Thursday, April 21, 2016

Money and Shame

For most of us, money and shame are a lot closer to each other than we'd like to admit.

I am really feeling this one recently. It's not like I haven't known I had shame about money, but it's coming up in an irrefutable way. My desire to not discuss it. The tears or anger when I do. All of my family's history in talking about it in odd ways or not talking about it.

When I struggle with it, I try to remember how universal it is, and how immediately sweeping away powerful it is for so many people. So easy to get on that ride of money shame and ride it all day long and all night long. I am interested in renunciation - not renunciating spending or material goods, which, while budgeting is important, totally reducing spending to nothing won't help. I am ready to renunciate samsara - the ultimate repulsive shame cycle carnival ride. But I know from experience that has to happen over time, bit-by-bit, again and again. These habits are deep and well-worn.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Simple and Profound

Sometimes I have an idea for a post that seems too simple. Part of me thinks it needs to have multiple paragraphs, a story, etc. but the fact is, so much of what I practice, study and teach is the kind of simple profundity that merits a single paragraph of reading - and a lifetime of constant contemplation. I don't always trust I can communicate the simple profundity, even though I know full well I've experienced it many times in something as small as a haiku. Or simply lying in bed, or meditating.

What is my post today? Lying in bed this morning, I heard the Wisconsin April birds chirping: Robins, Cardinals, Finches, Sparrows, Black-Capped Chickadees. Because we live less than a block from a major street and a busy intersection, in less than a breath the bird sounds were covered by trucks and traffic. And it hit me: some part of me believes the birds stops singing when the trucks go by. But they don't. I just stop hearing them.

This may sound obvious, but that's how simple profundity works. More and more I think it is about the gap between our conscious knowing, which says: of course I know I just don't hear the birds at that point, just like I know the sun hasn't gone away when the clouds cover it from my view; and our child mind, our unconscious and naive perception, which isn't so sure. 

We like to think our conscious mind and beliefs are what drive us: rational, logical, adult. But the fact is, they don't. So many of our decisions and opinions are shaped not by what we know in a conscious sense, but by our unconscious beliefs. 

That's what I have to say. Almost scoffable in its simplicity. Scoff if you want. But I am going to keep paying attention. These moments pop open my perception and give me a glimpse of the complexity and richness of my mind and the world around me, if I let them. This morning, right now, I am letting them. I invite you to, too.

Thursday, March 31, 2016


It's been awhile since I posted on either blog. Life got quick and compacted - travel, sickness and even lots of inspiration all vying for my attention. I got off rhythm with posting, which happens, like so many aspects of our lives.

But the big thing has been resolving, finally, or so it seems, my twenty plus year struggle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I was diagnosed in my twenties, but have had symptoms since I was thirteen. At the time, a doctor simply told me not to eat what bothered my digestive system. Basically the diagnosis was a default - since I didn't have cancer or Crohn's, or other possible severe diagnoses, IBS was what they called it. I cut out gluten and dairy, known culprits. What threw me off, however, for years after, ever since, is that sometimes when stressed or at other untraceable times, I get sick anyway: constipation, painful trapped gas, stabbing pains.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Intersectionality and Interdependence

This International Women's Day, I celebrated the fact that I am re-engaging with activism. This time, my focus is on racial justice, and in particular, working with white people on their own racism. Mindfully.

Mindfully, because I am now a Buddhist, unlike ten or so years ago when I was last directly active in any kind of movement. Mindfully, because I watched people burn out so badly and I have faith now that compassion is fierce and needed. Mindfully, because hell hath no fury like white people dissing other white people for their racism in order to distance themselves from their own tendencies.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Even Light Can Get Trapped

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a prompt in my weekly writing classes about light and shadow. I was pleased and surprised to have a few folks write about hiding their own light - a powerful counterpoint to hiding our shadows.

This is one piece about hiding one's own light, by a student named Silas Day. Silas is transgender, and while his description of hiding his own light has its particular attributes to his struggle, I think his way of being with himself in this regard is also universal.

Please enjoy this rough, raw and very real writing.

My strengths have never included taking compliments.
I have recently had two very different kinds of relationships that have tested this. One, romantic, this person was very infatuated with my patience and kindness and yes, my good looks, too. I noticed how uncomfortable it made me to be frequently shown or told about these attributes of myself. 

Was it because I don't like to feel the spotlight or because I don't believe them to be true? Probably both. 
As a result of transitioning, I think that part of me has worsened.
Casting a perpetual shadow over myself so I could sneak by unnoticed. If no one notices me, they wont mis-gender me.
I think that shadow has carried over into my self worth. I care so much for others, I want to highlight them and stay safely in the dark. Being so familiar with my faults and flaws I pushed away the sunny days when I could gently remind myself you are good.

That feeling you get when the clouds break and the sunlight sneaks out to cast the warmth across your face. It lights up your skin and seeps through to warm your insides. You take a deep breath and smile and in that moment without realizing it... you feel good. Because you are. 

That moment or feeling of light and love come together to fill all the empty spaces and no one has to convince you that you are kind or patient or beautiful because the warmth and the light let you feel it. 
If even just for a moment.
Even if it goes unnoticed.

I hope one day I can bottle that feeling and use it in times of need. Or perhaps recognize other opportunities for the warmth to settle in and remind me to step out from the shadows.

If I spend this much time showing compassion to others… perhaps, there’s room in there for me to share the love with myself.

Love and Light