This evening I got my first ever social media hate, on one of my instagram posts in support of a drag queen. It heightened my compassion. I’m grateful for the practice that allowed me to receive it with some equanimity, even though it felt like a slap in the face. And grateful that I didn’t feel compelled to respond to it. I imagined a potential spiral of consequences, if only as simple as another hateful reply back. I contemplated responding with something like, “I feel compassion for your suffering,” but concluded the wise choice was to forget about it. I just noticed it a few minutes ago–it wasn’t remotely how I intended to start this post. So I’m gonna forget about it now!
I’m grateful for waking up alive on this snowy, drizzly Sunday, for a few hours of sunlight, for the first spring bulb tips poking out of the mud, and for the leisure to enjoy listening to some dharma talks while finishing this exquisite Liberty puzzle, Monet’s Studio at Giverny. I’m grateful to our little puzzle club scattered coast to coast for increasing our puzzle options each season. This one only took two days of joyful puzzling between cleaning, baking, reading, and sharing meaningful conversations with friends and family.
It was kind of a rough week inside my monkey mind. I’m so grateful for all the beauty and love in my life, for the support of friends, and for the growing capacity I’m gaining to turn my attention to these gifts, instead of letting meager thoughts depress me for long.
And finally, I’m forever grateful to neighbor Mary for sharing this extraordinary recipe for Big Soft Ginger Cookies. This is the basic recipe, though I make them with Mary’s tweaks, including half brown sugar-half white, and of course butter instead of margarine. I also toss in a few chocolate chips. So simple, so delicious. It’s the kind of treat that fills up your senses so full you can’t be anything but ecstatic while it’s in your mouth.
It’s been cold and grey and windy for so long. And snowing off and on. I am grateful for the water, yes, and I am really looking forward to some spring color. Right before that first big snow a few weeks ago, the crocus leaves had pushed through the ground just a couple of millimeters. They’re drinking up snowmelt again and again under their late winter blanket. I really am grateful for that.
The does are hungry though. And my soul hungers for the sun. And it’s all fine, because each morning I wake grateful for a roof over my head, running water, coffee beans from foreign lands, fresh bread, cheese in the refrigerator. I cannot complain. And still, my soul hungers for the sun, snowmelt, green growing things outside and not just inside.
In Buddhism, there is the concept of ‘the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows.’ A skillful life includes the ability to hold both sorrow and joy, pleasure and suffering, loss and gain, with equanimity. I’m grateful that this winter is giving me so much practice cultivating equanimity.
Also, in an act of shameless self-promotion, my podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts. It even showed up fifth in the search when I typed in ‘Suffer Less,’ which is a wonder for which I am also grateful. Please give it a listen there, or on Spotify or most other podcast platforms, and follow if you like it. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, ‘Fruits of the Practice,’ but I haven’t yet figured out how to link that to this blog, so just comment or email me and I’ll add you to the list if you want to receive that monthly. Yippee! I am making my dreams come true. This may be another gift of the long, grey winter.
Another project I’ve been working on is a podcast about mindfulness. It’s not that I think I’m an expert or anything. It’s just that this practice has made such a positive difference in the quality of my life that I want to share it with others who, just like me, suffer from unhelpful or even destructive thoughts and emotions that derail our best efforts at living our best life. I’ve got the time, and a little more knowledge and experience than a lot of people, and so that’s the direction I’m turning my creative energy at this point in my life. I’m grateful for the teachers who have helped me reach this state of contentment, and there are so many.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has been an inspiration for most of my life. When I consider that he fled his homeland into permanent exile in the year that I was born, it feels like he’s been with me my whole life. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is another lifelong inspiration. The movie of their last few years of friendship before the Archbishop’s death is now available on Netflix. Other teachers along the way include Mrs. Perucci, Mrs. Hanabury, Mrs. French, Dottie Olin, and so many other school teachers through the years, and then those whom I started learning from later, like Cynthia Wilcox, Catherine Ingram, Laura Bartels and Mark Molony with the Mindful Life Program, John Bruna with the Way of Compassion Dharma Center, Kristen Neff, Pema Chodron, and many others. All that I know except my own experience I have learned from these teachers.
