Tag Archive | mindfulness practice

Practice

I’m grateful that I finally followed through on my intention to burn this yard waste. After a year of watching the grass grow up around it I just made myself up and do it, and it only took about three hours to git r done done. I tried to burn some old journals too, but started reading them, and so only burned a few pages. Even the most fortunate of us struggle with the agitations of our minds. I’ve wasted so many years suffering needlessly from the power of my thoughts, I’m so grateful for the practice of mindfulness which allows me at least, in the hardest times, to discern what is actual and what I layer on top of reality to exacerbate any situation. I’m struggling to gain a healthy perspective today on an unfortunate incident this week which has me reeling inside my head with the agonies of ego, anxiety, disillusionment, disappointment, projection, exaggeration, and so much more. I’m grateful to have some tools to manage these afflictive mental states, so that I can at least make progress in a few areas of my day, clearing out the dross of quotidian living. The fire yesterday was a great metaphor to reflect on today. May I carry forward the clarity I have in this moment, and not let the weeds take over.

I was grateful this evening for the self-soothing distraction of a new kitchen gadget, a cheese baker that was given to me. Plunk in a round of cheese–it came with a recipe for French or English, and I had a small round of Brie so I chose the French version–stick some garlic slices into it, a tablespoon of dry vermouth, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, and bake for 20 minutes… until ‘molten.’ Then, of course, spread it on carb of choice–I had no baguettes so used Ritz crackers. Not sure that I don’t prefer regular room temp Brie, but it was a tasty treat.

Plagiarism: Special Election Day Bulletin

   Maybe no political party is as virtuous as it wants to claim. But there was a time when the Republican party could at least bill itself as the party of financial responsibility, small government, defending democracy, supporting the troops, paying your bills, family values and even telling the truth. These values are now gone from the Republican party. And they didn’t fall, they were pushed.

Maybe until now you’ve stayed with the Republicans hoping once Donald Trump was gone the Republican party of old would re-emerge. But two years later it’s clear even his sizable loss didn’t open the door to the party returning to its values but instead somehow managed to only accelerate the decline.

Every political party through history has had its more extreme elements, but few have allowed the extremes to seize power and control the agenda. You saw with your own eyes what they did to Liz Cheney for keeping her word and honoring her oath to uphold the Constitution. This isn’t just not your father’s Republican party anymore, this isn’t your Republican party either.It’s been said elections have their consequences. Part of this is who gets elected, but equally important is how our votes define who we are as people. Who are you? What do you stand for? Do you really want children to have to carry their rapist’s children? Do you really want no exception for abortion to save the life of the mother? Do you really want gay friends and family members to fear for their marriages? Do you really want birth control to be a conversation between a woman, her doctor, and her local politician? No, of course not.

So maybe this is the day you stop voting for all these things you don’t believe. Maybe today’s the day you stop waiting for a miracle and simply admit you are done with the nonsense, done with the cruelty and that you really just aren’t a Republican anymore.

So what next? If you are in a spot where you feel safe to do it, I’ve heard from customers making the leap and telling the world the Republican party is no longer for you can be quite freeing. People will be excited to have you on our side.

For those of you living more complex lives in less liberal communities with all the scary bits about what Republicans have become, there’s something to be said for starting out with a slightly stealthier approach. Maybe borrowing a page from the LGBTQ+ rural teen handbook and living a double life for a while is your safest bet. Ultimately this is more about who you are than about who others see you to be. Today who you vote for is far more important than who people think you voted for.

I know this isn’t easy, but I think you may be surprised just how many of your old values have found a new home in the Democratic party. At the heart of conservatism is the belief in passing on an at least as good of a world to future generations as the one we inherited. To achieve this we must preserve the environment, education, and equal rights. To think, the Republican party was started to end slavery. Times change.

