Tonight, tired but happy, I gave myself the moment.

I let myself be grateful for just being where I was, simply in the moment. Grateful that I had a mumster to call, a kiddo to go home to, and especially that I have enough courage to keep moving forward.

We can only ever be certain of change, that our emotions can carry us to the most dark, frightening depths of the human condition and the loftiest heights of elation.

When we are in the moment; not anxious of the future or analyzing the past, we realize that it’s ok. We’re ok. Life is ok; As it is. Nothing less and nothing more.

Things Not Meant For You; Do We Ever Really Know?

Life is like one of those teachers who scare the living daylights out of you, but earns your respect for life.

This year, Life has offered me many opportunities to say good-bye.

Early this year, I tacked this little saying to my fridge.not meant for you

Grace and discernment are two qualities that I’ve become very conscious of during the past year or so. Little did I know when I tacked that little nugget of wisdom to the fridge, that I would turn to that saying over and over again, especially the, “…how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.

That’s a hard one. Mostly because we’re never really sure, are we darlings? Grace is one thing, but the discernment to know what or whom is meant for you is an entirely different ball game. It’s like you prepare for a game of football, and show up to find out that you’re playing badminton.

Life is a wonderful journey filled with surprises. The trick is to be able to stay curious and hopeful when the future remains unclear.

What I’ve learned about good-byes are that many of them are not really good-byes, they’re more like, ‘see you later’s’, or, ‘bye for now’s’.

Even the good-byes we look forward to are often just temporary absences until we’re presented with something from the past that needs some more attention. As we grow up, mature, and reach out, our worlds become smaller as we meet more and more people.

Death, break-ups, and career changes. I’ve experienced them all this year, and the fat lady of 2015 hasn’t finished singing yet.

Wishing you the grace to let go of the things that aren’t meant for you, and the ability to let go of trying to figure out if they really were.

Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

~Jimmy Buffett~

The Devastating Beauty of Heartbreak

"...and she finally stopped playing their song when she realized she was dancing alone..."

“…and she finally stopped playing their song when she realized she was dancing alone…”

Heartbreak leaves us utterly spent, hopeless and longing for connection.

It is a form of grief left to work its way out of your heart, struggling against every difficult, dark emotion that was hidden by the light of what you lost.

Our hearts break when our children suffer, when we witness injustice, when we lose a lover, a friend, or our family.

Our hearts break and our worlds change. To survive, we adapt, adjust, stretch ourselves to get through just one more minute, an hour, or a day.

I don’t know about you my darlings, but I’ve been heartbroken and stretched thin for far too long. I’ve wept morning, noon and night in between parenting, paying the bills and carrying out what-must-be-done-to-get-by.

Standing in front of the mirror wondering at how I got this damn old, my son said to me,  “You look good mom.”

“Like, ‘thinner‘ good?” I eyed my chubby profile before I slipped on my shoes.

No, like good all over. Even your face. Like you’re not so worried about work and stuff.” I’ve raised quite the diplomat. Instead of uttering the name of he-who-shall-not-be-named, he just left it at, ‘stuff’.

My first thought was, ‘Holy mother of pearl! I must have looked like a bag of old, worn out crap all summer’.

Heartbreak teaches us some of my favourite go-to-overdone-most-misunderstood-Buddhist teachings;

  1. Impermanence. Nothing stays the same and everything changes. In other words; This too shall pass.
  2. Interconnectedness. Our actions have consequences that involve the lives of others; For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
  3. Karma. Our thoughts and actions cause conditions which we must live through; You reap what you sow.

Heartbreak and moving on means doing things you’ve never done before. It might be going to bed alone, socializing in ways that you would never have done before, picking up a new hobby, or re-connecting with old friends. It can mean silently letting go, or hanging on.

Heartbreak cracks our lives open, with a  painful, receding tide that carries away people, places and things that we love. It washes us clean and floods our hearts with life again, brining back what was meant for us; fresh and mysterious.

Wishing you the strength to open your heart so the pain can escape, making more room for love, whatever that may look like.

Lady Luck & The Duchess of Doom; Surround yourself with good people

whatwouldjimmydoI bought a cheap watch from a crazy man
Floating down canal
It doesn’t use numbers or moving hands
It always just says now
Now you may be thinking that I was had
But this watch is never wrong
And If I have trouble the warranty said
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On

This year I have been host to the Duchess of Doom. Let me re-frame that. The middle part of the sandwich of this year has been a doom filling with bread made of ick.

Lady Luck strikes rarely and very singularly in our lives. The Duchess of Doom seems to visit more frequently and in clusters. In other words, some years just seem full of tough stuff, and others pass with barely a blip on the radar of ‘Eww‘.

I say that because we’re headed into the final quarter of the year, and I’m really hoping it’s less fraught with gunk than May through September. I have a fresh start to look forward to, a new routine, and a fall list which this morning seemed like an impossibility…but one just never knows.

I see a lot of people in crisis every day. I see sad people and angry people, and all of these people carry themselves with at least a smidgen of grace which I respect very deeply.

