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175

14 Jan

177

12 Jan

My head has been a bit of a crazy place this week. I have wanted to do exactly what the dog in the picture above is doing – bury my head and hide. I actually did climb in bed a few times and bury my head under pillows just to get some silence. It’s not really a helpful response to overstimulation. I am working on this. You see a funny thing has happened recently…as my readership has grown so has my need/want to please. I’ve grown to care so much for readers I don’t even know. I want to make them happy and inspire them and amuse them and confide in them and be honest with them…I want to do it all everyday. Kinda impossible huh?

Over the last month or so I have received lots of blog input. Which I love getting by the way so please don’t stop! But it’s been a funny experience because everyone has an opinion and everybody has a favorite kind of 365 post- a different reason they read it everyday. Some like the funny…some like the serious…some like the buddhist ones..some love imaginary Frank…some HATE imaginary Frank…some are totally bored by my desire to drive across the USA…some LOVE the idea of driving across the USA so much so that they email me and ask to join…some people love the tango…some hate it…some people are obsessed with my goals…some not…some love reading about Brian…some wish I would stop sharing about Brian. I think you get the point right?

My favorite was when my father told me that “he misses my spiritual posts”. So sweet. I wouldn’t have thought he was my spiritual post target audience. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a spiritual guy but it’s not like I have ever found him meditating or anything. I said ” Well Dad it’s kinda hard to be spiritual on cue, somedays the world isn’t falling apart and my biggest concern is what to have for dinner.”

When I started 365 til 30 I promised myself that I would always write from an honest place, that I would take this year to really explore myself and the world around me. I don’t want to change that. I don’t want to edit myself or write to please others because then my readers aren’t getting the truth of the journey, not to mention I won’t be getting the truth of the journey either. That was the whole point of this year and this project. To live. To experience. To manifest. To fail. To enjoy the ride.

So I have come to the conclusion that while I may not please everyone everyday, I can promise you all that I will always be honest with you about what is swirling in my head that day even if it’s just the state of my hair.

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“Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.”

 John Jakes

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(I love this song. Although it does seem to make the above post seem much more dramatic. HA)

214

6 Dec

TASSAJARA : THOUGHTS

“Just Drop It”

By Pema Chodron

This slogan is saying that when confusion arises not only do you practice tonglen and connect with the heart, but also you flash on the nonsolidity of phenomena at any time. In other words, you can just drop it. Out of the blue, you just drop it.

For instance, on a meditation retreat there are noodles for breakfast. Maybe in the beginning it seems funny, but halfway through breakfast you find yourself – instead of being mindful of the food, the chopsticks in your hand, the other people, and the good instructions you’ve received – talking to yourself about what a good breakfast would be, how you’d like to have a good breakfast like your mother used to make you in Brooklyn. It might be matzo ball soup or tortillas or beans or ham and eggs, but you want a good breakfast: burned bacon, like mother used to make. You resent these noodles.

Then, not through any particular effort, you just drop it. To your surprise, there’s a big world there. You see all these lights glimmering in your empty lacquered bowl. You notice the sadness in someone’s face. You realize that the man across from you is also thinking about breakfasts, because he has a resentful look on his face, which makes you laugh because you were there just a second ago.

The world opens up and suddenly we’re there for what’s happening. The solidity of our thoughts becomes transparent, and we can connect automatically with this space – shunyata -in ourselves. We have the ability to drop the story line, to rouse ourselves.

That’s an everyday experience of shunyata. But it’s also a very advanced practice if you can do it when you don’t happen to feel like it.

If everything is solid and intense and you’re wallowing in self-pity or something else, if someone says to you at that point, “Just drop it”, even in the sweetest, kindest, most gentle voice, you want to punch that person in the nose.

222

28 Nov

The other night I was up from 3 to 6 am (glorious hours to be up by yourself) thinking about 365 til 30 and my 10 goals. I cannot believe it’s been almost 5 months since it all began. I am truly blown away by how much has happened in the last 5 months- I moved in with Brian, camped, tango’d, cooked, baked, attempted French, written more insane emails than I care to admit, laughed, cried, danced, jumped with joy, had my goals actualize, had meetings that rocked my world, had goals temporarily derailed but still made a point to find the humor in it all.

Getting out of my comfort zone has forced me to see myself differently and laugh more than I thought possible. I also learned that I am much more resilient than I originally gave myself credit for. Not to mention I found the strength to get over my chicken phobia.

But the most amazing part has been how much I was able to manifest by setting a clear intention. I have always had a very clear image of what I wanted my life to look like and it’s coming into focus.

But, you know what kept me awake most during those  glorious hours? Thinking about what still lies ahead. What big surprises are around the corner. What goals I needed to re-strategize to attain and what goals I need to breathe new life into. Because, as much as this blog is about finding the joy in each day it’s also about actualizing these 10 goal and I want them all to happen as much as I did five months ago.

 I have decided that I need to start January off with a clear focus and to do so I need to re-cap, re-stratagize and fall in love with them all again.