Please don’t let yourself be locked into continuing to vote for what you don’t believe in. Both our nation and our planet face serious issues that can’t wait another decade to be addressed. You being among kindred spirits where you no longer have to hide your empathy and compassion just to fit in is the first step toward preserving what’s good about this world. Come join in. You are welcome. Plus, our side has the tastier treats 🙂

Thanks for giving this some thought,
Bill

bill@penzeys.com P.S. Please forward this to everyone you know of who is far more kind than those you think they will be voting for. Thanks!       Penzeys Spices12001 W. Capitol Drive | Wauwatosa, WI | 53222 USview this email in your browser
 

With all the encouraging words out there from so many compassionate and wise leaders, this mini-essay from Penzeys exec Bill struck me as the one I wish I had written. Everything changes, all the time. The Republican Party has changed, dramatically, from the one I was raised to believe in. And I have changed. I’m not the same person I was yesterday, much less five, twenty, forty years ago. It’s no only OKAY to recognize the changes in ourselves, our beliefs, our perceptions, our needs, it is essential to our growth and maturing as a sentient being. If you haven’t already, please vote for women’s rights, human rights, and the rights of all those beings without human language who are being decimated by loss of habitat through destruction, poisoning, and other effects of human greed. Recognize our interdependence with each other and all beings, and vote for a real future: vote for love.

Choosing

I’m grateful today (and every day) for choosing where I place my attention. I didn’t used to have this capacity. I used to let my thoughts drag me around. I used to “think too much,” as many people told me and I resented them for saying that. You don’t think nearly enough! I would think in response. It’s true, too many people don’t think nearly enough, or as a friend pointed out today, don’t have the capacity for critical thinking, i.e., discerning truth clearly. But thinking too much is a different beast. I’m grateful to mindfulness practice for allowing me to release the mental agitation caused by believing my every thought, identifying with or attaching to the things I think. I still think horrible things could happen tomorrow if unthinking Americans vote narrow-minded, self-righteous, power-hungry, greedy, ignorant people into power… but I’m not attached to the outcome. No matter how awful it might be, it’s beyond my control now.

I’ve donated more $ in the past six months to political causes and campaigns than ever in my whole life put together. I’ve voted, written, and conversed, and tried to influence people to vote for their true best interests, and against corporate greed, fascism, and ‘alternative facts.’ I’ve done what I can in my own small way. No matter what happens when the ashes of this election settle, there will still be people, animals, and a planet who need my help and compassion, and that’s where I’ll continue to turn my attention. And in the meantime, I’ll choose to pay attention to what I can control, which is how I show up for myself and for others moment by moment, day by day.

One way I strengthen resilience and hope is to take care of myself, so that I can be more present and helpful for others. One way I take care of myself is to give myself little gifts, moments of joy, throughout the day; choosing to be mindfully aware of what is good, true, and beautiful in this life. One way I do that is with simple but delicious food treats. For example… croissants from City Market cost $1.12 each… add some homemade raspberry jam and a quarter of a chocolate bar, bake for eight minutes, and this delectable breakfast cost less than $2 and fifteen minutes. So simple, so delicious. Taking another ten or fifteen minutes to savor the flavors and textures, along with a cup of coffee, and I can honestly say it was a half-hour well spent. Yes, life is hard: millions of sentient beings suffer every day; all the material blessings of my life could disappear tomorrow in some natural or man-made catastrophe; death is certain, time of death uncertain. There is nothing more that I can do about any of those true things than what I’ve already done: and in this moment, in this breath, all is well, and for that I am profoundly grateful. Tomorrow come what may, let me live this day choosing to focus my attention on gratitude and joy, wherever I can find them.

Looking Up in Wonder

As Wren and I were out on our afternoon walk, everything in front of us looking much the same as usual, the ground, sagebrush, trees, green mosses, and soft dry mud, I chanced to turn and look over my shoulder, and “ah, bright wings!” We followed the marvel through the woods until, as everything always does, it shifted, dispersed, dissipated. I’m so grateful for those moments when I am stopped in my tracks by looking up in wonder.

I’m grateful for the single Tabasco pepper I grew this summer, for its precious little hot peppers, and for it hanging on long enough after I potted it up and brought it inside to load up with ripe or ripening fruits. When I went to water it today I noticed an aphid infestation, and I’m grateful I had a plan for such an eventuality. Having observed in previous years that outside food plants brought in, peppers or herbs, often succumb to aphids, I was on the lookout, and had steeled myself for the necessary: I cut off all the peppers and put the plant and aphids outside to freeze gently to death; trying to control them has always failed and resulted in more houseplants becoming infested. I’m grateful I had “the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.”

