pema chodron

practicing mindfulness

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It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now… with its aches and it pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.
Ok, maybe it’s also important to have food, clothing, and a roof over our heads for many of us to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive. Let’s not let that small point take us away from the brilliance of this quote.

What’s so brilliant about it? For reason particularly driven by subtle messages from the media driven into our forming minds, we are a culture driven by a need for “more” in order to feel alive or happy. For other reasons we are also a culture driven to try and eradicate discomfort. Both of these messages are partly driven by business trying to make a buck and spending billions of dollars are marketing to drive this into our minds.
The price?

A constant feeling of dis-ease within us. We’re can’t be content with where we are in any particular moment because our minds are either trying to flee away from some discomfort or toward some comfort.

Pema Chodron is simply trying to remind us that aches and pleasures are part of the human experience. There may not be a catastrophe when a pain is there, it may just be part of being “fully alive.” There may not be a need to get the wheels anxiety or distress to be set in motion. Of course, if you are under extreme distress or have an inkling that something is off physically, it’s important to get it checked out by a medical professional.

However, next time you’re feeling physical or emotional pain, know that this is temporary and say to yourself, “maybe this is exactly what I need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” See if you can bring your attention to it with a sense of compassion and caring. Next time you are feeling pleasure, also know that this is temporary and part of being fully alive… reposted from monday’s mindful quote
wow- what a very uncomfortable week this has been. i started feeling a sort of gurgling discomfort in my sinuses on monday and stayed in bed for 3 days with a fever and runny nose missing both my day job, but also cancelling on a catering gig which did leave a hole in my monthly budget.  when i spoke with my doctor’s office, i was informed that they recommended that i let the infection run its course and would be offered antibiotics after 10 days or so. i felt betrayed by this news which is ironic because i rarely take any meds (, aspirin, cough syrup, cold pills other than my hiv and psych meds for any reason. however i have had a sinus infection a few times before and have found that to be something that i am susceptible to and very weakened by for some reason. back in the late 80’s, my sinuses swelled onto the surface of my forehead giving me a cyclops sort of presentation that caused me to scream when i saw my reflection in the mirror. even that time, i didn’t take medication, i used steam and vapo-rub for about 4 hours. luckily, the channelling of a lon chaney type creature vanished with not much residual affect other than that gorilla i saw in the mirror. 
anyway, a couple of years ago i had another infection and it went on ad nauseum. i couldn’t shake the fever and the nose might as well have been training for a triathlon. the only relief came very late in the game in the form of amoxocillin. and this week i found myself wanting that same order and with the response from my caregivers that i didn’t qualify, my sense of balance seemed to waft away like the scent of a freshly baked pie flows out of the kitchen. 
i had to pull myself up from my bootstraps and visit them in person and plead my case- with several sales pitches in tow. “i can’t lay around for days doing nothing”- ” i feel like i am being punished for being healthy” ” i don’t really want to use up a week’s pto with a crappy fever and box of kleenex. somehow i got my way. 
what also became apparent was that the mercury-in-retrograde stage directions had been put into place. my car wouldn’t start, my dishwasher ran some sort of leak, the order of snacks for my group didn’t get placed, the meal i planned to pick up for another group didn’t get handled because of the car. in spite of all these mishaps ( quite plentiful for one  day) were also met with an answer from my life which caused no real trauma other than to my sense of balance. the early groups survived with no doughnuts- the second group had no attendees so i disappointed no one directly- my friend loaned me a car for a week, and nothing seems damaged by water all over the floor. 
with all the blows to my plans for my life this week, there also has been a net that showed up to catch me from any imminent fall. in other words, i didn’t crumble or suffer- other than in my own mind. actually my life protected me – even from me.

