Posts Tagged ‘Mother’s Plunge’

ripples from a drop in the bucket

June 13th, 2010    -    7 Comments

I’ve just returned from a marvelous time at the Mother’s Plunge -Seattle where the sun emerged from weeks of rain and radiated into our bones. There were 34 of us cloistered amid a wide circle of pines and clear air. I won’t even describe it: nothing I say comes close.

Although it’s nifty the way our fancy social media works, we haven’t met until we meet face-to-face. There is one more Mother’s Plunge on my calendar for this year: Saturday, June 26 here in my hometown. I hope that in the light of the approaching days you will find a way to come.

In my Zen lineage, a wisdom tradition transmitted from one teacher to one student one at a time through 81 generations since Buddha, a single meeting matters more than the volumes you read on a page. A true meeting only occurs face-to-face. In the shared field where we meet, eyes lock, minds unite, light streams and hands close the distance with which we divide ourselves.

One meeting, one day, seems like a drop in the bucket, but the ripples go on forever. It’s in the ripples that the shoreline shifts. The landscape of our lives changes forever.

Just take a look at this iridescent scarf handed to me when I met Anna Katherine Curfman at the Plunge in Seattle. She felts these flutters from the lightest fibers of merino wool and silk. I can’t imagine the time and attention she places into each one. Now I don’t have to imagine it. I see it, I believe it, I love it, and I especially love that it requires the intimate care of an oh so gentle Hand Wash Cold.


More ripples:

A Weekend with Karen – if I were to crash your pad, commandeer your car and keep you up too late three nights in a row, there would be repercussions.

Attention! – “Baby steps will get you anywhere if you don’t stop stepping.” A valedictory address from a graduate of the Mother’s Plunge.

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kindness, milk and cookies

June 11th, 2010    -    9 Comments

I wake this morning in Seattle – Tacoma, to be exact – where I am soaking up the hospitality that greets me every place I arrive for a reading, a talk or a Mother’s Plunge retreat. Tomorrow’s Mother’s Plunge with 34 women is the multiplied outcome of a single kindness. By kindness I don’t just mean the command to come, but one person’s compassionate effort and initiative to make this event happen.

This is how we save the world. This is how we save ourselves. With living kindness, the kindness that walks on your own two legs, finds a room for people to gather, hosts a tired traveler in an upstairs bedroom, brews coffee and bakes cookies and makes the world a better place.

In that spirit I offer you this simple treatise today, an excerpt from Hand Wash Cold: read more

take the plunge

June 8th, 2010    -    2 Comments

Summer is just plain crazy. That’s why I never pass up a chance to get wet.

Mother’s Plunge – Los Angeles
Saturday, June 26, 9-3:30
Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center
In my little hometown of Sierra Madre
Cradled in the bosom of the San Gabriel Mountains

Before you lose yourself in the crosscurrents of a crazy summer, take one day all for yourself. Personal encouragement, fresh insight, spiritual refreshment, easy laughter, beginning meditation, gentle yoga, mountain walks and a private tour of my own historic backyard Japanese garden. A perfect day to share with a friend, a sister, a mother or a partner. You need not be a mother or a woman to attend, because anyone can learn the breathing stroke (and never fear the water again).

If you’ve attended a Plunge before you might wonder if you should come again. But when the temperature rises, a cool dip refreshes like new. You can go in even deeper next time.

Staying overnight? Here’s a list of nearby hotels. Can’t get farther than a splash at your bathroom sink? Inspire yourself with this. Waiting for another day? I wouldn’t wait.

Take the plunge.

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a day without laundry

May 26th, 2010    -    15 Comments

“A day without work is a day without eating.”
– Zen saying

This expression might strike you as a grim resignation. You might even call it depressing. Perhaps you think of work as drudgery. But when you realize the dependency between work and life, it can turn your notion of work upside down. Work does not detract from life, interrupt life or hinder life. Work sustains life. All work sustains life, whether we think of it as important or unimportant. It is vital and enhancing. It keeps us alive.

This brings me to the laundry. (Everything brings me to the laundry.)

The other day I put something up at the Huffington Post that I’ve published elsewhere: 10 Tips for a Mindful Home. It is a simple list to help us see how life is enriched by doing the little things we might disdain as insignificant, like laundry, dishes and bedmaking. It’s amusing to see the unrest that is stirred by the modest suggestion that we make our own beds!