Top of the Hill

Today I’m grateful for the view after a brisk walk to the top of the hill. It’s the first time I’ve had the breath, energy, and sufficient lack of pain to walk that far for a long time. Little Wren was thrilled, dashing up and back, hither and yon, inspiring me with her enthusiasm. I don’t remember the last time I walked the whole length of the driveway, but I think it was more than a year ago. It was a stark contrast to this day last year, and in the way of anniversaries I thought a lot about how that Friday unfolded. I’m grateful for the friends who carried me through that awful morning, that they are still alive and well and that we continue to support each other in the ups and downs of our lives. I’m grateful for Impermanence, for how loss and grief also dissipate over time as surely as any good thing; I’m grateful for the new little dog who’s been here just over six months, and how she continues to heal my heart, gradually stealing into the tender places that closed with Stellar’s death. I’m grateful for the slow, sometimes arduous process of healing my body, too.

Disappointment

This was certainly not a disappointing way to wake up! I was lolling in bed when I saw this enormous white beast gobbling up the mountains at a fast clip. I could hardly jump up quick enough. I’m grateful for the fascinating sight, and all the moisture in the snow-sleet-rain storm that followed this throughout the day. I’ve checked the Cloud Appreciation Society library to try to identify this cloud but can’t quite fit it into any of the categories. They don’t have “Freight Train” listed, nor “Godzilla.”

I picked the sleetiest part of the day to drive the garbage up, but was rewarded with this soft scene on the way back down. Most of the day was not a disappointment. I’m grateful that my appointment in town was today and not tomorrow because at least the roads were warm and wet as I drove to deposit my ballot in the dropbox in one town, and then on to PT in the next town; I’m grateful for the ongoing education I’m getting about cardiopulmonary fitness and how to get there. I found myself in the right place at the right time, and with just the right hankering, to pick up some Thai food from a place that came highly recommended, so I stopped there for the first time. I ordered egg rolls, cheese rolls which I’d never heard of, and Pad Thai. I was surprised to find that this food ranked right up there with the worst Thai food I’ve ever eaten. The egg rolls had hardly any filling, and beneath the crispy exterior were doughy; same with the cheese rolls, though the cheese filling was the tastiest part of the whole meal. The dipping sauce was thin and vaguely fishy tasting. Regarding the Pad Thai, I would think a Mild described as “the least spicy” would at least have some flavor! Any flavor at all! The noodles were tough and chewy, and the toppings included a few pale shreds of something that could have been anything but certainly weren’t bean sprouts, while the quarter teaspoon of chopped peanuts were so finely ground they disappeared. Ah well!

I’m grateful for this disappointment. For one thing, I don’t have to pass the place again with my mouth watering, wondering, wanting to stop but not making time; for another, it proves the mindfulness point that reality is subjective and relational rather than intrinsic to any situation, event, encounter, or food outlet. I’d heard such good things; clearly some people like the food. Maybe it was just a bad day in the kitchen. Maybe the host was annoyed that I asked where the chicken came from and opted for tofu when told it was “just regular chicken, not organic or anything.” Maybe my taste buds and preferences have gotten spoiled after years of cooking gourmet food just the way I like it. I threw in a spoonful of Hoisin sauce to make half the dish palatable, and tossed the other half in the compost. It was worth the price for the lesson.

“If Republicans Win, You Lose…”

I’m grateful for yet another day of beautiful, mild fall weather which Wren and I could spend outside puttering in the garden, tidying up the yarden, before another winter storm blows in overnight. Already clouds are massing above, obscuring the waxing moon; there’s moisture in the dark air. I’m grateful to have some of the firewood stacked dry under the shed roof,

I’m grateful that the green tomatoes I brought in weeks ago are ripening so well! I pulled them out of the brown bags to finish on the counter before turning them into sauce. After a hard day’s work inside and out, Wren is grateful to rest with me.

