living dharma


And ten years pass
April 4, 2018, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

IMG_2403

I knew it had been a while but today when I looked at the dates on my first blog posts, I realized I’ve been here, off and on, for ten years. In which a lot has happened. Both in my life and in the wider world we share.

In the last ten years, I deepened a discipline and faith I never had before; in Dharma and Buddhist teaching. Or, more precisely – in practice. It’s practice and what I see/have seen as a result of practice that led me to have faith and that keeps my faith alive and well, even as I have lost faith in pretty much everything else I ever had faith in before (see politics¬†& co. below). It’s because of practice that I am still alive and still determined to pay attention to the world around me. It’s because of practice that I remain determined to not go crazy or fall into permanent black despair because of what I see (hear, feel, sense, know) as a result of paying attention.

In the last ten years, an elegant and eloquent African American man became president of the United States. And he proved that, in many ways, being president of the United States means you have to be president of the United States in very predictable ways. At least if you want to be re-elected. So you preside over a country of insane violence and you conduct overt and covert violence in every corner of the planet. You watch as obscene wealth in your own country (and other countries) becomes more and more concentrated in the hands of the few while more and more of the many live with a crushing inequality that has always been part of the American story. And that president – while transcendent in some important ways and not at all in other ways – that president was succeeded by a dangerous, ignorant fool more dangerous and ignorant than all the other dangerous, ignorant fools who have ever been president put together. A dangerous, ignorant fool who panders to the racists and neo-Nazis who wanted nothing more than to see the country’s first African American president fail, or far worse.

In the last ten years, I’ve watched as atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have surpassed “safe” limits and sailed past 400 parts per million – a level of greenhouse gas agglomeration that guarantees catastrophic climate change. It’s happening now. And I’ve watched as governments issue more and more bizarre Orwellian lies about how some of them care about climate change but will keep driving fossil fuel development anyway.

It is to weep. A lot of it. Makes a person weep.

In the last ten years, I’ve lived as an ascetic purist and after those five years did most of what they needed to do, I imbibed and indulged and did other things too. They are both good in their ways. One enhances an inner stability and the other doesn’t.

In the last ten years, I’ve offered daily care to the dying and witnessed the harrowing destruction of the human body. I’ve survived the broken sadness of a dear friend’s suicide. And I’ve been mute with grief at the early death of two first cousins. Both in their forties. One drank himself to death the day before I arrived to help him get his life together. The other cousin had her heart explode on the side of a mountain, doing something beautiful somewhere beautiful.

In the last ten years, I became an idealistic Buddhist monk and also disrobed, spinning myself back out into a world that is no monastery and where most of what I value most is valued least.

In the last ten years, I’ve worked as the communications director of an international development organization, making $100,000/year and I’ve also worked on an organic farm, making $7.25/hour. I liked them both but found more meaning on the farm.

In the last ten years, I’ve lived in a 120 square foot cabin in the middle of winter in the middle of a beech, birch and maple forest in New Hampshire, with no running water or electricity and 400 yards through the snow to the barn where there was a somewhat modern toilet. Not too long after that, I lived in an elegant little artist’s house in Ottawa, that was appointed as if a very nice suite in a very nice hotel in Copenhagen. I liked them both but found more meaning in the cabin.

In the last ten years, I have experienced joys that felt impossible and despair that felt fatal.

Ten years later I am still here and I hope that there is enough time left to write some books and make some meaning for others out of what is meaningful for me.

The photo is fresh; a selfie from this afternoon in the little house in Powell River.

 

Advertisements


Joy ride through samsara
March 31, 2018, 11:21 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dancing

I laughed out loud when M and I were listening to a talk recently, and the teacher used the phrase, “joy ride through samsara.” Haha.

I was 42 when I first bumped into truly wise people. I’d met a lot of smart people up to that point but I’d never really met anyone who was looking at the human experience in a radically different way than the acculturated one I had encountered in my late 20th century/early 21st century, Western, left/progressive, intellectual, aesthete (or something) life. Up until that point – until 42 – and definitely a few times since then, I had always done what we do in our society and maybe in many iterations of human evolution through time: I had unconsciously equated pleasure with happiness. And while pleasure is certainly pleasant, it, in no way, adds up automatically to happiness. No matter how much pleasure you accrue. And Buddhist paradox style – happiness does not require the conventional pleasures we tend to seek and seek and seek. But happiness is always pleasant.

