Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart Archives

talking, listening, and pretending to engage

Yesterday I spent far more time than I’m comfortable confessing on the FB wall of a colleague (& friend). It was a discussion (as many are these days) about Baltimore. My friend had posted a piece by a young woman […]


passion vs anger, and poetry to bank the wrong fires

While I’m passionate about many things (politics, tea, food, books, poetry…), I usually only get really angry about a few things. The main one is mean people. I know: ‘mean girls.’ But seriously? If you’re mean to my friends or […]


pizza: cold or hot, and engaged Buddhism vs intolerance

We had pizza for dinner last night. So today — as most pizza eaters know — was ‘leftover pizza’ day. Here’s the deal: my beloved must heat his. I eat it hot the first night, cold after. I actually like cold pizza! […]


engaged Buddhism and other people’s dirt

These are the brooms I grew up with: grasses tied together by hand, swept carefully over wooden floors. I still love them, although I have no idea where you’d find them now. I suspect I’d sweep more often if I […]

parenting as practice, or, mother as social justice warrior

As a child, I watched the monks come to the house each morning, as the sun rose in the sky. Sometimes the clouds were the same saffron color as the monks’ robes. The monks would pass their wooden begging bowls […]

day 25 of Thanksgiving month: gratitude in the wake of #Ferguson

Today, in the wake of Ferguson, my beginner’s heart is breaking. There seems so very little to be grateful for. I wasn’t even going to write. And then I thought — there is one sad, terrible thing for which I […]

dream big, think hard: for #Ferguson

Sometimes, when I wake up in the small hours of the night (as I often do), I lay there thinking. Last night, I was thinking in part about how lucky I am in my two sons. How proud of them […]

more wonderings about (today’s) Puritans, and a broken education system

Today I was thinking — again — about the similarities between contemporary conservative Christianity (at least in everyday life) and historical Puritanism. Several of us were discussing the sad state of Oklahoma’s schools. One mentioned that she has 30 (yes, […]

my mother’s heart and #Ferguson

This is my wonderful family. These are my infinitely fallible and perfect sons, my perfect daughter-in-law (known in my writings as DIL), my beloved. And this is a story about empathy. Both of my sons look — to anyone outside […]

heartsick reprised

I use this image alot in my blog. I wish I knew who first created it — they deserve my undying admiration & gratitude. Because to me, this is beginner’s heart. It’s what I think of these days, especially, as […]

heartsickness, the ’60s, and Ferguson MO

I write daily. Often it’s a note to family, or a response to a friend or colleague. Sometimes revising creative work, and usually this blog. Lately, the blog has probably saved my blood pressure (normally quite low). I write to […]

#iftheygunnedmedown, or, America’s open season on young black men

The tragic shooting of Michael Brown is only the latest in a series of such tragedies. Unlike in some cases of continued horror, I am not inured. This time, in fact, Brown’s horrible death cries out for more than FB […]

taxes, rural students, and my grandma

In Oklahoma (like most red states) we believe taxes are an unnecessary evil. That we can — and should — get rid of them. Especially on corporate interests. I understand not liking to pay taxes. Too large a portion of […]

lesson #531 in beginner’s heart

I’m not good at being loved. It makes me uncomfortable when people sing my praises, for whatever reason. And I’ve never learned how to gracefully accept compliments (I have a bad habit of turning them in to jokes, but I […]

the children are still hungry

In a country where we throw away edible food to the tune of 133 BILLION pounds annually, we still have 1 in 6 Americans hungry. And 1 in 4 of them are children. Little kids — like my adored (and […]

poetry, coloured sand, and changing the world

I love Tolstoy. And I especially love this very Buddhist saying. Because the writer in me knows that every time I pick up a pen, or sit down to a keyboard, I’m going to change. It’s inevitable, like the sun […]

anger and feeding the hungry and what the…?

