Tag Archives: Buddhism

Digging into New Books this Mother’s Day

books

I’m digging into these gems this mother’s day! Last night, after teaching my hot yoga class, I went to a book store and walked around. I had cancelled on a friend who offered to take me to the Trocadero in Hollywood since my nanny had cancelled. I really wasn’t that upset about it. Yes, it’s the quintessential ‘Hollywood spot’, but I’m not that into Hollywood. I’m more into creating and dreaming. So, I decided to treat myself to a dream walk, exploration, of the book store isles sans kiddos for an hour. A top expert in publishing, an agent for 20+ years, told me in an interview last week that trying to get published in the genre of literary fiction, is nearly impossible for new writers today (via traditional publishing houses.) Hmmmm. There’s a lot of fear in that statement. And I’m not one who needs to mire in fear or let it inchworm inside my head as I write my 4th novel. I respect his opinion, but it is not the definitive voice deciding whether or not I will ever get published. So I took a stroll down the isles and among the ‘new voices’ and low and behold, there are many in both literary and women’s fiction. My new intention is to read a ‘new voice’ every month until next mother’s day. Why? Because I want to support my fellow writers and new voices who are trying to give birth to their babies in this daunting publishing arena. So, I picked out The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney published by Harper Collins in 2016. It is Sweeney’s first book to be published by a major publisher, and soon to be made a movie. Family drama, addiction, inheritance, sibling squabbles, are all contained within its pages. I can’t wait to start!

My other books I purchased last night are bite-sized spiritual instruments of wisdom to inspire my meditation practice, which helps me focus on what I can do and create, and stay out of fear. I can turn to a page, within The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba or the Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Mysticism, and read one teaching by these masters daily. Here are two examples. I adore Ueshiba’s art representing movement as I’ve never been able to separate movement of dance and yoga with the spiritual. That’s why meditation was hard for me to embrace five year ago, yet dancing and yoga have always been my conduits to calm my mind, improve my mood, let go of fear, etc.

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Dala Lama’s ‘little book’ is perfect to inspire meditation themes as it’s just enough to start the conversation that can be released to the Divine within meditation. For example:

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Busy moms don’t often get to spend hours at a time reading on a Sunday. But I got a few hours in this morning and I’m grateful. I’m now off to the California Science Center to explore King TUT’s tomb with my nine-year-old. It’s the perfect Mother’s Day for me as it started with books and poetry (poem by my little guy); will marinate with wonder at the museum, will move with music, as we go to a concert this evening, and end with picking up my oldest at the airport. It’s my first mother’s day in 16 years without my wonder William. I can’t wait to give him a big hug!

I’m sending so much love to all my fellow mums. May you feel at peace with yourself and with your Dharma. May you feel inspired to reach for your dreams. May you feel healthy and supported. May you always feel your divine light and self worth. And may you always, always embrace your sense of humor—God knows we all need it!

Love & Light XOXO

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Lessons from a Frustrating Day

NLeditedheart

photo by @rickylesser

When everything goes wrong, God is still Good.

God is indifferent, but not uncaring.

The dolphins still play, the sun still sets, the stars still shine, even if I can not see them.

There are trails to hike, trees to climb, clouds to dream under, even if I can not find the time.

When someone steals from me, God is still Good.

If fires rage, God did not cause them.

If he never calls again, God is not to blame. And I am still enough.

We are all in this together. The one who steals from me, the one who abandons me, and the ones who lift my spirits. We are all God’s children. We are all each others teachers.

When everything goes wrong, God is still Good.

There is much to learn. How did I respond when I didn’t get my way? How did I shake or tremble or shut down by another’s hurtful behavior or frightening choices? Did I stay graceful when speaking my truth?  Can I find gratitude or a lesson within what feels like a never-ending chaos of activity and whirlwind of needs to be met? Did I pause at the end of the day and reflect with kindness? Can I still embrace forgiveness? Can you?

I have much to learn. I am grateful to be able to keep going. It is a miracle I can fall asleep knowing that no matter what happens to me, or to you, God is still Good. Love is still alive. I detach and focus on Love.

