Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Less Talk, More Action

Here's a nice little article:

10 Things Guys Wish Women Knew about Men
  1. Men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected. Husbands need to know that their wives respect them both privately and publicly. Men thrive when they know that their wives trust them, admire them and believe in them. Shaunti Feldhahn’s research indicated that men would rather sense the loss of loving feelings from their wives than to be disrespected by them.
  2. A man’s anger is often a response to feeling disrespected by his wife. When a husband becomes angry with his wife, he may not come out and say, “You’re disrespecting me!” But, there is a good likelihood that he is feeling stung by something his wife has done which he considers disrespectful and humiliating.
  3. Men are insecure. Men are afraid that they aren’t cutting it in life -- not just at work, but at home, in their role as a husband. They may never vocalize this, but inwardly, they are secretly vulnerable. The antidote? Affirmation. To men, affirmation from their wives is everything! If they don’t receive this affirmation from their wives, they’ll seek it elsewhere. When they receive regular and genuine affirmation from their wives (not flattery, by the way), they become much more secure and confident in all areas of their lives.
  4. Men feel the burden of being the provider for their family. Intellectually, it doesn’t matter how much or little a man makes, or whether or not his wife makes more or less money in her career. Men simply bear the emotional burden of providing for their family. It’s not a burden they’ve chosen to bear. Men are simply wired with this burden. As such, it is never far from their minds and can result in the feeling of being trapped. While wives cannot release their husbands from this burden, they can relieve it through a healthy dose of appreciation, encouragement and support.
  5. Men want more sex. Everyone’s natural response to this is probably, “Duh!” But, that response is probably for the wrong reason. We primarily assume that men want more sex with their wives due to their physical wiring (their “needs”). But, surprisingly, Shaunti Feldhahn’s research showed that the reason men want more sex is because of their strong need to be desired by their wives. Men simply need to be wanted. Regular, fulfilling sex is critical to a man’s sense of feeling loved and desired.
  6. Sex means more than sex. When men feel their wives desire them sexually, it has a profound effect on the rest of their lives. It gives them an increasing sense of confidence and well-being that carries over into every other area of his life. The flipside of this coin also carries a profoundly negative affect. When a husband feels rejected sexually, he not only feels his wife is rejecting him physically, but that she is somehow rejecting his life as a husband, provider and man. This is why making sex a priority in marriage is so incredibly important!
  7. Men struggle with visual temptation. This means the vast majority of men respond to visual images when it comes to women. And, this doesn’t just mean the guys with wandering eyes. Even the most godly husband cannot avoid noticing a woman who dresses in a way that draws attention to her body. Even if it is just a glance, these visual images are stored away in the male brain as a sort of “visual rolodex” that will reappear without any warning. Men can choose whether to dwell on these images and memories or dismiss them, but they can’t control when these images appear.
  8. Men enjoy romance, but doubt their skills to be romantic. True, many men appear to be unromantic clods, but it doesn’t mean that they want to be that way! Men want to be romantic, but they just doubt their ability to pull it off. They are plagued by internal hesitations, perceiving the risk of humiliation and failure as too high. Wives can do a great deal to increase their husbands’ confidence in their romantic skills through encouragement and redefining what romance looks like. For example, a wife may balk when her husband asks her to go along to the hardware store, but it’s likely that he’s asking because he sees it as a time they can get away as a couple and hang out together. What’s not romantic about that?
  9. Men care about their wife’s appearance. This isn’t saying that all men want their wives to look like the latest supermodel. What men really want is to know that their wives are making an effort to take care of themselves (and not letting themselves go) because it matters to them (the husbands!). Husbands appreciate the efforts their wives make to maintain their attractiveness.
  10. Men want their wives to know how much they love them. This was the number one response of men. Men aren’t confident in their ability to express this, but they love their wives dearly. Men want to show how much they love their wives and long for them to understand this fact.
For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn

It is nice to see someone else put in print much of what I already suspected to be true. I’m not sure I really trusted this knowledge enough to put it to good use in my past relationships. That is a regret that I have. In a lot of ways, I did well, so I can’t be too hard on myself. I was intuitive enough to know that I needed to take responsibility for my own joy and pain rather than make my man feel he is to blame. I’ve always had a sense that criticism or even “constructive feedback” typically backfires, only being sort of intuitively aware that this is because it shows disrespect. Sex is certainly an area where I’ve always sensed a meaning to men beyond physical needs. I’ve always felt that I really had to care for my man in bed, understanding intuitively his vulnerability at that time.

I’ve been reading this book called How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It: Finding Love Beyond Words by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. I got what I needed from that book in just a few chapters. Seems to me the authors tried to stretch out a topic that is so simple that it really doesn’t require much elaboration. The key premise of the book is this: It is not communication that is missing in the rough patches in a relationship, it is connection. Disconnection is triggered by women’s natural tendency toward anxiety and fear and men’s natural tendency toward shame. When our fear or shame is triggered, we start to feel disconnected. When women feel disconnected, they want to talk. When men feel disconnected, they tend toward fight or flight. And that is where we run into conflicts. When we don’t truly address fear and shame in a relationship, and see it for what it really is (natural tendencies in each person and not the direct result of something the other person did or did not do), it is easy to start feeling resentment toward the other person. This often eventually leads down the path of separation and divorce.

Some of the tips for resolving this sense of disconnection I’ve read so far are pretty cliché: Give your partner a back rub after a hard day, blah, blah, blah. But ultimately chapter 2 of the book, geared toward how to transform our fear and shame and re-connect with our partners, really is pointing to mindfulness, compassion and the quality of no-self, which are key teachings of Buddhism. Unfortunately, this book just barely mentioned the need to see the emotions of fear and shame before being able to do something about them. It certainly did not explain how to be mindful of those emotions. This book along with a good book on how to establish mindfulness would be perfect companions, in my opinion. Perhaps The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hahn would be well suited toward that purpose. Thich Nhat Hahn is my favorite Zen teacher on mindfulness in daily life. While standing, sitting, walking, or lying down, we can always bring awareness to our breathing. Awareness of breathing helps us get in touch with our body and mind. While we are breathing, we can take a look and see what is there. At the same time, we can have compassion for ourselves for what is there. He would probably suggest a meditation like this:

Breathing in, there is fear
Breathing out, I care about this fear
Breathing in, there is shame
Breathing out, I care about this shame

Once we are able to clearly identify that we are feeling disconnected, we need to have an understanding of why. Knowing that these feelings are the result of our inborn natural tendencies (nature) as well as causes and conditions over the course of our lifetime (nurture), we can take them less personally. Sometimes we just feel lonely and disconnected or like we are not worthy of goodness. This is just how it is sometimes. These feelings come up all on their own and once they have arisen, here they are for us to work with. We can either take them seriously, spinning stories about why this is so and who is to blame – or we can see them for just what they are without attaching any stories or blame. This fear is here now. It is just fear. There need not be anything extra to it. It is not me, mine or certain. This is the quality of no-self.

When our partner is acting out with critical words or avoidance, we can apply this mindfulness to their mental state as well. If we ask the question, “Is his/her shame/fear mine?” we find that the answer is certainly “no.” We may have done something to trigger the other person’s fear or shame and it is right to apologize when appropriate, but ultimately, we have only been a trigger for emotions that are already inside the other person.

With mindfulness, compassion and not taking things personally, what to do next just comes naturally. When we work through our own insecurities and have compassion for ourselves, softening up to others comes naturally and easily. We find ourselves interacting with our partner in more positive ways and this is what restores connection. When there is connection, there really is no work in a relationship. Communication comes easily then. Just like when love is new and fresh and connected. It is easy like Sunday morning.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fear is as changeable as the change that I fear

I am feeling insecure at the moment for some reason and I’m trying to look at this feeling objectively. Of course the first impulse is to think that there is somehow something wrong with me. Why am I feeling this way? I shouldn’t be feeling this way. Then there is the urge to get rid of it or cover it up in some way. The way my mind does this is by obsessing. I want to either solve the problem in a hurry or just be distracted from it. This obsession is driven by aversion. Sometimes obsession is driven by greed but today it is aversion. Fear. Fear of losing something pleasurable. Fear of impermanence. Fear of instability. Fear of the unknown. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being likeable. Fear of making mistakes.

But this fear is not me. It is just something happening in the moment. It is not solid. It is instable. As FDR said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” It is the extra anxiety that comes from fear that can potentially get out of hand. Fear is workable. To the degree we can be comfortable with fear, it does not overtake us. It does not spin out of control.

Being comfortable with fear is not about stopping that fear. It is about examining it head on, without any avoidance. It is felt fully, but it is not to be taken as solid. Fear is as changeable as the change that I fear.

Mindfulness around fear pokes holes in it. When fear is taken personally, it is made to seem solid. If we avoid taking fear personally, it is like mist. We can walk right through it.

