piecesofpeace1

aging without botox

Freedom in the popularity of Mindfulness

When I was first exposed to mindfulness practice it was Buddhist in nature.  Theravada Buddhism to be exact; as there  are many different traditions in Buddhism.  As someone who was raised Catholic, I felt I had a choice to make, and working in a Catholic school I felt I needed to be careful how I spoke about my new practice (not that you have to be Catholic to work in  a Catholic school). Even though my Buddhist mentor consistently advised me that there was no need to choose, I was rigid and content on doing this right!

I eventually had a group of likeminded people coming to my house on Sunday mornings to “sit.” Sitting involved just that – sitting. We would sit and meditate mindfully for 20 – 40 minutes. We would then break for tea or coffee and return to listen to a Dharma (teacher) talk for another hour or so. It was. . .enlightening. Unfortunately, I never let go of my struggle of choosing.

In 2009, my sister was diagnosed with Leukemia, and the next couple of years were filled with her extreme illness, and eventually her death, and the illness and death of other people in my family of origin.  I was busy planning Catholic funerals and had lost the ability to “sit.”  My sister actually said at one point in her illness that she didn’t really want a Catholic funeral, but this was early on, and I could never really get her to engage in actual plans of her passing (she really thought it wasn’t going to kill her). So I did what any good Catholic daughter would have done – I planned a Catholic funeral knowing this is what our mom needed.  I have said often that I love the way Catholics do death.  There is hope and peace present in a Catholic funeral.

I finally felt the veil of grief lift slightly in the late summer of 2013. The intense waves finally subsided to dull pangs. I once again was called to “sit.”  Death and life does something to you (if you are lucky); there are lessons in all of it. I wasn’t so rigid anymore. I didn’t feel called to one particular Tradition. In fact I discovered American Buddhism and a Mindfulness Practice that had gained much popularity since I had last practiced. These practices were less spiritual – more psychological.  I didn’t feel defensive, upset, or rigid about it.

Once again on Sundays, a group of folks gathers at my home to “sit.” Some are Christians, some are Buddhists, some simply know there is a God and they aren’t it. We all believe that slowing down, creating space between our feelings and others’ feelings,  and not taking things so personally helps us grow emotionally and spiritually.

Even though I am not suffering from the intense waves of grief, sitting is not easy.  Life is still difficult, so sitting with it can be difficult too. Even though it’s difficult, I’m surprised to hear people say they can’t do it. It is just sitting. Mindful sitting, however, allows me to watch my thoughts. In watching my thoughts I see the vulnerabilities in me and how they can be stirred by people I encounter in my life. When this happens I become angry, sad, proud, frustrated, etc. My first reaction is to blame the person that stirred me, but in sitting, I see it is me being stirred. By sitting and seeing this mindfully, I can usually stop acting out in the ways I used to.

After all of these years, I still don’t do it right, but I now know that doing it right isn’t at all the point.  Doing it is the point. That is progress. Living mindfully brings peace to myself. . .and to those I encounter.  I’m still Catholic although I do enjoy going on silent Buddhist retreats.  I think Jesus would be a big fan of mindfulness.

Peace.

Cartoon Amazing Race to Enlightenment

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Something Different – – – February 28

As a very young girl I remember writing stories in our living room on Heathfield Road in the Northwood suburb of Baltimore.  I would hang my stories around the living room. It was an escape. I don’t think anyone ever read them.  I wrote a bit in college – creative writing – trying to work through incredibly intense damage from my childhood.  Writing did something for me.

I began writing again when my sister was gravely ill.  I used writing as a vehicle to give people information, but it became the thing that got me throughout the daily grind of caring for her. It wasn’t only the writing but the responses I got from others. I am what some would call extroverted. Therefore when I write, I do like people to read it. I’d love to write more. I’d love to write a book. I’d love to write for a living.  Except – – -writing is very difficult. If I want to be a writer – I have to write.

This past January, I committed to writing on here everyday.  It was kind of cool at first. It felt like a spiritual discipline. It is becoming more difficult, but a loved one reminded me that this is my blog. If I don’t write everyday, it is okay. I’m the only one that will be disappointed. We’ll see what happens.

Around the time I committed to write everyday, I also began submitting some of my writings for publication. Yesterday, my first piece was published on this very cool and quirky website called Henry Harbor.  Some of you may have seen this in a similar version about a year or so ago on here. Check it out: http://goo.gl/t14NQh

Peace.