I’m grateful to be able to share insights and observation, and examples of transformation in my life, here on this blog, and grateful for readers who enjoy, benefit from, and comment on it. I’m grateful to offer experiences and understanding in this new podcast as well, including a guided meditation with each episode. If you’re interested, here are some links where you can find it. Here is the RSS, whatever that means, which some people can open readily and some people need a special app for. You can also listen on Spotify, Google podcasts, a nice Indian website that was among the first to upload it, and on my retreat website, and it should be available on whatever podcast platform you use within the next few days, including Apple and Amazon Music. It’s called “Suffer Less… with Mindfulness,” from Mirador Eco-Retreat. Enjoy, and feel free to ask questions or offer feedback.
Learn something new every day! I’m not sure how to share this on WordPress, but here is a pdf of the big project that I’ve been working on this past week. It’s only half of the plan to grow my little mindfulness business, and the other half will be revealed in a couple of weeks. Please enjoy checking this out, and subscribe if you’d like to receive ‘Fruits of the Practice’ in your inbox monthly, with all the features below including a guided meditation and an awareness exercise.
I realize just now with dismay that not only did I not post last night, but neither did Robert Hubbell. I hope that readers of the world managed to start their days without benefit of either of our insights and wisdom! I rely on Hubbell to get me through the dishes each morning and start my day with a compassionate and wise view of the previous day’s news.
I tried to post last night and I just couldn’t do it. My own small gratitude practice couldn’t seem to bring enough light into the darkness. I felt petty feeling good about anything. The two mass shootings in a row in California cast such a pall over the days of so many Americans, between the unfathomable grief of those communities, and the trauma that revisits every survivor and victim’s family of the incalculable stream of mass shootings that has unspooled with burgeoning obdurance since Columbine.
But this morning I rallied and brought myself to this day with presence, gratitude, and loving kindness, with patience and even some joy. For what good does it do the world for me to dwell in sorrow and despair? We can each only do what we can do, and to greet each day with gratitude and the intention to make it meaningful through good works and right thinking has got to be enough. There is far more in this world that I cannot control than I can. The only thing I can control is the attitude and the action I bring to each day, each moment. I can be of more benefit in this fleeting life to myself and others with resilience and kindness than with grief and anger. I can bring light to my own small sphere of influence, and try to help others do the same, and our efforts will ripple out to reach even more people.
This is the principle underlying the Four Immeasurables: loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity. When we fill our awareness with these, there is less room for their opposites: hatred, cruelty and ill-will, jealousy and envy, and attachment and aversion. This is my practice. May the fruits of my practice ripple out and be of benefit to all beings.
So many components of mindfulness practice help me to hold both the joys of living and the immense sadness of being human in my heart at the same time. Among these are self-compassion, and choosing where I place my attention, so that I do not deplete my energy over things that are beyond my control. Another component is awareness of how we are all interconnected. With this awareness we can understand that working together we can create positive change. The majority of Americans favor banning assault weapons, and reasonable gun control. The minority holds the country hostage and we are the worse for it. I’m grateful for the citizens working their hearts out to bring attention to ways we can hold our governments accountable. One of these is Jessica Craven, an amazing activist who publishes a newsletter five days a week with easy actions you can do in five minutes to make your voice heard–she even includes scripts. A Sunday bonus edition bundles the week’s good news into an uplifting quick read. She is truly a light amid darkness.
I’m grateful for finishing this fun puzzle of Carmel, with all its miniature businesses, restaurants, shops, and homes, little people in windows, giant garden gnomes, and myriad other tiny details. It was challenging in a different way than the birds puzzle, and easier but not much. I’m grateful for puzzling friends and sharing puzzles.
I’m grateful for podcasts, of which I listen to quite a few when I’m puzzling. I listen to Lions Roar podcast, Upaya Zen Center podcast, NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”, Catherine Ingram’s “In the Deep,” and several others, including random recommendations from trusted friends, and one I stumbled upon the other day, The Brain Health Revolution podcast. This particular episode is a marvelous overview of research from 2022 including correlations between napping and dementia, cannabis use and cognitive impairment, and evidence that some people in a coma may be conscious–followed by a lively discussion of how we don’t even know what consciousness is. It’s a couple of neurologists, Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, with an easy way together, sharing their enthusiasm about the research in their fascinating field.