Finding Strength, Keeping Kindness

BagnoVignonitoes

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

I’ve come to realize that I’m learning so many lessons during this painful four year journey as a single mom navigating divorce. I know so many of you can relate to what I’m going through, sadly. While I don’t want to talk about the particulars of my roller-coaster ride,  (which is a long story) I can tell you ,that even when I’m incredibly down, something inside me has started to shift. Maybe it’s the wonderful life/spiritual coach I had last year. Maybe it’s my yoga. Maybe it’s the meditation. Likely, it’s all three. But I’m *finally* realizing that I have needs and they need to be recognized and respected in order for me to ever garner any respect from anyone else. While I’ve said this before, it’s slowly starting to sink in that always putting someone else’s needs first, while swallowing my own—or trying to smooth things over after someone hurts me, instead of speaking my mind—doesn’t work.

Last year, my spiritual coach advised me to read Robin Norwood’s book Women Who Love Too Much. She feared that I would not learn the lessons of co-dependency that had been instilled in me since childhood. And she’s right. In graduate school, I saw a therapist who treated adult children of alcoholics and I became quite aware of how watching a co-dependent parent always cater to an alcoholic, trained me to put my needs last. When I watched a co-dependent parent always forgive after being repeatedly hurt, I learned that being treated badly is normal and to forgive divine. I ‘got’ the pattern with this therapist. I saw that when I was neglected and ignored by my alcoholic parent, it showed me to always watch for his moods, his needs, and to stay quiet and to rarely voice my own. I didn’t feel important enough. And when you don’t feel special, it’s hard to fight be treated with respect and as an equal. Deep down, I didn’t feel that I deserved it. (I mean, who else would tell their husband to take a new job that paid less and required him to work 2 weeks/month abroad while I’m at home, after an international move, with a 5 month old colicky baby and a sad 7-year-old. Seriously, it’s nuts.)

Putting husband, friends, children, work, first is something I was taught, like many women. But the underlying message screams: ‘I’m not worthy.’ It’s something that I never admitted consciously, but subconsciously, it was there. Depak Chopra calls it ‘conditioning’ based on how we are treated in childhood and by significant others. Norwood explains that we are not what these messages tells us, but we can’t feel any other way unless we recognize it and work toward ‘reconditioning,’ through yoga, meditation, saying positive attributes, therapy, etc. So, basically, it takes time.

After therapy in graduate school, I swore I would never put myself in that situation and I went years without dating. I had the two month litmus test, even back in undergraduate school, which meant, I broke up with someone after two months. The reality is that I was scared I’d give too much and give up on my writing dreams and myself. And I had good reason to be scared. I fall back on what feels comfortable, what feels like home. But that’s not a safe place for someone like me.

So, the lessons continue.

This past weekend was a low point as I was terribly lonely and exhausted after working at an insane pace (which I am actually grateful for!) and juggling the needs of my attorney with a settlement we’re trying to wrap up, and my sick four-year-old who was often at home instead of school.

I needed some R&R. My boyfriend had a needy friend and father to contend with and their own agenda. So, at one point, I let my older son play with a friend, walked my little guy to the beach in the stroller. He was so tired he fell asleep and I just laid in the sand. I listened to the volleyball players and the laughter and I tried to shut out all the negative messages that started back up regarding the divorce and focus on my breath. And I prayed. I prayed for strength and kindness. As simple as that. I prayed to be strong enough to stand up for what I need and believe in, while also being kind. It is possible to be both, don’t you think? I can voice my needs and be firm in situations that involve my children , yet remain true to myself. I can focus on what is healthy and positive while walking away from what is toxic, in a kind, loving way.

So, even though I didn’t have a sitter for the weekend, I kept my thoughts at this level. I dragged my boys to yoga on Sunday morning and left them in the lobby with yummy snacks and video games. I worked out and prayed for strength and kindness with one of my favorite teachers and let my boys see the healthy vibe of the yoga environment. There has to be a way to get through all of this madness with healthy boys, and a sense of self-respect.

I may never be able to stay still and calm in the midst of a storm, like Buddhist teachers try to do (See my post Zenful Reminder at Bedtime), but I can anticipate the storm and watch myself carefully. See, there is a storm approaching for me personally and its likely to come to a head at the end of the month. My goal is to stay strong and not lose my cool. As a very wise friend told me yesterday: “You can be self aware and not selfish. You have to respect yourself if you want respect.”

Baby steps.

Zenful Reminder at Bedtime

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Photo by: Ivan Ellis

Tonight my four-year-old picked out Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth for me to read at bedtime.  He has never picked out this book before. All the times that I’ve suggested it, he’d say no and hand me a truck, car, or train book. One night I tried to read it anyway, and he couldn’t follow the story and started flipping through the pages of a favorite garbage truck book. Tonight, he seemed to be channeling Stillwater, the book’s main character—a giant Panda who tells Buddhist short stories to his new young neighbors: Addy, Michael and Karl.