So all through December I will be recapping and brainstorming the 10 goals!

For the readers who recently joined the 365 til 30 party this may also help you catch up! I do realize that some of you may think my “Frank” photos means Frank is real. This is not a crazy assumption. Sadly, he’s not. Not yet at least.

231

19 Nov


“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
Buddha

243

7 Nov

I am having a Pema Chodron kinda Monday…I just love everything this woman says.

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

Pema Chodron

289

22 Sep

TASSAJARA : COMPLETED

(considering I couldn’t take photos at Tassajara imagine the picture above is me)

TOP 5 EXPERIENCES AT TASSAJARA

(best and worst all rolled into 1…such as life)

1

The 14 mile Drive

The last 14 miles of  my 7 hour trip had me questioning my sanity (and it was only day 1 into my adventure…way too early to be questioning one’s sanity). You see, Tassajara’s website makes it very clear that the last 14 miles descending into Tassajara is treacherous and they even offer a once a day shuttle for a small fee. But, like a fool I thought maybe they were exaggerating when I read this…

Driving Precautions
For the last 14 miles, Tassajara Road is a winding dirt road with sheer drop-offs and a steep, narrow descent over the last five miles. We urge you to observe the following precautions if you CHOOSE to drive this road:Make sure your car is in good working order, paying special attention to brakes, fuel, and cooling system. As you begin your descent over the last five miles, shift into the lowest possible gear and PUMP your brakes as needed. DO NOT apply steady pressure to your brakes or they will overheat. If your brakes begin to overheat or feel mushy, pull over immediately and allow them to cool for at least 20 minutes before continuing.

 First lesson about Buddhist…they aren’t dramatic people. They happened to be telling the truth…it was that bad. For future reference when I see “PUMP your brakes” I am going to opt out of the drive. Once I realized the road was not a joke I attempted to turn around but that was impossible considering I had nowhere to turn off other than off a cliff. I drove  5 miles an hour down that 14 mile road and still felt like I was on a rollercoaster. Oh and did I also mention I had no cell reception? I was off the grid at this point so if anything went wrong I was screwed. I did survive the experience but ended up spending a majority of my 6 days at Tassajara worrying about the drive back up.

2

I don’t have to talk to anyone? Awesome 

At Tassajra even during the allowed talking periods you don’t really have to talk to anyone unless you feel the need to and I am a HUGE fan of this. I am also a huge fan of not having my phone or computer and I also have to come clean on something…this includes not having to call my friends and family for 6 days. Sorry guys, I do feel bad admitting this but it’s true. I have never experienced such silence. It was a delight!!  I mean, how often does one get total silence from  everybody and everything and not have feel bad about it. I’m sorry but I can’t  talk…I am at a Buddhist monastery.  BEST EXCUSE EVER.

3

Meditaion & Service

Before Tassajara the most I have ever meditated was 15 minutes and it was usually following an hour-long relaxing yoga class. Tassajara was a tad different to say the least. Every morning at 5:20 a person would go running by all the cabins ringing a bell to beckon us to the Zendo (meditation hall) for morning Zenzo (meditation) and service. Having a person run by my window ringing a bell was a very odd way to be awakened from a deep sleep. There was something very fairy like about it. Actually, I kept imaging a little gnome doing it. As I dragged myself up the hill towards Zendo I would asked myself why oh why I sent myself to Buddhist Boot camp.

During meditation I had to sit on the floor facing a wall and not move for an hour. I always felt very peaceful the first few minutes into my zazen. But, after 20 minutes my back would start to hurt and my mind would start to wander. During this time I often heard crass rap music in my head- very odd. By the 30 minute mark I would start cursing the Buddhist monks for making me sit in such a painful position and cursing the fly that just landed on my face. After 40 minutes my mind and body would finally  just give up and I would just sit and sit and sit. The moments when I was just sitting with my mind blank were very peaceful. I went back to zazen twice a day for those fleeting moments because they made it all worth it,

A service followed meditation every day which I loved despite not knowing what was happening through most of it. The whole room would line up in rows facing the Buddha and would chant and bow in intervals. I just moved my lips and bowed with the others when they did. The first time I heard all the voices chanting together I was hooked because it was so pretty.

4

Bath Time

I heard that Tassajara had a Japanese style bath house but I had no idea what this meant. In retrospect I wish I had looked into it a bit more before departure because upon arrival I quickly learned  that it meant I had  to shower with all the females at Tassajara. It wasn’t a big deal until I got undressed for the first time and  noticed I was the odd one out. Probably the only time in my life I will be self-conscious because I HAD a bikini wax….Oh the stares I got! Though by day 3 I stopped caring and proudly walked my bikini waxed self  around that bath house with my head held high. It was actually pretty cool in there. There was a beautiful natural hot spring spa, a sauna and you could swim in the creek! I didn’t swim naked in the creek with the others because I am scared of bugs but for those who did it looked refreshing!