Usually upon closer examination, asking the question, “Where is this fear coming from? Is it truly valid?” the answer is that the fear is coming from mistaken ideas and it is truly not valid. Seeing clearly helps to relieve fear.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Problems Are Not a Problem

I got into work today to emails about several things that just are not going the way they are supposed to. I just thought to myself, well I guess I have some work to do today.

I used to think that when things were planned out well, they actually should go according to plan. I had great expectations for outcomes. But of course I have discovered again and again that so many times it doesn't matter how much or well I plan. Things turn out as they will. I can prepare and prepare and still all hell could break lose unexpectedly. It is so much easier to deal with results when there are no specific expectations for how things might turn out. When I have great expectations for how things should be, it is SO painful when they don't turn out how I wanted.

Non-attachment to results, letting go of hope and fear, is such a peaceful way to be. I don't think I could go back to the tight, perfectionistic clinging of my younger days. How painful that was! I suppose the way I got to this place was by simply acknowledging the pain and suffering caused from being attached to particular results. We have to see we are hurting in order to fix it. Once it is seen and understood (this is painful because I am clinging), the next time we have expectations about something and it doesn't turn out how we like, it will still hurt, but we'll have a more big picture view of it. We all must become our own psychologists, analyzing our minds and emotions and becoming interested in what we find there. We must seek to understand what we find. Understanding leads to wisdom which leads to freedom.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My roof is just a little leaky

Even as rain penetrates an ill-thatched house, so does lust penetrate an undeveloped mind.

Even as the rain does not penetrate a well-thatched house, so does lust not penetrate a well-developed mind.

Dhammapada 1:9

Monday, November 1, 2010


I’ve been thinking lately about commitment in relationships. A day-to-day commitment makes the most sense to me as a Buddhist. I am glad that I have had some training in the appreciation of impermanence. This training is necessary for a person that like things decided. Fortunately, with this training and from the aversion I have to marriage after having been through two divorces, I am more comfortable with ambiguity than ever before. Nothing is not subject to change. Nothing. I fully recognize and appreciate this. However, to some degree there must be some ground to stand on. It is understood that it may not be ground that stays under our feet, but ground that is there now.

How does a Buddhist divorcee with kids reconcile this paradox of commitment/stability and impermanence/instability? I want to be sensitive to my kids’ need for security and consistency, yet at the same time, they are just as susceptible to impermanence as everyone else. Impermanence is a truth that cannot be hidden or denied. But what can I do to minimize the impacts to their security while at the same time live our lives together fully? Lives that change? People that change?

I have never introduced anyone I’ve dated to my children. It results in a somewhat secretive, double life of sorts. I certainly feel this is necessary. It is important to me that there is a certain level of commitment in an intimate relationship before I would feel comfortable introducing a man to my kids. But I need to better define “certain level of commitment.” The word “commitment” is a very scary word to me, and frankly I am not interested in the “lock down” that the term implies to me. Yet at the same time, it just seems silly to keep my kids completely out of that part of my life indefinitely.

The kind of relationship that I want for myself is one with sexual exclusivity but otherwise total freedom. I want my lover to have the choice to be with me. A choice that he is free to make or not make every day. When he is free to make that choice and he chooses me, that feels much better than someone being with me out of obligation, because he said “I do” in a solemn vow, signed on the dotted line, or is simply dependent upon me in some way.

This is difficult to translate into terms that society understands. Our culture is all about marriage. In spite of the reality of high divorce rates, the underlying collective belief is that one must be married in order to be a true member of society. There are a few rebels out there fortunately. Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed, who have been together for 26 years say they are “Happily Unmarried.” Goldie Hawn says about her 27 year relationship with Kurt Russell: “I wake up every day knowing I can walk out at any moment.”,,20401691,00.html More people than ever before are cohabitating and not getting married. I think the tides are turning, though slowly. Commitment and choice need not be at odds. I believe in commitment to one another’s freedom of choice. How beautiful lovers are who choose each other again and again as the years roll by.

It is difficult to have this commitment to freedom of choice when I have kids. The kind of freedom I want in a relationship means that there could come a point of not choosing each other anymore and then my kids are left wondering. I feel compelled to protect them, but how can this be entirely prevented? Since I can’t predict the future, all I can do is examine my intentions in the present moment. And the intentions of the man I might introduce my kids to. My intention is for a long-term relationship. Long-term meaning something that has a good chance of continuing for more than a year. When I have gotten to know someone well enough to have determined that there is long-term potential, I might be ready for my kids to meet him. It only need have potential. And of course these intentions must be mutual. How long it takes to get to know someone to that degree is up for debate, I suppose. I probably would have to allow more time than I’d like. Once I had decided this, it probably would be wise to wait another month or two, just to rule out my tendency to rush into having things decided.

Introducing my kids to a lover would be a pretty big deal and it would indicate a commitment for me. But not a binding sort of commitment. I don’t want to be tied down. I don’t need a vow and I don’t need or want my partner to say “forever.” There only needs to be mutual agreement that what we have is worth putting some amount of effort into keeping it going. That is all.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Let’s talk a little bit about impermanence

I have written about this topic before, but it is not a topic that gets old for me. My “judging” personality type prefers things be decided and it is a very strong habit pattern. I like to analyze, sort, figure out, determine, move left or right, settle the score, define, categorize. I have a tendency to wait to make decisions or take action until things are stable. And on the other side of the coin, if things are not stable, I have a tendency to make hasty decisions with the intention of making them stable. There certainly is benefit to having neat and orderly habits, but it can be a real burden at times in the form of perfectionism.

Meditation practice has helped me to feel more comfortable with ambiguity, groundlessness and impermanence. Meditating on the fact that nothing is certain actually brings a sense of freedom. I can sort and determine and plan – and it is good to do so, but ultimately, all that really matters is what is happening right in front of me, right now. Reflecting on impermanence helps push me into the present moment. I can’t wait until some future time to live. The time to live is Now. It is always Now. I have hopes and plans for the future, but none of that is certain. All that is actually certain is what is happening Now. Even what happened in the past is not certain. Thoughts about the past are just thoughts happening now in the present. What happened in the past was only certain at the time it actually happened. Now the past is just a memory and the further I get from it, the more unreliable my memory is of it.

I am not tied down by any negative circumstance because it will eventually change. All I need is patience. I am not tied down by any positive circumstance because of the understanding that it will eventually change. I am more easily able to let good things go when they change because it is not a surprise. There is no delusion that somehow I could make things stay the same.

There is a wonderful Zen story about how no circumstance can really be categorized as good/bad, lucky/unlucky. Jon J. Muth tells this story very nicely in the children’s book Zen Shorts:

There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day, his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "Maybe," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses. "Such good luck!" the neighbors exclaimed. "Maybe," replied the farmer.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "Such bad luck," they said. "Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. "Such good luck!" cried the neighbors. "Maybe," said the farmer.

All of the events and circumstances of our lives are relative. And often, we may not even realize how “lucky” we are in a particular moment. There are layers upon layers of conditions contributing to the events of our lives. Perhaps it is for the best not to know how it could be better or worse, only how it is now.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

It feels like a long time since I last posted. It hasn't been that long, but it feels like longer because I have gotten out of the habit of just writing freely whenever a thought crosses my mind. It is ironic that my last post was the earthworm quote, since lately I have been doing some writing for a more public audience, with the intention that I might actually earn some money for some of my writing. It would be nice to eventually get out of the corporate world and do something more creative for a living, like writing or life coaching. Perhaps I will, I don't know. It takes time, I think. And I've never been patient enough in the past to really give my true vocational longings a real shot. I have ideas about the way things should be and then I expect that it be that way NOW. But obviously that is not the way things work in the real world. A seed gets planted, then watered and given sunlight and grows... slowly. Sometimes the growing seedling even wilts, then comes back. If one were to watch it constantly, it would seem like it was never getting anywhere.

So often I feel this way about my life and meditation practice. I meditate nearly every day and have for about 7 years, and the benefits are so gradual and subtle, almost barely even noticed. I still have the same anxieties, struggles, insecurities. Old baggage comes up again and again.

But when I stop and really look at my life at this point, I see how far I have come. It seems like a miracle has happened, even though it has taken 7 years of slow and patient work. Morning anxiety is more of a friend than an enemy and doesn't hit me nearly as hard as it did for so many years. I am less afraid of making mistakes and more willing to own up to them than ever before. When I hear thoughts of ill-will toward myself and others in my mind, I can no longer entertain them. I see craving, I see impermanence, I see suffering. I can no longer run away - and what a relief!

At first the not being able to run away was quite painful. What? You mean I need to face this stuff? I thought meditation was supposed to be relaxing!! Early days of meditation practice and retreat practice contained a lot of idealistic self-judgment for me. How can one look at all one's ugliness and not have some sense of self-disgust? But thanks to my skillful teachers, I have found compassion instead of disgust for my monstrous qualities. Self-love instead of self-hatred. I CARE about this pain, I told myself again and again. And you know what? I found that I actually do. And that caring for myself in that way is healing and amazing and beautiful.

I just love this quote I saw on a coffee cup in the office of my marriage counselor several years ago:

"Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars." From the poem, "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann.

So perhaps that is an overly used quote, but there is a reason for that. It is true and it is good. Be GENTLE with yourself. Have compassion for yourself. Care for yourself. That is what gets us over the hump and ends the battle within.

So the point I am trying to come to is that this did not happen for me overnight. I can't discredit the immediate benefits of mindfulness meditation - they are incredible (calming, stress-relieving, grounding). But sustained effort in maintaining mindfulness over a long period of time, I am only beginning to recognize the benefits of. And why should I think that a career change would be any different? Starting out slowly, from where I am, not expecting any big, immediate results, being satisfied with small successes here and there. These are the keys to big life changes. Big life changes start out small and evolve slowly and naturally over time with persistence. Persistence and discrediting of the voices that try to talk me out of what I really want for my life.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Be an Earthworm

Sometimes I spin off into my idealistic ambitions. All I need to do is read this, a quote by Ajahn Sumedho in the book After the Ecstasy, The Laundry by Jack Kornfield, to set me straight:

"For minds obsessed by compulsive thinking and grasping, you simplify your meditaiton practices to just two words -- 'let go' -- rather than try to develop this practice, and then develp that, achieve this, and go into that. The grasping mind wants to read the suttas, to study the Abhidamma, and to learn Pali and Sanskrit, then the Madhyamika and the Prajna Paramita, get ordinations in the Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana, write books and become a renowned authority on Buddhism.

"Instead of becoming the world's expert on Buddhism and being invited to great international conferences, why not just 'let go, let go, let go'?... Some of you might have the desire to become the Buddha of the age, Maitreya, radiating love throughout the world. Instead, just be an earthworm who knows only two words -- 'let go, let go, let go.' You see, ours is called the Lesser Vehicle, the Hinayana, so we only have these poverty-stricken practices."

Monday, August 30, 2010


"You say you don't want it,
The circus we're in,
But you don't,
You don't really mean it."

-Tori Amos, "Spark"

I certainly think that my taste for drama has subsided substantially over several years, but it never seems to want to go away completely. I say I don't want drama in my life, but my brain is always trying to whip something up out of nothing. This isn't necessarily a problem. It is very distracting, but it is a natural occurrence. I have no judgement about it. Habit energies can be very strong, to the point where we don't really have much control over them. But to see them does take the edge off. The mind still spins off, yet I watch and say to myself, "Wow, look at that! Look how crazy the mind is right now!" It can't be anything other than this. All I can do is return to my breath or mantra in an attempt to put a dent in the cycle. And of course, there is always self-restraint. I may not be able to stop the flow of drama in my mind, but I don't have to act out any of it. It is easier not to act on drama in the mind when it is seen clearly as drama. It doesn't necessarily go away very easily, but at least it is seen. There truly is value in that seeing. What is seen can be transformed.

Something from the James Baraz talk I heard some time ago that continues to stick in my mind is that people who are mindful still get stuck in our dramas - but not for as long. We spin off, but we recover much more quickly than we did before we practiced mindfulness. We should give ourselves credit for this and see that we are that much more happy than we were before the practice! We are that much more free. Keep up the good work!!

"The world is so dramatic...
I can't believe
That we're still livin'
Oh in this crazy crazy world
That I'm still livin'
With all the problems of the day
How can we go on
So tired of hearing people say
How can we go on
Fantasy people
Make believe people
How can you go on
But you're still livin'..."

-Erykah Badu "Drama"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Walking Meditation

I put off sitting down and meditating last night until it was very late and I really needed to go to bed. I was restless though, so I went outside and just walked for 15 minutes. It was a good call.

Hearing crickets,
Feeling pavement under my feet,
Looking at the pavement rocks sparkling in the the moonlight,
Mosquitos biting, skin itching,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Joyful Backpacking

How was it possible to feel such immense joy while hiking 24 miles of mountainous terrain carrying 40 pounds on the back of my 105 pound body? But that is exactly what happened. Joy happened. Gratitude. Love. Peace. Clarity.

The purpose of this four day backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail was to practice Dhamma. And so, I made every step my practice. Every thought, every word, every activity – under the microscope of Dhamma, of mindfulness, of the way it is.

About halfway into the second day, a hike of about 11 miles, I realized that 15 years ago, even though I had a younger and stronger body then, I would have bitched and complained the whole way. I would have taken seriously the complaints that came to mind. It would have stressed me out and I probably would have become sick and miserable. But when complaints (too hot, too tired, too sore, “I can’t do this”) came into my mind under the mindfulness microscope, I looked at them; I smiled, breathed and continued on.

This is the practice of endurance. When doing long periods of sitting meditation, a challenging mental activity just like any challenging physical activity, many of us reach a point where we feel like we can’t take it anymore. The pain, boredom, or emotions become very intense and we want to get up and run away. But when we stick it out and stay with it, we get to the top of the mountain. We break free from the things that hold us back and we can stand at the top with a fantastic view. When we experience this breakthrough, there really is no going back. We now know what is actually possible and can never take those complaints as seriously ever again. The next time the pain starts up, we can clearly see how it isn’t as solid as we thought before.

Our thoughts do form our reality, but only so much as the power we give them. When we identify thoughts that are limiting, we don’t have to believe them. We should always question limiting thoughts and consider the alternative possibilities. I can see now how different my life would be now if I had discovered this earlier in my life. Still, I am benefiting now from practicing in this way now. And it can only set positive things in motion for my future.

When things get tough, we just have to keep our heads down and put one foot in front of the other. As I climbed steep hills with a load on my back, I found the best way to stay calm was not to look too far ahead. I was mindful of each place where my foot landed and the pace in which I moved. I listened to my body and if it needed a break, I slowed or stopped. When feeling energized, I moved more quickly. When hungry, I ate. When thirsty, I drank. Such simple things make such a big difference. Sometimes we get so busy and distracted in life that we don’t pay enough attention to the simple needs of our bodies. That is so important.

Listening to a talk by James Baraz in the car on the way up north really helped set the tone of this trip for me. The talk is located here: Awakening Joy - Talk by James Baraz at Common Ground Meditation Center 3-3-10. For some of us perfectionists, it can be really easy to get into a very austere mode of practice, thinking practice has to be a certain way or thinking that we have to act in a certain way in order to become “enlightened.” For me, my thinking went that I must deny myself of pleasures in order to become pure and this is simply just not true. It is good to remember that we really can just live our lives and experience joy and pleasure when it comes to us. We had pleasures before we practiced and we have pleasures now when we practice. Just the experience of it changes. Before practice, we cling to pleasure, thinking we could make it stay somehow. After practice, we may still cling, but we just can’t cling for as long as we used to – because we understand that clinging is the cause of suffering. We may not give up that clinging right away, but certainly when we are mindful, we are able to let it go more quickly than when we are not mindful. As a result, we actually do suffer less. And more and more over time, it isn’t even that we are able to let go, we just do, naturally. We don’t have to make it happen. It just happens.

The practice James teaches is very simple; when hearing a complaint in the mind or finding that one has already popped out of your mouth, simply add the statement: “But my life is really very blessed.” It is just one simple statement that stops the cycle of negativity in its tracks. Even if we don’t fully believe that simple statement to begin with, the more we say it, the more it pokes holes into our very serious story lines.

My body is tired and achey today, but my life is really very blessed!

Maps of my journey:
Cascade River State Park to Caribou Trail
Caribou Trail to Lutsen
Lutsen to Oberg Mountain

Monday, August 2, 2010


The more you want something, the more you push it away from yourself. So you may as well just be content with the fact that you will never get what you really want. At least not the things you want in a greedy, obsessive and clingy way. You’ll never be successful in getting the things you would sell your soul for. And even if you do get them, you will never really have them because of the fear of loss that comes from such tight clinging.

We suffer from desire when we become hyper-focused on getting what we want. When we suffer from tunnel vision. When all we can see is the object of our desire. When all we do is spin stories about it in the mind and believe those stories to be total reality. These are the stories that my meditation teacher refers to as “self-centered dramas”. The self-centered dramas our minds create feel real, they feel like Me, we take them personally, they make us feel like we exist in a solid way.

But there is hope. There may not be any getting rid of desire, but desire can happen without clinging. When desire occurs in a spacious field that doesn’t require a particular outcome, there is no suffering from desire. When there are no stories about desire, there is no suffering. When there are stories but we don’t believe in them, there is no suffering. When there are stories and we believe them, but we see how believing in them is an error, we only suffer a little.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Many years ago, my habit was to complain, to distance, to get back at, to be justified, to be defensive, to be superior – all things which are obstacles to lovingkindness, skillful actions and happiness.

As I sent an email to someone this morning in regards to a situation of conflict, it came together really well, naturally, and I realized something. Many years ago I would have responded so much differently or not responded at all, or it would have been an unnatural and difficult task to respond skillfully. I do believe that in my years of practicing mindfulness, I have come to a point where acting in loving ways comes much more naturally than ever before. It isn’t always my first inclination, but there is more often a point of reflection about my true feelings about a matter prior to taking action. There is a coming to understanding of my true feelings and evaluating what behavior would be skillful or not based on the situation.

What is the understanding that is reached? Essentially it is about what is truly personal. And when we reflect on this, in time, we see that nothing is personal. Nothing.

Mindfulness is just not as much work as it used to be. It feels more natural now, at least at this moment in time. It has become a habit, this reflection prior to response. See, there is hope for us all! The work we do, this training we undertake, has benefits in the beginning, the middle and the end! Meditation has positive impacts from the very moment we take on the practice, but there are some very valuable fruits of the practice that come after working at it for some time.

Monday, July 19, 2010


“I'm sixteen years old and everyday something happens to me...
Oh... Oh... Oooooh! I hug myself till my arms turn blue, and
then I close my eyes and I cry and cry till the tears come down
and I can taste them. I love to taste my tears.
I am special.
I am special.
Please, God, please, don't let me be normal!”

-Luisa in The Fantasticks

I have some thoughts related to an article link I posted in May on Mindful Loving. It is true that assigning someone “specialness” tends to bring along certain expectations and disappointments. “Specialness makes loving more difficult, Grayson claims--counterintuitive though that may sound--since casting people in the role of lover, mentor, spouse, or best friend raises expectations, which leads to fantasy, heartbreak, and pain. We suffer at the hands of those we love the most--that's the conundrum. ‘So much expectation,’ says Grayson, ‘blinds us to love.’”

So, if we see how everyone is equal in their goodness and lovability and not ever single out any particular person as being special, would we ever find ourselves in a romantic relationship? How would it be possible to fall in love then? It seems to me that in order to start a romantic relationship, two people must find each other to be more special than other people in their lives. But someone who is very mindful of desire, understands it fully and recognizes that it does not need to be acted upon, could essentially avoid falling in love.

Well maybe that is not strictly true… they could avoid acting on it at least. It seems like people can’t help falling in love when the causes and conditions are just right. I think we are hard-wired to fall in love and propagate the species.

This is an interesting question in the context of monastic life. Those living a monastic lifestyle may not be free from desire, but they practice restraint. They understand desire. They have the ability to have equanimity with that desire. And people who are already in a committed relationship may feel desire toward others, but most find they are able to get past that without acting on it. Also, there is social support in place for monastics to stay on the path of celibacy and those in committed relationships to stay on the path of monogamy.

Outside of a monastic support structure or a committed relationship, the rest of us are actually free to explore romantic desire and act on it if we want to. Since I am not in a relationship or a monastery at this moment in time, I have the opportunity to experiment with how it feels to avoid assigning “special” to any one person in particular, even when I could if I really wanted to.

I have many friends and they are all special to me in different ways. This is about learning not to cling to pleasant connections and interactions with people. These connections don’t need to be anything more than they are. They don’t need to lead to anything beyond that particular moment. And desire does indeed pass. I am happy now and will continue to be happy without obtaining what I desire.

How many times have I had a desire pop into my mind like, “Ooo I really want a cappucino right now!!” but then I just don’t go get one. Later I think to myself, “Wow I really wanted a coffee earlier, but now I don’t really care too much about it.” It is because I was not entirely convinced that the cup of coffee was going to truly satisfy me. I had a desire for coffee, but with clear understanding of it. This is experiential though, not intellectual. It is intuitive. Some desires we see and understand clearly. Some desires feel really solid and they demand to be satisfied. These we can only chip away at a little at a time, until someday we understand it and it can be let go. Like a child who has grown tired of her doll.

Ultimately, I am a romantic at heart. I can’t deny this. I do want someone special in my life... someday. And certainly something the article was missing is the fact that people are generally happier and healthier within the context of a committed love relationship where each does consider the other to be the most special person in their life. But just for now, what does it feel like to have special connections with many different people in friendship as opposed to focusing in on anyone in particular as a romantic interest? We’ll see where this takes me and for how long…

I love how Fergie says in her song, “Clumsy”: “I like serious relationships, and a girl like me don’t stay single for long. ‘Cause everytime a boyfriend and I break up, my world is crushed and I’m all alone, the love bug crawls right back up and bites me. And I’m back!”

The girl can’t help it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


My cat, Sunshine, pregnant. As she became heavy with kittens, she slowed down. She showed less interest in the world. She had more interest in just sitting on my lap and being petted.

Last Saturday, as she was on my lap, I pet her. She shivered, jumped down and went into the hallway of my house. The next thing I heard was a tiny meowing sound and I went to find the first kitten already born. Within minutes of her just having been on my lap, purring.

I watched her lick the kitten and heard her continue to purr. She ate the placenta and licked and chewed up the umbilical cord from her baby's stomach. Several minutes later, the kitten was clean and nursing. Sunshine was getting acquainted with her new little one. Once that one was settled, she shivered again and another came. She did the same with this one.

Once all four kittens were born and settled in, Mother Sunshine settled in too. Even now, several days later, she is content to simply lie with her newborns. She is quite uninterested in anything else other than tending to her young and getting up occasionally to eat and drink.

She is not thinking to herself, "I really have to get up to clean the house." Or, "Oh boy, it is only a few more weeks before I have to go back to work." Or, "I really should get up and make supper." Or, "Is it payday? I better pay the bills." Or, "What is everyone else doing?? I'm missing out!" Or... maybe she is and I just don't know it! Ha, ha.

The cat knows exactly what to do. There seems to be no question within her. There is no sense here of ways the situation could be improved upon or done differently. She has these four little babies and she just lies with them all day long because that is what she must do. And this is what she is content to do. There is no "If only" here. There is no "What if" here.

But I have an "If only": If only I could be as completely at ease with the natural unfolding of my life as my cat is!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finding Peace on the Job

I haven't had much time to write lately. Usually I squeeze in some time at work but work has been a bit crazy.

As I drove in to work this morning, enjoying the scenery and the scent of earth after the rain, I felt so far away from work, which felt really good. I wasn't thinking about the big meeting I had to run later in the morning. I had this sense of just being completely ok with whatever was going to happen today.

It has been said that arahantship or enlightenment is really not compatible with worldly life. Those that go in that direction either die or become monks. I feel like I have an understanding of this... letting go completely certainly is not compatible with a corporate job.

The more I let go in my life and in my career, the more I wonder how much longer I can really maintain all this worldly stuff. Do I have good enough karma to let go a lot and still keep my job?? How much can I really let go before I just get fired for being too peaceful and relaxed? How far can I go with being relaxed in the particular corporate culture that I work in? When I am working, I put in my time and give my best effort, but I don't take all this as seriously as a lot of my colleagues. People really get worked up about stuff, and I just refuse. I have given up getting worked up about stuff. Doesn't mean it never happens. In fact, I can feel myself starting to get worked up about something, but usually I can catch it before it spirals out of control.

After my meeting today that was quite tense, people were sending me messages asking if I was ok. Of course I was ok. I was not thrilled about the way the meeting went, but I did the best I could with what I know and what I have to work with. I just called it a learning experience. I reminded myself that I am actually still pretty much a rookie in the role that I have now at work. It is ok if I don't know and don't do things right, as long as I make the appropriate corrections and learn from the experience.

I suppose I could find myself a career more compatible with peacefulness, but why? Why can't I be peaceful in ANY job? That challenge is why I stay. I want to learn something here. If I don't learn it here, I'll end up in some other similar experience somewhere else.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


Saturday, May 22, 2010


I find that in the quest to "be good," "be strong," and "do it right," to love in the most selfless and highest way possible, I can sometimes get into a very austere mode of reigning in any kind of desire and neediness in me. Love is without need, right? Well, perhaps that is not true.

C. S. Lewis talks about two kinds of love, Need-love and Gift-love. Gift-love is God-like and Need-love is simply not, as God lacks nothing. But we must be careful not to judge these kinds of love as good or bad. They are both just different kinds of love. In fact, our Need-love is the kind of love that actually brings us closer to God. It is the child-like love in us that causes us to reach out to be filled by God.

excerpt from The Four Loves - C. S. Lewis:

"We must be cautious about calling Need-love 'mere selfishness.' Mere is always a dangerous word. No doubt Need-love, like all our impulses, can be selfishly indulged. A tyrannous and gluttonous demand for affection can be a horrible thing. But in ordinary life no one calls a child selfish because it turns for comfort to its mother; nor an adult who turns to his fellow 'for company.' Those, whether children or adults, who do so least are not usually the most selfless. Where Need-love is felt there may be reasons for denying or totally mortifying it; but not to feel it is in general the mark of the cold egoist. Since we do in reality need one another ('it is not good for man to be alone'), then the failure of this need to appear as Need-love in consciousness - in other words, the illusory feeling that it is good for us to be alone - is a bad spiritual symptom; just as lack of appetite is a bad medical symptom because men do really need food."

Absolutely Clear - Shams al-Din Hafiz

Don't surrender your loneliness
So quickly.
Let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice
So tender,

My need of God

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ode to Doing Nothing

It is amazing how I can sit still in one place and travel a million miles, finding endless entertainment. It's all inside me. This inner world is deep, expansive and creative. All I have to do is sit here doing nothing and the show begins. When I sit here and let it all flow without trying to stop it or hold on to it, I feel happy and peaceful. I just notice the movement of energy through my mind, heart and body.

Just let it move through.

Gratitude for the sunny day and little time off work...

Friday, April 30, 2010


I was talking to a friend yesterday who was lamenting - why it is that she feels like she needs a mate to be happy? How beautiful that she is completely aware of this and honest about it. Frankly, I feel exactly the same. In my view, I think a lot of people that say, “I’m happy single,” aren’t really being honest about that. We are strongly conditioned to find a mate, not to mention that there is just a natural instinct toward that as well. Perhaps it is more accurate to say “I’m happy being single until I find the right mate.”

It is frustrating - I do love myself and love spending time alone. I am not the kind of person who can’t stand to be with myself. Yet I still long for an intimate partner. I still feel like there is something missing that would make my life complete, something that would complete my happiness. I feel like I only have partial happiness. I feel restless. I have a very full life with work, family, friends, meditation… but I miss having one special person in my life that really knows me in a way that no one else can.

Then again, isn’t it typical to want what we don’t have? When in a relationship, I longed for more time and space for myself. When not in a relationship, I long for one. Comedian Dane Cook talks about this quite eloquently:

Let's talk a little bit about L-O-V-E. Sometimes, you meet somebody and you have what is known as a "relationship" and things can go great and if it goes great, then you have a great relationship. Sometimes, it doesnt go so great, and I like to call that a "relationshit".

When you're not in love, when you don't have love, everybody you know falls in love. On like, the same day. Even Karen the Douchebag falls in love. Even retarded people in your neighborhood are getting married on their front lawn. As you drive by - "What? The 'Tards just got married on their lawn! That's great. I have nobody, and the 'Tards just committed to each other for a lifetime of tardiness!" Or is that, they're late for everything. I don't know, could be.

I came up with the perfect analogy, right here. This is what it feels like when you don't have love - it's like there's a party going on and everyone was invited… except for you! And you just happen to be walking by that house, in the rain ... "Ohh. I wasn't invited to this party." That's what that feels like. But then again, once you're in love, you know what that's like? That's like being inside the party going, "Where's my jacket? I wanna get out of here. Where's my jacket? I've been at this party for six years and I wanna see other parties. Where's my jacket?!

Minus one brief fling, I’ve been on my own for over a year and half now. I am the queen of my life. My house is just the way I want it, my free time is spent just the way I want to spend it, my kids are raised just the way I want to raise them, my money is spent just they way I want to spend it. There is no one around to distract me from how I like to live my life. I love my life. But it is a little boring. I think maybe I’d like just a little bit of distraction.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nail Biting Remedies

Wear gloves, carry a nail file, use bad tasting nail polish, keep your hands busy doing something else, or… go on a meditation retreat?

I went on meditation retreat for three days. I remembered what it is like to let go of thinking. I found the spaces inbetween the thoughts. I saw the stories playing in my mind. I saw myself getting caught up in them over and over and then remembering to rest in the space between the thoughts. I even had a wonderful hour and a half or so where thoughts were completely in the background and I was primarily aware of breathing. Effortless awareness. Walking meditation during that time was amazing. All information coming in through my senses was only simple experience and nothing extra. My attention was refined. I noticed the subtle sparkling of the stones in the sidewalk under my feet and the ants scurrying around their holes.

Then of course, attachment to that bliss crept in and I had to go back to my steady practice. All is impermanent, even and especially samadhi, that blissful absorption that arises when the mind is concentrated. It is more or less a spontaneous experience. All we can do is to provide the conditions for it by continuing to come back to the breath over and over and perhaps we will come to that place for awhile. That sort of joy, even though it arises and passes away, has a real impact on us. The taste of freedom keeps us inspired to practice.

Paying attention to the spaces in between the thoughts is the key to seeing thoughts and stories more clearly. The spaces are just as real if not more real than the stories that play over and over in the mind.

Retreat practice is so wonderful because it is an opportunity to let go of thinking. What will be dropped or messed up or forgotten if we do that? That is the fear that keeps us lost in thoughts so much of the time. On retreat, we don’t have to have that fear. There is nothing that we need to remember or get right while on retreat. Just follow the schedule. Just breathe. Just sit. Just walk. Just eat. Just use the toilet. Just brush your teeth. Just sleep.

When all is quiet on retreat, it takes less and less to get the stimulation that we are always seeking through various forms, primarily through our own thoughts and stories. More subtle things, like ants crawling, become more exciting. The challenge with that though, is going back to the real world after retreat and dealing with that heightened sensitivity. I take for granted how stimulating the world and daily life is. It is amazing to me how we as a society continue to seek more and more stimuation, like addicts. Meditation is like a re-set button. Start over. Like a clean slate. It is like addiction in reverse – the more we meditate, we need less and less stimulation.

Retreat is over and I can already see myself getting all worked up by life again. It sure doesn’t take much or very long. But somehow my perspective expands in some new way with each extended period of meditation practice. I still have my obsessions and anxieties, but meditation practice puts holes in them. They are not quite as solid as they seemed before.

My fingernails grew a little bit in the last three days. Back at work today I noticed myself bringing them to my mouth to bite them again. That nasty habit is really a great little signal to remind me to breathe. The length of my nails is a good indication of the strength of my practice at any given time!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

INFJ Reflections (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging)

I have this feeling sometimes like I am missing out on something. I am here in my own private little world, with my own little views, doing things my own way, somewhat oblivious to the outside world. I certainly don’t keep up with the latest pop culture or politics. My life consists mostly of the world of work, the world of my kids, and the world inside me.

The world of work is very task-oriented – put your head down and get stuff done. Not a lot of time for connecting with people usually. When I do connect with people, I feel like I am wasting my time or other people’s time and better get back to work.

The world of my kids is full of emotional immaturity and neediness. I am there to teach them and serve them. Loving and connecting with them is satisfying to me a certain degree, but it is primarily a function of me caring for them.

The world inside me gets a little crazy sometimes. So much thinking, analyzing, planning, fantasizing. I catch my breath for a few moments then it starts up again. Again and again. Trying to figure out why I’m not feeling happy and trying to figure out how to feel happy. Noticing how happy I feel and wondering how that happened. Trying to create solid problems out of passing emotions. Trying to feel like I really exist and am solid. Solid happy or solid sad, it doesn’t matter, though I think I have a sense sometimes that I am more real when I am unhappy. Pain makes me feel real and since it seems so much more easily accessible than pleasure, it wins the prize for the most convenient method of making me feel real.

Sure, I get out there in the world once in a while, but I often feel like somewhat of an outsider. I don’t really have a strong sense of belonging a lot of the time. Connecting with people is tiring to me. I have my small circle of close friends who I do connect deeply with, but I don’t see them often because quality is so much more important than quantity.

I can’t be hard on myself about this stuff. This is the way I am! Whenever I am feeling down about being such an oddball, all I have to do is read about my INFJ personality type and I remember all the beautiful things about me. And feel validated, since there really ARE others like me, granted only 1% of the population are.

It is interesting how I tend to be interested in men who are exactly what is described in this article:

The particular INFJ may opt for the inventive ENTP, but also may go for a different kind of contrary, namely the ESTP. The ESTP and ENTP, to the casual observer, look pretty much alike. Charming, suave, urbane, humorous, witty, fantastically easy to approach, venturesome, even reckless. But one is out to invent, the other to promote; this is not small difference. It takes an inventor to make a mousetrap, it takes a promoter to make an enterprise. To succeed, the promoter has to be, in the best sense of the word, a con artist. He must be able to get people’s confidence. Now why would a meaning-giver INFJ be intrigued by an entrepreneur ESTP? Because he wishes to rescue this iconoclast from his seeming folly (and let’s face it, most inventions are abortive, or stillborn).

Why am I attracted to salesmen/entertainer types? For example, the guy running karaoke last Friday night. He was well dressed, a great singer and had great presence as a DJ. Not to mention he had this cute Harry Potter look going for him with dark hair and dark glasses. I am so reserved on the outside, but I long for someone to push past that reservedness and look deeper. Wild and reckless extroverted guys seem to be attracted to me because they want to draw me out of my private world. And I am attracted to them because I like to be drawn out. Extroverts help me feel more connected to the world. Thinkers help me remember to stay more rational. Thinkers give me the opportunity to be the beautiful flower full of feeling that I am to bring some color to the Thinker’s logical world. Perceivers are spontaneous and exciting, though I think I tend to prefer the orderly Judgers who are more determined, disciplined and predictable.

I can’t decide if I prefer Sensing vs iNtuitive people. iNtuitives are creative people. Deep thinkers. We iNtuitives really understand each other. I think I lean more toward iNtuitive people, but perhaps I am just jaded from my failed marriage to a sensing “con artist”, if you will. I am undeniably attracted to Extraverted, Sensing people, as long as they have their facts straight and aren’t giving me a line of BS. They are exciting and intelligent.

What would happen if I had a love relationship with another INFJ? What would that be like? How would I manage to get together with another INFJ given how private we are and difficult to get to know? I thought perhaps that NF’s would go well together as a couple. But I found myself with an NF guy and it went wrong for some reason. Too much NF-ness maybe? This article has something interesting to say about that:

Idealists have much less trouble with mates of their own temperament, and Idealists often get along exceptionally well with other Idealists. Two NFs can find deep-felt satisfaction in sharing each other's inner world and exploring each other's personal development, although if the pair are too much alike in their ethical concerns, or pursue the same spiritual goals for too long a time, they can become rather narrowly devoted to the pilgrim's journey and tire themselves out along the way. In addition, two empathic NFs can creat a wonderfully intimate bond for at time, but eventually such mutual introjection can also invade each partner's privacy-constantly getting into each other's skin can result in getting on each other's nerves.

My sister and I are both INFJ’s. I think my eldest daughter is as well. So much for that being the rarest personality type! Not so rare in my family, I guess. The empathic nature we share absolutely can be painful at times! I have written about space previously. Ultimately, NF’s need a lot of space between each other. Too much empathy there. We understand each other too well to the point where we just need to get away from each other! But my NF family and friends will always hold a special place in my heart. When I have the need to feel understood, they are the first I turn to.

What are the Myers-Briggs personality types? In a nutshell:

Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Never Underestimate the Power of Prayer

A year and a half ago I had gone to a talk at the meditation center. I was newly separated from my husband and feeling extremely lonely and anxious. I started to feel panicky during the meditation and went to the side room to lie down. I couldn't bear to leave altogether. I needed to be there. I needed to hear the teaching. I didn't want to be alone. Just being there was a comfort.

After the talk, the teacher came to me. I started weeping uncontrollably. I don't even remember his words of comfort and consolation. All I remember was a feeling of really being cared for and held and loved. Even by all the people in the room as they were leaving and passing by me in my misery.

Buddhists practice metta (lovingkindness) meditation. It is a focused meditation on the qualities of lovingkindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity. In a sense, it is like a prayer - however, there is no higher power we are imploring help from and there is no sense of attachment to the results of the good wishes we send out for others and ourselves. The goal of this practice is to soften our own hearts so that we may be happy and loving toward ourselves and others.

I have always believed though, that the sort of energy generated from this practice DOES have a palpable result. This energy does have the power to touch those that we send it out to.

At the meditation center tonight, the teacher gave his monthly talk about generosity - about receiving freely and giving freely. I stared at the singing bowl and remembered all I have received in the gift of that place - the people that volunteer, the people that help pay for the retreats I have been on, the beautiful teachings, the support of the community. As I was reflecting on this, I remembered that night a year and a half ago. I thought about how far I have come and how I feel ready to give something back. Last week I proposed to the teacher at the center that I'd like to start a community group for single parents and he loved the idea. I thought about announcing it to the community after the talk tonight and maybe collect some email addresses of those interested, but I'm still reflecting on how that might evolve so I decided to hold off.

After the talk, a woman who I'd seen many times before but had never talked to approached me. She knew my name. She told me she recalled a night when she'd seen me weeping. She told me she had been meaning to talk to me for a long time but didn't know why she hadn't. She has been sending me metta for some time. My jaw just dropped. I had just been thinking about that night and she just came up to me and talked to me about it out of the blue. It was a true and awesome connection. Utterly amazing!

I told her that I had actually just been thinking about that night. I told her that I had been going through a divorce at the time. She mentioned that she has been thinking how nice it would be to have a group at the center to support those going through divorce. Well, it just so happens, I told her, that I am starting one! And I got her email address. She is divorced with a grown son and was just the person I needed to run into to help me form some clear ideas about what kind of group this should be. I want to make sure that all types of single parents are included, even those with grown children. Those are the people I want to talk to and learn something from!

What a wonderful evening!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Gamble

It really is OK to feel unsure whether someone may or may not be the one you want to have a relationship with. You don’t have to say “It’s not you, it’s me.” You don’t have to say “I am in no shape to ask someone else to become part of my life as an intimate partner.” Instead, you could simply say, “I’m not sure if you are the right one. I need to date others so I can find out what is right for me.” That is a much more honest statement. A statement I myself have made to men in the past!

Why do guys do this in such a typical fashion? They say they are not ready for a relationship then immediately start dating other women. It is maddening and disappointing. I thought this one was different and special. I was wrong.

I took a gamble with this guy and lost. Que sera sera. Of course, it is all for the best. I really learned a lot from this. No regrets.

I AM ready for a relationship, so I will date other men. Time to get back to having more fun in my life. I have faith that eventually I will find the one I’ve really been looking for. I got it wrong this time, but that’s just how it goes.

“Love’s a gamble, sometimes lost but you never give in.
This time may be your time to win” – MJ Cole

Ultimately, it seems he is right about something and here is my thought on this. He knows that he is a mess and has no business involving me in it. Perhaps he thinks that he can find someone else to have a relationship with who won’t get so close to him and so involved in his mess. I think he is looking for the kind of relationship in which he can be alone. I do value space and solitude within a relationship, but not so much that I feel alone. Having a lot of aloneness while in a relationship is not, for me, a real relationship. I need more closeness, warmth, connection and intimacy than he does apparently. We are not on the same page in terms of how much closeness we need in a relationship. I thought for sure we would be, but I realized that I actually need more closeness than I thought.

I just want balance. My marriage was too close (not enough personal boundaries). This last relationship was too distant (too many walls and obstacles). Where is the middle ground?

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I haven't quite figured out yet how to wake up every weekday morning not in a panic. It is not serious panic, just a startle more or less. Just a moment of "Oh my god, what is going to go wrong today?" It doesn't last very long, but it can't be good for my heart to have it pounding fiercely for several minutes every morning.

I let go all night long in sleep and dreams and when I wake, I feel like I have to hurry up and get back to the stress of daily life. I wake up with a fear that I am going to forget something or mess something up. Being a single mom and working full time in a fast-paced career are real stressors. I'm not imagining this stress. Overall I am able to work through it well during the day. I'm just not sure how to re-program my brain in the morning.

Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing something else with my career. But here I am now in this career that I have and must make the best of it. I'm not sure what else I could be doing without taking a serious pay cut. I absolutely have to provide for my family. I can't just run off and do something else right now. Besides, I actually do enjoy my work. It just gets a little too serious sometimes!

There have been a lot of organizational changes at work lately that have turned up the heat for me. Work stress is pretty much an ongoing thing, but lately it has been a little above normal. Either it is a huge workload or a new boss or a new project I know nothing about - there is always something to be stressed about. I continue to work on my frame of mind in relationship to this stress. When I start feeling scared, I try to remember that the people I work with all feel the same way sometimes. We are all just doing the best we can. I try to remember that I don't need to defend my ego, I just need to put in a good day's work.

I guess it all comes down to my issues with perfectionism. What better place to work on overcoming perfectionism than in a high pressure job? If I can learn to let go here, I can learn to let go anywhere.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The kind of relationship I want is with someone who can give me plenty of space. My kids are my priority. I will continue to have my own life and plenty of time alone. I will take whatever time I need to go back to school when the time is right. I will spend plenty of time at the meditation center or with friends or with family. I will go on long meditation retreats. There are many people and many activities that satisfy the different needs of my whole being. My dear one must be able to let me go whenever I need to be let go.

