Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where I've Been

Where have I gone? That student-counselor is now graduated and trying to launch into the wide world of employment and creativity. I blog here and there on other sites, but it all feels fragmented. My anonymous self. My professional self. My constantly-updating facebook self. So may faces walking around it's hard to keep track of it all. I'm hardly ever just me, with my hair hanging down and writing from my own place of authenticity. I haven't done art in a good 6 months (I blame the puppy, but that's just an excuse, right?). I've entered a gloomy summer season directionless, broke and clinging to hope that a net will appear as I believe it always will.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Love Ozzie

Ozzie is now a little over 6 months old, and every day I get to spend with him, I am enriched.

"It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are."



Friday, March 5, 2010

Time Lapse Meditations

In solidarity with my student-clients, and for the benefit of my own growth, I have been particularly intentional about my mindfulness practice lately. Today I found a unique expression of mindfulness meditation, in the creation of a time-lapse video.

Inspired by a CNN report that featured people from around the world who had created their own time lapse videos using digital cameras, I thought that this would be a fun way to spend my Ocean Shores vacation. Kyle was off conferencing, and so I got down to business.What struck me, during the process, was how intentional and meditative it actually felt. I was sitting on my porch, or out on a sand-dune, and had my camera balanced on a railing or pole and spent time taking the pictures.


The repetitiousness of the clicking lulled me into a zen place, and I noticed that I was split simultaneously, as it often happens during meditation. There was this part of me that looked through the viewfinder and noticed the details, or thought "wow, nothing is changing here, this is going to be a boring video to watch back." I noticed thoughts of how pointless the task was, how tedious it would be to edit the photos, or wonderings about who on earth would even watch something like this. Then there was part of me that got to stand back and observe the goings on. I could see how the waves and the dunes were constants, even in their own change, and how people or cars or birds interacted with the environment...perhaps without really even being aware.

And I was outside of the story, observing, and inside the story, noticing the minutia, the monotony, the change.

It reminds me of working with clients, as we begin to see together how things do change, even if the changes seem imperceptible at first. I know when I've been depressed or sick or anxious, it feels like it has always been this way. Maintaining mindfulness has helped me to see that even when something is uncomfortable, it does change, even if it doesn't mean I'm all happy flowers and rainbows. There are shifts and shades that can be seen when time has elapsed.

So I encourage you all to try this, mindfully create a time lapsed piece...and if you do send me the link!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

Seattle has turned back to the grey mushiness that is typical of winter-turning-into-spring. It stands as a stark contrast to the last few weeks of beautiful weather, where the bulbs began to poke upward into the brilliant sunshine. The earth smelled like spring and I have sported my "Jesus" sandals around town. As someone who struggles with seasonal depression, the sunshine lifted my spirits and I wondered to myself 'could this be the end of winter? could this really be spring?' In an atypical fashion, only harboring a little bit of worry that the weather would take a turn for the worse, I embraced every sunny moment...walks with the pupperoni, trips to the dog park, cappaccinos with friends, and plenty of good conversation.

But then, as it is apt to do in Seattle, the rain was back. Winter just wasn't quite through, and while I watched the news of feet and feet of snow covering the rest of the country, I couldn't help but think miserable thoughts about wanting to stay in bed all day, or calling in 'sick' to work.

And then, one day, I had a thought. This thought was about the buddhist and mindfulness idea of acceting what is rather than striving that which isn't. This grasping for sunny days was leaving me in the past or living in the future, but certainly not mindfully experiencing the moment...rain and all. It's a theme that has been running through my sessions with students lately and so it is no wonder that I get to experienc the wonderful parallel process.

So I mindfully embraced the gray Seattle skies, the rain pattering down, and my ability to spend the day inside a sweet little coffee shop and write my Master's thesis. I embraced the wet spot in my leather ballet flats, and the absence of convenient parking in the local grocery store parking lot.

And, it was good.

When I began to fall asleep that night I had a thought, a reframe of a childhood memory that has plagued me for awhile. It was the phrase my mom used once, when I wanted an ice cream cone when dad came hom eand she said, 'don't get your hopes up.'

For so long I attributed this phrase to my underlying pessimism and cynicism, the belief that bad things were going to happen and that at all costs I should expect the worst.