Having understood and experienced this teaching in a profound personal way, I did what most discoverers of a new wisdom do: I executed the somewhat unconscious over-correct, by stripping away many of the pleasures I used to seek but where I never found any kind of abiding happiness. And replaced them with spare, light and pretty pure alternatives. Hot water with lemon rather than red wine. No fiction – just Dharma books. That kind of thing. Not to diminish the value of the over-correct. Sometimes it is exactly the right move. But, like all things, it is best practiced with clarity and awareness as to what is being corrected (balanced) and why.

One of the things I love about Buddhism (though I always find that label so confining) is the middle way it is designed to be. Neither extreme asceticism nor besotted hedonism. Something in between and closer to the ascetic side, at least in the sense of becoming fluid and expert at letting go, or renunciation as it is known in the Therevadan tradition. Renunciation is a word that probably does not go over all that well in the mainstream of our society. Oh well. I think that is too bad. It’s a good word. Kissing cousin to sacrifice. Letting go of some things so that our deepest human qualities can be realized, even if the process looks to go against the grain of what the vast majority of human society happens to be doing.

I recently had the pleasure of deleting my Facebook account. I haven’t missed it at all. I realized that it wasn’t leaving me with a nourishing feeling (quite apart from the unethical and perhaps criminal ways in which FB has distorted elections and relationships the world over). That mostly it tended to add to a sense of numbing despair that comes in large and relentless doses these days (thanks President Trump, runaway climate change, genocide, hastening extinction events etc.). That was an easy act of renunciation, for me. But even something so modest can be ever so slightly revolutionary. By not doing what 2.2 billion people are doing (using Facebook every day), I am choosing to do other things.

Last week M and I went dancing. The music was weird and great, a truly eclectic band and superb musicianship. I danced with every ounce of my being. Sweat flying. Smile spreading. I love that stuff. Embodied joy. Jostling with the sweating bodies all around, lifted by the music and transported for a little while. The best of samsara, of pleasure that arises and ceases.

I suppose that kind of thing is the middle way, for me. Yes, I spend a lot of time in silence. And a fair bit of time in formal contemplative practice. But I’ve also softened the over-correct in the last several years. To let the light in when it is a healthy and delightful thing to do.

Yesterday M and I planted potatoes. The seedlings are coming up in the seed trays and the garden awaits them. We’re getting closer and closer to absorbing a new puppy into our lives and we’ll know for sure if that is happening in a few weeks.

A joy ride through samsara is a heedless and destructive thing. But dancing joyfully and with full awareness and letting the pleasant things be pleasant – that just seems like good sense, the upside of being human.

The photo is from several years ago; me dancing pretty mindfully at the monastery in France where I lived, when all the monks were away for the day and the lay people listened to music and moved their bodies in the spring sun. Yes.

 



WAISTTTOL & bring on the puppies
March 17, 2018, 11:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

IMG_2217

I’ll be honest: I’m sick of death. Too many gutting processes and tragic, early deaths and a few timely deaths and a lot of time by the bedside and too much time just a little too late to be of use (a suicide I might have prevented, an addiction that became fatal before I could get there). And not enough healing, recovery, equilibrating time in between each harrowing event. And this year devoted to a hard, unravelling and very close death that is both imminent and incredibly complex. Honestly. I’m sick of it. Which doesn’t mean I won’t continue to do my best to be supportive. But I’ve recently just become aware of how sick of it all I am; a lot.

I was talking with a friend earlier this week, who is herself in a caregiver role, who shared the stark, if not surprising, statistic that 70% of caregivers over the age of 70 die before the one they are doing the caring for dies. I’m not all that close to 70, though there are days, and nights, where I feel about 170. Much of the time I am vigorous and well and my life, for the most part, is quite pleasant. But it unfolds, now and for too much of the last five or six years, under the narrative arc of death, dying and all nine circles of hell’s worth of a twisted dysfunction that has been far too prevalent far too often.

In recent months I’ve deepened a correspondence with someone I’ve never met in embodied form and am unlikely to ever meet that way. I know Robin from her blog, that she writes with her husband Roger. I’ve been reading their thoughtful blog for years and they’ve been reading mine and Robin and I have begun writing letters back and forth. Robin’s mother is at the end of a very hard end of life situation and so we share a lot, in terms of what we are facing and what we are trying to do and the families we wade through as we try to do our best in truly challenging circumstances. In a letter I sent Robin a little while ago, I signed off “warmly and in solidarity through this time of life” or “WAISTTTOL” for those inclined toward acronyms. And we now sign off on all our letters to one another this way, WAISTTTOL.

