Knitting Love

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Let me count the ways I love to knit.

  • Similar therapeutic benefits as meditation.
  • Way to carry Old World legacy passed hand to hand (thanks grandmother).
  • Sensual – eye candy, tactile candy.
  • As anything done with attention, an expression of love.
  • Portable.
  • Socially acceptable way to lend presence to a group and be excused from speaking.
  • Flitting knitting – a way to adapt attention deficit to focused completion of ten simultaneous projects.
  • Fundraising tool.  Please consider my current project to make 30 hats in 60 days to support young folks in my community:  JAZZ HATS

Current knitting blogs:

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Top-Down Cardigan for daughter

 

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Jazz Hat in progress

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Jazz Hat pattern, free thanks to Chandi of http://www.expressionfiberarts.com

 

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Diagonal blanket strip

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Crocheted free pattern from www.expressionfiberarts.com

 

Nature Break

This week, I happened upon a feature of this man’s labyrinths in Oregon beach sand that feel like an incredible gift to the world.  Similar to Buddhist mandalas, which are temporary masterpieces that are destroyed to take other forms.  The tides take care of these masterpieces.  He walks using a stick with attached blade to create complex shapes and then volunteers rake the sand to create texture between the pathways.

Sand Labyrinths – Oregon Public Broadcasting

 

 

My favorite piece of college experience had nothing to do with academics.  It had to do with the outdoors.  I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hike, kayak and camp along the Owyhee Reservoir and Leslie Gulch for 10 days.  And I have no photos to prove it thanks to a malfunctioning camera at the time.

When I stumbled on this video series from Oregon Field Guide, it brought me right back to following wild cattle trails, sleeping under stars to coyote conversations, brushing my teeth while shaking with frozen night temperatures, and the most incredible land I’ve ever seen.  Here’s hoping the way of the world doesn’t catch up to it as far as development and infrastructure, so the hardy souls that make down the dusty back country roads will continue to be rewarded.

Dream Fund

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Several occurrences have pointed me toward the dream theme.  We all have them.  I began by realizing that even though dreams may not seem “realistic,” or may seem far off, they are something we can take action steps toward.  Quickly followed by realizing that I need to release all expectations of WHAT will arrive when I take action steps toward a given dream.

DREAM #1:  I want to build a tiny house in my future.  This seems impossible since I currently don’t have enough funds, land, building expertise, etc.  The reason why I want to build is I feel the process of learning to build a small space from which to journey and asking for advice/assistance from people along the way will be the journey itself I need.  I never lived in one place very long until I had a child and wanted to hold on with everything I had inside of myself to provide stability.  I imagine myself thriving on rambling in the future.

On the theme of “home,” I have experienced a sense of home inside myself but never really in property.  I’ve never owned a home, and only one of my physical possessions is important enough to me to care if it were to be taken from me this instant.  Even that possession (my grandmother’s cherry wood roll-top desk) I could release, because its absence would not impact my connection to my grandmother’s spirit.  I’ve experienced great energy from various places, the vast expression of Earth time in the desert Southwest, the mossy, ferny woods, lakes and ocean of the Pacific Northwest, have resonating memories associated with various places, but I don’t know where home is other than where I am at any given moment.

DREAM #2:  I have a vision of designing some kind of retreat to offer, name and place undetermined (Closing The Loop?), that involves knitting, walking, and sitting, all forms of meditation, all where I experience my greatest sense of “home.”  I envision creating several thematic knitting patterns and offering supplies ahead of time which people can choose from as a focus.  Anything completed during or after the retreat would be gifted to self or someone else you care about or simply someone who needs something warm.  Knitting would be followed by walking/hiking followed by sitting meditation to round out the retreat.  I have no idea where, when or how, but it’s origin is the heart and I have met many fellow knitters among meditators so I know there are enough of us to form a circle.

DREAM #3:  A third dream is funding my mythical long walk.  Long enough to experience complete surrender of my physical self and write a book of journey notes to share to possibly (best case scenario) inspire others.

