Posts Tagged ‘Trust’

swimming in joy

December 5th, 2011    -    40 Comments

If you want to keep me awake at night, ask me about my writing process.  (I haven’t ever figured it out.) So I took notice when my friend  Christine Mason Miller dropped by for no good reason during the last, mad deadline for her new book, Desire to Inspire. (Win a copy here.) Turns out she doesn’t have a writing process either. Hers is the process of no process. (Sounds Zen.) She likens it to surfing. (I haven’t ever figured surfing out either.) Read more of her guest post, and if  Desire to Inspire inspires you to desire, leave a comment on this post by the end of the day Thursday, Dec. 8 and you could be swimming in joy (without getting wet).

Before the ink began to dry on my contract with North Light Books for the publication of my next book, I made a decision. I declared that, no matter what, my work on the book was never going to take place in a space of stress, anxiety, worry, or fear. This book was going to be created from joy, and in order for that joy to flourish unfettered, I was going to have to trust – Trust with a capital T.

With five major deadlines, nineteen contributors, more than one hundred images, and ten chapters, there were loads of opportunities to lose my cool. Not to mention the usual creative hurdles that have the potential to throw the best laid plans into a rapid tailspin such as writer’s block, procrastination, or, in my case, an eight-week old puppy who joined our family soon after the book contract was finalized. I had my work cut out for me, not only as the author of the book, but as a self-proclaimed devotee of Trust in the Process and Commitment to Joy. Had I faltered on the latter, the book could certainly still be written, but then the experience of writing it and pulling together the stories of its nineteen extraordinary contributors would have been less akin to riding the perfect wave and more like being pummeled by the surf. read more

your child’s peril

September 26th, 2011    -    27 Comments

Dear Dr. Neuroscientist:
Please help us grow up to be safe.
Signed,
The Kindergarten Class of 2012

Last weekend I saw a story in the New York Times that made my head explode. Those of you who have heard me speak about “my head exploding” know that it is a clever metaphor for when my head actually explodes. The story in the paper was this:

Delay Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril

I have a vested interest in this story, since I – gasp! ­– delayed kindergarten at my child’s peril. (Actually, she delayed it herself by refusing to go.) The gist of the story is that a couple of neuroscientists did some math and concluded that if you keep your child from starting school until he or she is a year older it won’t deliver a measurable competitive advantage. Boo hoo. Here’s the money graph:

In a large-scale study at 26 Canadian elementary schools, first graders who were young for their year made considerably more progress in reading and math than kindergartners who were old for their year (but just two months younger). In another large study, the youngest fifth-graders scored a little lower than their classmates, but five points higher in verbal I.Q., on average, than fourth-graders of the same age.

Say what? The findings, in my book, are benign and irrelevant. What mattered more to me was the word “peril.” Who in their right mind would put the word “peril” in the same sentence with the word “kindergarten,” provoking the subtle suggestion of child endangerment, ensuring that the article would be the number one e-mailed article for days after?

The answer is, someone playing on your fear that you are ruining your child’s life. And someone who wrote a book about it. Yes, these kind of grotesque generalizations and implied consequences are always about selling something you think you don’t have, telling you something you think you don’t know, and convincing you – by way of arcane statistics – of your worst fear: that you are a terrible, rotten and not very good parent, making the kind of irreparable mistakes that will condemn your child to second place, a lowly Von Winklevoss to a triumphant Zuckerberg. read more

read this sign

July 31st, 2011    -    20 Comments

From time to time someone writes to me with a question that silences me. They put their heart on the page, and I know there is nothing I can say or do for them. Although I’m not ever able to provide the answers someone is looking for, these missives always help me to articulate something that speaks to people where they are instead of where I am. I sent this reply to someone today, and looking it over I realized it could help me and others take a hard look at where we are.

Where are you?

Readers are almost never where I am, sitting side-by-side with me in a Zen retreat, using the medicine for human ills prescribed by Buddha 2500 years ago. But the distance between us still compels me to try.

I am not a bestselling author, and I don’t have the first idea how people become a success. I don’t know how to fix a relationship, manufacture happiness, or realize one’s passion. I don’t know the alchemy that turns fiction into fact or pain into pleasure.  If I did know how to do that, I would be doing things the easy way. But I’m not. I am doing things the hard way. We are all doing things the hard way, as best as we can.