And I suppose that really sums it up for me in how I see everyone and everything at this time. Whether it is at the level of meta suffering we endure on the stage of callow, corrupt, morally void, terracidal politics. Or whether it is at the granular level of our own families and our own frailties. On a good day, I can reach down and find warmth and a sense of solidarity with fellow beings who are paying attention – and I can beam that out in all eleven directions, for whatever that is worth. Sure, I have scorching political speeches and spoken word rhymes and they still unfurl their flags and plant themselves in the still fecund soil of my mind and heart. But gosh. My energy is fully subscribed elsewhere so I don’t really voice those things. Warmth and solidarity seem best of all these days.

So. Sick of death, I turn toward life. The great joy and meaning I find in the garden, preparing the soil for this year’s planting and three-season harvest. The last couple of days I’ve been turning all of the soil by hand and then adding a layer of composted manure from a farm just up the road. Before that I added lime. And before that, back in the fall, M and I added a LOT of seaweed. I hope to get some biochar in there too in coming days and then we will be ready to plant. Life. Generative. Fragrant. Productive. Meaningful. Organic. Backyard local. I love it more than pretty much anything.

Ok, well – I love puppies too (and cats, don’t worry Bisous). And folding a puppy into the household is very much at the top of the list of meaningful life projects. I hope that we can find the right family member to welcome in coming months. When I was visiting a friend in Spain in January I got to spend some time with Grace (epic cuteness above). Grace melted my heart in record time – maybe three or four seconds before I was utterly hers. She slept in my arms. Nibbled my ears. Tore my long underwear with her tiny needle teeth. I was totally in love with her. The life force of a new life. The love, unfiltered trust and mutual devotion of a dog/human relationship. Yes. Bring on the puppies. Maybe just one at first. But I could easily be convinced to absorb two or three. Life and playful four-legged friends and gardens and rich soil can’t defeat death. But they can put it in its place, where it is not dark and dominant, where it is simply part of everything and not all of anything.

 

 

 



Trust
February 26, 2018, 11:39 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

IMG_2358.jpg

Of the short list of things I am reasonably good at – trust is not one of them. Or, to be more precise – trust in humans is not one of them. Some of my relationship with trust goes all the way back to childhood, of course. Some comes through my professional life in and around politics. And some comes from adult relationships, both of the intimate partner variety but also family and other relationships.

An astute person might pose the question: do you trust yourself? In the same way that you cannot give what you do not have, I probably can’t be all that good at trusting others unless I have developed trust in myself. That line about not being able to give what you do not have came to me a while ago. As I reflected on all the help and healing and spiritual advisor *work* I do and have done and as I looked around at what others try to offer, it occurred to me that we cannot give what we do not have. If I do not have wisdom I have generated from the inside out, then I cannot offer any of my own wisdom. I may be able to suggest some books by wise people. But if I have not developed wisdom, I cannot give it to anyone. The same goes for stability or forbearance or kindness or empathy etc. Unless it is alive and authentic within, then it cannot be alive and authentic in any offering, small or large.

I remember a time several years ago, when I was living in a monastery, and working a lot on issues of forgiveness. I was calling up (in my mind and inner world) those who I felt had hurt or betrayed me. It was a short but potent list. And as I really looked at the question of where my greatest suffering had come from and who had caused it, I came to the naked conclusion that it was me. Yes, some fairly awful things have happened to me, authored by others in my life. But the person who had, far and away, created the most suffering in my life was me. At the time this struck me as a real revelation, both liberating and daunting: It’s a lot easier and a lot more pleasant to blame others than it is to take responsibility. I’m not suggesting that those who do real harm should not take responsibility or that they should not be confronted with their actions. Not at all. But there is a real power in locating our own agency, in taking responsibility for what Buddhists sometimes call the second arrow. [Yes, hard things happen and there is pain and suffering. And then reliving and refreshing and obsessing about and replaying events over and over again – that’s the second and often the third and then the fourth and then the fifth….arrow.]