I experience the universe as abundant.  For me personally that abundance has had little to do with money.  This is why my money-based action here feels like a powerful shift.  To include money in the sense of abundance.

To begin, I am starting with money.  Mapping out complete resolution of any debt and beginning a Dream Fund, a savings I cannot touch like I can my “emergency fund” which is forever experiencing emergency drainage. ; )  One month it’s a dental emergency, the next a car malfunction, the next you name it.  Life.  In this Dream Fund I am placing $2 a day on top of an initial sum to open an account.  Wherever we are on the money spectrum, a coin, a dollar, a hundred dollars, or whatever windfall comes our way can go into a dream jar.  Who knows where that one action will take us?

 

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Morsels of Beauty in My Week

MY JOY

MY CRAFT AND MINDFULNESS PRACTICE

 

MUSIC

SW High School Jazz Band – daughter’s amazing opportunity

Recording for Monterey Jazz Festival

Now they rehearse for a ticket to New York City 

While I practice a bit of Bach

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjdJAoFYZdQ

By Erin W

True Nature

Ever the ponderer, this is my latest ponder with a mug to go with it.

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When I have a day without time in the woods or proximity to a tree or at least a 30-minute walk outdoors, I feel off balance, almost ill.  I know this about myself.  For those 30 minutes, I feel truly embodied, human, clear, and connected to all of existence in the cosmos.

The only way I have found to reach a similar state indoors is during meditation (not always – sometimes the jackhammer of a mind won’t let up) when I glimpse what Buddhists call “Buddha nature” or “true nature.”

In both cases, sometimes indoor, always outdoors, I feel like I touch something that is beyond gender, beyond words, beyond my appearance or what I or anyone thinks of me.  In short, my spiritual self, a soul, the universal groundlessness of all being.

The more I meditate and the more I connect with the natural world (you don’t need to be naked or swinging from trees like some people in the article below to remember your connection), the more I am confused about what we hang our identities on in my own culture.  A culture that fosters separation from other humans, separation from natural world as if we are not a part of its structure – like cutting off our own fingers to build a house, fast-twitch responses to technology, constant electrical stimulus.  As far as gender cues, when did not wearing makeup become a sign of depression or a manicure/pedicure become the best advice for self-care?  I recently was given this advice by a well-meaning person hoping to improve my appearance or attractiveness to myself and others.

It is possible I don’t put enough energy into being something beyond my true nature in order to impress or attract others, but I am the happiest I’ll ever be during these moments when I glimpse true nature of what it is to be human.

This is why I was thrilled to learn of this National Geographic program and read this article which compiles the latest science behind all of what I experience when I’m in nature and much of what I have researched on my own.

National Geographic – Your Brain on Nature

If you get a chance to watch the show, I highly recommend it.  Here’s one good reason why:

In a recent study, some 70 percent of U.S. mothers reported that they played outside every day as children; only 31 percent of their children do.

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Confiding in a tree may save your life.  Many adults won’t admit it, but nearly all of us have had an experience with a tree or an animal or other element in nature that rocked our world at some point in our life.  All spiritual traditions started with at least a few days in the wilderness.  I’m glad I know where to go if I want to remember.

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My New Year IPP (Inner Peace Plan)

 “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.”  ~  Henry David Thoreau
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We all may have differences in what gives us a feeling of freedom, sense of spaciousness, experience of joy.

To that end, my Inner Peace Plan for the New Year is to:

