Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dharma for dinner, lunch, breakfast and snack

In reviewing my hand-written diary for the last month, since the notebook is almost full, I ripped out the dharma talk pages in order to file them with other dharma talks from the last five years. What was left was a minority of pages recounting daily activities, snippets of novel (I write most of it directly onto laptop now, much to my own surprise) and the occasional poem (don't write many of those anymore). Out of a notebook of 200 pages, less than 50 were daily writings or journal entries, the rest were notes from the last month and a half dharma rampage of sorts - a week in Toronto doing Miksang teacher training (and the notes in the notebook were only from the times I wasn't type-transcribing the entire weekend's training!), Shambhala Arts training Levels 1 & 2 in Minneapolis with Lisa Manley, a weekend study of the Heart Sutra and Non-Violent Communication with Paul Shippee, plus a talk last Monday night with John Dunne, Richie Davidson, and Father Thomas Keating on contemplation and education. Phew. As Becky noted, at least the talk we went to last Monday wasn't a whole weekend and was, in a certain respect, "dharma-light" in comparison to the rest of the month. If you extend back into the notebook before, you get a September of Venerable Khandro Rinpoche's visit, and the super-uber intensive Shambhala Guide Training which has authorized me to give meditation instruction. It's been a very full few months, ironically, also the three months (almost done now) in which I am required to sit upwards of 30 hours a month, to meet the 'probational' requirements of becoming a meditation instructor.

Although Laine and I have joked that we should have a stamp for our kitchen calendar that reads "Miri on retreat", these weekends aren't truly retreats. Recently, birdfarm asked if she should attend a weekend retreat of these sorts, and I was able to see that it wasn't what she needed - she needs peace and quiet, not barrages of information and philosophy. As helpful as those things are, they aren't always what's needed, and in seeing so clearly that it wasn't what she's needed, I pushed aside my own fear of sounding ungrateful and realized that, in fact, getting sick the last few days (before my vacation of 10 days, which begins today), forcing me to cancel classes and pt work, was also a result of too many dharma weekends, too many non-retreats. Too much information, travel, and lack of time to digest. I *am* grateful, but Becky pointed out as I confessed this to her that it's not helpful if one uses dharma as an excuse to block oneself from what one really needs - days at home doing laundry, listening to itunes, calling friends who've recently lost loved ones (two in one week! ouch!), or reading mystery novels (shout out to Laine's rents for the Cara Black book).

I am primed to look over these notes now in the next week, make cd's from my recordings of the Paul Shippee talks, and do some digesting. I am also primed to "watch it" a bit with this stuff in the future. It's especially hard because I already teach some weekends, and weekends are becoming more and more precious to me. Luckily, and it feels so weird to say this, there are no more "retreats" or dharma weekends planned for the rest of the year. I just need the space to digest. I am teaching two one-day workshops, but those feel like a breeze so long as I have a Saturday before them to putter around the house and not get dressed.

Time to go grade WCATY kids, who are sharper this time around, as well am I. Repetition is such a blessing - a class that killed me the first two times I did it now feels so much easier, even with my fullest and youngest class ever (25 5th graders). It is funny how repeating sometimes makes a task easier (like this teaching) and sometimes repeating (like weekend after weekend of dharma talks) just makes things clearer, though not always easier. Sigh. : )


  1. Wow! It has been a busy few months for you, Miriam!

    So, there was something that came ot mind that my amazing therapist told me back in May. This is part of the journal entry I wrote just after that appointment:

    For nearly a week, I felt my nose stuffing up, my throat sore, needles tickling the tonsils, waiting to see if I would allow it entrance. Would I allow it to be this little piece of my life? Would I allow myself stopping long enough to let this pass through me? Would I be able to see my learning from a different angle, from a physical one, that my body will allow me to be strong, to run and bike and be fully in this world as a moving being, with the pleasures and the passing joy of ability, and to feel the ways in which my muscles grow and learn their way into being? Would I be able to stop enough to keep paying attention? To see the ways in which my body is screaming to stop?

    We sat, talked, as I sniffed and blew my nose, and I said how low key my life has been. It makes sense, she told me, watching me in the throes of early sickness. So much change, so much learning, and now, the body needs to digest, needs to process, needs to let go of the parts that don't work as well, to allow myself to heal and to be healthy in the ways that will be helpful and take in everything that makes sense and that is good for me. There is only so much change your body can take; we feel that we can process and process and that it's just brain work.

    I'm starting to find, to (re)remember that my body needs time to work through the things my brain flies through. That my body is just as susceptible as my mind and my heart, and sometimes, it is as tender.

    Sorry for the length. For some reason, I felt like it was necessary to share this ... and as always, I appreciate your outlook and your insight into all of what you go through. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

  2. Thank you for these insights, dancing waves! I like in particular this idea of the body doing slower what the mind rushes through. In fact, in traditional dharma teachings on death, the time of death is almost risky because the mind/soul/heart are suddenly free of the semi-sedentary body, and so might do something they regret (heavily karma-laden) without the help of others on their behalf or many lifetimes of sitting still.

    That's what that made me think of. Patience with the body is another thing that came to mind, and I appreciate your insight on that, too.