I’m grateful for the steady wisdom of Robert Hubbell weekdays in my inbox: for his optimism, criticism, research, references, compassion, and wisdom. I can’t recommend his newsletter highly enough for all Americans who believe in democracy, equality, and true freedom. I also admire and am inspired by and grateful for pastor John Pavlovitz who promotes true Christian values of kindness and inclusion. And I’m grateful for Jessica Craven, Heather Cox Richardson, Dan Rather, the J6 Committee, and so many other voices on the national stage speaking truth in the face of corruption and lies; and for the thousands of door-knocking, phone-calling, postcard-sending activists in my community and yours who are putting their precious time and energy into spreading the news that if Republicans win next week, we all lose. If you follow this blog and you are not an advertising troll, you probably care about many of the same things I do. Please trust me on this: it is imperative that every one of you votes. It’s going to be a close election, and there will be nasty fallout with Republicans across the board refusing to honor the results if they lose. We have every reason to be hopeful, as Hubbell says often, and no reason to be complacent.

Gravity

Wren got to meet our new chiropractor Dr. Leigh this morning, way too early. It was 25℉ when we had to get up and I didn’t make time for coffee before we left. But it was a lovely session for me providing much relief from sciatic discomfort, and Dr. Leigh delighted in her little assistant who followed her around until settling down on her bed when she was sure everything was in order. I’m grateful she gets to go with me. I’m also grateful for gravity. I mention it sometimes when I lead a meditation, suggesting we relax into the warm embrace of gravity or something similar. As I lay on the table with sacral blocks stabilizing my off-kilter pelvis and needles in my legs and hands, I was delighted to hear Dr. Leigh say as she encouraged me to relax, “We live on a planet with gravity, might as well make the most of it.”

I’ve been wanting to photograph this mural for months, maybe years. As I drove by one time I saw the young woman artist just finishing it up but I didn’t have time to stop. I don’t get out much anymore, and don’t make time to stop when I do, but this morning town was empty as I headed home, and more importantly the new coffee shop next door to this building was empty but open, so I turned around and parked along the curb, went in and ordered a delicious vanilla latté, and made the most of being parked beside the mural. I’m grateful to live in a valley that values art, and allows artists to paint the buildings. I hope this mural will be here for decades to come.

On the way out of town I was grateful to be stopped for road construction so that I could snap this extraordinary sky both west and east. The flagmen seemed oblivious to the splendor above them, and I hope that my getting out and looking up may have influenced them and the drivers stopped behind me to also look up and enjoy the celestial view. Though we are held to earth by gravity, the clouds are not, and only succumb to it when they are heavy with rain or snow. As I drove the twenty minutes home I watched these cloud from many angles as they slowly dissipated into nothingness just as I reached my driveway.

It was a busy afternoon and evening, and when all was done all I wanted to do was sit with a bowl of popcorn and watch some TV. But not just any popcorn. An epicurious recipe had popped into my inbox the other day which I was excited to try: Maple pecan popcorn. OMG. So… simple, so delicious! It really was simple, just time consuming, and I was grateful for a clip-on candy thermometer. Pop a bunch of corn. Chop and toast some pecans. Melt butter and bring to a boil with maple syrup (real maple syrup, of course) and a pinch of salt, and let it boil for a long time (at this altitude) until it reaches 287℉ (altitude correction for 300℉), then pour over and quickly stir with the popcorn/pecans, and spread into a baking pan until it cools. Break it up into bits and pieces and enjoy! I could hardly stop eating it, but it made a LOT, and I’m grateful it keeps for up to a week–if it lasts that long.

Courage

I hear the Cowardly Lion sputtering it. It takes courage to live this life, no matter what our challenges are. I’m grateful today for the courage to meet the challenges of my day, and for the lessons I learned about myself in doing so. They weren’t big, were basic first world challenges; challenges being relative, we all have some.

I had to drive 80 miles (in my car that I own though it’s 16 years old) after a snowy morning (an unexpected three inches) to see the dermatologist (which insurance pays for except a measly $2), and get a couple of centimeters frozen off my face as well as a biopsy sliced off the bridge of my nose which has precious little flesh to spare. I’m so grateful for the awareness to observe physical changes so I knew to go see the doctor, for his friendly efficiency (it took three times as long to numb my nose as it did to carve the biopsy), and for the financial assistance to get potential skin cancer identified and taken care of (thanks, Affordable Care Act); grateful for the long-lasting anesthetic he shot into my nose to get me that 80 miles back home painfree, and that I didn’t freak out driving home when I noticed that my nose was bleeding and in fact bled the whole way home. Even though I felt a little queasy after awhile.