  • Jump into freezing water on a below-freezing day to test the theory I’m awake and alive (Polar Plunge) before heading back to the desk to cover for a colleague’s vacation because I can’t turn down an opportunity to earn money.
  • Focus on what allows me to experience greatest joy.
  • Lean into a deep sense that my greatest joy, freedom and spaciousness are experienced both in meditation alone and during time in nature away from other humans, rather than try to suppress this as “abnormal” or a personal “failure.”  Some day I will succeed at funding that long walk, my own vision quest and best therapy:  Pacific Crest Trail or traversing my state’s or my country’s width on foot, even if not during 2016.
  • Begin this week a 6-month full marathon training schedule to provide structure to get off my boot and by June complete my own 26-mile walk.  Or maybe 28 or 30 miles since not part of a sanctioned event.  Who knows?  Who cares?  No port-a-potties, no fueling stations.  Just me and the road and all the water I can carry and stash.
  • Embrace and remember to radically accept each moment with all perceived shortcomings and brilliance.
  • Continue to shift my felt sense from “I want to escape my body” to being okay existing in it.  My icky body sense does not seem dependent on fitness levels, weight on a scale, appearance in a mirror, or intimacy with another human, so I can only continue to observe its patterns and work with it.  It does disappear most often when I am outdoors.
  • Continue to explore opportunities to spend more time in nature without sacrificing ability to support self and child, in volunteer capacity to benefit the natural world and/or humans.
  • Continue moratorium on dating unless Healthy walks into my life.  Healthy passes me on the trail quite often but 99% of the time attached to a dog or a partner.  My immune system can’t hack the former and my ethics can’t hack the latter.
  • Remove myself from Facebook.
  • End my TV subscription.
  • Complete an unfinished knitting project.
  • Listen well to my daughter each and every day.
  • Meditate minimum of an hour a day, using this book by a teacher local to me as a year-long guide:

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The last time I consciously started a year with intention to work toward inner peace was a decade ago.  A year which showed me one near-death calamity after another, as if to say:  “Here’s how you work on inner peace.  As all hell breaks loose, demons are screaming at you, and everything is stripped of you, you will learn what to do.”

Here’s hoping 2016 can set a new precedent for an alternate way than total disaster to work consistently toward inner peace, healing, and happiness.

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I admire and am inspired by this individual’s journey to heal from more trauma than I can imagine into creating her own story and sharing her beautiful light.  (My room is adorned with Molly creations.  Maybe some of the light will point me toward my own).

Molly Hahn, Imagine the Possibilities

New Year’s Meditation Recipe

unnamed (7)http://www.buddhadoodles.com

I’m re-posting my 4th annual New Year’s Eve vegan tradition, should anyone wish to gather ingredients ahead.  I love how the labor of chopping the vegetables is a mindful process itself and can be done with friends, family or alone with a beautiful and tasty result.  One year after I discovered this recipe, I was introduced to the idea of meditating into the New Year, and this will be my 3rd time of bringing that gentle awareness with me into New Year’s Day.  Light some candles, plan to stay a while and relax, and it’s far better than any fireworks, in my book. ; )

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PERSIAN SWEET AND SOUR “RATATOUILLE”

INGREDIENTS
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 very large onions, sliced thickly
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 aubergine (eggplant), peeled and thickly sliced
2 large quinces, peeled, quartered and thickly sliced (or 2 large green apples)
2 medium courgettes (zucchini), diagonally sliced
3 medium carrots peeled and diagonally sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
16 dried apricot halves, coarsely chopped
12 prunes, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons Persian spice mix *
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon lime juice
250 ml tomato juice
2 tablespoons parsley, very finely chopped
NOTES:
Thanks to Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (the best cookbook ever!!)

*1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp ground cumin; she says you can add rose petals, but who has those lying around?  If you do, feel free.

We made this work in a 10 x 12 Pyrex pan, but a tall casserole dish could work in the round.

You start with a layer of onions and keep building layers of thinly sliced overlapping vegetables, sprinkling salt, pepper, and garlic between layers, ending with a layer of potatoes, and dried fruit on top.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine Persian spice mix, turmeric, and lime juice in a small bowl.  Add tomato juice and mix.

Put the pan over medium heat on stove top (or in oven) for 10 mins, and then pour tomato juice mixture over.  Cover pan with foil or lid and put in oven for 1-3/4 hours.  Let cool 10 mins, then sprinkle with parsley.  After it sits a bit, you can try carefully to tilt the pan and pour out most of the juices that have formed in the pan.  Then you can boil that down a bit in a saucepan to concentrate the veggie-fruity-spicy goodness and pour back over the entire dish.

That’s about 2 hours of meditation time with a chance for walking meditation to and from the oven.  You can plan it to be done near midnight, and the next day it tastes even better, so I always share it with folks New Year’s Day.  : )

Here’s hoping you all have a gentle transition to 2016.