I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to have the world at my fingertips, from the laser cutters at Liberty Puzzles, to the digital opportunities for learning and growth.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m grateful for Drag Queens. Over the past six or seven years they’ve taught me so much about compassion, kindness, authenticity, inclusivity, and shattered so many of the negative biases I was raised to believe. They’ve opened my heart, broadened my mind, and enriched my life immeasurably. My love affair with drag queens started when on a whim I decided to check out RuPaul’s Drag Race on Amazon Prime. For awhile it was an obsession, then merely an addiction, and for the past few years it’s been simply a joy.
The other day I tripped over another drag queen show unexpectedly, ‘We’re Here’ on HBO. I’ve only watched two episodes out of the three seasons currently available. The first was filmed in Grand Junction, Colorado, the closest big city to where I live, and the place I go to see the dermatologist, pick up visitors from the airport, the nearest Natural Grocer, and once upon a time a shopping or restaurant destination when I used to drive up there once a month or so for errands. Just before Covid hit the US, friends had plans to take me to a drag show up there for my birthday present. Oh well. This episode was a consolation prize. The other episode, which I watched tonight, was ‘Florida-Part I’. In the series, three drag queen stars, Shangela, Eureka, and Bob the Drag Queen, travel to small towns in the US mentoring queer people and putting on a drag show starring their mentees.
‘Florida-Part I’ was a fabulous representation of the ramifications of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill popular there now. The episode is culturally and politically relevant, inspiring, moving, and hopeful. The three queens mentor a ten-year-old trans girl whose mother is a schoolteacher now prohibited by law from mentioning ‘gay’ or ‘trans’, a 58-year-old gay man living in conservative bastion The Villages, a 75-year-old recently trans woman and her wife of 50 years, and a Pulse survivor who brought his celebratory party of twenty friends to the club that night where four of them were soon shot to death. Imagine living with that: it was your idea to move the party to the club, and four of your friends died as a result.
The intolerance, hatred, misrepresentation, and fear that perpetuate tragedies like Pulse, Club Q, and any other culture-wars mass shooting have got to stop. Obviously, me saying that won’t accomplish anything if governor after mayor after governor saying so hasn’t stopped it yet. But all of us saying it, time after time, in our homes, our communities, our churches, and our ballot boxes, can finally make it stop, or at least slow it way the hell down. LGBTQ people are people. We are all people. In my world view, deer, mountain lions, juniper trees, even skunks are people.
Why can’t we live and let live? We are all connected. Whoever you are, someone you love is gay or trans or differently gendered or sexually oriented than you think is ‘normal.’ Anyone who votes for ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation is hurting or killing someone they love. This isn’t the time or place to go into it, and also I don’t know enough to proclaim but the research is out there; I do know that throughout human history and across cultures, gender and sexuality have never been purely binary. Let’s learn from the drag queens, and just love each other how we are.
I’m grateful for the occasional stability of my skeleton, always enhanced by a visit to Dr. Leigh. Wren helped her at this morning’s appointment, following her about as she moved around the table gently pressing and pulling on my body, assisting as needed, and a couple of times lending an extra four hands by jumping up and standing on top of me. When I peeled myself away from the soft, heated table, little Wren did not want to leave.
I’m grateful for the tenuous stability of the cliffs on either side of the hairpin turn heading to or from town. From halfway on the south slope you can just see the road below wintered cottonwoods, and above it the giant boulder with a smaller boulder tilted on top it. There’s a deep crack between boulder and cliffside. More and more often, especially in winter, I keep my eye on it as I approach, then punch the gas as I pass beneath it–just in case. I’m grateful it hasn’t crashed down on me or anyone else so far. Someday, maybe tomorrow, the rock will fall.
From the same place in the road (I rarely stop on this road for obvious reasons, but today was feeling stable enough within to risk it), other boulders loom and another huge piece of the cliff overhangs, just waiting for that one last freeze-thaw cycle to release its grip and tumble down. The road itself constantly requires repair as the steep slope below steadily, slowly erodes. We dwell on a living, breathing, sighing, sloughing planet, clinging to our diaphanous illusion of stability. I’m grateful for the illusion, and for the stability gained from knowing it is just an illusion.