In short, I am not in the manifesting-your-dream business. I am in the waking-up-from-your dream business. The former is more popular and lucrative than the latter. I’m sure it is more temporarily uplifting, inspiring and entertaining. What it entertains is fantasy. I don’t put my faith in fantasy. I put my faith in the path you least desire, the path you most avoid, and the option of having no other option. read more

forget what you call it

July 21st, 2010    -    43 Comments

OK friends. I am officially now part of the problem. In Zen we call this kind of talk “going into the weeds” and I caution you not to get entangled in the vines. Here are my worthless opinions on the meanings of some commonly misunderstood Buddhist terms and why I think they are so easily misjudged.

DISCLAIMER: Notice that I just used the words problem, opinion, meaning, misunderstood, why, think and misjudge at the same time. Watch your step, and don’t take my word for any of this.

Glossary of Misconceptions

Attachment – Oooh la la. We think attachment means loving devotion, as in “attached at the hip.” But sometimes that isn’t love, is it? When we’re intoxicated by romance (or just intoxicated) we might want to stay attached forever. Don’t leave me! I can’t live without you! But attachment becomes uncomfortable and confining, suffocating and debilitating. And it doesn’t only mean clinging to what we like, it also means rejecting what we don’t like. Attachments are desires and aversions that we can’t let go of; the places we get emotionally, physically and mentally stuck. Life itself never sticks. So when an attachment gets ripped from our grasp by the ebb and sway of life as it is, we hurt. Attachments are the source of our suffering and unfulfillment. Can we ever let ourselves stop hurting? Can we ever be satisfied and happy with life as it is? The dark truth is that we are often attached to our suffering. We relive it over and over in our minds and reignite familiar, painful feelings. Sometimes we’re not quite sure who we would be if we didn’t have our unfulfillment to fill us up. The funny thing is, when we drop an attachment we find out that we’ve lost nothing at all.

Non-attachment – Boo hiss! Who wants non-attachment? That sounds downright sinister and at the very least indifferent. But non-attachment isn’t inhumane, unconcerned or indifferent. It simply means that when the ebb and sway of life carries us along, we can let go because we see all of it in a different way. It doesn’t create the absence of feeling or smug disregard. It allows instead the complete acceptance of all feelings and circumstances as they are, empty and impermanent. We hurt, and then we stop hurting. We grieve, and then we stop grieving. We are free. When we truly love someone or something, we grant them freedom from our own preferences. We neither clutch nor reject. Non-attachment is the nature of life itself: it keeps going. Non-attachment allows us to love one another and life as it is regardless of whether we like it right now or not. It gives rise to trust and cultivates faith in something far greater than what we wish: life as it is. Non-attachment is selfless compassion.

Ego – Uh-oh. Now the party’s over. Who invited the deadly sins? Envy, anger, greed, pride and all the rest are sure signs of ego. Thankfully I don’t have any of those symptoms if I do say so myself! There: that’s ego too. Ego is you when you are talking to yourself. “I like this; I don’t like that. I think so; I don’t think so. I agree; I disagree.” Ego is the voice of the thinking mind, the mind that conceives, perceives, measures, judges, evaluates, picks and chooses, likes and dislikes, clutches and rejects from the standpoint of a separate “I.” There is nothing wrong with ego, or thinking. Only most of your thoughts are not pleasant, and egoism is by nature self-serving and fearful. The attachment to ego is our most pernicious attachment. Still, we do not aim to destroy ego, just suspend its driving privileges! read more

Zen stimulus plan

February 24th, 2009    -    11 Comments


Get up when the alarm goes off. Make your bed without a second thought.

Walk your child to school. Notice the sky, the buds and the berries. Let the sunlight and fresh air dispel the mood of sullen reluctance.

Greet her teacher with a wide smile that imparts your trust and respect.

Walk the dog. The dog knows the way.

Say hello to your neighbor sweeping his sidewalk. He is nearly recovered from that terrible train collision. When he asks you for some good news, say, “Rain is in the forecast.”

Let him tell you about the groundcover seeds he’s about to plant. Laugh that between the two of you, you’ll keep the nursery in business this year.

Visit Jim’s blog and donate a couple of dollars to rebuild the far side of the world. Extend the domestic rescue and recovery to Mongolia, where English is still revered as the language of liberation, and learning it is an act of love.

Using what’s at hand, make dinner.

Drop by the grocery store for extra cheese from California, Wisconsin and Ohio.

When the checker asks if you found everything, say yes. Then ask her how her day is going, and mean it.

Clean up the kitchen without complaint, because one day soon you may need the rain gutters cleaned.

Day done, go to bed. Don’t waste a minute of this wondrous mind to self-criticism, worry or distraction.