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Success and Failure, Nothing is Wrong, and The Broken Mirror

SUCCESS AND FAILURE

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Part of the brilliance of the yin-yang symbol is that it holds not simply even Steven (who was Steven anyway?), 50/50 light-dark, male-female, sun-moon, apparent opposites.  It also includes understanding that each apparent opposite contains within it a seed of the other.

I have spent the past decade or so focused on healing myself and understanding myself.  I have thought my life and myself a failure in various ways.  It’s taken me a while to see the successes.  To that end, I sought many teachers, attended many workshops, participated in various groups focused on guiding a person toward reaching their personal ideal.  Some of these were with people who achieved what I call “Oprah status,” meaning they started with no name recognition but swam to the front of the millions of guides to appear everywhere (for at least 5 minutes) with the likes of Oprah.  I began to notice a pattern in the approach of these “helpers” who at one point began their teachings with nuggets of wisdom so fabulous and often hard won that they just had to share it with others to help us out of the darkness of our own lives into their brilliant light.  I do not mean to besmirch or belittle the genuine desire of many of these folks to help others, but here are patterns I observed on my journey:

  1. Everyone’s life can be reduced to a four-quadrant formula: emotional&physical health, spiritual connection, financial abundance, relationships to self&others.
  2. Coaches and guides are often skilled in communicating one or more of the four areas to help others reach their potential.
  3. They often start out by gifting their services until they recognize this is unsustainable in a military-fossil fuel-pharmaceutical culture, and they need to charge money for their wisdom.  And they need to serve wealthy clients if they are ever going to become wealthy themselves.  And often in that process, one or more areas of their life becomes less than balanced.
  4. Coaches and guides are under immense pressure to “Be All That.”  That is, to have every one of the four quadrants of their life in balance.  What I learned with a bit of digging or workshop conversation was that none of them were “All That.”  Each and every one had at least one area of their life they were struggling with, even as fame and fortune was theirs.  When called on the fact someone is a highly paid relationship guide who gained all their insights through their divorce and teaches about relational bliss while not in a fulfilling relationship themselves, clients are told, “Well, no one is perfect and you don’t need to have everything in order in your life to help someone.”  And apparently you don’t in order to charge someone thousands of dollars to attend your workshop.  (I avoided this one and only participated in the free intro until I learned what I did).
  5. As soon as name recognition reaches Oprah status, they may become more concerned with adding another diamond to their top-of-the-line clothing accessories than actually helping another human being out of the dark.  I will not mention names, but I’m pretty certain the path to Source is paved with peaty forest soil flanked by living trees, and not diamond eyeglasses.
  6. People in workshop groups would sometimes scrape together every last penny they had, up to a third of their annual income, because they were told over and over, “You get out what you pay in,” or “You’re actually paying yourself for this work.”  Then the workshop or group ended, and they were left with a handful of insights and a negative balance in their bank account.
  7. Most often guides and teachers I encountered were highly skilled in leading people in one specific area, for example visioning.  One of the biggest thrills followed by a severe depression I had was attending a six-week workshop with a supremely skilled visionary guide.  By the end of the six weeks, we were all literally drooling over our ideal life, so much so that we were living, breathing and smelling it in our minds.  Then the six weeks ended, and boom!  Our life circumstances were much like they were six weeks prior, with a few hundred dollars less in our pockets and no handbook on how to get from Present Sad Failure of Our Life to Magical Kingdom of Ideal Joy-Filled Life.
  8. Occasionally a guide provided a prescriptive detailed map that was nearly impossible for all to follow, like “Write down everything you want five years from now, then go backwards and write down everything you will do each week to get there.”  Nothing wrong with a five-year plan, but how many people will actually succeed at mapping out every day of the week for five years?
  9. My approach to inner peace with all this seeking has felt something like this little clip from Kung Fu Panda 2, which tells me I have made distinct progress since I am now referencing a Disney children’s movie as my source of higher truth.