Having recently encountered dishonesty in ways that really threw me, I’m reflecting a lot on trust these days. Who I trust. What I trust. Why I trust. What I don’t trust. Who I don’t trust. And so on…..just reflecting on when and where I have the experience of trust, I unmistakeably notice it most often and most powerfully when I am in wild places, nature. The trees and stones and sea and sky and birds and seals and fish and whales and deer and everything in the wild places – they appear to have no agenda where I am concerned. Which makes them eminently trustworthy. The risks I take in wild places can go against me. I can be injured or killed, depending on the choices I make and how well I execute them. I’m ok with that. I spend time with the wild places and I make choices about how to engage. If my choices don’t go so well, I will be eaten or fertilize the forest. But I won’t be betrayed or lied to or misunderstood.

Perhaps that is all so obvious as to not bear mention. But it’s what I am sitting with these days. And I don’t mean to say that I do not trust any humans at all. I do. Just not very many.

It’s a time of reassembling my molecules after they flew apart in foreign lands and under great pressure and with the destabilizing element of episodic dishonesty and unreliability in the human quarter. Strange and exotic, the dishonesty and unreliability. To be avoided if possible and to be Akido‘ed if unavoidable.

And yes, I am getting a lot better at trusting myself. My choices come from deep within and they pretty much never align with the warp and weft of the society in which I dwell. So there is always that place of tension and grit; how to align inwardly when perennially not aligned with what passes for normal. It has been those times (much of my life before I started to wake up a bit) where I have broken trust with myself, where I have failed to align and adhere to what I know to be true and trustworthy in my bones – those are the most harrowing times, when I scatter in all eleven directions at once and chaos reigns. I’m getting better at not doing that kind of ever. And so I am building trust. From the inside out, the only way as far as I can tell. Maybe I’ll become truly adept at it one day and I could add trust to the short list of things I am reasonably good at. My guess is that this too will be directly connected to the range, depth and ease with which I let go.

The photo is from one of my favourite places, a few days ago. A place I’ve come to know, love and trust over the last couple of years. A place where I do a lot of sitting and staring into the middle distance and reflecting. We’ve had every kind of weather recently. Sun and snow and rain and wind and warm and cold and it has all been absolutely wonderful.



True home
February 16, 2018, 5:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

IMG_2344 (1)

I finally got home to Powell River on February 10. There were a lot of planes and cities and beds and taxis and a bus and a lot of waiting in airports and a lost backpack and the general low-grade mayhem of international travel. It actually all went pretty smoothly, the travel. But combined with the energetic signature of hard decline toward death that has been the narrative arc in my family’s life since the summer – well, beyond exhausted is what I was and still am.

Finding and dwelling in one’s true home is a core emphasis in the teaching that I first embraced in 2005. True home goes by a number of names in the land of wisdom traditions. The island in your self. Pure awareness. Isness. Suchness. The deathless. Freedom. All crude descriptors on a path which can’t be well described in words. As a long-time practitioner I’ve often experienced this place, this state of being, this true home. I like how one teacher describes what many of us devoted but not fully realized humans live with; non-abiding awakening. Or part-time Buddha-hood, as another teacher calls it.

I’ve met some remarkable people since I became some kind of seeker. People who genuinely embody a depth of practice, wisdom and stability from moment to moment. But I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t get rattled, who doesn’t be a bit of a crappy person at least some of the time. The remarkable ones are way less crappy than most of us and they do way less damage than anyone else and they recover faster than anyone else. But they live in sensitive bodies and they have sensitive minds and sometimes they get caught, even if ever so briefly, in reactivity. And one thing that is consistent with all of the remarkable realized humans I have met – none of them live in the hustle and bustle of worldly life. None of them live in grey suburbs and none of them spend eight hours/day in an office cubicle or in a fast food restaurant. They all live in rarefied settings, to one degree or another, where they are supported by people who are entirely focused on developing the best of human capacity in conditions that are well away from the hardest edges of our society. Which is not to say that monasteries and hermitages etc. are all bliss. Some of them are very spare indeed. Very challenging. But they are way away from the conventional pathology.

As mentioned above, I arrived home in a state of total exhaustion. Being some kind of empath in very close proximity to a gathering, hard, strange death and being in the inner blast radius of some world class family dysfunction – these things impact me. More than I would want and more than I would hope for someone (me) who has been assiduously developing inner resources for some time. My true home – that place of unshakeable inner stability and capacity for being at ease with pretty much anything and everything….well, it can be shaken. And stirred. And blown away for periods of time, when there is not enough support to sustain the most painful pieces of this being human.