(Not the Usual) Daily Ground- – – February 19

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I was driving alone in my car the other day and I had this ecstatic feeling of: “I love my kids and hubby!” It was amazing and forceful.  And followed by regret.  Regret because I’ve given so much of myself to them out of fear, and now I finally realize – they would have loved me anyway. I was so afraid the kids were going to turn out like me. I was so afraid they would experience the horrors of my childhood. Couldn’t I see they had different parents? I was so afraid the hubby would leave me – not see me – like countless others. Couldn’t I see he wasn’t that guy?

I hate labels, but I feel I’m going through. . . some midlife turmoil.  Not like a total crisis, but geez, is this all there is?  Why have I squandered so much time working, and so much…

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Daily Ground- – -February 27

“Life inside our skin and our skin and outside our skin are forever different” – – Mark Nepo

I’m grateful I’ve been given the gifts to discern the above.  What happens inside of me – my thoughts, feelings, opinions, and emotions – have little connection to what is going on outside of me in the world.  There are times I forget this and believe that everything is happening to me, when mostly it is just happening.

Often when I feel the crisis mode arising and it truly isn’t a matter of life or death, I realize that what I’m feeling is not a crisis – just a feeling.  I can simply pause, breathe, pray, and then determine if an action is even necessary.

Peace.

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Daily Ground – – -February 26

It’s still February!

I don’t mind winter – even this winter in Maryland.  We’ve had a lot of snow and bitter cold and freezing rain.  I don’t mind it really. It’s February, and I am tired. Even though it’s really cold again, I’ve noticed the sun a lot more lately – meaning – the days are indeed getting longer. But, it is still February.

A funny thing happened to me over the last several years – – -I’ve lost track.  I’ve lost track of time.  I know it’s February, and I know spring is coming, but most days I really need to ask, “What is today?”  I would not be surprised if today I asked that and someone said, “It’s March 10th.”  Seriously, I’d say, “Okay.”  I’m not sure how this happened, but I believe it has something to do with death.

My only sister died on April 10, 2010. Ever since then I tend to write the year as 2009 more often than not.  I am constantly correcting it. It’s as if I still want to pretend it’s before Terrie died.  My life kind of is broken up in 2 parts – before my family began dying and after. I’m living in the after, but I’ve lost track.

After Terrie died in April, my mom and brother both died in 2012.  Just writing that last sentence took me 5 or 6 minutes  – to do the math.  I’ve lost track. I’ve moved on in so many ways.  I’ve experienced joy again since these deaths.  But I’m different. Thank God I’m different!  How awful would it be to have your family – your history – die and me not be different.  In some way – I’m glad I’ve lost track. I’m glad there is a significant “something” that is different about me in the after.

I’ve lost track. And losing track has made February not so much different than April. April will come, and most likely I’ll be here to notice that the days have lengthened. I bet I’m still cold and tired in April and asking what day it is.

Peace.

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Daily Ground – – – February 25

I appreciate teens, but I don’t want to be one again.

I recently went on a school trip to the local beach with a bunch of teens. I appreciate teens – their energy, their honesty, their courage.  It’s hard growing up, and I think we live in a society that doesn’t acknowledge just how difficult it is being a teen.  Teens are stupid too! Not the kind of stupid that has anything to do with intelligence, just simply the kind from not having lived long enough to learn lessons.

We were there for a sporting event, and it was a quick trip.  The girls wanted to make the best of it, so when we returned to the hotel at 11:30 p.m., they asked if they could go out onto the dark beach. They came back home and sat in the bathroom of the hotel room talking so I could sleep (not that I got enough sleep)!

I awoke at 8 feeling groggy after not getting to sleep until after 2 a.m.  I decided to take a run on the beach – to make the most of the trip for me!  I felt like crap, but when I walked on to the beach on the east coast of Maryland in February and it was balmy enough for cropped running pants and a light running jacket, I was so glad I got up.  The blue sky and the sun shine reflecting off the water was breathtaking. As I was running it struck me just how stupid the girls were.  Perhaps it was exciting and scary to come to the beach in the dark, but I’ll take beauty and warmth over excitement and scary any day! It made me smile, and I wanted to run up and drag them down there with me, but I was enjoying the solitude and silence. I thought, “Should I go get them? Nah – I’m not that stupid!”