As I read the stories Stillwater tells the children, based on centuries old Zen Buddhist literature, it became very clear that I needed to pay attention to these stories.

In the past 11 to 12 days, I’ve been out of my element. I’ve been very distracted and not able to do regular meditation or exercise. The kids were out of school for ‘ski week’ last week and I had work to do for a new client, as well as the boy’s grandmother in town. We had fun and it was so lovely of her to come in to help, as her son had to cancel his week with the boys. It really was a gift to have an old friend back and I’m very grateful. I was able to  go out of town for two days,  and then the two of us took the boys to Vegas, which was a bit nutty, but I’d never been. All in all, it was fun, but then of course, the typical happens—which is that my youngest gets sick again on Saturday night and up all night Sunday. So, my Monday was a mad dash to get a sitter, juggle an important early morning meeting and get all the documentation together for kindergarten application. I just haven’t been present. In my mind, I’m juggling a million things—which really isn’t that unusual. But having thoughts drift to even more things—such as past events, people, places, things people have done to hurt me, pressure to move or change careers, etc.—doesn’t help.  I let my mind wander, scatter, jiggle and otherwise dive in and out of this sort of fear-based, or guilt-based, nonsense for at least the last two days. During this time, I also wasn’t able to do regular yoga or meditation—and it showed with my tired, defeated mindset.

Stillwater, Jon J Muth’s panda, gets his name from the Buddhist’s method of meditation—which is to sit very still, while remaining completely alert. Quoting the Zen Short’s author: “When you look into a pool of water, if the water is still, you can see the moon reflected. If the water is agitated, the moon is fragmented and scattered. It is harder to see the true moon. Our minds are like that. When our minds are agitated, we cannot see the true world.”

As I read these Zen Shorts, it became clear that I’ve got work to do. Being able to stay still and calm in any storm is a Buddhist’s goal—and likely only obtainable by Tibetan monks! Still, when I let my mind race, get scattered or fearful, it’s easy to jump to conclusions or react—when I might not have done so if I had been taking better care of myself and had a calm mind.  As I read each parable to my son, who was commenting on each one and somehow listening intently, I realized: ‘wow, if he learns this now, just think what sort of man he’ll become!’

For instance, the story of “A Heavy Load” is one that I need to keep close at heart. It’s about letting go. And to truly let go, we have to do it in our hearts and minds too. The parable is about two monks who run across a wealthy woman who is being carried across the mud. The men carrying her and her packages, can’t manage to lift her across without soiling her silk gowns. A young monk notices how she yells and snaps at the servants and does nothing to help. The old monk, goes over and carries her on his back across the mud and sets her down. She pushes him aside, doesn’t say thank you and walks away. Two hours later, as the two monks travel, the younger can’t help himself and complains about how awful the woman was and how she didn’t even say thank you. The older replies, “I set the woman down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

Can you think of a time when you’ve held a grudge? Do you go over and over events in your mind making it impossible for you to be present? It’s easy to do, yet changes nothing. It’s really difficult to forgive those who have hurt us. It’s especially frustrating to see injustice done or cruelty. But sometimes, we just have to let it go. The person who is cruel or selfish will ultimately have to look in the mirror someday, or not. It’s out of our control. Karma may or may not exist. That’s life. But giving power to those who hurt us by thinking about what they’ve done over and over again, robs us of our precious moments in the here and now.

And you know what? Not all things that seem bad, end up that way. Like the  parable “The Farmer’s Luck” teaches us about bad luck resulting in good luck—sometimes the worst things that happen to us, are exactly what we need to grow and make space for even better things to come. That doesn’t make them easy to move through at the time, and I really get that. But what I’m really noticing with me, is that when I don’t write, breathe deeply, meditate, exercise regularly or do yoga, I notice that even petty grievances, fears, or past hurts, can spring back into my mind. I can be in the room, but a million miles and years away. That’s not serving my health or the wellness of my boys. I know I won’t be able to achieve stillness all the time, but if I can just become aware of it, as I drift away, and gently bring my focus back to the present (as mindfulness expert Janice Marturano explains in this interview) I’ll get one step closer. This is going to be a daily process that will require forgiveness and a sense of humor.