Rest easy, knowing that tomorrow won’t bring any more than you can handle, or any less than you absolutely need.

Lost shoes, found days

January 2nd, 2009    -    18 Comments


Update: Miracles underfoot!

Tomorrow I’m going to have to drop into my reliable local bookstore to buy a 2009 wall calendar. The kind with trite pictures of lotus ponds and such. I always stick one on my kitchen cabinet to track comings and goings in the heart of our home: vacations, school holidays, washer repairs, flea treatments, the important stuff. It’s amazing to me that I haven’t been given a calendar this year. One or a hundred and one, which heretofore has been the custom. The current lack seems weirdly suited to the state of suspension we’re all in, this limbo in-between the end and the beginning of so many unfathomable things. It’s not surprising that no one could muster the faith this season to look far forward. No matter, I can find the coming days on my own.

Last night I was at the temple for our traditional New Year’s services: chanting and bowing in fusatsu or atonement ceremony, followed by meditation across the midnight hour, then the spectacle, (for us spartans anyway), of revolving the sutras, a kind of blessing ceremony. I was more than once reminded of the power and reach of this anniversary. New Year’s Eve is an anniversary in and by itself, of time’s eternal beginning, and then a personal anniversary in each of our lives.

It is the anniversary of the night my husband lost his shoes in a crowd of Buddhists, for instance. A loss in which everything unexpected was later found.

It was soon after I began my practice with Maezumi Roshi and I then met my husband-to-be in a restaurant in Florence, Italy; a husband-to-be that lived in Los Angeles, glory be, while I was still a wanderlusting south Texan. It seemed too eerily easy that I should begin an affair with an eligible guy in LA, and the obviousness of it prompted Maezumi to say, “Invite him for tea.” So my guy came for the first time to Zen Center of LA to meet Maezumi in the lull of New Year’s Eve before a traditional ceremony much like the one I was at again last night.

Impressionable, my boyfriend and I were both mildly terrified by the extreme auspiciousness of the favor: to be Roshi’s guests in his home on this night of nights. Once arrived, my boyfriend took off his shoes outside the door.

He never found them again.

There were many people there that night, many people inclined to wear the ubiquitous shoe fashion of the time, black Reeboks. After the services, after the time for putting shoes back on, long after everyone but my husband-to-be had his or her own shoes snuggly back on his or her feet, I went around in the crowd inspecting the shod.

“Are those your shoes?” I would say, pointing at the very shoes on their feet. “Are they really your shoes?”

I didn’t find anyone not wearing his or her own shoes. We didn’t find any shoes unworn.

My boyfriend left his first encounter with Zen sans footwear. (I’ve tried to leave everything else since then, but alas, I’m still holding on to a lot of unnecessary freight.) In his socks, he drove me to his apartment late that night, and he was pissed.

It’s easy to see the metaphor in this. He and I left behind a familiar road on that night, a well-worn footpath, the way things were. We went on, of course, getting over it, finding our way, uncushioned, unprotected, by a different route, to an altogether unimaginable future. We left behind more than a pair of shoes, but losing your shoes can indeed be an auspicious start to a whole new way.

Wishing you abundant lost shoes and found days, because sometimes it takes one to have the other, and I want you to have it all.

You are too good to be untrue

November 23rd, 2008    -    29 Comments

To you, to me, to everyone cradling a secret wish or a distant dream. Read this through, see what comes, leave your disbelief under the shade of a strong and fragrant cedar, and trust your life as it unfolds.

On the day you were born
the grass danced
the air sang
the sun bowed low in patient sway to every night’s partner,
her full and rounded mystery,
the stars harmonized
a still and silent
hallelujah symphony
the ocean rocked the earth beneath a foggy vest,
your rich and ready nest,
your mother and father,
every mother and father,
came together and apart
trusting their lives for you
making a place for you
to come home.
You are too good to be untrue.

A welcome blessing for Cedar Leonard Kroon, in full amazement and gratitude for life.

Now, leave your own wish here for what you may not yet believe could come true, and let’s see, let’s just see, what unfolds.

Spending is the new saving

November 18th, 2008    -    12 Comments


I just spent $80 buying four tickets to my daughter’s upcoming theatrical debut. Hours earlier, I spent $137 on a pediatric dental check up. (Oh, the pain of having no cavities.) We celebrated by spending $5.60, even with a coupon, at the overpriced ice cream store. I haven’t even tallied the cumulative damage of grocery shopping six separate times last week.

The sum total is I hate to spend money, and I never hated it more than now.