Would someone explain to me what is wrong with feeding the hungry? I can’t think of ANY faith or wisdom tradition that doesn’t ask its adherents to feed the hungry. And to take care of (not libel and humiliate) those […]

30 Days of Love: faith and social justice

Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt is to look at the social justice programs of another faith. Initially I thought I’d write about engaged Buddhism again, as many Americans are unfamiliar with it. But when I went to look for […]

30 Days of Love: prisons and opportunity gone missing

America loves prisons. “Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit […]

30 Days of Love: drawing birds, getting it wrong, and compassion vs. love

This is not a great goldfinch sketch. BUT…. it’s measurably better than last year’s birds (see below). Because I’ve spent a YEAR drawing crappy birds. And they’ve grown slightly less wretched each month. Here’s the kicker: you have to be […]

30 Days of Love: blending faiths

In keeping with the 30 Days of Love project, I’m thinking about how it works with my own beliefs, with Buddhism, specifically. As many faith traditions do, they intersect in many productive ways. Engaged Buddhism fits well with the theme […]

30 Days of Love: family, race, and what we can do

As part of the 30 Days of Love project, I’m using many of the prompts offered on the  blog site for the posts here. This week focuses on family, among other things. Family and race and community, in general. I […]

Say what? West Virginia isn’t as important as Chris Christie’s shenanigans?

Okay — so it’s politics and soapbox time (you can tune out now, if engaged Buddhism doesn’t fit your needs today — I really get it). Sunday, NO ONE spent time on the disastrous West Virginia chemical spill. 300,000 American […]

talking about faith, hate, and civil discourse

On a FB thread a friend began, there’s a discussion of homosexuality, race, and gender. My friend is not tolerant: he lives his beliefs. An aside: I don’t really like the word ‘tolerance.’ It always reminds me of the stuff […]

sharing stories

When you go to a national humanities conferences, you hear a lot of stories. Stories of the past (especially in Birmingham, 50 years later…), stories of what-if, stories of maybe and possibly and even stories about stories. And when you’re […]

the proper study of human beings…

I’m going to Birmingham tomorrow! And my posts — if I break free to make them — will be from there for the next few days. I have the IMMENSE good fortune to be part of the Oklahoma delegation to […]

rape culture, reprised: how can we undo it?

Since my earlier post on the Daisy Coleman case, I’ve received many emails from women (& men) who wander — as I do — how to undo rape culture. How do we fight it? And I confess: I don’t know. […]

theories: empirical and not-so

Total science nerd here. I  adore science. Really — every year I buy the Best Science Writing 20-whatever. Or else my husband gets it for me as a present. If I had my life to redo, I’d probably be a […]

mouthy middle-aged white chicks…

I freely admit I’m a loudmouth. AND political, to boot. Not to mention an engaged Buddhist, and a wannabe Unitarian. Which is to say, a total bleeding heart liberal with a big vocabulary. (As distinguished from a knee-jerk liberal — […]

worker bees and labour unions

I am a worker bee. Never been a real ‘queen’ of anything (don’t tell my husband & sons — they might disagree). Even when I was a director, I did the trash jobs: paperwork, payroll, receipts and mileage and complaints […]

Engaged Buddhism –

The venerable and much-beloved Thích Nhất Hạnh has written out 14 precepts (think: instructions) for those of us interested in engaged Buddhism. None of them is horrifically difficult, in itself (well, I suppose that depends on what you mean by […]

struggling for beginner’s heart ~

I saw this today, and flinched. Literally — a kind of internalised wince that shook me. I have been so angry lately … There are signs from the universe (I really do believe the universe talks to us — but […]

talking about books: a tale of hope ~

I spent an evening earlier this week with more than 30 women, in a lock-down facility, talking about the dancer Isadora Duncan. Part of an Oklahoma Humanities Council book group initiative, partners are provided with books and a list of […]

the world is not broken ~

I’m working at letting go of perfection, the idea that the world is ‘broken,’ as Naomi Rachel Remen says.  Stop to consider this: the world is NOT broken. The people who shout at cars that take their parking places? The […]

against choices (& lives…): when religion becomes political ~

Today my state House of Representatives passed two bills that will cause only grief & pain for as many as 1,000 young Oklahoma women. The state House has seen fit to make judicial bypass — the avenue by which minor […]

here’s to the sounds of music ~

Music, poetry, art ~ they have (at various times) saved me. Sometimes quite literally (really). Kept me from driving my car off the bypass. Kept my heart from breaking and my breath from stopping. Now that my life is gentler, […]

intimate murder & political opportunism ~

My sister is very lucky. She has been in two abusive domestic relationships, and she survived each. Once, when she ran across the street to my grandmother’s, crying & half-dressed, my great-aunt Bonnie attacked her pursuer with a broom: this […]

naked hearts & sticks & stones ~

I am as tired of this election as anything in a long time. My heart is battered, bruised, held  together some days with tape and string. Even my ears hurt… What happened to truth? And to the civil discourse that […]

the consequences of our actions ~

An old friend sent me a blog post from the Wall Street Journal today, noting that it was about the restriction of free speech. I’m not sure I agree that it is, or that what is discussed — the decision […]

revisiting microagressions and social justice (and what white people get out of both) ~