Usually they look to me for some indication that their suffering is normal, and I validate that and assure them that things that suck come in multiples, and send them on their way.

This too shall pass.

If a hurricane doesn’t leave you dead
It will make you strong
Don’t try to explain it just nod your head
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On

It just passes much more quickly and less painfully if you let friends support you, you keep your sense of humour, and you don’t lose sight that this ride called life does not offer the option of more time. Surround yourself with good people who stand as reminders of that, and let the rest go.

Stay true to yourself, be kind, be gentle, and for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t be afraid to laugh your ass off.

The Art of Living; I Had Wine and Sunflower Seeds for Dinner

burn with desireLife has been such a shit-show lately, that I made the executive decision (after a long day at work and a bad haircut), to have a liquid dinner. I know, I know, ‘Liquid Lunch’ sounds better, but the truth is, it was a liquid dinner. Oh, and I had a handful of sunflower seeds.

Liquid as in white Bordeaux. As in, I-pretend-to-be-strong-but-I-need-a-hug-but-there-are-no-appropriate-hugs-to-be-found, kinda liquid dinner.

It’s a sin to drink vintage wine alone. Alas, a woman has to do what a woman has to do. Besides, if I weren’t alone, I’d be with some young, ballsy stud muffin, and that my darlings would be a bad, bad thing. Bad as in, despite the temptation, my true love is worth more than that. As in, I think I’ve finally grown-the-hell-up.

Le freaking sigh…

You see, a big part of who I am is the savoir faire that I’ve acquired during a lifetime of hard-learned lessons that most folks never see in a lifetime. Combined with a calling to serve, I have an intimate knowledge of the ticking clock, counting down to an unknown end.  I do believe that despite my over-the-top caring and anxiety, I have at least gleaned the porch-light of nirvana and the art of living.

Each day I stare mortality in the face, and it’s a tremendous opportunity to remind my sassy-assed self  what truly matters.

You’ve all heard Thich Nhat Hahn’s wonderful saying;

No Mud, No Lotus

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve had about enough of this mud business. You’ve had enough of being knee deep, slogging through the stinky stuff. You’ve had enough, enough, enough…Enough anxiety-riddled panic attacks, insecurities, and weeping.

Lessons in  life  come like lightning bolts from the ground; people you never expected to learn anything from other than how to control your temper and keep your patience,  become fast teachers like beggars at a feast.

This week, I had what I like to refer to as a ‘Jazz Hands’ moment.  After an hour on the couch, I decided that I’d had enough. I’d had enough beating the hell up on myself, holding my tongue, holding my breath, and holding the damn bag of responsibility for every one else like I was some iron, emotionless maiden.

E-freaking-nough!

My sense of humour, and my ability to be silly, light-hearted, and unapologetically sensual are my gifts. I am not patient, graceful, or saintly. I’m merely capable of being myself. I am just who I am; simple, straightforward, and as lovable as hell.

That’s also why I know that during days like today, it’s ok to be silly, to drink a bit too much, to flirt with my honey, to joke around, appreciate the cut of a fine garment, an interesting mind, or even admire the courage it takes some young gentleman to ask an older, sexy, wise, broad like myself out on a date…for the second time.

This life of mine has always been about living fully and completely. It’s been about giving all of my heart and soul to everything I do, even though I know people will be careless with them. It’s always been about giving my best, so that at the end of the day I have no regrets. I leave it all out there, hoping that the people I care about know that I’ve given all of me.

If you’ve  forgotten how wonderful it is to rejoice, to be silly, and to really let yourself go and enjoy life, you need to step back and give your head a shake. Life is short and precious.

If circumstance and relationships have caused you to make yourself small; careful of your words and wants and actions, if you’ve left your tender heart alone to cry for the suffering of those who are dear to you, you need to remind yourself it’s ok to move on.

You need to step out of the shadow of the past so you can create something you love.  Like the rest of the world you need to know that your gifts are alive, appreciated, and loved. But first, you need to love them, to hold them up as an offering to the powers that be, and honour the simple gifts that you bring to your lover, your friends and to your work.

Silliness is the art of living in the moment, despite being immersed in the awareness of our own shortcomings, mortality, and limitations.

Silliness, humour and the ability to see a lighter side combined with a heart that aches for those who are suffering, is my gift to the world. Whatever your gifts are, my wish for you is that you recognize them, and that you have people in your life who honour them in such a way that you feel loved.

Beach Buddha With a Side of Fry Sauce

Tneversaidthathis weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to the lake to enjoy a fresh fish dinner, drink Mackie’s famous Orangade, and dunk my fries in their special fry sauce.  Instead,  I got caught up in a whirlwind of worries.

In the moment, with the sun shining in a clear blue sky,the lake calmly offering refreshment, and soaring seagulls, my meditation training came back to me in a snap. This moment is it. It’s all we’ve got.

