Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vegetarian Food

New news: I have a new teacher. I like him for lots of reasons. He has a really great story about holding his baby godson, all of a sudden wanting a chocolate chip cookie, and in his haste to get the cookie, setting his godson down on a pile of laundry, which then tips over. If that doesn't sound hilarious to you, imagine yourself hearing it while doing nothing for a week but practicing silence and a particular meditation technique called "mindfulness." It was one of the 3 stories I heard in 6 days, a.k.a., one of the best stories I've ever heard in my life.

On the last official day of my retreat, the three teachers started to "integrate" us back into the world of communicating. One of the teachers warned us that talking again could feel very exhilarating. He then cautioned us against going home and telling our partners, parents, or friends every single detail about every single thing that happened.

The strangest part for me about coming home, was how FAST I got back. I had felt VERY far away for a VERY long time. At 10 am on Monday morning, I left the extremely secluded ranch where I had been staying, drove for only an hour and twenty minutes and was back in my apartment. Nervousness consumed me as I realized I could do anything, call anyone, ride bikes, watch movies, check my email, jet ski, whatever. I sat back down to meditate before making any sudden moves.

Eventually I called my dad. We talked for a while about the details of the retreat and he asked me a great question: Did they have vegetarian food? My dad is always good for a good question, he's genuinely interested and I know I am lucky to have such a dad. Losing all contact with my new best friends, my body and my breath: I launched into a treatise about how I'm not that weird. I spoke fervently about how many of us who are deeply interested in things like enlightenment are vegetarians, and, as a matter of fact, there was ONLY vegetarian food there. During my outburst I was marching around my apartment, futzing with the broom, and then, I leaned over the sink to wash my hands. Old news: I am afraid of getting something in my eye. The soap dispenser in my bathroom had caked in such a way from lack of use over the past week that pumping it once with my left hand caused all of the soap to land in my right eye. I had to hang up with my dad. And then, I had to cry and cry and cry and cry. A week's ardent practice had left me in a place where I did not attach to the pain in my eye. I deeply felt the "nothing lasts forever" of my situation, but the moment to moment investigation of the pain left me with lots more tears to cry.

My eye is still a little red, and I am so happy to be home. I know more deeply now how much I love my life. That deep joy continues to mix with sadness, and it feels good to watch it rise. It also feels good to have my very own "all of a sudden wanting a chocolate chip cookie" story.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"The Little Duck"

by Donald Babcock

Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
No, it isn’t a gull.

A gull always has a raucous touch about him.

This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.
He isn’t cold, and he is thinking things over.

There is a great heaving in the Atlantic,

And he is a part of it.
He looks a little like a mandarin,

Or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree

But he has hardly enough above the eyes to be a philosopher.
He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.

He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.

Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.

And neither do you.
But he realizes it.

And what does he do, I ask you. He sits down in it.

He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity – which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.

He has made himself a part of the boundless,

by easing himself into it just where it touches him.
I like the little duck.

He doesn’t know much.

But he has religion.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vallecitos Mountain Ranch

A few weeks back, because I have been struggling with my meditation technique, I moved my altar.  I usually sit on a cozy cushion in front of various objects which remind me of everything's eternity.  That day, I moved just myself and my breath to a spot in front of the river to sit, and sit I did. The change was exactly what I needed.

Today, I'm taking my altar to Vallecitos Mountain Ranch to practice silence, sitting and walking meditation for 6 days. My parents think I'm kinda weird, and my mom wants me to bring snacks. Another friend suggested I bring something to help me feel comfortable, you know, a balance for the austerity. I struggled to think what that might be. "Duh," I finally realized and lucky for me, I take comfort in what is already coming with me: my breath. Check. Ooh, that and a pillow.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Lucid Dream

Once, my friend Kailani's mom told me that Kailani is at the age where she still trying to figure out magic and Santa. At the time I heard this, my thought was, "I feel ya, Kailani, me too." But lately, as I try to melt into the busyness of life or stop telling stories about who I am; I think less that I want to figure out the magic and more that I just want to feel it.

 This magnet that I have on my fridge definitely helps:

As does this little bottle of Lucid Dreams, a tincture that I take during the day to remind me that's exactly what life is: a lucid dream.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Incidentally, I received some feedback about my last tipandtrick. One friend called it human, another vulnerable, and my mother was worried about my self-esteem. Some kind folks even answered the question at the bottom in person to me.

All of the feedback has helped me to remember that even though I sometimes do compare myself to others, it is a practice of mine not to. I quote my genius friend Emily out-loud and to myself all the time; she says, "Compare and despair."