But after reading one of my favorite mamas shout it out, and the country’s most sensible columnists spell it out, I had a revelation earlier today. I’d better go with the flow. In fact, I’d better flow even mo’.

Spending is the new saving.

The only way to keep this boat afloat is to start bailing it out.

We’re going to have to save this sinking ship by spending money.

This is acutely painful to me, and in that way I can be sure that it is my penance. Because it is so powerfully my own lesson, I have to start by apologizing for dragging the whole globe into this ordeal with me. Sorry, shipmates.

***

I know, I know. After I just railed against wanting the things we don’t need, now I say we need to buy what we don’t want. What I’m really saying is what I’m saying to myself. I cannot be both optimistic and fearful, trusting and stingy, loving and miserly. I did my best to cover my bases. I didn’t expect it to turn out this way. Now I’m going to have to do the really difficult thing.

I’m going to have to admit that it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to.

I’ve read what some of you write about financial pressures, where you stand, what you’re in and what you’re not. Layoffs and loans. Skimpy paychecks and thrift store bargains. Market trauma. Unopened IRA statements. Maybe you had a lot to lose and did. Maybe you didn’t, so you’re not far behind. Either way, we’re all in it together. And I will say this: I have had my time to work hard and save money. What I saved was never intended just for myself, but to ease the way for others: my daughter’s education, my family’s age and infirmity, my commitment to the dharma, and a comfort against the vast dark specter of uncertainty. I am no financial genius, and I am no saint, but I felt, up to now, secure. But more than that, I felt smart, disciplined and dutiful.

But I’m none of those things. I have no insulation from bad news or disappearing digits. No buffer from the bottomless bottom line.

But as of now, I have four tickets to some guaranteed good times, and paying top buck is the only way I can share.

God bless us, every one.

Now do you believe?

November 5th, 2008    -    24 Comments


Happy days are here again.

And this is unbearably sweet: my girl, born in the dwindling days of 1999, insisted on staying up past storytime, past bedtime, to see the returns on TV. This is her president; this is her time; this is her change; this is her country; this is her faith; this is hers. Thank you, thank you, for giving it to her, and for allowing me to watch, tears welling, doubts receding, as she asked, “Where’s Joe?”

This is her vice president too.

This is all more than I can say, but everything we deserve.

America, my home.

Seeing the soft bigotry of low expectations

September 1st, 2008    -    47 Comments


With apologies to those who expected more or less of me.

There was once a supremely arrogant and idiotic man who mouthed this line of someone else’s melodic prose – “the soft bigotry of low expectations” – to decry the educational imprisonment of the underprivileged. Nevermind that by his every action he condemned these underprivileged to further generations of poverty, invisibility, exploitation and pain.

Now I see what those words mean.

When you blithely send your firstborn to war and call it foreign relations.
When you leave your three-day-old at home and call it working motherhood.
When you don a dimestore tiara and call it a star.
When you adamantly oppose sex education in public schools and silence comment on your daughter’s teenage pregnancy by calling it a private matter.
When you cynically manipulate the future of the world and call it a game.
When you ignore the rules of reason, experience, wisdom, truth, legitimacy, decency and public trust and call it a gamechanger.

I see what it means.

Call me a bigot. But do not expect me to take any more or make any less of this.

On a softer note, there’s always this week’s giveaway.

Untitled by anonymous

August 21st, 2008    -    4 Comments


In silent witness to a quiet one, and courtesy of wordle.

Asking for it

July 2nd, 2008    -    17 Comments

It’s amazing what happens when you ask.

GG’s Birthday List:
Acoustic guitar
Dachsund puppy
New smaller DVD player
Ears pierced
World peace
Room re-arranged
Bunk bed with sofa
Pink room
Wii

And what doesn’t.

What are you asking for right now?

A real girl

April 21st, 2008    -    16 Comments


A little while ago my daughter directed me to one of her favorite on- and offline passions.

Mommy, come see.
A writing contest.

I think you could win because you’re a really good writer.

It seems to me that I don’t hear that very often from a real live person, or a least not often enough.

Still, I let it slide a bit, because although my daughter is certainly wonderful, she’s not that kind of wonderful, not that kind of competitor, not that kind of hero, prodigy or star. And neither am I.

When the time came to write the essay, I had to keep it real.

When the time came to mention the honors, they told us she was quite real enough.

I hope you’ll read all about it. Georgia was happy enough with the essay, and her prize, but happier still with the cardboard kingdom it inspired one Sunday in the garage.

That’s my real girl. And this is the real-life lesson she keeps giving me: believe in yourself and each other just the way you are.

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