What I’m realizing, again and more powerfully than ever – is that I need quite a bit of time at home, with quite a bit of love and support, in order to further develop, refine and dwell in my “true home” in a more abiding way. Do you know what I mean? It’s pretty simple I think. We all need support! And the harder things are the more we need it. I know. Very basic. But it’s through the kinds of stretches like the one I have been in – and will be more intensely as the next months get themselves together and fly apart – where I realize the simple things on a profoundly felt level, from the inside out. From eight centimetres behind my navel and then on through the rest of me. Not just in my brain pan, intellectualizing. Deeper than that. All the way down.

A big part of true home for me is in the natural world, the one with few or no humans in it. Since Saturday, I’ve been out in some of my favourite wild places. With sea lions. And seals. And eagles. And wind. And salt sea. And a very cuddly, quirky, loving cat when at home in the house. These things nourish me profoundly. I don’t do well when I am away from them for long. And I really don’t do well when I am away from them and immersed in ways of being that make no sense to me, that leave me disoriented and with my inner door ajar, unhinged.

In other words, I’m really glad to be home. Bisous the Cat is on my lap as I type and she is purring away. Her founding human will be home soon. There will be love and hugging and dinner. It’s great. It will take a jackhammer to pry me loose from this place. And I know it’s coming. But for now I am home and replenishing the true home that I can take with me anywhere.

The photo is from yesterday afternoon. Just up the road. Both home and true home.



Solo retreat
February 3, 2018, 10:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

IMG_2335 (1).jpg

Amidst swirls of family and the main mission of why I am in Europe – which is about the acute corner where life and death meet – I had hardly a moment to myself for the first month after leaving Canada. Then two weeks or so ago, the various parties went their various ways and I stayed in Spain. On my own. I had a couple of plans ready to launch; one would take me to France and the monastery where I used to live. And one would take me to a friend in the mountains northwest of Barcelona, near the French border – a pretty magical spot. And then discernment arrived. I really didn’t want to go anywhere. I really needed to stay in one place and keep things as simple as simple can be, as many energies¬†careened through family dynamics and as the world troubled us with its troubles and as my second cold in a month marched through my body.

So I’ve been in Sitges, south of Barcelona, for the past two weeks. Tomorrow’s my last day and Monday I head to Brussels to meet up with my mom and the very hard doctor’s appointment she will have there. I’ve been navigating all of her condition’s complexity for her and there’s been a lot and at some point I will be able to write about all of it. But not yet. And I suppose that’s been some of the hard through this hard stretch. I write not just to share experience in the hope that some of it might be useful to others – I also write to understand and integrate my own experience. There’s something about the process of writing that gathers the threads and weaves them into something that makes more sense, through mind and concept and fingers and keystrokes and phrasing. But because of the nature of the moment, I’m not at liberty to write as transparently and with as much raw vulnerability as would be good (for me). That will come later.

So, yes. The last two weeks have really been a solo retreat. That occurred to me a few days ago. Ha! It’s funny how long it can take for very obvious things to become very obvious to me. I realized that I was following the same basic schedule every day and I remembered how much I loved that aspect of living in a monastery. I thrive in following a routine, as long as the routine has meaning to me. My routine here has been pretty straightforward. Shop in lovely little streets and cook well and walk along the sea for miles and snooze in the afternoons and read quite a bit and stare into space more than that and listen to some Dharma every day and practice in a not very formal way every day and heal from the colds I’ve had and speak almost not at all and be among the joyful people and their joyful dogs (a lot of joyful people and a lot of joyful dogs) and watch my mind so that I do not create un-necessary suffering and sing up my energy for the next chapter.

Strange that a solo retreat can feel like a solo retreat in the heart of a town that holds 35,000+ people. This is one of those places on the planet. There is ease here. So it’s easy to feel at ease. I’ve definitely spent time on retreat in monasteries where it felt a lot busier and more distracting than my time here has been. Of course, I’ve been on my own here so that simplifies things quite a bit. Or, it can anyway :)

The flat where I’m staying is deeply silent – at least in the evening and through the night. During the day I can sometimes hear the very human scale sounds of the town in the narrow lanes below. It’s been wonderful.

