Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

teaching the teacher: a roller coaster ride, reprised ~

More than a year ago, I was offered this amazing (but intimidating!) opportunity: write a blog for a national website. On Buddhism. I felt (still feel) woefully inadequate to the task.

But I figured, I can just tell folks: I’m no expert. And I’m a pretty good looker-upper :). So I took a deep breath and jumped in.

One year later, I have learned so much. Which is, of course, what happens when we teach. We learn far more than we give. I’ve learned about Buddhism, certainly — about Buddhist holidays, temples, rituals, beliefs, teachings I didn’t know, and a hundred other things.

I learned a LOT about blogging :). And still am!

But mostly, I learned about myself. I learned that no matter how long I write — for how many years — it’s always a bit scary. I learned that when I can’t write, I can’t think. I learned that my sense of humour doesn’t always strike folks as funny…:) And I learned how very much I have to learn.

It’s the perfect metaphor for Buddhism, of course, not that I don’t find Buddhism in most things :). But learning is particularly apt. Because in Buddhism, the more I study, the less I feel I know. And the more I believe I have to, as I tell my writing students, just do it. I have to practice, in other words. Such a lovely word — a license to mess up, to get it wrong, to let go of the idea there’s only ‘right.’

So today I offer you this: if you want to know more about something, tell someone you’ll teach it. And then watch out: the ride is crazy!

cat videos and joy reprised ~

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There are so many ways this seems to me a metaphor for my practice: attachment, stuck, boxed in :). But my real purpose for posting this was far simpler: it made me laugh.

And some days, that’s what you need most.

Enjoy ~

choosing joy ~

I read a poem today ~ “My Dead Friends.” The poet asks her dead friends for counsel when she faces hard choices. And there’s a great answer from her dead friends: whatever leads/to joy, they always answer,/to more life and less worry.

That’s what I want to do — choose joy. Choose what will live best, even if it’s not what ‘should’ be done. I’ve never been very good at ‘should,’ anyway. Far better at play than protocol. But as I begin to sit down to breakfast w/ a milestone birthday, I am certain of only one thing: we are our daily choices, not simply our big decisions.

These days, I want my life to reflect the lightness of joy. I want to offer it up, spread it around, swim in it. And the funny thing? My definition has shifted over the years. When I was 20, ‘joy’ was the right boots, the right date, the right present.  These many years later? Joy is often very simple: the vivid orange of the orchids blooming in the breakfast room. Clean sheets at the end of the day. One perfect line in a poem, after an hour of work.

What brings you joy? Today, seek it out. Open tomorrow to more of it.  And think of making it a daily choice ~

Metta, lovingkindness, & Buddhist ‘prayer’


This is the ‘prayer’ I’m offering each day over my dozen names, during Lent. It’s the first Buddhist prayer I learned, and remains my favourite. Whenever I’m very stressed, this is what I repeat. It  isn’t a prayer in the sense that it’s directed at an outside force; it’s more ‘s a mantra, which is what I believe most prayers are ~ a way to invoke the sacred.

This was also my first ‘practice.’ I began w/ trying to love myself — so very difficult! But really? What’s the Golden Rule worth if you don’t love yourself and treat yourself well? If I was as hard on my bff as I am on my self, I suspect she’d dump me!

Later, as I felt more confident of my focus, I applied this meditation to those I love. Ultimately, I should be able to say it even for those I dislike intensely (unfortunately there are still plenty of those! :() I’m not really there yet.

For those, I have tonglen. It’s closer to the idea of prayer for someone than even reciting the lovingkindness meditation. And it’s the only way I know to counteract my tendency to flaming anger. In tonglen, you take in someone’s pain, and try to breathe through it for them. When my mother-in-law is frightened at night, and doesn’t know where she is, I remember my own nightmares. I take the memory of terror, try to feel her terror as comparable, and then breathe it in. Breathing out? I try to send her comfort, peace, love. So it goes like this: breathe in pain/ breathe out light or comfort. Or love.

Pretty simple, but also profound. Because when my own grief is too much for me — as it has been sometimes lately — I think of the people I love facing so much worse. And tonglen lets me offer up my own grief, my own loss, hoping to lighten their burdens. I love the balance of it: there’s never ‘no point.’ I can take the hardest experience, the worst of griefs, and hopefully, at some point, use them. For someone else. Not just wallow :).

I don’t always remember, of course. And sometimes I’m so self-absorbed I just flat can’t focus. But more and more, the more I practice (I guess that’s why they call it practice, huh?), the more often I can offer up pain — even physical — or grief or anger. I can, if I stop and breathe, turn it into light. For someone, if not for me. And somehow, that lightens it for me as well ~

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