To be present right here, right now, holding all of our fears and worries, all the while appreciating how fortunate we are to have what we do, now that my sweet peaches, is the art of living.

Holding hope and loss at the same time seems paradoxical, but it’s the essence of the human mystery. I don’t preach this from living a blessed life. Loss is not a stranger in my life. Loss is a ruthless teacher and a sneaky sonnuvabitch.

Anxiety is the residue that gets left over when loss finally packs its oversized bag and leaves.

So often we associate  loss with death, and forget about all of the other losses; home, love, jobs, and hope.

Hope. Yah, that’s a tough one. Loss often packs a good one-two punch, with a kick to the groin – it always blesses us more than once in a very short period of time, leaving us feeling vulnerable, fearful, numb and hopeless.

With each loss we lose hope in the story of our lives; what we hope to do with our loved ones, how we hope to grow old and with whom or that old wounds may somehow heal with reconciliation.

As a young adult I suffered major losses. Journeying with someone I love as they experience new losses in the shadow of my own,  I began to wonder whether it was easier as a young woman than it is now.

But it’s not about easier or more difficult. It’s about different. Different as in; as we age we process loss much differently in the lengthening shadow of our own mortality. With each loss, our perception is that time offers us less opportunity to recover. Perception is the key word here. Loss can cause despair, and on the other hand it can be used as an opportunity to start fresh, put new building blocks in place (think Lego – it was my favourite toy when I was a kid), and write a new story.

Within the period of a few months, loss has snuggled up in our home, poured itself a drink, put its stinky feet up on the coffee table, and helped itself to an unfair portion of our sanity. It’s like the dreaded overseas relative come to stay for an unknown period of time. To celebrate the arrival of our special guest, my anxiety dressed itself up, rolled out the red carpet and said,  “Welcome, what can I get you? My sleep? A cozy blanket of  pathetic weeping perhaps, or how about some home-cooked fear”?

Despite my anxiety, I am aware of my blessings; my child, my love, my friendships, my life as I know it.

As the Buddha at the beach reminded me, it’s not impossible to hold hope and fear. It’s best just to let them both gently go and appreciate the moments as they are.

Wishing you the presence to practice letting go, being present, and keeping love and hope alive in your heart.

Things As They Are & Why I Keep Trying

be waterMost of us live with some low-level hum of anxiety buzzing around inside our minds. It accelerates our need to establish order all the while turning our brains into a three-ring circus overseen by an insane ring-master.

In most cases, a couple of shots of bourbon, a long hot bath and a good sleep can reset our anxiety pendulum. During more turbulent times, anxiety can make us wish that we could tear off the pendulum, and take a swing at anyone who gets in the way of trying to sort out the mess in our minds.

Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed with wonderfully joyful situations and I’ve been challenged by the dark things that haunt us all.

Sound familiar?I’m sure it does, the human condition is a universal suffering.  Many times I’ve been tempted to shut down, stop smiling, stop waking up and believing that it’s a beautiful day, and just generally stop being a nice person.

When the world doesn’t fit how we think it should be, anxiety wedges its foot in the door of our psyche, and pries it open;

The whole right and wrong business closes us down and makes our world smaller.

Black and white is so damn easy. Adulthood makes you realize that grey is the new black – that life and everything we thought we knew about it is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of what-if’s. Grey, please help us love you!

This middle way involves no hanging on to our version so tightly. It involves keeping our hearts and minds open long enough to entertain the idea that when we make things wrong, we do it out of a desire to obtain some kind of ground or security…Could our minds and our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we’re not entirely certain about who’s right and who’s wrong.

Beliefs about how things should be versus the way that they are, are terrific ways to make yourself believe there is only one way that is good enough, acceptable, and worth getting out of bed for. But that’s what kills our joy, that bullshit idea that life as it is isn’t good enough, that we’re not good enough.

What if we could really practice this;

Compassionate action, being there for others, being able to act and speak in a way that communicates, starts with seeing ourselves when we start to make ourselves right or make ourselves wrong. At that particular point, we could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where we could live. This place, if we can touch it, will help us train ourselves throughout our lives to open further to whatever we feel, to open further rather than shut down more. We’ll find that as we begin to commit ourselves to this practice, as we begin to have a sense of celebrating the aspects of ourselves that we found so impossible before, something will shift in us. Something will shift permanently in us.  Our ancient habitual patterns will begin to soften, and we’ll begin to see the faces and hear the words of people who are talking to us.

My heart is vulnerable and hurting now. I’m struggling to practice all of the wonderfully liberating ideas here. If you are too, I hope that we can keep this in mind;

If we begin to get in touch with whatever we feel with some kind of kindness, our protective shells will melt, and we’ll find that more areas of our lives are workable.  As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others – what and whom we can work with, and how – becomes wider.

Wishing you the kind of anxiety that can either be solved with a shot of bourbon, a hot soak, and a good sleep, or the ability to cradle your own being in kindness so gentle that it carries you through to a way of living that makes you feel fully alive.

All quotes are taken directly from When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron