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!