One comment on the post was a variation of the kind of objection I encounter from time to time, a slow boil of outrage over gender inequality, a denigration of what is sometimes called “women’s work.”

“Women wind up doing a lot of the things that ‘never get totally done,’ that must be redone again in a short time, over and over again – while the man gets more time to build and repair things the result of which can be appreciated and used for years.”

Really? The things men build and repair last for years? Tell that to the man in my house who fixes the sprinklers and the leaky toilets, who changes the light bulbs and the oil in the cars, who clears out the cardboard shipping boxes that multiply mountainously in the garage. Tell it to the man in my house who builds spacecraft that break down dozens of times before they ever launch, might disappear before they ever arrive, and whose instruments routinely malfunction (if they work at all) over and over. Tell that to the boys who drill deepwater wells, and to the ones who keep trying to fill them. Tell that to the Wall Streeters who ride the stock exchange up and back down again. Tell that, but don’t ever for one second believe it.

Nothing that anyone does is ever done for good. Everything is undone and redone. That’s how life is. Why value big work over small, a monstrosity over the miniscule? I’ll do the laundry any day, and I’ll happily eat too.

But there is such a thing as a day without laundry! That would be called a Mother’s Plunge, my signature one-day retreat for mothers and all others coming up real soon in Seattle on Sat., June 12 and here in Sierra Madre (Los Angeles) on Sat. June 26. You must register now. But even before that, check out the post at Shutter Sisters today and see how you can win free admission to a Mother’s Plunge by merely lifting a finger!

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i am amazed

May 23rd, 2010    -    1 Comment

I am amazed that there is little more than a week left to register for the Seattle Mother’s Plunge. I am amazed to be headed to Kansas City next weekend to spend time with my friend Jill Tupper and the kindest sangha on the planet, the good people at the Rime Buddhist Center. I am amazed that wherever I go I am met by familiar names, full embraces, and knowing smiles. Like a shoreline met a million billion times by a wave.

Photo from Bastyr University, site of the Seattle Plunge.

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baggage carousel 2

May 15th, 2010    -    3 Comments

I hit the jackpot at an amazing Kitchen Table potluck in Reno last week and now I’m about to plunge north for a sold-out mother’s weekend in the Bay Area,  so here is another short spin in lieu of a stop. Setting down these few things for you to open as your own:

Giving the moon to the Sun – Every time they ask, I give the moon to the Shambhala Sun.  If you have silver to spare, check out their first-ever Auction for a Mindful Society opening this week. It includes many treasures worth pondering. And then there’s this, which is only worth a little.

“How do I begin?” – A question I’m asked over and over. Here is your personal invitation to start with me as I lead a beginner’s one-day retreat at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles on Sun., June 6 from 9-5. Informal, sincere, intimate, meaningful instruction on how to begin a meditation practice. You’ll be on your way in no time. Contact me with your questions. Overnight accommodations can be arranged for long-distance travelers.

“Soul Centered” – A destination I’ve added to my Kansas City itinerary. Join my friend Jill Tupper and me on Sat., May 29 for a morning retreat at Unity on the Plaza. Because nothing brings you back home faster than a friend.

“I was asked to write a book.” – a dharma sister from the Hazy Moon Zen Center interviews me on writing as practice. Here’s where you’ll find the story behind the story, and how Zen infuses it all.

“Now I’m asking you to review it.” – If you’ve read Hand Wash Cold, please consider writing on online review on Amazon, Goodreads, or both. You have no idea how much you matter in the scheme of things. And if you think it is beneath an author to request a review, once you’ve read it you’ll know that absolutely nothing is beneath me. Thank you.

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invite yourself over

April 25th, 2010    -    5 Comments

Here are a few places I hope you take the time to hop over to:

An interview on the Gregoire Today show: I had this live conversation with Bob Gregoire on his blog talk radio show the other day, and it made me as happy as red polka dot shoes! He is a rare thing: a man of faith with an open mind, and you can hear it opening wider as he asks me about Buddhism and the practice life inside our homes. I’m insufferable for the way I keep pointing you to nothing more than my own voice, but I don’t care whose voice it is. What I experienced in this hour-long conversation was the illuminating warmth of the teachings, and the comfort that comes when we turn on the porch light.