 

NOTHING IS WRONG

I am fed up with searching for an end to the problem of dualism and have decided to believe nothing is wrong.  What a concept!  Can you imagine what would happen to the self-improvement industry sitting at $10 billion with projected 6.1% growth if there was nothing to improve?  I have also come to the realization through many hours of meditation that I have as many self-hating thoughts as I do self-loving thoughts.  Yin-yang.  Nature of the universe.

A Buddhist approach I have gleaned from many teachers is that the more a person focuses on nurturing the seeds of loving thoughts, the more the hating thoughts shrivel and dissipate.  I have about 50% success with this practice.  I do notice the more I focus on loving kindness, the more I glimpse a peaceful coexistence between the self-hate and self-love.

For wealth, the most helpful advice I received was based on simple math, “If you want to earn more money, figure out how many hours you need to work and/or change your prices.”  I raised my prices and lost clients.  Therefore, I set out to earn what I wanted to earn each month.  This has me working 10 to 12-hour days, six or seven days a week, and I could complain.  But hey, one way to look at it is I’m extremely fortunate to be able to set my own schedule and work as much as I want.  I took two days off over the holiday and felt I couldn’t work ever again. . . but I’m on it!

 

THE BROKEN MIRROR

None of us can see ourselves the way others see us.  Otherwise we’d be them.  But some of us need to readjust our mirrors.  That became clear to me when several people wrote references for funding I did not end up receiving for one path I attempted toward changing my life in ways I want it to change.

I intend to hold some of their phrases in front of my consciousness in 2016.

  • She is a gifted writer, organizer, and caring parent.
  • She is sharp, passionate about our natural world and able to articulate her insights into nature for others to enjoy.
  • She is a lifelong learner and has curiosity and passion for the outdoors.
  • I have watched with quiet admiration in regard to her ability to not only provide the financial and emotional support for her daughter, but also to find time for healing and growth.
  • She works incredibly hard to earn enough to support her daughter and herself.
  • I consider her generosity toward programs who have assisted her, whether by labor or fundraising, one of her most admirable traits.
  • She has always appeared to be extremely focused, knowledgeable and dedicated.
  • She appears to feed off the soothing and healing energy of the outdoors and respects all aspects of life.
  • You are quite amazing.

 

Infinite Flexibility of Dreams

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(luminarias from a New Mexico magazine, unknown source)

Until a week ago, I was seeing myself take off in a dream.  Going back to school full-time to prepare for a career where my heart feels called.  I saw myself collaborating in ecology lab groups, learning basic science I missed in my youth, Friday field trips, camping with a group to collect environmental samples.

I was going to smash the cycle of my work’s social isolation and physical deep freeze.

I had a complex 4-hour daily commute figured out to cost $250/month instead of $400 for an alternate route.  I was prepared to return to reliance on my community food bank to get through a month.  To accommodate bills above and beyond maximum financial aid, I was prepared to work up to 20 hours every single weekend for the next 2 years toward my dream.

And then I woke from the dream and came face to face with where my energies are needed in this moment and what moments I would miss if I took this path at this time.  My teen has some incredible opportunities heading her way that involve travel, both local and world, friendships, music, learning about herself.

Suddenly I realized that, yes, I could find others to help her get to and from activities, she would find her way with less day-to-day support from me, and yes, I could move forward in this way toward my new career.  But what would I miss?  I’d miss being able to help my kid’s jazz band fund raise over the next few years.  I’d miss being present at her concerts, her sports events (if they could be afforded at all), and being available to help with homework.  My car would be sitting in a park & ride while she would be taking driver’s ed, making driving practice scarce.  Most important, I would miss being present for her to hear about her day in a focused way because I’d be so focused on my own homework and all the busyness on my plate.

It became clear where I am is where I need to be right now, and the opportunity to be present for any young person is as high a calling as any.

A transcription client reminded me there are other ways to serve in environmental conservation, and I am doing some journalism transcription in this field.  I can also use my one day off work to volunteer in a new high school program for agriculture and ecosystems.  Infinite ways to serve the dream.