that’s the good news. and it is good. the other side of the story is that i have not been on my best behavior nor in my best frame of mind. i have wallowed in a little pity, played a bit of the victim, been a bit gamey and childish,  and worked it more than i would like to admit.  being human is really damn humbling…

am offering 2 selections with today’s post- 1 with homage to the mindful part of myself and the other with a nod to the diva that walks the catwalk inside my head with repetition…. mercury in retrograde leaves november 10- fingers crossed we make it without too much more destruction and re-creation..the title of this post is practicing mindfulness – the emphasis is on practicing.

don’t jump over yourself

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Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what’s going on, but that there’s something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.
Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do. We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we were not there. It’s better to take a straight look at all our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence in our basic sanity arises.

what a hella week for me. how about you? we were on lock down cuz some ex devotee called in a bomb scare. we had swat teams on several corners with machine guns in tow. add to this the fact that we interface work with many people who have schizophrenia and are paranoid and restless without the presence of ammo. false alarm and no one hurt, however. 
i have been struggling with an acquaintance who probably has dementia and lives on their own. i believe it’s dementia which is caused by their advancing liver disease. i am at once trying to get them to see a doctor or cease their drug use. neither plan is actualizing very easily. and they have now presented with an infection on their leg which encompasses the complete surface from ankle to knee and resembles the  terrain of a red clay volcano with a concave center revealing some bone. 

earlier this week, i helped someone who was struggling with walking, moving hunched over almost in half. they went to their doctor and then referred to another. the term “life-threatening” was strewn about. a coupla days later, they appeared in a too small wheelchair because they were still unable to walk. i gave them the name of an organization that provides free temporary wheelchairs- hoping a better fit could be had. i received a call yesterday from the hospital they had been admitted into. and today i received another more whimpering call today in fear of impending surgery.

a peer to peer recovery group we started last year had it’s 1 year anniversary this week. there was a celebratory pot luck and over 35 persons participated. the participants shared about their success. the core participants in our effort have tripled or more within this year. and the discussion of problems is gently folding into a much more audible conversation about change and possibility. 

there is a sweeping wind of change that is moving through my daily life. it is bending me into an emotional posture resembling munsch’s “screamer” with the skill of rodin. i am playing a part. a part in a much larger story. i don’t know my exact role now, but these dry runs are exhausting. exhausting and exhilarating. there is a deeper dream that is being tapped in me. i am able to discuss some of this with my supervisor with candor. 

i really love this interview with patti smith… give it a listen

Patti Smith: Advice to the young from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

cross stitching

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image credit… susan cohen-pinterest

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. (10)” 

there has been a definite shift in my psyche. the game board seems to have gotten suddenly larger and i feel as if i have a lot more room to play. my financial situation has cleared up- so maybe there’s some pressure that has been lifted. i find i am tired of holding grudges and feeling afraid. i don’t know that this will make me more forgiving or less fearful, but i know that my attachment to those things has shifted.

i needed a 3day weekend badly. i went to the mountains for a day and a half and had a weekend here. it feels glorious and i am basking in it. i have said “no” on several occasions which is truly a new development for me. i have faith in a future. i look forward to it, too. and i can now count on my fingers the number of people i think of as friends.

it may seem as if these are juvenile and simple things. maybe they really are. but i am not bothered. i have struggled so much with self-esteem issues that these basics are very important and a true sign of growth. i have needed to learn to stop going to “it’s my fault” every time something stank. presumably, i still go there, but i try my best not to land there now.

i was asked on a date last weekend for the first time in i can’t remember when. it didn’t happen, but the fact that it was discussed caused a shift. it still does actually. i am to see this person later this week and am curious about it all. not hopeful really- but curious.

it has been a restorative 3 day weekend for me. i needed it more than i realized. i am co-chairing a rally this september and will spend most of the summer working out the details. as is my style, there will be overthinking upon overthinking. so a couple more  kickback getaways like this one to sustain my pace.

i shared in a meeting yesterday that i have realized that one of the hardest things for me in life has been to manage my feelings. for so many years, whenever i felt fear, anger, anxiety, doubt, embarrassment, shame, or any other somewhat challenging emotion, i would get high and change the way i felt. when i got clean, the coping skill i had used was missing and its absence was impactful. it has taken me all these years to feel comfortable with those feelings. i don’t report finesse or expert abilities, just abilities. this alone has been life-changing and worth the effort.