An invitation to my front door: Here again is an invitation to my open house and book reading this next Sunday, May 2. I’m sincere when I say that everyone and their brother is welcome. You can tramp around the garden, have a cookie and sip a glass of my mother’s style of Texas iced tea. You’ll go home rested and well-read, with your hands full! No need to RSVP through the invitation; you might not even be able to do so via the links. Just jot down the info and plug it into the GPS.

3 ways to find love in a kitchen timer: Read my latest installment of kitchen wisdom on the Huffington Post. Time, unhurried, is never wasted.

5 days to sign up for the Mother’s Plunge San Francisco Bay Area: It’s a wonderful group to be part of, and no one will be turned away for coming out of their way. Sat., May 22 at Mercy Center Burlingame: sign up here. I have one more scholarship to go to someone who would otherwise have a hard time with the $75 admission. Contact me to put your name on it.

My home or yours: Have you given a thought to coming here for the Mother’s Plunge – Los Angeles (which is really in my hometown of Sierra Madre) on June 26 or Colorado Springs on July 17? The latter will be my only Midwest retreat all summer, so why not kick off your shoes, dig your toes in and make a family mini-vacay out of it?

All on the table: And for those of you who have Kitchen Table Tour stops on my calendar between now and June – here’s a taste of the pure magic of friendship and story that awaits, from a golden evening at Christine Mason Miller’s home, courtesy of Anne Carmack, who possesses all the time in the world and invests it most wisely.

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April 19th, 2010    -    2 Comments

Lisa Erickson (Mommy Mystic) interviewed me about writing and Zen practice and marriage and other mentionables, and I share the whole thing here because I like it and I’m grateful for her support. It’s a little funny for me to read, because she recorded our conversation and captured how I speak. Which is a lot. I talk a lot.

Last weekend I spoke (a lot) to a gathering in San Francisco, and someone asked me what the Mother’s Plunge daylong retreats are like. I said they were like the talk she just sat through, except I keep talking. I keep talking. A lot.

And speaking more about that, it’s seriously time to register for the May 22 Mother’s Plunge in the San Francisco Bay Area. Once again, if you need financial help to afford the $75 admission, or if you can offer a scholarship, please send me a message via my contact page. You never know what might come out when you speak up.

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basket of goodies

April 5th, 2010    -    18 Comments

Have you torn into the kids’ Easter baskets yet? I set aside a secret backstash for myself, although I have to admit that this year I was far more excited about what the bunny brought than my daughter was. She smiled benignly at me and then asked if she could dye a pink streak in her hair. (She’s always one hop ahead of me.)

I have a basket of goodies for you to tear into:

To have a 40-minute gabfest with me, open this. Or, download it onto your iPod and listen to me laugh all during your 3-mile run.

To win a free signed copy of Hand Wash Cold, open this. You have until Friday to win, so if I were you I’d leave a long trail and keep coming back for a taste!

To choose one thing to read  besides Hand Wash Cold, open this. I mean every word of what’s written.

To find the motivation to start this week’s laundry, open this. And share it too. Those pages can use some cooler heads.

To make sure you’re in on all the goodness I’ll be sharing at the next Mother’s Plunge Retreat on Sat., May 22 in the Bay Area, open this and register. It’s about time to load up your eggs in one basket. The Mercy Center sisters need an early count on the chickens, and remember, you need not be a mother to come!

To give me an idea of how to handle the pink hair thing, please leave a comment with your parental wisdom!

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The hummingbird and the fire

January 13th, 2010    -    5 Comments

A terrible forest fire broke out one day, and all the animals fled their homes. But one hummingbird zipped over to a stream, got some water in its beak, and rushed back to the raging fire. The little hummingbird tried to douse the flames with a few drops of water, then back to the stream it flew to retrieve more water. The other animals watched in disbelief. They asked the hummingbird what it was doing – one tiny bird would not make a bit of difference. The hummingbird replied, “I’m doing the best I can.”