My neighbor Raven cut to the chase about comparing ourselves to other people once when she said, "We compare our insides to other people's outsides."

Damn skippy ladies, thank you for helping me continue to cultivate awareness around this super unhelpful habit.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's My Birthday, Too

Sometimes I get nervous about hanging out with more than one person at a time. I've been slowly waking up to this feeling for a few years now, and I became particularly aware of it the other day because I heard someone else talking about it.  It was a fun "Oh, me too!" moment because the lady who was talking about having this feeling of really just preferring to be with one other person is also trying to let go of her story around it.

Last Friday I was doing something I was totally comfortable with: having dinner at a restaurant with my boyfriend, Mike. Suddenly, things changed when two ladies came up to our table to say "hi." I had briefly met both of these gals before, and Mike knew them from many years of living in the same small town. One of the reasons I get nervous about socializing is because I ALWAYS assume that everyone in the whole wide world is way cooler than I am, smarter than I am, or just generally a better person with more life experience.

This feeling has magnified for me since moving to a new place because so many things I don't know about come up in conversation. Things like raising baby goats, the name of that hiking trail on the way to the Ski Valley, and how to get a divorce are just a few examples of things that people around here seem to know a lot about whereas I'm still learning. Back at the restaurant the other night, our conversations naturally broke in two with Mike talking to the way-sweeter-and-prettier-lady than me, while I started talking to the way-hipper-and-more-badass one than me. All things could have been relatively okay because I was having a one-on-one conversation again, but this particular lady is so unbelievably cool that I didn't know why we weren't all just shutting up and beholding her every word. God this lady is awesome, she has a raspy voice, a backpack, she and her husband are opening a brewery, she just got back from Coachella, and she was wearing sandals.

"Gosh," the voice in my head started up. "We both LOVE Radiohead, but she's actually seen them LIVE." I kept asking her more and more questions, trying not to offer too much information about myself since I am so LAME-ASS compared to her. Until, until, suddenly, somehow it came out that she has the exact same birthday as I do! WHAT??? Me and this totally amazing and gorgeous creature share the deep mystical truth of being born on the same day? What a fun fact! And as it turns out, that whole time, I was wearing sandals, too! This revelation served as a particularly wonderful reminder of  the definition of enlightenment:  "a state in which the separateness of self and other dissolves in the realization of the oneness of being."

It's easier for me to remember this "oneness of being" whenever I think that whoever it may be, whether it's Paul McCartney, a baby goat, or everybody in the whole entire restaurant, all have the same birthday that I do.

And now I will self-consciously ask my first ever non-hypothetical, non-rhetorical question on tipsandtricks: 

What works for you?

Please comment below with any and all things that help you to remember your sameness versus your differences with anyone or the whole human race, and hopefully we can all walk away from this post with a few more party tricks up our sleeve.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"There is no union without separation."

Thursday, May 3, 2012


One thing you should know about me is that I have the coolest, smartest, hippest, most talented, and funniest best friend in the world.

Last weekend my bestie did this seminar called Landmark Forum. I had mixed feelings about her going. I was hopeful she would get something out of it but doubtful that she would. She's already so gosh-darn-smart at knowing stuff. One thing about Melissa and me is that we've done LOTS of "personal work." We've been in therapy, she's practiced silence, I meditate everyday, and sometimes, we even stare into the great big everything.

My teacher Jen told me a long time ago that it's best not to make up stories about what other people are thinking. I agree with her. For years now I have saved so much time by doing my best not to think (or obsess) about what another person may or may not be thinking or feeling. I had heard about the Forum, and what I had gathered before Melissa inside-jobbed it is that it's also about not telling stories. And probably, some other stuff.

Melissa prefaced what she told me about her weekend with something like, "You already know all this stuff." What a doll. But there was a big layer I hadn't gotten yet. Thing is, I am pretty good at not telling stories about other people. However, I am a non-stop-up-early-in-the-morning storyteller telling stories to MYSELF about MY SELF. I do it all the time. One of the things I tell myself all the time up there in my mind is that I am so busy. Who me? Yeah, I'm really busy right now. Slammed. Barely have time. Basically, what makes me busy is how busy I am thinking about how busy I am.

This week there's a lot that's actually written in my calendar. There's work, studying, fun, exercising, appointments, and people to call back. But what's different about this week as I move from one thing to another or write a new date in my calendar? I'm not obsessing about the business of it. I'm just moving through it.

And let me tell you, just like there's a way to not obsess about so-and-so, there's a way to not obsess about yourself.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Distances exist to be bridged."- Colum McCann, "Transatlantic"