And I must be able to do this too. Oh yeah! That’s the tricky thing isn’t it? I’m not used to having to do this. None of the men in my past really wanted me to let them go. They have usually clung to me in a needy way. I suppose that had its benefits at times. It is nice to be worshiped and idolized. It is nice to be needed and feel like the center of someone's universe. It makes me feel powerful and worthwhile. Perhaps even saintly - a pillar of pious strength, dedication and service without asking for anything in return. Tis better to give and wicked to ever receive. But that is the way of co-dependency. Co-dependency certainly has its satisfactions and advantages. Everything out there about co-dependency is so derogatory, but really, it has its place. Some people really need to give and some people really need to take.

However, I want something different this time. How about interdependence instead of co-dependence? I do want to be needed to a certain degree, just not smothered and burdened down by someone’s needs. I want to be needed as a very important part of someone’s life, just not the only part. I want to be a VIP, not a servant! I don’t think I have to sacrifice feeling powerful and worthwhile either. I believe I don’t need someone to be dependent upon me in order to feel powerful and worthwhile. And what about letting myself be ok with needing another, be ok with receiving?

Yes, I can let go. There is no benefit for me or anyone else in being forceful, demanding, or controlling. Yet, I do have high standards and expectations for I how deserve to be treated by a man. My expectations are actually quite simple. Not low, but simple. As long as there is honesty, openness, responsibility, compatibility, and attraction to begin with, it shouldn’t be any work at all. My simple expectations are these: quality time set aside for me, along with attention, affection and admiration. I don’t require a lot of reassurance that I am lovable. I know already that I am. But it is important to me that if someone loves me, he is able to express it, in small but meaningful ways.

All this talk of space. I need space, I need space! Yet, when I have it, I get afraid. What if I change my mind? What if he changes his mind? So what? What have I lost, then? Something that was never mine to begin with. Not me, not mine, not certain. Is that really a loss then?

I can just relax now. If there is love and if it is true, it is not going to disappear. I don’t have to grasp and cling. And I don’t have to push it away either in some effort to avoid having to lose it. If it is going to come, it is going to come. If it is going to go, it is going to go. There is nothing I can do about it, so why be concerned?

"I don't feel threatened. You can live your life being scared of losing someone, and, at the end of the day, if he is going to leave you, he'll leave you, and that's it." – Ali Hewson (married to Bono from U2 since 1982)

Monday, March 15, 2010


My first husband had a Honda Gold Wing. As our marriage declined, my last remaining joy with him was riding on the back of that motorcycle. Feeling the wind and sun on my face, smelling the country fields, moving through open space was immensely pleasurable. I loved it so much that most of the time I was begging him to take me for a ride when he didn't even want to go.

When we divorced, I really lamented not being able to ride. The only logical solution then was to get my own motorcyle and ride by myself. So I did. My first was a 1979 Kawasaki 454 LTD street bike. VERY old and VERY heavy and clunky. I felt so overwhelmed by its massiveness. I was terrified of the clutch and the shifter. I was terrified at the thought of putting my feet up on it because I didn't know how I'd get my feet back down and keep the thing upright. I was terrified of starting, terrified of stopping, terrified of turning. Hmmm... Why was I doing this??

The first time I got on it, rolled on the throttle, slowly let the clutch out - but apparently not slowly enough. The bike jumped forward and it and I toppled over to the side. My boyfriend (who would be my second husband eventually) helped get it upright again. I took a deep breath and tried again. By some miracle I got it moving, out of the driveway and up a steep hill. I had nothing in me but pure adrenaline. I managed to make some turns and even stop at some stop signs. One corner came up that I did not estimate correctly and I was moving too fast. I couldn't take my eyes off the curb and of course I went straight for it. I crashed into the curb and my leg got really badly bruised. But my bodily pain was not as bad as the frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment I felt.

The bike was scratched up a bit, but nothing major. My boyfriend rode it back home for me. I stayed off of it for at least a month or two. But I signed up for the motorcycle safety class. I took the class and gained some confidence with a smaller, more manageable motorcycle and got my motorcycle endorsement on my license. I was now an official, card carrying motorcyclist. I was ready to try again.

Of course I dropped that thing a few more times, but each time was a little less embarrassing and just plain irritating. I am only 5'2" after all. I don't have long legs to put down and give me stability. I have to be extra alert to even the slightest bit of uneven road when stopping. Once I was practicing in an empty parking lot by myself and dropped it. Fortunately, there was a woman nearby who came over to help me put it back up. I brushed myself off and carried on. I have learned to stop being embarrassed about it and just accept help.

I did finally get to the point where I wasn't dropping it anymore. When I got on it, it didn't seem so massive and overwhelming anymore. I would put a braid in my hair, go for a ride and finally find the joy I had been looking for. It was even greater joy this time! It was all mine! Riding on my own and being in control of such an intimidating machine really was a thrill. I had conquered it and my fear. I was in the front. I became one with the machine and it was like flying.

That was 10 years ago. I've had a few other bikes come and go, all sport bikes now. They handle MUCH easier than that first cruiser I had. I gave birth to 2 kids since, and finding time to ride isn't always easy. I get a little rusty when I get back on and end up dropping whatever new bike that I have at the time. I have had some scary moments while riding over the course of 10 years - close calls in traffic, gravel roads, dark country roads, rain. It seems like every time I get on the thing, my heart pounds with terror all over again. But I just keep doing it!!! I love the thrill of the challenge, I love the wind, the sun, the feeling of flying, of being one with a massive, powerful machine. Perhaps it is like a girl and her horse. To have mastery over a beast that could throw you or trample you at any time is such a cool victory. To say it is exciting is an understatement.

Now I have a Yamaha FZR. Just got it last summer and we are still getting to know each other. Like a good girl, she started right up this past weekend! The snow is gone now so as soon as I have a free moment without my kids, I will be flying...

Ray of Light (Madonna)

Zephyr in the sky at night I wonder
Do my tears of mourning sink beneath the sun
She's got herself a universe gone quickly
For the call of thunder threatens everyone

And I feel like I just got home
And I feel

Faster than the speeding light she's flying
Trying to remember where it all began
She's got herself a little piece of heaven
Waiting for the time when Earth shall be as one

Quicker than a ray of light

She's got herself a universe

Quicker than a ray of light she's flying
Quicker than a ray of light I'm flying

Monday, March 1, 2010


The Buddha taught about suffering and the end of suffering. The Buddha said that attachment is the source of all suffering. Freedom from attachment is freedom from suffering.

I think the Buddha was actually referring to a certain type of attachment. Attachment in the Buddhist sense is more along the lines of clinging to things that change, expecting to find permanency and stability in things that are not permanent or stable. Expecting to find lasting happiness and peace in things that are fleeting.

Attachment, in the psychological sense, is a natural and positive force in nature. It is a survival mechanism in humans. As helpless babies, our lives literally depended upon our caregivers. We needed to be sure that there was consistent care for us. We needed to become attached to our caregivers. A baby who experiences secure attachment becomes a HAPPY child, a safe child. A baby who experiences insecure attachment results in an unhappy and fearful child.

Whatever kind of attachment we may have experienced as babies, we can't seem to escape that deep conditioning. We try to recreate this experience when we grow up. After attachment theory in babies started to become popular, psychologists discovered that much of the same can be applied to love relationships. There are three basic attachment styles - avoidant, secure and anxious-resistant.

Avoidant - I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.

Secure - I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don't worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me.

Anxious-resistant - I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won't want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away.

Though most people fall into the secure category, we can still find ourselves acting more avoidant or anxious at times. I think that is a natural part of the ebb and flow of intimacy. That is, the ebb and flow of being close to someone while also maintaining personal identity. At times that we are feeling confident and have a strong sense of self, we are able to move very close to others without feeling threatened or afraid. At times we are feeling a little lost, we may need to move away from others a bit to make sure to remember who we are. I think this is natural and healthy. Overall, there is balance. Overall, there is interdependence. We have needs and we are needed. We can be close but maintain our own identities. We can be close and not be afraid of abandonment because we have faith that there are others who will care for us. We have faith that we are still lovable even if rejected by our object of attachment. We can be open. We can be vulnerable.

Relationships in which the couple have a secure attachment to each other are more successful. They have greater interdependence, commitment, trust and satisfaction.

A mutual, secure attachment to a lover you admire, respect and are compatible with is a beautiful thing! It can be a source of great pleasure and comfort. It is well worth the risk of a broken heart. Enlightened beings can and do love like this. When two of the Buddha's disciples died, he is quoted as saying, “It's as if the sun and the moon have left the sky.” In CS Lewis' book, The Four Loves, he mentions how distraught Jesus was over the death of Lazarus. He goes on to say:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

5/18/11 Update: I found this nice little web survey to help you identify your attachment style. Enjoy!

12/5/11 Update: Additional reflection on attachment

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Not Certain

The Buddha said we can focus our contemplation on any of these three ideas to break into the truth of how it is and find freedom: n0n-self, suffering, and impermanence. Ajahn Chah put these into a nice set of words we can use when working with the conditions of our bodies, hearts, minds and lives - not me, not mine and not certain.

