New Chapter….Less Fear

I know that a lot of people make resolutions, come up with goals and think about how the new year is going to be different, and I am no exception.  I am not big on the word “resolution”, but I have always been one to set goals for myself, and when I really put my mind to something, much of the time I will accomplish it.  I have been this way my whole life.  2017 is no different for me in that regard except for a few little things….I am going to try to have less fear in this new chapter of life, and what I mean by that is I am going to try to do things that are even more authentic from my heart.  I always talk about writing more, blogging more, writing a book, speaking my mind more, but I have been holding back in these areas of my life because of fear; fear of what people might think.  Don’t get me wrong, I still care what people think to some extent, but as far as holding me back from actually putting stuff out there, I am going to strive not to do that anymore.  I just want to write for me.  I like to write in my own style with no preconceived notion of how it should turn out.  I like the idea of keeping record of my life.

I am at a stage in life where I am starting to think about what I will leave behind, what my kids will have to look at when I am gone, what my grandkids will read about their grandmother.  I like the idea of my great, great grandkids looking through some of my journals and thinking it was awesome that she wrote that stuff down.  I love the idea of one of them seeing some of my art and wanting to at least have it even if they don’t hang it up…haha…

I am not going to write with the idea of becoming rich and famous.  I am not naive to the fact that won’t happen, but I do love the idea of leaving something behind, logging my life, remembering the fun moments, and learning from the hard ones.

I was glad to see 2016 close!  It was such a difficult year on many levels for me, and I usually don’t care about watching the new year come in, but there was something to it this year for me.  I had to stay up long enough to see it end.  There was so much pain in 2016 for me personally, but I made it through with the help of my family and friends, and I am so grateful to know just how strong the human spirit can really be.

And there were some really wonderful moments in 2016 as well that were monumental like the birth of my first grandbaby, Emmitt!  He is so absolutely precious, and when he lights up when he sees me, well, its intoxicating.  My cheeks actually hurt when he leaves from me smiling so much.  We had some really great family times this year as well, and I have learned what it’s like to be free again…not just free in relationships, but freedom of the mind, freedom to think freely and openly and do what feels good to my heart as well.

2017 is hopefully about being gentle, loving more, doing good, writing, artwork.  It’s about Ashtanga yoga, retreats, nature, and breathing.  It’s about knowing that when tough times hit (and they will), that I can handle it.  It may be difficult, but I will survive it.  I have survived 100% of everything so far.  It’s about being flexible, being kinder and more patient with myself and my heart.  Becoming MY own best friend, nurturing my internal spirit of creativity, quiet and peace.  It’s about continuing to strive to be the best mother and grandmother, sister, and friend that I can be.  It’s about love…love for myself, my family and those I encounter.  And when I fail, slip or fall down, it’s about knowing that I am human, forgiving myself, and just being grateful for every day that I wake up and am given the opportunity to try to do it all over again.

If you have come into my journey at any time, thank you for being a part of it.  If you are still a part of my journey, then know how grateful I am for it and how deeply I care for you.  I look forward to making 2017 a year of calm, peace, gratitude, and taking care of me.  We all deserve peace and love in this world, and a lot of it depends on us.  It depends on me.  I can only lose what I cling to, and sometimes moving forward means I have to shut the door behind me.  Hopefully I closed it tight at midnight 12/31/16.

May peace and love be with all of you in 2017.

 

 

Living in the Hummmmmmmm!

The older I get, the more I realize that everything changes!  I know that this doesn’t sound like anything new or mind-blowing, but it becomes more and more apparent to me each and every day.  I realize that over my lifetime, even though things change, I have become used to MY status quo, but at the same time I become more acutely aware of the fact that I have probably lived longer than I have left, and I am not trying to be doom and gloom, just aware.  If things rock on for a time and appear to be going about the same, you know, the same routine day in and day out with very little difference between them, I think on some level that this is how it’s going to be. I get comfortable.  You know, get up, go to work, take my child to school, work, run errands, clean house, pay bills, cook/eat dinner, help with homework, play, maybe do something after work, get stuff ready for tomorrow, go to bed and get up and do it all over again.  You don’t think that one day you will wake up and, boom, this is the day you are never going to see this person again or that person again.  You don’t think to yourself, today my life will change in some way and never be the same as I am used to seeing it day in and day out.  You don’t think about the fact that this person could die or that person could leave or that friend will no longer be a part of your life for whatever reason.  We just don’t think that way, at least I didn’t.