5

You want me to do what? Work as practice

I knew going in to this I would have to earn my spot as Tassajara by working. I simply had high hopes I would get garden or kitchen duty because both of those sound lovely and peaceful. But no, I got cabin duty…meaning I was a maid for Tassajara…meaning I had to clean toilets. I bitched and moaned through most of it (only in my head of course) but soon I started to get it…it was part of my practice and by the end all my big emotions were gone.

Tassajara says this about “work as practice”….

It is pretty typical to see work as only a means to an end, something that has to be done now in order to do the things we really want to do later. But Zen training takes work far beyond this small point of view. The founder of Tassajara, Suzuki Roshi, valued work so highly as to say, “First clean, then zazen.” When work is practice it is seen as part of our zazen (meditation) practice itself. It is an end in itself. Work and zazen go hand in hand. Both are necessary and without one, the other suffers. When work is practice, it is a Buddha doing what a Buddha does, how a Buddha does it.

So when our work is practice, it is less about what we are doing and more about how we are doing it. This particular how in Zen training refers to bringing our zazen, or Zen, Mind to our workplace. “Zen Mind” is a willingness to engage ourselves wholeheartedly in whatever we are doing in the present moment, whether it is making up a bed, cleaning a toilet, chopping a carrot, or serving a guest in the dining room. It is a radical willingness to go beyond our usual limited, small mind; the one that is ruled by its likes and dislikes, its prejudices, narrow points of view and fixed ways of seeing and doing things. The small mind is fueled by habit energy, which says “I don’t like that kind of work,” or “I know all about that.” When we bring our zazen practice into our work, we take a leap out of that conditioned small mind and into the freedom and generosity of the mind that is accepting, fresh, and full of possibility. This mind is the unfettered mind of a beginner; it is “Beginner’s Mind.”

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“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell”

Buddha


291

20 Sep

What a fun but draining few weeks! Since returning from Tassajara I have tried to sit down and write about my experience but I have felt major blockage! Well, first I blame the nasty cold I came home with and now I blame writers block. I sit down and nothing. Totally frustrating. It has been so hard for me to compile my thoughts about the experience! How do you bottle an experience like that?  My time there still feels like a dream. Considering, I went through such a range of emotions in 6 days…I probably needed more time to decompress than I originally thought. Anyways, I am working very hard at compiling my thoughts clearly so I can give you a feeling for Tassajara. Tomorrow I have the whole afternoon free and all I am going to do is write!

Let’s see what else has been on my mind…I’m getting excited for our trip to Sedona this weekend. It should be a relaxing couple of days of doing nothing other than eating, reading, drinking and hiking. Not in that order necessarily but you catch my drift:) Below I included my two favorite pictures from last year’s trip!

296

15 Sep

I am back on the grid! I am home from Tassajara and let me tell you…it was a crazy ride! I LOVED it but I also felt like I was at a Buddhist bootcamp most days.  For all its’ Zen-ness, the Tassajara
practices and structures were quite rigid.

I was awakened every morning at 5:20 by a ringing bell beckoning me to the Zendo (meditation hall) to mediate for an hour in the dark. If I didn’t have to sit upright during this I surely would have slept through it. I also had to work as part of the program and my work duty was cleaning toilets and guest cabins (considering I don’t clean my own toilet this had to be some sort of karmic joke). I chanted (well I moved my lips with the crowd in hopes nobody would notice that I had no idea what I was doing) and bowed so much in 6 days that my body still hurts. Another highlight…bathing nude with Buddhist monks (probably the only time in my life I will be embarrassed because I HAD a bikini wax). Oh the stares I got! All in all it was one of the best experiences of my life but also one that had me asking myself what I had gotten myself into.

I will be sharing all my thoughts and stories about Tassajara over the next couple of days, I just need a day to compile my thoughts! Not only am I exhausted but I came home sick as a dog and when I say sick I mean sicker than I have been in a while (I blame the Buddhist bootcamp).

303

8 Sep

IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING : TASSAJARA

The time has come for me to pack my bags and drive into the wilderness, to begin my buddhist adventure. I leave for Tassajara tomorrow morning at 5 and will be off the grid for a week. While there I will have no access to my cell phone or to a computer so I will not be able to blog! This will be very hard for me! But, I guess the whole point of the retreat is to be quiet so I am going to have to embrace it.  I went back and forth about having guest bloggers for the days I am absent but in the end I decided the blog should remain silent for 7 days if I am doing so.

I am very excited about going but I am not going to lie I am a little nervous as well. I simply have no idea what to expect! But, that’s part of the adventure right?! Questions in my head….Will I be able to find the place or will I get lost? Will I make it by noon like they requested? What will my work duties be? Will I be able to meditate all those hours? Will I be able to fall asleep there? Will my clothing choices be Tassajara appropriate? Will I lose my mind there? Will I have a huge epiphany about my life?

I can’t wait to share all my stories and thoughts with you guys when I return! I will be back in 7 days! Wish me luck!

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“A jug fills drop by drop.”

Buddha