spent the weekend finishing up training for peer coaches for afr and my workplace. the shift in the trainees from start to finish can be so dramatic. as these folks start to expand the concept of what is possible in their recovery and what it can look like, my own concepts shift. always a work in progress.

start where you are

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image credit.. mark zibert
The slogan “Be grateful to everyone” is about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected. Through doing that, we also make peace with people we dislike. More to the point, being around people we dislike is often a catalyst for making friends with ourselves. Thus, “Be grateful to everyone.”
If we were to make a list of people we don’t like–people we find obnoxious, threatening, or worthy of contempt–we would find out a lot about those aspects of ourselves that we can’t face. If we were to come up with one word about each of the troublemakers in our lives, we would find ourselves with a list of descriptions of our own rejected qualities, which we project onto the outside world. In traditional teachings on lojong it is put another way: other people trigger the karma that we haven’t worked out. They mirror us and give us the chance to befriend all of that ancient stuff that we carry around like a backpack full of granite boulders.
“Be grateful to everyone” is a way of saying that we can learn from any situation, especially if we practice this slogan with awareness. The people and situations in our lives can remind us to catch neurosis as neurosis, to see when we’re in our room under the covers, to see when we’ve pulled the shades, locked the door, and are determined to stay there….Pema Chodron Start Where You Are

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i haven’t had much time lately to write. besides, i have been un-numbing from the news that my financial situation has become clearer and more focused. if i really look, i see that my many roles in my lives seem to all be shifting. it should be comical.

if there was a situation for the practice of faith, i might be finding myself in the middle of one. my nature revs up and i feel compelled to pull out a packet of dried drama and steep it in my world. this urge beckons me like the spirit of barnabas collins to let it live in my world once again. i am in zones of unknowing on several levels and i am pausing.

this in and of itself is a short miracle. i honestly don’t know if i will see it through without recidivism- not substance- just behavior. but i am gonna work at it. it is very much like wearing a new pair of shoes. they feel great, but foreign none-the-less.

it’s all nutsy and new, but i am certain that i am moving in a direction i need to go. i move forward in faith not certainty. and with hope.

the 5-points jazz festival is tomorrow and i am going with a friend to see this local band. i have a full day of training new peer coaches at work and then off to the neighborhood next door for some tunes. the funny thing is that my friend thought we would be going to see a european techno-chillout ensemble, but we will be seeing a local cover band. ah well- it’s a saturday night..:)

matters of the heart

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jude law image credit… john stoddart
“People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That’s not the idea at all. The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn’t understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you’re given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further.”
“A psychotic drowns in the very same stuff a mystic swims in.”
pema chodron

i stopped by to see my sponsor today to check in about our meeting. during the conversation, it became clear that i have some  real resistance to looking honestly at myself right now. i am not liking this realization, but i can neither ignore nor deny it. i have some reservations. about what i am not exactly sure. but i do know that i need to lean into the resistance.

i have developed too many ego issues. i have wrestled with emotional safety. i have allowed my drive to succeed to overshadow my sense of inclusion. i have opted to feel numb in lieu of feeling uncomfortable-this is fairly scary. amid all this, i have become slightly isolated. i have set boundaries with family members and this has become a fence to keep them out. in some ways i have become fearful of others and thus prideful because i don’t negotiate my fears. i let them control me and keep me like a stone sculpture. this trend has become like dining on a frozen dinner- without flavor, without adventure, and much too easy.

i realized today that i would like to speak publicly. i believe that the experiences i have catalogued might embody some valuable information. i am walking through recovery of a few types, mental health, bi-polar disorder, ptsd, sexaholism, and hiv. perhaps it sounds like a lot, but it is the road i am travelling. i’m not finished, but if i am to retell my insight, i must be more diligent about my own housekeeping. as i look around my house, i realize what a double entendre this is.

i have been listening to bettye lavette, shirley horn, and ernestine anderson lately. the vintage jazz standards create a sense of familiarity and wonder at the same time in me. but today i’ll leave you with some etta james. she passed today and i am attempting to underline how blessed i feel she was here.