We live in a space where we think things are going to remain the same a lot of the times or if there is change, it will be little enough that I can deal with it without being too uncomfortable, and even with that awareness I still forget that.  I forget.  I get comfortable for a minute and relax my guard and think it’s going to be smooth for a bit and live in the concept of “daily life”.  I can breathe.  Then, bam!!! wrong!  Something else happens.  I am coming to expect changes and I don’t always like it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like when cool stuff happens, but I like things to stay the same, that comfortable spot an old friend of mine used to call “the Hummmm”.  She used to say that if your life is less up and down like a roller coaster, less drama and trauma that we create for ourselves or that happens to us; that we just kind of move along okay, that we are living in the Hummmmm.  No drama.  I thought to myself back then almost 30 years ago, I will never live in the Hummmmmm.  I want to, but I don’t think that is possible.  And it’s not really, but depending on how I look at my day-to-day life and live it, I can live in the Hummmmm to some degree a lot of the time. It depends on my perspective.  I just have to be prepared for the ups and downs even if I am not creating them.  My perspective and how I deal with them makes all the difference in the world.  But you know what?  I get tired of trying to keep my perspective on point all the time….at least sometimes!

The fact is that people change.  People die.  People leave.  People grow and morph every day in one way or another even if it’s not in a healthy way.  And if these people are in my life, it’s going to affect me one way or another as well.  Not everyone is going to be my friend til death.  Not every partner will stick around til death.   Not every job will last til retirement.  Children grow up and move out.  Nothing is for sure except death and change.  If someone had told me ten years ago that my life would be like it is today, I couldn’t have imagined it, and I have an absolutely wonderful life.  I am so grateful for it!!! But why is it so hard to understand that and keep it in my awareness so that when shit changes I won’t be so surprised or blown away by it?  I don’t know, but it sucks!  I guess that’s why some monastic groups meditate on death and the decay of the body so that when it happens, it won’t be so horrible, maybe.  I don’t know, but I digress.

What I have come to realize as well is that it’s about balance and acceptance.  I am not always going to be happy about changes in my life especially if they make me feel sad or abandoned or if I didn’t choose them.  I am not always going to have a good, centered perspective.  I am not always going to be Zen about my day-to-day life, and that’s okay.  I am a growing, changing human with real feelings.  I can be sad and mad and happy and afraid.  I can CHANGE.  I can change my mind.  I can change course.  I can make a new decision.  I can do something different.  I can be creative.  I can make a new plan.  I can have highs and lows.  I can do anything I put my mind to…this I am sure of!  The key is balance and acceptance.  When my perspective is out of whack, it’s okay for a little bit.  As long as I am aware on some level that all things are going to change no matter how I live my life.  I can move along through it even though it will be uncomfortable because I know that this or that feeling won’t stay this way forever.  I can have balance about things and try to look at things as experiences that enrich my life and make me who I am.  It doesn’t mean I won’t be sad or mad or that I won’t make decisions that change my whole course or that I won’t make mistakes.  It’s all part of my path.  It is the path.  I am not “getting” somewhere.  Here is where I am.  This is it!  I just need to be authentic, real, honest, and as balanced as I can be with as good a perspective as I can have and accept that I have choices about how I do it each and every day!

This is just me, and I am okay with it!  Peace and love, Everyone!

Happiness Doesn’t Exist!

Sermon given on 10/25/16

Image result for happiness and flowers

I was so honored when Rev. McKee asked me to talk to you this morning about happiness.  To be honest, I was nervous, too – especially when I decided to call my sermon, “Happiness Doesn’t Exist.”  So let me ask you…How do YOU define happiness?  Is it money?  Is it a big house or a fancy trip to exotic places?  Is it family?  Is it health and well-being?  What is it?

From a Zen perspective, happiness doesn’t exist. You can’t go buy happiness.  You can’t order happiness on Amazon and have it shipped to your house.  You can’t pick up happiness.  You can’t borrow it from someone else.  Happiness is an inside job.  It comes from within oneself, our own Buddha nature, our true self.