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DARKEST TIME BEFORE THE LIGHT – TIME TO LET GO

These days of dark December before the light returns with the Solstice are a perfect opportunity to let go of dreams and see what new ones arise.  To that end, I held a funeral for another dream, the dream of a loving partnership that was to happen in a certain way.  Dreams are wonderful things to have, but if we attach to specific outcomes and visions, we can suffer greatly.

The imagined partner that visited me years ago during my “dark night of the soul,” served a purpose in that moment to keep me around.  For all I know, this person visited me from “beyond” or represented a piece of myself instead of a person outside me that I needed to know and provide unconditional love.  Whatever the case, it became clear that holding onto a vision even remotely resembling the fairy tales of my childhood as a litmus test for what represents “healthy partnership,” was causing me great suffering.

I asked to release this imagined partner back to where it came from so that I could be at peace in my heart.  I wrote an obituary.  I had a funeral.  I prepared myself for grief and treated myself with the kindness I would following the passing of a real person.  Ate more protein, got more sleep, walked regularly, allowed for more time between activities.

There are many other things I need to let go, and this experiment is already bringing me greater ease.  I intend to continue.

***

May you use the darkness to your advantage and face what needs to be let go before the light returns.

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No Self

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See disclaimer below.

The concept of “no self” or “non self” is one of the three or four (depending on who you listen to) seals of dharma or streams of basic concepts arrived at in Buddhism.  One aspect can’t really be separated from the others, but I decided to attempt to articulate how I experience this and how it is helping me to work with my own little life (which, as luck would have it, is connected to all life forever).

When I was young, I had an experience that trained me to want to leave my body in the dust.  Over the years, I have learned this phenomenon can happen to anyone who has experienced significant trauma, people who take on society’s view of their bodies as inadequate objects needing to be constantly changed and improved (poll any room of ‘gorgeous by consensus’ models should you have an opportunity, and you’ll see this to an extreme), or people in various states of physical illness, disability or even spiritual awareness.

My experience with a temporary, several-year disability taught my mind that my body wasn’t a safe place to be.  “Just look how horrible and not trustworthy you are for doing this to us,” it seemed to be saying.  I’ve spent decades trying to reestablish some mind-to-body kindness and peace.  Revisiting the younger me through awareness of no-self is the best healing I’ve arrived at, because then I understand my body to be simply a body, not me and never will be, no matter what happens to it or what form it takes.

In fact, none of us alive can escape all that comes along with having a body.  We all reside in our vehicles, so the best we can do is accept it and learn to care for the vehicle we have.

After recognizing my greatest sense of freedom and joy comes from connection to the natural world, I started to wonder, what is the difference I experience in those moments compared to the moments when I am not surrounded by what I consider “nature”?  The answer is an all-encompassing experience of “no self” or, as Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh so beautifully describes it, “inter-being.”

What happens to me on a walk through the woods or outside any ceiling and four walls is a profound shift in awareness of interconnection with all, complete acceptance and equality with every aspect of life and element outside of me.  Whatever sense of “self” I have disappears and I am free.  The particles of my body and what I perceive as “me” are deeply connected to the other particles all contributing to the beauty and the party of existence.

Maybe it is no coincidence that the Buddha spent a lot of time sitting under trees.

Recently I have been working on bringing my awareness of the experience I have amid “nature” indoors.  In reality, there should be no line drawn.  All matter that makes up our “indoors,” even plastics and electric wires are harvested from the natural world and intimately connected.

Even parenting when viewed from awareness of no-self leads me to a deeper appreciation that I have been entrusted to support and care for another human being in this lifetime.  This can be a fabulous way to experience continuity beyond self.

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Disclaimer:  I hesitate to identify myself as Buddhist.  I know only a few words of Sanskrit and am not a member of an “official” sangha or Buddhist community.  Buddhist-leaning comes closest to describe whatever I understand about the nature of life through “trickle down dharma” gleaned from many books, people, and lived experience, and I do daily practices (meditation and mindfulness) that are central to Buddhism.  I don’t know what I am, beyond a human being as confused as the next one, attempting to alleviate some confusion.