Not taking things personally has been really good work for me. "Not me" has been a wonderful mantra to follow for a long time.

Recently, "not certain" has been more effective for me to see things clearly and find peace. Even when I move to one side or another, it is still uncertain! Always uncertain! Even certainty is uncertain. The only certain thing is uncertainty. The only unchanging thing is that everything changes.

Yesterday I sat in meditation and with every thought or feeling that arose, I told myself, "Not certain!" And the relief I felt each time I said that was incredible. I've made an effort to keep this up throughout the day today and each time I think "not certain," I smile.

There are so many meditation tools to choose from. Sometimes it is difficult to know just which one to use at a particular time. Yesterday I just picked a book off the shelf, which happened to be Everything Arises, Everything Passes Away by Ajahn Chah, and it happened to show me just the right tool at just the right time. Synchronicity is how we find out which tool to use. Intuition. Asking the question, we get the answer - as long as we are listening.

The talk at the meditation center this morning was about striving vs apathy. The Buddha said that to get to the other side of the river, we should not push forward but not stay in place either. We have to stay in balance.

I have been out of balance lately in terms of my effort. Time to put forth a little more effort in my practice instead of just sitting on the cushion because that's what I do each day. There is a goal, we just need to keep it lightly in mind and not strive toward it too hard. I need to remember the goal. What is that goal then? Freedom, of course! Happiness!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Passion and Intimacy

"Free passion is radiation without a radiator, a fluid, pervasive warmth that flows effortlessly. It is not destructive because it is a balanced state of being and highly intelligent. Self-consciousness inhibits this intelligent, balanced state of being. By opening, by dropping our self-conscious grasping, we see not only the surface of an object, but we see the whole way through. We appreciate not in terms of sensational qualities alone, but we see in terms of whole qualities, which are pure gold. We are not overwhelmed by the exterior, but seeing the exterior simultaneously puts us through to the interior. So we reach the heart of the situation and, if this is a meeting of two people, the relationship is very inspiring because we do not see the other person purely in terms of physical attraction or habitual patterns, we see the inside as well as the outside.

"This whole-way-through communication might produce a problem. Suppose you see right through someone and that person does not want you to see right through and becomes horrified with you and runs away. Then what to do? You have made your communication completely and thoroughly. If that person runs away from you, that is his way of communicating with you. You would not investigate further. If you did pursue and chase him, then sooner or later you would become a demon from that person's point of view... Perhaps you looked through too sharply with your desire, perhaps you were too penetrating. Possessing beautiful keen eyes, penetrating passion and intelligence, you abused your talent, played with it."

- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sunday Will Be Too Late

Men need to pursue, women need to let men chase them. This is just the natural law of the mating dance. This has not changed with the times. I want to be treated as a prize to be won, a treasure to be discovered.

So I find a guy I want to have a relationship with and I’ve been careful not to pursue too much, but I think I have anyway somehow. There is such a fine line between showing interest and being “too available.” But I don’t think I have been too available either! I have only two days a week off from my kids and I haven’t always saved those days for him. Sometimes I go to the meditation center or go out with friends or meet with my study group. I don’t sit at home pining. When I do stay at home alone, it is by choice. I need down time alone too. Twice I have gotten sitters in order to spend time with him, but these were times he showed interest in seeing me and the feeling was mutual so I made the effort.

Not feeling like making effort anymore though since he isn’t. All I can conclude is that he just isn’t feeling it for me. That is not a problem. I wish he would just be honest with himself and come to that conclusion on his own.

I don’t want to be with a passive guy who waits for me to make the next move. I want to be with a guy who takes the lead and wants to chase me, someone who calls, texts and emails me a lot just to make sure I keep him in mind. I want to be with a guy who makes the effort to secure the next get together. Someone who has his own life and not completely obsessed with me, but really makes effort to get time with me and sometimes even goes out of his way to do so. I want a guy that is able to give me space, but not too much space. Too much space is a non-relationship, especially in the beginning when a foundation is being built.

A shy guy or a nice guy is going to have to come out of his shell a little bit if he wants to be with me. I need to know he is interested. Just start the chase, I'll let you win.

I just want someone to have fun with when I have some free time. It wouldn't be fair to myself to wait around for a guy who is ambivalent.

"Seven Days" was all she wrote
A kind of ultimatum note
She gave to me, she gave to me
When I thought the field had cleared
It seems another suitor appeared
To challenge me, woe is me
Though I hate to make a choice
My options are decreasing mostly rapidly
Well we'll see
I don't think she'd bluff this time
I really have to make her mine
It's plain to see
It's him or me

Monday, I could wait till Tuesday
If I make up my mind
Wednesday would be fine,
Thursday's on my mind
Friday'd give me time, Saturday could wait
But Sunday'd be too late

The fact that he's six feet ten
Might instill fear in other men
But not in me, The Mighty Flea
Ask if I am mouse or man
The mirror squeaked, away I ran
He'll murder me in time for his tea
Does it bother me at all
My rival is Neanderthal, it makes me think
Perhaps I need a drink
IQ is no problem here
We won't be playing Scrabble
for her hand I fear
I need that beer

Monday, I could wait till Tuesday
If I make up my mind
Wednesday would be fine,
Thursday's on my mind
Friday'd give me time, Saturday could wait
But Sunday'd be too late

Seven days will quickly go
The fact remains, I love her so
Seven days, so many ways
But I can't run away


Monday, February 15, 2010

There Are No Tigers

Sometimes there is fear, a panicky feeling that makes us want to fight or run away from whatever person, place or thing that appears to be causing the heart pounding anxiety. This sort of reaction may be quite helpful if the thing that is causing this terror is a tiger standing in front of us, ready to attack us.

Still, how many people, places or things in our modern world today truly threaten our lives? Sure, there certainly are some, but in our day to day, ordinary existence in a reasonably peaceful area of the world, we rarely encounter life or death type situations.

So why are so many people running away or fighting like we were living in a war zone?? It seems to me that the majority of the people in this country could be diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Everyone is moving so fast and is so stressed out (I am no exception, of course).

We can notice something amazing when we look at fear though. When we sit with it and look at it and become interested in it, there are still strong physical sensations, but they are not connected to any story. They may seem to be, but if we look closely, we see these are just sensations happening in the body. They pass.

When there is fear, there doesn't always have to be a real reason for it. Most often I find that my fears are quite unfounded. It is good to be cautious, but it is also good to closely examine fear and do a reality check, especially someone like myself who is prone to anxiety. What am I really afraid of? How real is the threat?

Most importantly, how is this fear hindering me from doing what I really want to do? I get angry at the thought of being hindered from doing what I want to do, being who I want to be. That stubbornness is often all it takes for me to move forward even when I am afraid. What new adventure could I be missing out on by running away? I don't want to miss out! As long as I have examined my fears and not found anything that is a true threat to me, why wouldn't I go for it?

Intimacy can be scary because at the heart of intimacy is vulnerability. We don't want to be intimate with those who are about to rip our hearts out, but do a reality check - is that person someone who we really can't trust and could very well rip our hearts out? If the answer is yes, then please do run. If the answer is no, then what is holding us back from connecting with someone in a deep and meaningful way? There is discomfort and fear at the cusp of something earth shattering and beautiful. This is natural. This is not a problem.

"Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands. With wholehearted practice comes inspiration, but sooner or later we will also encounter fear. For all we know, when we get to the horizon, we are going to drop off the edge of the world. Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what's waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it." Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's Valentine's Day. Got Love?

What is my take on love? What do I think love is?

Love is a word with so many different meanings ranging from "I love cheeseburgers" to "love your enemy." Sometimes you can love without liking. Sometimes you can like without loving. Love can bring pleasure. Love can bring pain.

What is the kind of love that I strive for? I strive to love my children by taking care of their basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, affection, and hugs. I strive to love also by teaching them things that are sometimes hard lessons, like how to take responsibility for themselves and become independent, and what is right and wrong.

I strive to love myself by looking at all the good and bad in me and finding compassion.

The good things I love about myself:
Deep thinker
Peace keeper
A wild side that likes to come out once in a while

The bad things I love and care about in myself:

What is love in a romantic sense between two lovers? I'll give this a shot.

A balanced exchange of intimacy, where each person shares their reality without fear of judgment of the other. Fondness and affection for each other. Admiration and respect for each other. Acceptance of the good and the bad. Interest in one another's personal growth. Respect of personal boundaries. Freedom for each to be just who they are.

My thought is that love, in the romantic sense, isn't really love if it isn't shared by both people in a balanced way. It must be a mutual, two-way experience. That isn't to say that there won't be times when one experiences more love than the other, but overall there should be mutuality.

Wishing love to all of you on Valentine's Day!