I have been thinking a lot about what I wanted to say to all of you about happiness, and I have thought of all the different Zen aspects that apply to this topic.  I have written this talk over many different times trying to get it just right and say just the right thing, but that is not really how I do things.  I have to do them from a feeling place.  I have to speak from my heart.  What it really boils down to for me is perspective.  When I was younger, I was a pretty angry young adult.  I felt that there was a lot of injustice in the world.  I wanted to make things right and change people.  I wanted to bang my drum and stomp my feet.  I thought if I threw enough fits, yelled the loudest, protested the most, people would change their ways.  What I really wanted was for everyone to think like I did.  I thought I was right.  I always thought I was right; that my way was the only way, and if you didn’t see it my way, well, then you were narrow-minded, close minded, or better yet, you were down right wrong.  My perspective was very messed up, and the truth is I didn’t love myself.  I didn’t think I was good enough, so I overcompensated in other areas.  I never looked outside myself.  I never put myself in someone else’s shoes.  I never thought about how it was for anybody else, what their life was like, how they grew up, what their belief systems were; that there might be more than one way to look at things.  My mind was so closed to anything else, it just didn’t matter.  The world had done me wrong.  The world was wrong.  Poor me.  I was angry and very, very unhappy.

Material things didn’t make me happy.  Money didn’t make me happy.  Happiness didn’t exist for me at least not the way I thought it should.  I wanted to make myself happy by changing my surroundings, changing people.  I was looking outside myself for happiness.  People who agreed with me might have made me somewhat happy, but nothing really changed my heart until my perspective on life and the way things are.. changed.  And believe me this did not happen overnight.  It has taken me a long time to make the decision to change and to work on myself.  Some of it has come with age, but a lot of it has come with a willingness to want to feel happy, to bring happiness to others, and to show my children happiness.  I have to be willing to change.  I had to work for it.  I didn’t wake up one morning and boom I was happy.  Bad things still happen and there is still suffering. Life keeps on going.  People die.  People get sick.  People lose jobs, people move away.  Things in life change, and there is nothing I can do about that.  I can’t change other people, but what I recognized was I don’t need to change other people.  All I need to worry about is myself.  I need to work on me.  I need to focus on how I can make myself better, because if I don’t love myself, take care of myself, learn to be happy myself, how can I help anyone else?

Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, would say that we have to water the seeds of happiness.  This means I have to work at being happy.  I have to do things that bring happiness to me and my life, and to others, but he would also say being able to enjoy happiness doesn’t require that we have zero suffering.  It just means that my perspective on how I deal with any given situation is up to me.  I am not saying that we have to smile all the time or “act” like nothing is wrong when it is.  I am saying part of having a happy life in general for me is to honor my feelings, no matter what they are, when they come up.  It’s about being present in the moment and trying to learn how not to live in the past or project about the future.  It’s about right here, right now.  It’s about learning to be awake to this very precious moment that is all I have.

Rev. McKee said in the first sermon at the beginning of the semester, “we only have to recognize the gift and see it as good and respond to it.”  Recognizing it is the key here, and it made me think of the Bible verse from John 13:34, where Simon Peter and Jesus were talking.  Jesus said, “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Simon Peter said in response:  “Lord, where are you going?”  One could say or argue that Simon was not in the moment perhaps; that he didn’t even realize that Jesus just gave him a fabulous, awesome new commandment….to love one another.  He was worried about where he was going and completely missed the point.  He didn’t recognize the gift.

A Buddhist story along these same lines is the Flower Sermon given by the Buddha.  He said absolutely nothing in this sermon.  All he did was hold up a single flower and waited and waited and waited.  Everyone was trying to figure out why the Buddha was not saying anything….except one, Mahakasyapa.  All he did was look at the Buddha and smile.  The Buddha knew at that moment that he understood, and that he was the only one that understood.  It was about being in that particular moment fully awake and recognizing that there was nothing else but the Buddha holding up a flower.

Being present and awake to this moment with loving kindness toward myself and others, I believe, is the cornerstone of happiness.  When I am able to apply this to my life, with attention to this moment, I believe this is when I am the most happy.  Recognizing the absolute energy of right now is pretty huge.  Smiling to someone else and really smiling to their heart, meaning it.  Helping anyone I see that I can if they need it.  Being grateful for every.. little.. thing, my children, my family, friends, my breath, my health, a job, food, clothes.  I could go on and on.  These things may seem little to some, but I am truly, truly grateful for every one of those things.

I believe we are all one big sentient family, and if I have loving kindness at the center of my actions towards my fellow Earthlings and practice this with as much skill as I can, I believe this will bring me happiness and my family, and for others.  I believe that is the Zen of happiness….everyday life with loving kindness, filling our lives with love.  Do I do this all the time, definitely not!  But being open to the fact that I don’t have to live in negativity all the time and that I have a choice.  I can be miserable and negative all the time or I can try to be positive and uplifting.  I can open my heart and mind.  I don’t have to create opposites with my opinions. I can make amends when I do something wrong.  There is no “us” and “them”.  There is just us.  I can put it all down and just ask, “how may I help you?”

