Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sensitivity to Sensitivity


This week, the prompt for my weekly contemplative writing classes started "I first knew I was different when..." or "I first knew he was different when..."

The quote at the bottom of the prompt:
“But even though we may not have been fully conscious of the racism of our games, we did understand that racial stereotyping was titillating and a little bit taboo. And as a half, my understanding went deeper.” -Ruth Ozeki, The Face: A Time Code
I had considered making race the prompt - "I first became aware of race when..." and then, decided to broaden it, while still keeping it specific. Race definitely came up - currently, all of my students are caucasian, white people who can, if they choose to, ignore race. As I know working more and more with us white folks on race, though, just because someone is white doesn't mean they ignore race. So for those who wrote about race, it was powerful enough to make me want to do an entire day retreat on race. What a significant and important topic for especially white people to write spontaneously about and share - mainly with each other. If people of color choose to, they can witness it and share, too - but we can be mighty messy as we figure things out out loud.

However, because of the broadened but still specific prompt, two things came up in the majority of writings, things I hadn't expected but am not surprised by.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Six Years Later...

An amazing testimonial appeared today in my mailbox from a long-term student, with whom I am now working on - and almost done with - a book! Thank you, Jo Simons...


I was searching for something in my stack of papers and came across my first two writing assignments in your class.  It was SO amazing to read them now with the book done!  OMG Miriam!  You really launched me!!!!!

The prompt was “what’s the secret to good writing?”  Here’s what I wrote.

The secret to good writing is in the pen.  I am celebrating pens of late since we use them so rarely.  I miss handwriting!  You can tell so much about a person by how their handwriting looks.  But technology has robbed us of that — we type notes to each other that do not give a clue as to how we feel or who we really are.  To me, this is a tragic loss — part of the dehumanization of our species. 

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Spontaneous Discipline




Sometimes, especially when I am behind on blogging, like I have been recently, I like to cheat by posting a talk I gave. That's the case today. The link leads you to soundcloud, and a recording of a talk I have tonight, at the Madison Shambhala Center, on Spontaneous Discipline.

Like most of our Thursday evening weekly dharma gathering talks, this one is based on a chapter in a collection of Chogyam Trungpa's talks. In this case, a new collection (of old talks) called Mindfulness in Action.

To tempt you to listen, and give you some framework, in the talk I cover the following:

1. How to define both spontaneity and discipline in a way that supports your practice and life.
2. How to work with obstacles as path instead of trying to get rid of them so you can keep going.
3. How to find joy in contentment - the absence of the drama of our traditional definitions of both being spontaneous and being disciplined.

Please listen in, enjoy, spread around!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Light & Shadow


This is a piece by an anonymous student, written a few months ago. Since then she has noted the person involved apologized and owned he was projecting. And still, this whole piece is not about her righteousness - rather about the layers of shadows and light and projection we work with from an early age through any level of realization in adulthood.

When she shared this freshly-written piece in class, we all had a good guffaw after she described her son's interaction with his shadow. How powerful it is to laugh at a child, then to realize we are still doing the same struggle, even if more covertly, now, as adults.

Seeing what is in the shadows - seeing the shadows themselves - is crucial for, as she describes, "not producing harm in (their) wake."

Please enjoy these reflections.

Light & Shadow


It feels so much better to shine my light than reveal my shadow.  My shadow moves with me always and yet my awareness of its presence is not so constant.  


Sometimes when out walking in the sunshine my three-year-old son, he will see his shadow following behind and try to stomp on it, yelling, “GO AWAY, SHADOW!”  He says it makes him uncomfortable that it is following him.  Until this moment, I didn’t realize how profound that was.  I didn’t see the connection between his reaction and the inner shadow – and how forcefully I sometimes wish for the very same thing.  How I want to stomp with frustration and say:  “You again?  How could you still be there following me?  Won’t you EVER go away and LEAVE ME ALONE?”

Friday, August 05, 2016

Pain of Procrastination






For a long time, I have struggled. I am not ashamed. I know I am not the only one. The fact is, procrastination in painful. Most of us do it. And most of the pain of procrastination is self-created.

Like so many things, there's no easy answer, no bypassing it. The only way is to practice, practice, practice - working with awareness, knowing your own creative ark, asking for help, and persevering.

For me, procrastination mainly appears when I am struggling through the middle of a project. It gets strongest when I reach a plateau of some sort - a sense of "Whoa. This is good. Hey. I can do this." Then I want to coast, or want it to be done with entirely. I start to doubt everything - can I really do this? Is it worth it? Am *I* worth it?

In other words, the only parts I really enjoy of a project are the beginning (Yippee! This will be fun!) and the end (Ohthankfuckinggod). Keeping going in the middle is the hardest part, and where most of us fall apart.

So why bother?