Friday, December 02, 2016

"Forgetting How Easily Children Soil Clothes"

This beautiful, totally unedited fresh writing came from a student this week, Priscilla Matthews, in response to a prompt where they selected a single line of poetry from various poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Priscilla had no idea this was what she was going to write - as is true to the practice, she simply put pen to paper, and this homage emerged.

There's not much I want to say about it, except to point out the incredible ordinary-ness of it: clothing, stains, children, laundry. And so powerful - all the details, and the way she connects it back to her mother and herself. Direct. Clear. Universal. Specific.

I will also point out that Priscilla stated some things I can relate to, having also lost my parents when I was young. I relate in particular to these lines: "If she had lived, she may have died by now," and, "Does this mean I'm finally in sync with my peers?"

Please enjoy this poignant grief and pleasure mixture.

forgetting how easily children soil clothesI just remembered that today would have been my Mom’s birthday.  She would have been 87 years old.  If she had lived, she may have died by now.  Having a parent pass at my age now is “normal.” It’s part of the process many people my age are going through.  Does this mean I’m finally in sync with my peers?  No.  I don’t understand their expressions of grief.  But I am more compassionate and patient with them than I was with myself.“forgetting how easily children soil clothes”My mom had 8 children within 9 years.  The other day I imagined how joyful it must have been for her with one child…the time she had to dress her, play in the grass, share her growth with my Dad.  And then my brother was born, and the work grew, the balancing act.  And then another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

You Fucked Up? Be kind, then, re-commit.

The more work I do with folks one-on-one and in small groups around accountability - not to mention working with myself - the more I've found this distillates slogan to be the core needed approach.

Didn't work out when you said you would? Be kind, re-commit. Haven't been meditating as often as you'd like? Be kind. Re-commit. Spent the afternoon on Facebook instead of cleaning the house? Be kind then re-commit.

If you are nice with yourself but don't recommit, you won't have accountability. If you punish yourself, then re-commit, you won't want to do it (damned if you do or don't). So both parts are needed.

This is actually a macroscopic version of what we do in meditation. In meditation, if your attention has drifted off the breath and onto a passing thought, for instance, how you decide to come back is crucial. Are you cruel to yourself, beating yourself up for making a simple mistake? Getting distracted? Are you a jerk because you can't believe you did it again? Do you have the view that when you aren't following your breath, you aren't meditating?

The view can be like this: the whole thing is meditation.
The attitude can be like this: its human to get off the track.
Your approach can be like this: Ok, that happened, now let's do it again.

It's simple, but not easy.

That's where support comes in.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Being in the Body Post-Election

Last week, I asked my students in my weekly contemplative writing classes to write about their feelings regarding the election from their bodies. The most potent pieces came Wednesday morning, as folks had either stayed up all night, most of the night, or gone to bed and woken to the news.

The fact is, the over-whelming majority of my students are liberal. But a lot of students were able to feel how human our reactions are. This anonymous piece in particular struck me with the universal human level of fear in the body. 

I offer this as a model for being present, for watching not only the body but the mind itself. Regardless of whether you are celebrating right now or in deep despair, tap into your body. Fear consumed most of us pre-election, and if the results had gone the other way, the "other side" would right now be feeling a similar way post-election.

Finally, one of my favorite parts is where this student opens up questions about neurotic smallness (childhood survival, which was useful but she now sees as disempowering) versus the kind of smallness that can open us to all of the present moment - simple actions like picking chard from the garden. These two smallnesses are often conflated with each other, but the second can offer serious liberation and deep relief in times like these.

I breathe into my body through my feet.  The sun is a vibration of continuance, the yellow leaves of a neighbor's tree shimmer and wave.  The sky lightens into a bright blue.  I find comfort in the fact that my garden is still growing, people are still walking their dogs down our street, I can still hear traffic from nearby streets; the world continues despite last night's outcome.  Or at least it seems to continue.  The world of people and politics and the world beyond people and politics.  I pick chard, red and green, my hands and cuffs soaked with morning dew.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Setting Soft Goals

Most of us find setting goals a tricky project. Immediately, structure triggers the critic, who kicks in and cuts us off at the pass. Do any of these lines ring familiar?
"Why even start when you know you can't accomplish it?"
"If I can't do x amount then I won't do it at all."
"I've tried it before this way 100 times, but THIS TIME it will work!"

A few years ago, a meditation instructor reminded me that "Good enough is basically good" - needing to remind our perfectionist parts that the world won't end if we don't do it exactly as we had hoped/envisioned/planned/determined is a crucial part of planning ahead. 

And as we head towards the new years, a time when a lot of people traditionally set goals, check in, assess, and make resolutions, I want to encourage you to make soft goals instead of hard ones, soft targets instead of hard targets, and explore what it would be like to allow for change and re-conneciton/assessment, being flexible instead of rigid. How do we do that? I have spent a lot of time in coaching and teaching gathering tools, guidelines, and teachings to help support this subtle but significant difference.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Voting and Realistic Expectations (Clinton and Haiti)

This is very likely the only time you will see me post about the election season during the election season, so I bid you to read carefully. I will tell you right off what this post is NOT about:
-One candidate versus another
-Whom I think you should vote for or not
-Demonization or blame

I don't truck in any of those, frankly, and tire of seeing them. So before you start reading this, really, please consider if you are ready to look at the election process and our expectations themselves, without details about candidates or panic or fear. If not, place a bookmark on this and come back later.

With that "trigger warning", so to speak, let's keep going.