I’m looking forward to getting home and I’m soaking up all the things that are here, none of which we have in Canada and certainly not in Powell River where I live. I love the things here and I love the things there. And while part of me can miss the refined, laid back aesthetic delight of a place like this, I am most nourished on the wild salty coast where I live.

I took the photo earlier this evening. It just said – solo retreat.



The beginning, the long or short middle & the end
December 28, 2017, 8:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

 

IMG_0686 (1)

We all have a beginning in life; that day we draw our first breath in the world. And we all have an end; that day we draw our last breath in the world. In between is the middle bit. Some of us have a long middle. Some of us have a medium-size middle and some of us have but a brief visit on this blue/green planet.

I’ll never forget a talk I heard when I was in England a number of years ago, at a really lovely retreat centre in Devon, a few miles from the roiling sea, up the River Dart. The talk was given by a former Buddhist nun, Sophie Young. Sophie had been a nun for ten years and then had gone on to become a palliative care nurse. She’d been doing that work for ten years when I met her and heard her speak. Her talk was about a number of things but it was mostly about how we die. Not the physical part so much. But how we face death. How we relate to it, to what is happening to the body. How we treat people as we go through the dying process. The people close to us – family and friends – and then also those who may be involved in our care, the doctors and nurses and therapists etc.

Sophie’s observation, through all that she had seen in her extraordinary and extraordinarily compassionate work, was that we almost always die as we have lived. Which is not surprising if you think about it for a second. Our lives are a training ground. We are training in being human. We are developing and refining certain qualities, and not others. We are developing and refining certain ways of seeing and being, and not others. Some of that is about our work, what we do for livelihood. For many of us the identities conferred by our work become all consuming. We become that person almost to the exclusion of all else. I don’t think that’s a particularly good thing but it happens a lot and it has certainly happened in various intense phases of my work life. I don’t think it’s ever a good thing to be fully and totally and often unconsciously attached to and defined by one narrow identity. Even it if it is an identity that garners respect or admiration in whatever segment of society we inhabit.

Beyond the professional/work identity and the qualities that get trained via work, there are (hopefully) other aspects of our being-ness. Are we spiritual beings? If so, how does that manifest on a daily basis? How does that look in our moment-to-moment life? Are we community beings? Do we build and thrive in community? How does that operate every day? Are we artists? Lovers? Hermits? Active in our bodies? Asleep in our bodies? You know what I mean. All the ways we can be and see – the rich tapestry of human cloth we can weave, or not.

I would say that Sophie’s observation is one that holds up well and is deeply true, in terms of the deaths and dying processes I have been close to and known about. People go out as they have lived their long or short middle bit. People who have been kind and light go through whatever the body is doing with a lightness that can be surprising. Those who have been angry and filled with resistance at every discomfort – their final process tends to reflect that. Those who have been loving and generous seem intent on giving everything away with an open-handed giving that can take your breath away.

As some of you know, I’m in a time of life where I am immersed in the dying process of others. Sometimes it is beautiful. Sometimes it is not at all beautiful. Sometimes it is inspiring and sometimes I wish I was almost anywhere else. Which makes me pretty human I suppose. It also makes me reflect (again, more, often, still) on how I am living my middle bit. What I am developing and what I am not developing. What I’m burnishing by way of expertise and what I am not yet even a novice at. As always, it’s a humbling process.

Sometimes (ok, almost always) I feel I am on the outside, not really part of the society that I inhabit. I really do have this “practice like your head is on fire” orientation. Less in the sense of needing to do ten hours of sitting meditation every day, though there is a vitally important time and place for spending a chunk of one’s middle bit thusly….more in the sense that every moment is vital. That values matter. That living them matters. That having a high aspiration for the full and kind expression of one’s humanity really matters. That it matters more than anything. And yes, I know – as a poor person – that the stress and strain of livelihood certainly demands a lot of energy, sometimes more than others. I’m grateful (?!) that the chapter I’m living these days has little requirement for conventional professional work even as I am stretched and pushed and pulled and challenged to use every ounce of my best qualities and skills – professional, spiritual, practical – in the work I am doing and trying to do.

There’s a saying in Buddhist circles that the Dharma is lovely in the beginning, the middle and the end. Yes. Here’s to living one’s life and dying out of it just like that.

I took the photo in my garden two summers ago. One of the sweetest beginnings I have ever seen.