Good Medicine .. Pema Chodron

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The Old Year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months! ~Edward Payson Powell


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image credit… pieter heinket

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” — Kahlil Gibran

i have been working as a counselor for a few years now. it is not the samo samo thing at all, really. i mean, most of the people i encounter are stuck somewhere in their lives. many have been stuck for a very long time. what i am learning about my work is that it continues to be more about helping them see that there may be another way, and not necessarily about helping them find it.

in someways, it seems that if they can actually “see” that there is another way, or a way out, they will muster the where-with-all to journey forward and do things a little differently.

but as humans, we are definitely creatures of habit. this being true, we without fail love our own pain and discomfort. if stuck, we have probably been numb to our own pain for some time and have forgotten that it it even hurts. often, not hurting is more frightening than hurting.

it continues to be fascinating to me- this process of education and counsel. there are definitely successes as well as distinctive misses. there is a mosh pit of unclarity sometimes around boundaries, professionalism, and my own human-ness. this doesn’t appear often, but it does appear. people who are in flux or stuck are often rife with drama. and drama is compelling for me. it makes life interesting. it makes the days go by. and i am comfortable with drama, because i grew up with so much near by.

i have let myself forget once or twice that i am on my own journey. those i work with are on a journey, too. part of the work is allowing these two arcs to play themselves out without trying to steer. oh this is without doubt part of the work. 

these days, it is my fashion to discuss the infusion of loving-kindness meditation when working with others. this concept resonates with me because it is frothy with empathy. we breathe in loving kindness for ourselves when we are struggling, and conversely we breathe out loving kindness for the others in the world who are also suffering  as we do. this exercise seems to have the power to remove fear and the “victim” mentality and replace it with inclusion and connected-ness. 

Loving-kindness is a meditation practice, which brings about positive attitudinal changes as it systematically develops the quality of ‘loving-acceptance’. It acts, as it were, as a form of self-psychotherapy, a way of healing the troubled mind to free it from its pain and confusion. Of all Buddhist meditations, loving-kindness has the immediate benefit of sweetening and changing old habituated negative patterns of mind…. reprinted from

“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
Pema Chödrön

pema chodron on living from the heart

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Ani Pema Chödrön was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936, in New York City. She attended Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She taught as an elementary school teacher for many years in both New Mexico and California. Pema has two children and three grandchildren.

While in her mid-thirties, Ani Pema traveled to the French Alps and encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche, with whom she studied for several years. She became a novice nun in 1974 while studying with Lama Chime in London. His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa came to England at that time, and Ani Pema received her ordination from him.
Ani Pema first met her root guru, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1972. Lama Chime encouraged her to work with Rinpoche, and it was with him that she ultimately made her most profound connection, studying with him from 1974 until his death in 1987. At the request of the Sixteenth Karmapa, she received the full bikshuni ordination in the Chinese lineage of Buddhism in 1981 in Hong Kong.

Ani Pema served as the director of the Karma Dzong, in Boulder until moving in 1984 to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to be the director of Gampo Abbey. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche gave her explicit instructions on establishing this monastery for western monks and nuns.
Ani Pema currently teaches in the United States and Canada and plans for an increased amount of time in solitary retreat under the guidance of Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.
Ani Pema is interested in helping establish Tibetan Buddhist monasticism in the West, as well in continuing her work with western Buddhists of all traditions, sharing ideas and teachings. She has written several books: “The Wisdom of No Escape”, “Start Where You Are”, “When Things Fall Apart”, “The Places that Scare You”, “No Time to Lose”, “Practicing Peace in Times of War” and most recently “Taking the Leap – Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears”. All are available from Shambhala Publications.