But that night I wondered if my mom wasn't in fact embracing a tenet of Buddhism, that somehow she might have been asking me to take a look at life differently, to see that the absence of striving, and living in the moment, in the midst of disappointment or happiness, is what life is all about. Perhaps it wasn't what she intended, perhaps it was an off-hand remark to get a kid to quit whining about dessert, and perhaps I spent too many years thinking her advice meant one thing, when in fact it could have meant something entirely different.

It doesn't matter now, though, does it? The journey has led me to this place, and right now, in this moment, the idea of 'not getting my hopes up' melds perfectly with the ideal of not striving, and so for this moment I will be mindful, even if it's raining.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Speak to Me Grandma

Speak to me Grandma I’m alone in my thoughts
Speak to me Grandma You’re at home with the thought...
There’s a wind blowing off the top of Divide
Through the valley of our old St. Mary
You have thrice earned the rest that you’ve got
And the cross your fingers carry to beyond...
Now, I really can’t believe that you’re gone.

Speak to me Grandma, stories blossom in you
Speak to me Grandma legend blended with truth.
And your words brushed a portrait for us
In the Valley of our old St. Mary
Your eyes were the light for us
When our bodies couldn’t carry us beyond...
Now, I really can’t believe that you’re gone.

You felt the buffalo go
You heard the stagecoach roll
You saw booming Altyn rise and fall
You rode your pony upon
Moccasin Flat at century’s dawn
The trails became roads
and the roads became old...
We listened to the stories that you told.
You wed a man from the north
Then ten fine children came forth
Alex still is your groom.
You were the center of us.
Still in our valley we trust
The vision of St. Mary
appeared upon the lake
And leaves me in this fast-closing wake.

Speak to me Grandma I’m alone in my thoughts
Speak to me Grandma You’re at home with the thought...
There’s a wind blowing off the top of Divide
Through the valley of our old St. Mary
You have thrice earned the rest that you’ve got
And the cross your fingers carry to beyond...
Now, I really can’t believe that you’re gone.

There’s a wind blowing off the top of Divide
Through the valley of our old St. Mary
You have thrice earned the rest that you’ve got
And the cross your fingers carry to beyond...
Now, I really can’t believe that you’re gone.
No I really can’t believe
It’s so hard to imagine.
I really don’t believe that you’re gone.
-Jack Gladstone

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pain Meditation

Pain is an intrinsic part of being born in a physical body, as the Buddha has taught. In reality, aging and sickness begin the moment we enter the world. Yet we are conditioned to ward off all pain. We are unwilling to allow the pain simply to happen...

Paradoxically, once we are willing to work with pain, we feel that it is not all bad. Pain is a riveting object of attention; to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, it concentrates the mind wonderfully. If we leave the breath and direct attention to whatever physical sensation is in the body, allowing ourselves to be present with whatever has arisen, the mind doesn’t tend to wander very much. If we are truly aware of the sensations, we find that pain can focus and calm the mind. There can be joy that arises with this concentration. We are not scattered. The mind is happily focused.

- Gavin Harrison, from “Working With Pain,” Tricycle, Winter 2002

I am at work, after a few days of not-quite-unbearable-but-pretty-darn-close back pain, that has left me sleeping with the aid of Tylenol PM and awake with hot packs and Aleve. I'm managing, but it's much nicer to be sitting on a couch than in an office at a computer. Ergonomics are not my strong suit, and to try and adjust a computer on a desk that isn't mine, with my chair height (these long legs are annoying sometimes), it leaves me sitting up high and looking down low which leads to a turtle-head neck forward position. And the rest of my time is spent in a chair listening to people (who get distracted if I squirm too much).

So it's my lunch break (and yes I'm blogging instead of eating), and I come across this daily dharma quote over at and it speaks perfectly into my experience today. The pain is bringing me into an awareness of my body, of my physical being in the room with another person. I notice when they take a deep breath after a long story, and when I am tensing my abs and restricting my own breathing. I am aware of a lump of irritation in my left shoulder and I do wonder, why is it crying right now, and what is it trying to tell me?

I don't know what it would be like to not have some pain, an ache here or there, and while I wish I didn't have to live like this, I wonder if living in the physical experience is part of what it's all about. So maybe, today my focus will be on the pain, instead of the removal of the pain.