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We watched Sound of Metal recently, the only, I think, Oscar nominee we managed this year. It’s funny how I used to be so into it, seeing the movies, watching the red carpet, the ceremony, so interested and invested in it all. The clothes, the speeches, the wonder! A season of my life now complete, I suppose.

The film, however, got to me, deeply. How for a long while, a body moves along, believing it is one person, doing life in one certain way, contentedly so. Suddenly a change comes, wholly unexpected and painfully blunt. In the main character’s case, a loss of hearing. How does a drummer go on when he can no longer hear the notes? How does a body get out of the head space of necessity? Of Disability?

The most intriguing moment of the story happens when he’s told his grief is not about hearing loss. The problem is not deafness. The problem is making peace with deafness. The problem is the mind.

How true this is. How true that our minds are often our greatest road blocks. Stories we are told. Stories we create. Dysfunctional patterns and beliefs run riot, ruling us like bullies, toddlers in need of rest. How bankrupt and desperate. Sometimes ugly, too.

How potent the moment when we witness this ugliness from a distance, truly recognize it. Embrace it with love. Then let it go. What sweet freedom. What peace.

May we all arrive there.

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Hi there, and happy Tuesday. It’s a jolly morning in my little office. Linda Ronstadt – Mas Canciones – is on the hi-fi, uplifting and beautiful, if ever there was. Si! Si!

How cute is my sun catcher of a pooch, all sleepy eyed on another day?

fern bush
pasque flower
silver buffalo berry

The garden awakens, bud to leaf to flower, and it never ceases to amaze, so much that disappears every fall comes alive again!

Unicorn left alone. Greg, Juniper, and I, on our morning walk, spied it from a distance. Me thinking, from an entirely different angle, mind you, that it was a human (it was a rather large unicorn), engaged in yoga stretches. When it became obvious a body couldn’t maintain such stillness, and we got a little closer, the truth was revealed.

Given the choice, I am a waffle over pancake person, every single time. There’s no replicating that crispness, perfect pockets screaming for butter and syrup. I’d make pancakes, however, out of sheer necessity. Waffles take time, one by one by one. UNTIL! Until I, searching online for a second waffle maker, stumbled upon this one that makes TWO at a time. Fancy! It looks a bit like what Darth Vader and the Empire would use to get a jump on feeding all those darn Storm Troopers. Black and red, and all. The waffles themselves are mighty fine, too.

This morning, on our a.m. stroll, we saw one of our favorite dog runners take a selfie, utterly seamless in efficiency. Sit down on rock, adorable pooch jumps up, snap photo, with, bonus, Pike’s Peak in background! Insert seriously cool guy sound effect.

Hey Buddy, let’s do what that guy did! We can selfie, right?? Well, my friends, this is what happened before Juniper jumped down and refused to return. I thought I’d share it in the let’s keep-it-real vibe. Keep on keeping on. And much laughter to you, too.

I am not a religious person, but a very, very spiritual one. And though my Dad has read the bible daily, for as long as I can remember, I have never had the desire or inclination to do the same. I’ve found people’s interpretation of religious texts, and religion, as a whole, to be more dangerous to the general population than not. The Crusades, Islamic terrorism, Hindu & Buddhist extremism, the sexual abuse of priests and pastors on the innocent, the list goes on and on and on.

That being said, there are two very powerful notions of God that are with me daily. That he or she resides within every body and especially that a person can encounter God any place, any time. I always had difficulty believing this when encountering the cruel people of the world. Why would God reside there, when there are far nicer places to be? But then I thought about the awful person being an instrument of teaching for others, for me. God works through that person to show me how NOT to be. What to stand up for and rise against.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how when I was little and would see a brilliant sun beam, I believed God was shining a light on a person in need. How the thought left me joyful. The sticky bit was in wondering if the person knew it. How often are we aware of that brilliant light shining on us? How often do we take the time to recognize the beauty and love around us? I think it’s time I do more to seek that awareness. That presence.

And a perfect tie-in to the photo up yonder. When my Great Aunt Mary died, my Grandma Tess found hundreds of Catholic medals in her room. I took maybe a quarter of them and fashioned a necklace with a few of them a while back. I liked the spirit of it, of having metal worn by her prayerful hands, but the look wasn’t quite right. I took it apart and made this one, with all my favorites. It jingles and sings, speaking loudest of her, while buoying my spirit, too.