 I spent most of June this summe, in a graduate Institute with teachers of all grade levels (k-university), in several content areas, and from varied backgrounds. The seminar lasts for three weeks. During week 2 we discuss cultures: what each […]

Girl Scouts, the ‘war on women,’ and a day in West Tulsa ~

I spent the morning recently w/ about 40 Girl Scouts, three Girl Scout staffers, and two C-level Girl Scout executives. It was wonderful. There was singing, there was visiting, there were gifts for the three of us presenting, and invites […]

a plethora of choices, a pocketful of joys; or, how to change the world one meal at a time ~

Today’s one of those rare days when there’s just too much to write about! Should I share the great kid in the UK whose blogging (w/ photos) about her bad school lunches has changed school policy? How about the morning […]

Cross-eyed angry or wrathful compassion?

I struggle with anger. At least 2-3 times daily I blow up. I should clarify that statement.  I don’t become angry on my own behalf: I’m okay when people don’t like me, or think I’m too poetic, too crazy, too […]

when paths part: a contemplation on beginner’s heart ~

One of my students just unfriended me on Facebook. First, however, she sent me a lengthy email, hurt & angry that my posts reflect poorly on her political party, and her political hero. I fully accept responsibility there — as […]

privilege, education, and the emperor’s new clothes ~

So this is what learning looks like in America. If you’re middle class or wealthier, your children do pretty well. More than 80% of them will graduate w/ a 4-year degree(see below). If, however, you’re in the bottom quartile (the […]

Happy New Year! (and a clean slate to you ~)

I love clean slates. I love a morning which is unencumbered by the mistakes of yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. The idea that it all begins now, today, this very moment… It’s intoxicating. Just the […]

‘even air is political’ ~

In my life, I’ve had a lot of jobs. But my current one — teaching at a state university — is by far the one with the most impact. And the one thing I’ve learned in the 20+ years I’ve […]

the study of letters ~

I’ve always wondered what those of us w/ degrees in the letters — language arts, some folks call them — should call ourselves. History has historians. Science has general scientists, as well as botanists, biologists, micro-biologists, physicists, chemists, etc. We […]

suffer the little children… or, the consequences to bullying ~

I will caution you right now: if you believe it’s okay (for any reason whatsoever) to be mean to children in the name of religion, you should find to do other than reading further. Because this is my bit for […]

‘doubts and loves’ ~

I ran into an old poem-friend today — Yehudi Amichai’s “The Place of Right & Wrong.” I’m thinking about the images — how ‘the place where are right/ is hard and trampled/ like a yard.’ But doubts? ‘doubts and loves/ […]

Labour Day, workers, and my grandmother ~

I love Labour Day. I love the history of it, the idea that we honour our working class roots. That we at least still pay lip service to those of us who work (hard) for a living. This is about […]

voting, anger, and finding balance ~

Voting is, to me, the ultimate American right. When I turned 18, you still couldn’t vote until you were 21. And like most of my peers, I wondered about the fairness of a country where you could be drafted to […]

‘Mom, you’re sooo depressing’ ~

On the phone the other evening, my beloved younger son told me that while he reads my posts on Facebook, I am sooo depressing. (And yes, there was drawn-out emphasis on the so. :)) It’s true. I post news stories […]

Previous Posts

pebbles, lobsters, and priorities
I went to brunch with my beloved yesterday, to celebrate our zillionth (happy!) anniversary. It was beyond heavenly: all kinds of food I ...

posted 3:33:14pm Sep. 28, 2015 | read full post »

the souls of the others
I don't normally do book reviews, much less book raves. And yet... I just finished a book that captured me completely, Sy Montgomery's The Soul of an ...

posted 3:11:31pm Sep. 20, 2015 | read full post »

the gift of friends
I am blessed with friends far better than I deserve. Colleagues; former students; girlfriends & guy friends; family who have long since blurred that ...

posted 4:35:30pm Sep. 18, 2015 | read full post »

a bowl of weeks
Remember how I told you last week that I was trying to be more mindful of time passing? And about reading in Lewis Richmond's Aging as a Spiritual ...

posted 1:41:33pm Sep. 14, 2015 | read full post »

ode to nieces and nephews
Here you have them: three of my much-loved, and absolutely perfect nieces & nephews. These are my heart-sister's daughter & son, and my niece's ...

posted 8:00:31pm Sep. 12, 2015 | read full post »


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