I’m always grateful for lunch, day after day. Today I was grateful that some weeks ago I made and froze a batch of burritos, so that I could pull one out of the freezer and heat it up for a quick lunch in a busy day, and top it with fresh avocado, sour cream, and fermented hot sauce. I’m really grateful for avocados, and for having finally figured out that I only half-heard the admonition to not refrigerate them. You can’t refrigerate them before they ripen, but after they are ripe they’ll last a whole lot longer in the fridge than on the counter. Duh. Turns out I’m the last to know that trick! I’m grateful for taking a scheduled lunch break every day around noon, and giving myself a whole hour to chill out with making something (or heating it up), and sit down to watch an episode of Star Trek (whatever series I’m on, currently nearing the end of Star Trek: Enterprise). It’s a little ritual that gives me a nourishing break between morning and afternoon work or whatever else the day requires.
Today it required a trip to town to mail some packages, and interact with a surprising number of people, all of whom were unmasked and seemingly unconcerned about the rising ‘triple-demic‘ of Covid, flu, and RSV which is currently crowding hospitals across the country. Acute care and Intensive care units in Colorado are reported to be at 90% capacity right now, and pediatric units across the country are at or exceeding capacity. Health care workers are once again (still?) experiencing burnout and trauma. I can’t help that this information crowds my head when I step outside my comfort zone and see how regular people are ‘getting on with their lives.’
But I digress. I am also grateful for good examples. A friend recently set a wonderful example that I thought of today when I had to make an uncomfortable phone call to talk with a wood supplier about the size of the ‘cordwood’ he had delivered. I was able to navigate this conversation with kindness, respect, and grace, while explaining that while the quality of the wood itself was wonderful, the length of way too much of it was not okay. Below is an entire wheelbarrow load of ‘cordwood’ that was supposed to average 14″ long but measures eight inches or less. If this were the leftover dregs of four cords of wood, there would be no problem, but there is a huge amount of wood this size in every load I bring in. Instead of feeling grateful for each load I bring into the house and build into a fire, I was experiencing afflictive thoughts and emotions of resentment and even anger. I finally realized that I couldn’t go through the whole winter getting pissed off every time I handled the firewood, which is at least a dozen times a day–even more, given the small size and fast burn of this wood. I thought of my friend’s good example handling a situation in which she felt (and was) wronged, and I followed it. After girding my loins and opening a friendly conversation with the supplier, I was left free of the burden of resentment, and he was left able to acknowledge the wrong and assure me that it won’t happen next season.
Maybe they dumped a bunch of scrap wood on me because I ordered late in the season, and they figured as a woman I wouldn’t know the difference. Or maybe it was an honest mistake. Either way, I’ll burn through this wood knowing that I was able to set a good example for myself, planting the seeds of kindness, respect, and benefit of the doubt, instead of letting my old habits, attitudes, and tendencies determine my actions and scattering seeds of discord and anger all around.
I’m grateful to see Ice Canyon forming up, and to be able to walk there with my little dog. I’m grateful for the vast, tremendous sky and all that happens in it day to day, moment to moment. I’m grateful for my life just as it is on this day of giving thanks, for where I live and how, for teachers and students, for friends and community, for a sense, in this moment, of safety and ease. I’m grateful for knowing any of this can change in any moment, which inspires me to appreciate all of it every moment as much as possible.
I’m grateful for a tidy stack of wood in the shed, protected from the elements, and for the helpers who stacked it. I’m grateful for the simple meal I made for my Thanksgiving dinner, cheesy samosa puffs, and for the jar of last year’s salsa verde I pulled from the pantry to dip them in. It was a delicious early dinner.
I’m grateful for eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla extract, cream cheese and butter, and the knowledge to turn them into a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It’s not exactly like the Sarah Lee cakes I grew up with, but pretty good nonetheless! I did substitute cream cheese for some of the butter in the frosting because I could and plain butter cream is too–well, buttery–for my taste. I’m grateful that two dear neighbors wanted to share their Thanksgiving dinners with me, and that I was able to share this cake with them. And so glad that I’ll have plenty of turkey, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and more to enjoy for the next few days. I’m grateful for leftovers! I’m grateful for friends. I’m grateful for the leisure and opportunity to cultivate contentment in my life.