I’m getting ready to go to Scottsdale for this weekend’s Mother’s Plunge and by getting ready I mean I’m not getting ready. I’m slouching around in my pjs, drinking coffee, resetting the clocks after last night’s power outage. Making beds, unloading the dishwasher, groaning over the shopping list that means I’ll have to go to Target before I leave.

Last night at bedtime I had a scary thought: What will I tell these women? Oh, for sure I have a general idea, but I don’t do anything based on a general idea. Those of us who gather will have never come together before and likely won’t ever again. Our once-in-a-lifetime meeting, like every moment of our lives, is the culmination of a vast and unknowable past and the seed of an infinite and unimaginable future. It’s magic, I tell you. There’s nothing general about it.

There are more women attending this Plunge on scholarship than any one before. When I asked for donors, there was such an outpouring of unselfish generosity, met by an equal torrent of unabashed need, that I stand in pure amazement. Pure amazement, I tell you. Aid comes not because any of us is lacking, but because all of us are rich. So rich in love that it pours out of us.

Prepare to be doused.

If you’re anywhere near our little fire, come for water. If you’re not, choose a bigger one to quench and do the best you can. It’s impossible to do otherwise.


The hummingbird and the fire is a Japanese folktale, but you might like to hear it told or read about the kind of inspiring people who believe it here.

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The deep end round the bend

December 29th, 2009    -    1 Comment

The Mother’s Winter Plunge is rising fast. Saturday, Jan. 16 in Scottsdale.

Nearly time. Barely room. Hardly wet.

Register now and leave all your regrets in 2009.

Hanging up my stocking

December 7th, 2009    -    4 Comments

It was the first time we’d ever ended up at a restaurant solely on the basis of a Google search, and we were the only diners on a Saturday night.

Nirvana, the sign outside said.

Customers! the woman in the sari called to her staff as we stepped inside. This was no wannabe in a sari. This woman really belonged in a sari, the lonely hostess in a narrow room of empty tables and chairs. Our hearts were instantly broken, and we bored deep into the menu of unpronounceable names and inscrutable descriptions.

We ordered lavishly from the bespectacled man who came around. Her husband? Her father? And wine too, like a desperate blessing, a piddling unguent, to call forth the missing multitude. Before our food came another lost party wandered in. I’d seen them pacing back and forth in front of the window. This is our first time, they tossed the words anxiously into the void like a flimsy raft before jumping in.

Our food arrived on rimmed tin platters, mounds of rice orbited by silvery planets of fragrant sauces, like nothing I’d seen before, out of this world, a savory palette to paint the palate and we were overcome with awe and relief. I dipped a spoon into my bhindi masala and took one taste, then flashed a thumb’s up to the other table. Fantastic, I mouthed exaggeratedly, and they grabbed the rope and ordered it too. And we were then, all five customers and five servers, so effervescently happy to be together, to have spanned the bottomless gap, to be inside the door everyone else had overlooked or hurried past: the door to Nirvana.

This isn’t really the post I’d intended to write but reading it now I see how it must be. These are times that stretch all of our pockets: our hearts, our minds, our hands, our wallets. We have learned that there is no big bailout to save us, only small rescues and tin-rimmed kindnesses. And so I’m hanging a modest stocking here.

These are tough times to give, and tougher yet to ask. As before, I know of women who are waiting for help before they can give themselves a hand. Waiting for the impossible before they can see what is possible. I have a list of mothers who could use an assist to make it to the Mother’s Plunge retreat in Phoenix (heavenly Scottsdale, actually) in January. Perhaps you are one who can give help, or allow yourself to receive it. If you can fund either part or all of a $75 scholarship to the Mother’s Plunge, please contact me privately at kmiller(at)turningwords(dot)com. Likewise, if you need a rope to pull you across the threshold, a little extra help to make it happen, contact me as well. There is a small yet radiantly happy community of us who can attest that miracles happen when and where you least expect it. Everyone who wants to come is shown the way.

I don’t know how that happens, but I thank you, and I bless you.

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Nothing you’ve seen until now

November 22nd, 2009    -    4 Comments

I’ve been captivated by this view of the unseen marvel in a prickly pear bloom.
It’s a sign of thigmotaxis.
And that’s a sign that it’s time to get a move on and register for the Mother’s Winter Plunge in Scottsdale, Arizona on Sat. Jan. 16.

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