It hurts me to see all the anger, hatred, and negativity in the world today, and quite honestly I know that I cannot fix the world’s problems by any stretch, but what I can change is myself.  I can be as happy a person as I can.  I can work on myself, better myself, spread love wherever possible.  I can help my fellow family which is each one of us whenever and wherever possible.  I can always, always choose LOVE!  It’s like a ripple effect.  It starts with me and ripples out to my family, my street, my community, my country, the world.  It’s about building bridges, not tearing them down.  It’s about not creating opposites, not knee-jerk reacting to every little thing.  It’s about finding similarities.  We all want to be happy.  All of us do not want to suffer.  We are all one.  We are interdependent on this planet with everyone and everything else, and it’s up to each one of us to be LOVE.  I aspire to be this.  I want to be Love, and when I am not, I won’t give up.  I will try harder the next time because I believe happiness is on the path of love.  Imagine if we all looked at everyone, every sentient being, as a member of our family that we loved and cherished.  Just imagine that for a moment!

This summer I had the honor and privilege of seeing His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, with my Great Teacher and his wife.  This was truly a bucket-list moment for me.  His message was, WE ARE ONE…we are all brothers and sisters on this rock…all sentient beings matter! His main message, of course, was love.  It takes a strong and courageous heart to love those who are not very lovable.  That is the only thing that will work in the long run. Stand taller and rise above all the stuff that only brings people down. His Holiness said it doesn’t matter what your faith is as long as love and compassion are at the core. He said you have to be determined to BE love.  “Happiness is not something ready-made.  It comes from your own actions.”

So if no one has told you today that they love you, then I will.  I love you all.  Peace, love and happiness, Everyone!!!

 

Off the Grid…What is it?

Okay…so I am one of those tree-hugging, hippie, vegan types who dreams constantly of living in a tiny house or cave off the grid.  I know to some of you that may seem a little weird…well, maybe a lot weird, but I have always loved the idea of being away from the rat-race, the daily grind, the responsibilities, the noise that we are forced to be in every day because of societal norms..in other words…..THE MATRIX! 

I am constantly trying to figure out ways to live more sustainably, use less, create a minimal environment that is relaxing and Zen and quiet.  I don’t watch TV.  I recycle.  I get rid of “stuff” all the time or repurpose things to make them useful again.  I am learning about going plastic free.  I vegan-ized my closet/home as much as possible.  The other day I read an article about an 88-year-old woman who has always lived off the grid, doesn’t have running water, cooks outside, makes her own soap, grows her own food, and lives in the house that her grandfather built!  It has no electricity, and she is very happy.  This is how I imagine living.  She even made her own robes!  A woman after my own heart!!!!  Righteous!!!

This 88 Year Old Women Lives Alone & Completely Off The Grid...

Now, I know this is not practical (probably).  I have a young son who has grown up on video games.  I have a grown child with a grandbaby who would probably never visit me if I lived off the grid.  (Incidentally, when he was little I seriously contemplated living in a commune in a hay bale house…no joke!)  However, being a single mom with bills means I have to have a job which I am so grateful for.  I don’t have a garden anymore, and I wouldn’t be typing on my blog if I lived off the grid because I wouldn’t have a computer.  I get it.  I can’t live in a cave or in a mountain hideaway, but I can come as close as I can, right?

Well, you would think so, but last night while talking to my Great Teacher, (Only Love Zen Sangha) while meeting him for my weekly Zen teaching he asked me what my dream way to live would be.  I recited something like the above aforementioned information.  I said it in a very exasperated voice like “I know.  I will never be able to live like this.”  I will constantly be forced to deal with the fact that I have to work to pay bills and put food on the table.  It’s like a vicious cycle that I will never be able to get out of.”  He laughed (which he does sometimes when I go on my tirades) and said — are you ready for this? — He said, “You already live off the grid, and you can live off the grid any time you want to!”  I looked perplexed I am sure.  He said, you can live off the grid in your mind any time you want to.  Every time you don’t do the norm or live by the rules of the “Matrix”, you are living off the grid.  You can choose to take the “red pill” any time you want and wake up.  But taking the red pill (like in the movie The Matrix) doesn’t guarantee that you will have it easier because you are awake.  It just means you will be awake.  Here is what Wikipedia says about the red pill and the blue pill in the movie, The Matrix…

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” The term red pill refers to a human that is aware of the true nature of the Matrix.”  Said by Morpheus to Neo… (I love this movie…seriously..love!)