I’m grateful for the gorgeous drive from here to there and back again, and grateful that I had other options though I decided to take little Wren with me. This was another act of courage, choosing to trust humanity not to mess with her while she waited in the car for me while I was under the knife (and freezer gun). I’m grateful for the opportunity to observe the extent of anxiety that rose in me because I know that she has separation anxiety when I leave her at home. How do I know? The way she greets me on my return panting like she’s run a marathon in summer and jumping to my shoulder. She was a perfect angel on the drive, waited quietly in the car (for all I know) and I know it wasn’t too hot today, and she slept the whole way home. Such a good little girl! She’s given plenty of gentle huggies since we got home, and is patiently waiting for bedtime.

“How are you?” asked the doctor when he entered the office. I’ve been seeing him a long time and he sort of knows me. “I’m anxious!” I replied a little too emphatically. As I told him about Wren in the car, I felt all these other anxieties bubbling up. “I’m anxious about a lot of other things, too!” I almost challenged him to ask, so I didn’t make him. “I’m anxious about politics,” I confessed, and about climate chaos, I thought, and in that moment I realized that I had channeled a lot of sublimated anxieties into the one I’d been focused on for days, What to do about Wren while I’m gone for four hours? I’ve been ignoring anxieties about the rabid right wing threat to democracy and the most basic rights of most Americans; I’ve been cultivating anxiety about Covid, long Covid, and living alone; and about this COPD diagnosis, and what the future will bring, and whether I’ll ever choose to spend time around people again. I could feel the seeds of agoraphobia taking root; I could feel empathy. I was able to recognize what was arising in me, and be with it with calm awareness even though it wasn’t comfortable, sit still for the procedures, and then follow the steps to get home to (relative) safety. My attachment to the outcome of this day was different than it would have been a dozen years ago. Instead of worrying about biopsy results, I only cared that I made it home safely with Wren, and once that happened I was able to relax again.

In mindfulness practice we consider relaxation to be a skill. It was only by pushing well beyond my comfort zone into overt psychological discomfort that I was able to recognize how far I’ve come in relaxing: It amazed me to realize that I used to spend much of every day enmeshed in this same level of anxiety that assailed me this afternoon. What a relief! It’s no longer a steady state for me, but only an occasional trait.

Breathing

Best of all, little Wren is allowed to attend respiratory therapy with me! She makes herself right at home. She’s also been welcomed at physical therapy, and just got permission to come see the chiropractor and the massage therapist also. Amazing! What a great health network we are blessed with in this valley.

I’m grateful for breathing. I’ve been on night oxygen for around a month, and that’s helped a lot with my energy level during the day. For various bureaucratic reasons, Medicaid, Medicare, and any other type of insurance won’t pay for the portable oxygen concentrator I require for various logistical reasons associated with living off the grid. But I’m grateful that I was able to afford to buy the unit from savings, and that it has been performing as advertised. The battery charges in around four hours during the day, and then it lasts for about nine hours overnight–just long enough for me to turn it on, put in the nasal cannula, and read for an hour or so, then roll over and sleep through the night. I’m grateful for this extra oxygen overnight which has improved the quality of my days. There’s a little discomfort with the tubes across my cheeks, catching my arm in the tubing when I roll over, and a persistent sensation of pressure under my nose during the day when there’s nothing there anymore, but these are all minor inconveniences compared to the benefits.

As much as for the nighttime oxygen, I’m grateful for the respiratory therapy provided by our local hospital network. Dear Marla, who has helped with therapy for both wrists, is also a breathing expert. I get to see her once a week for awhile, to learn a basic functional breath, and increasingly demanding exercises to improve lung capacity, oxygen absorption, and CO2 expulsion. I’ve mentioned before how grateful I am to the various physical therapists I’ve seen over the past few years through the Delta Health system. This poor, challenged body continues to benefit from all those past visits, and now derives great comfort and resilience from the tender ministrations of a warm, compassionate, and skillful breathing coach.

I’m also grateful today for another grocery delivery, and for the beauty of beans. This batch was cooked with onions, orange jalapeños, garlic, cumin, coriander, and oregano, and will go into a batch of burritos to freeze for quick and easy meals.