Peace.

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Daily Ground- – – February 24

Aging without Botox isn’t always easy.

I am not sure why people have a difficult time with aging.  I attended a lecture by Gloria Steinem when I was in my 20’s and she said that with each passing decade she becomes freer.  It isn’t as important to die your hair or hold your stomach in.  I feel the same way.  I spend a lot less time in front of a mirror, and I appreciate comfort.

I got a surprise this week however. I was with one of my teen daughters and her friend. We were out eating, and my daughter was messing with my phone. I was busy eating, and I realized she was taking selfies but including my profile in her pictures. It was all in good fun and she was using my phone.  We laughed as we scrolled through the many pictures she had snapped.  But then I noticed the . . .I don’t know what to call it. . .the drooping on my jowl.  The indentations.  I mean I was chewing, but still.  I was surprised.

What do I do with this? Nothing. Nothing to do with it.  I share it because it is surprising. As long as I stay away form the mirrors, I like so much that comes with aging. Although this may give me a bit of insight into others who may run to the plastic surgeon in hopes they can outrun aging, I am glad I’m not taking that route. I will sit with this, and most likely forget all about it until the next photo catches the nuance of my aging face. Still, as the saying goes, getting old certainly isn’t for sissies.

Peace.

Daily Ground- – – February 23

I am not a big fan of our consumerist society.  It took me almost 50 years to just say NO to all the pretty colors and fabrics that I can’t afford and do not need. I remember years ago discussing with my peers the costs of plastic surgery, teeth whitening and giant mini-mansions.  Most believed that if they had the money they would get the “work” done or buy the mansion.  I argued that even if I could afford that stuff, I would hope I would make choices to live simply and give the excess money to causes I believed would make the world a better place.

But would I?  I certainly have squandered money on useless things I thought would buy me peace or happiness. My lesson now is to sit with the choices I have made. I watch my daughters manage money in a more discerning way than I have. Hoping that watching me grow, they have been handed the ability to make healthier choices that provide more freedom. Isn’t that what we all really want anyway – enough freedom to sleep well at night?

Peace.

Daily Ground- – -February 22

Not having any choice is sometimes easier than having to decide.

I recently heard someone share that during an especially painful time in her life, she would stand in the store overwhelmed because she could not make a decision of which body wash to buy.  I certainly have had those moments when even the smallest decision seems like a chore. It still sometimes happens on the rare occasions we go out to eat as a family.  Where to go? It’s as if we are trying to figure out a solution to world peace. Too many choices.

There are bigger issues. When to take someone off of life support, which job offer to take, do I go to the college that offers no debt or my dream school?  Confusion is often the first emotion that arises. If I can picture the confusion as a big red stop sign, I can usually get through. It’s when I let the confusion overwhelm me that I can’t get clarity and I begin spinning.

If I let the confusion turn to fear, it becomes increasingly difficult to make the decision. I begin clawing for perfection, as if a wrong decision could kill me. I get into a mindset that lets me forego the good striving for the perfect, and I am paralyzed. When I simply stop at confusion, create space, and wait, then the decision will come.

Peace.

Daily Ground – – -February 21

Baseball teaches us, or has taught most of us, how to deal with failure. We learn at a very young age that failure is the norm in baseball and, precisely because we have failed, we hold in high regard those who fail less often–those who hit safely in one out of three chance and become star players. I also find it fascinating that baseball, alone is sport, considers errors to be part of the game, part of its rigorous truth.–Francis T. Vincent, Commissioner of Baseball 1989-92.

I love baseball.  Some people think it is slow, but I love sitting and watching a game and actually having time to chat between pitches and innings. It is a summer game full of strategy and precision.  And errors!

What a great metaphor for life. Even if I master this thing called life – or anything in life – marriage, child rearing, career, schooling, the quest for peace – I will still fail at times. I’d venture to say most humans fail most times.  The beauty is – I keep getting up. I keep opening my heart after it has been broken. I keep trying to mend broken relationships.  I keep trying to keep friendships in tact in the midst of so much that is busy!

Spring Training has begun far away in the warmth.  I can’t wait until opening day. I will sit and route for my team – the O’s – the underdogs! I’ll watch them break records and do amazing things.  I’ll watch them commit a bunch of errors, and I’ll enjoy the game!

Peace.

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