So this is one of those a-ha moments.  It was one of the greatest things I had ever heard.  I have spent a lot of time pining away for what I thought I could never attain.  However, I failed to look at what I am doing and what I can choose to do any time I want to.  I can create or manifest what I want any time I want to.  Every time I choose not to listen to what society thinks I should do, anytime I don’t buy the latest fad, every time I make a choice that is better for the environment or the animals or mankind, I am living off the grid.  Every night when Ezra and I turn off all electronics, shut off the lights and sit by candlelight before bed and just breathe I am living off the grid.  The Matrix wants me to be a robot, wants me to be dumbed down by their politics, negativity and anger.  Well, every time that I don’t oblige the media or whoever decides that today this is what I must have or buy or learn about, then I am living off the grid.

Living “off the grid” is a choice, but it doesn’t have to be in a physical sense.  It can be in the mind, in the heart, in my wild woman spirit.  I can manifest all the off-the-grid stuff in my life that I want to.  I can invite like-minded people to be a part of my life and my circle.  I can make choices that my family would be proud of.  I can choose not to join the masses of people who fuel the fires of dualism.  I can choose to make healthy choices for me and my family that don’t have anything to do with the Matrix.  I can continue to aspire to learn to love even when things or people are unlovable.  I can keep trying.  I can keep going, and I can never give up.  This is the red pill.

And when all else fails, I can go outside without my phone, light up the fire pit, make vegan s’mores, sleep in my tiny camper, and live off my grid just for a little bit.  Today I choose the red pill!  (okay…now picture Neo doing that Matrix thing where he avoids the cyber bullets and bends backwards…that’s me, and if you don’t know what I am talking about, you really need to watch The Matrix.)  Peace and love, Everyone!

Emmitt

So on May 25th, 2016, at 6:39 p.m. my world got even fuller.  My grandbaby, Emmitt, or as he is also known as (My G-baby, my Squishy baby, Grunty Baby or “him’s the tootest!”) was born!  Words really can’t describe what it’s like to be a Grammie, but I’m going to try.  He is the perfect blend of my son, Ethan, and his momma, Ashley.   They are great parents who love that little one so much!  They are handling their new roles like champs and with a great deal of ease, maturity, and poise.  I am so proud of them.  You know, it’s such an amazing thing to have children, to know that “this little human” is a part of you, but then when you get handed your grandbaby, well, that is a whole new level of life and awesomeness!!!  It’s legacy!  It’s spectacular!  I didn’t really know what that love was until that moment.  I remember getting the text from my son saying he was here, and I could come upstairs to see him for the first time.  I literally jumped up out of my seat and yelled in the middle of the hospital lobby.  It’s surreal.  The absolute two best days of my life happened on October 24, 1993, and October 20, 2005, when MY two babies were born.  But now I get to add a third best day, May 25, 2016.  Ten pounds, 14 ounces and 23 inches of the sweetest, most precious, most cuddly, preciousness ever!  I already have my next tattoo planned!  I love you, Emmitt!

emmitt2

 

 

 

Legacy

Today is the first Mother’s Day without my mother here on earth.  It’s a surreal kind of feeling, and I always am wondering where she is.  I don’t have a belief in anything in particular after life because I haven’t been there to know, but I feel like somehow she is around in some way.  I have always looked at my children as MY legacy, but today I am thinking about my mother’s legacy, and me and my sister are a part of HER legacy.  We both have characteristics of our mother such as strength and determination.  When she set her mind to do something, you best get out of her way, and I loved that about her.  I think Angela and I have that same drive!  Her legacy lives on in me and my sister but also in my children and my soon-to-be grandson…  This morning I was thinking about her and I decided to hang some fabric that was hers in my kitchen.  She loved to decorate, and I do as well.  There is definitely a hole that she used to fill that is now somewhat empty, but it will never be completely empty as long as her memory and her legacy live on in us and our family.  If she is able to know anything about her girls right now, it’s that we are a part of her that lives on.  I am grateful that she gave me life, a life that I am trying to live to the fullest and to the best of my ability!  Thank you, MOM!