The Unknown

For much of my life, I’ve been the answer person. Colleen knows. Sometimes, I don’t know how I know. The answers perhaps living for eternity in my belly, surfacing with Dewey decimal precision at the exact moment needed. Other times, springing from countless books and passages read and remembered.

This knowing, as one might imagine, is the perennial blessing and curse. Knowledge IS power! That same intelligence, however, when called upon by former friends to settle a score (true story), not so great.

Lately, and perhaps brought upon by this dreaded virus, my knowing has been wholly inadequate. The anxiety of it! When? Where? Why? What about this? The space where my personal Dewey might previously reside, an echoing vacuum keeping me up at night, hours and hours tick-tocking by.

What to do? Initially, I searched myself, one inquiry after another, ad nauseum. Then, with a surprising flourish, the solution to my question. Succinct and really quite brilliant in its simplicity:

All in good time. Answers will come, or not. Be patient and forgiving. Forget the query and go, go, go.

creekside

Sun down on the street where I grew up and where my parents live still. Arvada, and no, silly spell checker, I did not mean armada. The clouds are smoke from the Cameron Peak fire, the beautiful detritus of dreams gone up in flames. These will travel south, cloak us and choke us at our own house, some 80 miles distant, in the days following.

Little Dry Creek, babbly and bubbly and ever on the move. How distant the memories of childhood days spent along its banks. Feet in the water, eyes out for craw-dads.

For two weeks in August, I descended, hard and fast off the cliff of depression. No right reason. No squirrel suit. No parachute. Every nerve and cell slowing to an excruciating crawl. As the days passed, I watched my movements, the swish of hand and step of foot as an alien in a new body might experience. Articulating joints and muscle concentrated and in hyper slow motion. My body but not my body.

Late one night, I made a tearful advance apology to Greg for a suicide I believed was inevitable and for which I had a solid plan. I felt as though every ounce of hope and purpose drained from my being.

Then, while lying in the bath (thank goodness for them!), I remembered another difficult time, from ages ago, and a description of the Dakini Bliss from Pema Chodron (I’ve included an excerpt about it after this entry). And so I asked myself, why can’t THIS be the Dakini Bliss again? Why the hell not? Once I realized I couldn’t reply in the negative, I knew the hardest part was over, hopped out of the bath, and told Greg I was safe.

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A few years ago, I was overwhelmed by deep anxiety, a fundamental, intense anxiety with no storyline attached. I felt very vulnerable, very afraid and raw. While I sat and breathed with it, relaxed into it, stayed with it, the terror did not abate. It was unrelenting after many days, and I didn’t know what to do.

I went to see my teacher Dzigar Kongtrül, and he said, “Oh, I know that place.” That was reassuring. He told me about times in his life when he had been caught in the same way. He said it had been an important part of his journey and had been a great teacher for him. Then he did something that shifted how I practice. He asked me to describe what I was experiencing. He asked me where I felt it. He asked me if it hurt physically and if it was hot or cold. He asked me to describe the quality of the sensation, as precisely as I could. This detailed exploration continued for a while, and then he brightened up and said “Ani Pema, that’s the Dakini’s Bliss. That’s a high-level of spiritual bliss.” I almost fell out of my chair. I thought, “Wow, this is great!” And I couldn’t wait to feel that intensity again. And do you know what happened? When I eagerly sat down to practice, of course, since the resistance was gone, so was the anxiety.

I now know that at a nonverbal level the aversion to my experience had been very strong. I had been making the sensation bad. Basically, I just wanted it to go away. But when my teacher said “Dakini’s bliss,” it completely changed the way I looked at it. So that’s what I learned: take an interest in your pain and your fear. Move closer, lean in, get curious; even for a moment, experience the feelings without labels, beyond being good or bad. Welcome them. Invite them. Do anything that helps melt the resistance. 

Then the next time you lose heart and you can’t bear to experience what you are feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in. That’s basically the instruction that Dzigar Kongtrül gave me. And now I pass it on to you. Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves (Like the one uttering I needed to die). This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering – yours, mine, and that of all living beings.

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