Building community in a changing world

March 3, 2021

Time Management & Mindfulness

I learn a lot about technology from Steve Dotto and his “DottoTech” site. Lately, he’s shared his wisdom over a 4-part webinar series devoted to explaining how to use tech tools for time management. Flow state, time audits and focusing. The “Pomodoro” technique.

Interesting stuff, but I’m a little scared to even attempt to improve my level of organization because I’m a tad OCD. I have my “to-do” list on paper and I always beat expectations. Every day. So I worry that by becoming more organized, I will actually spend more time working, not less. I’m not someone who needs that.

Then again, it would be good to track how I spend my time as that’s the definition of mindfulness. Conscious of what I do, day after day. So I’m going to give the pomodoro a try for a week and see if I improve my work lifestyle. Or if I get too wrapped up in the stats…

February 23, 2021

A Return to Normalcy: What Will You Do?

As people I know get vaccinated, I can feel that day coming when I join the ranks. Could still be a few months, but it’s coming. I know.

So I’m trying to take some time to ponder the lessons I’ve learned during the pandemic. Actually draft up a list of “Top Ten” things I’ll miss about it. I’ll share that list soon enough. But one thing I know will be on that list is having the time – making the time – to read more of the writings of others. Learn about topics I’ve cared little about. Appreciate how I feel about certain things and stay attuned to those feelings. [Um, do more of the things you like – and less of the latter.]

One set of writings I’ve enjoyed are the musings of a daughter of a friend. I’m just loving the tidbits, the ramblings, shared by Abby Seethoff. In this one entitled “Juan Leyenda,” Abby covers a wide range of ground – as always – and here’s how she winds up this particular note:

A hundred years ago Warren G. Harding won the United States presidential election with the slogan “Return to normalcy.” These words promised a balm in the aftermath of WWI. Like Gambuto, I urge you to beware the temptation of “normalcy,” to interrogate the entire standard of “normal.” Is it “normal” for the richest country in the world to still lack a nationwide form of paid family leave? If “normal” means that Native women make 57 cents on the dollar compared to white men, do we want to go back? (This year’s Equal Pay Day took place on March 31; it’s not until August 13 for Black women, October 1 for Native women and October 29 for Latin@ women.)

So here are some ways to challenge a supposed “return to normalcy”:

If you want to distribute your money (IRS check or otherwise)—

Save lives by donating to groups that bail people out of jail; consider Taraji P. Henson’s foundation, which has responded to coronavirus by offering five sessions of free virtual therapy for black people who sign up; or invest in local artists and regional systems of production (such as the Northern California Fibershed Cooperative.)

If you want to use your words—

Call your representatives this week and ask that the phase four COVID-19 response package include funding to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault (as well as the people who serve them). More information/scripts here.

You can also volunteer to call voters in your community’s get-out-the-vote campaign(s) and/or write letters to the editor (the word count is typically quite small) that call into question continued construction on Keystone XL, if you live in Montana, or other fossil fuel shenanigans, if you reside in another state.

If you want to share health—

Donate blood, if your health and vulnerability permit. And, it hopefully goes without saying, wear your mask, wash your hands, hold off on hosting parties, etc.

If you want to educate yourself—

Sign up for this workshop hosted by the Highlander Research and Education Center about “Becoming a Middle Class Traitor” (takes place tomorrow, Monday, May 18) and/or listen to Christy Harrison’s podcast Food Psych.

If you need to take care of yourself—

Turn off your phone, the Wi-Fi, or both. Take naps. Stretch your hips and hamstrings.

Remember: you cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good you can do.

Until next time,


February 17, 2021

What Death Can Teach Us About Life…

Ever since I spent a weekend up at the Omega Institute about 5 years ago now, watching Pema Chodron in action talk about death, I have been piqued by the stories I hear about those that receive a hard medical diagnosis and how sometimes that feels like a “wake-up call.” Fortunately, I haven’t had to face that type of hardship.

But I have read a few books about death, and recently learned about “The Five Invitations” authored by Frank Ostaseski. As noted in this book review, the five invitations include:

1. Don’t wait.
2. Welcome everything, push away nothing.
3. Bring your whole self to the experience.
4. Find a place to rest in the middle of things.
5. Cultivate don’t know mind.

These surely fit into everything I’ve been learning about mindfulness and I can’t wait to read the book…

February 10, 2021

Your Character Becomes Your Destiny…

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

A bunch of folks have been thought to have been the first to express this chain of thought. Who first said these words doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take them to heart. I love when Jonathan Foust reminds us of this mantra…

February 5, 2021

Courage to Choose Kindness

I’m enjoying a 30-day “intentions” sangha right now. And on one of our Zoom calls, a friend mentioned “The Courage to Be” by Paul Tillich, a book that describes the dilemma of modern man and points a way to the conquest of the problem of anxiety.

Well, when I googled the “Courage to Be,” I stumbled upon this blog by Donna Cameron entitled “Do You Have the Courage to Choose Kindness?” It’s great stuff – so thought I would share an excerpt:

Being kind is making eye-contact, saying something beyond the superficial to another person, seeking connection. It’s accepting them without judgment and going out of your way to offer assistance or to brighten someone’s day.

Being kind also means taking a risk. Perhaps your effort will be misinterpreted; maybe your kindness will be rejected. Maybe you’ll appear clumsy or awkward. You could be embarrassed. Kindness makes us feel vulnerable — and that’s not a feeling many of us seek out.

Above all, kindness asks us to extend ourselves — to reach out, to be exposed, to open ourselves to ridicule, and to offer who we are to another human without any guarantee that they will like us, accept us, or offer themselves in return. That takes courage.

January 27, 2021

Am I Living My Life Fully Right Now?

One of my favorite self-care authors is Stephen Cope. All of his books are so easy to understand. I recently was re-reading “The Great Work of Your Life” – and the opening chapters really spoke to me. About how many as they get older get concerned that they’ve lived too safe a life – that they have not risked enough to find their true calling.

Stephen talks about those that bring forth what is within them. Those that leap out of bed in the morning to embrace the day. People with their “soul awake.” He carefully distinguishes that those who are on their path because of what they are doing. That it’s not all about simply “being” – a common refrain in the mindfulness community. He outlines how many of us are paralyzed by doubt, by inaction. And that our true calling often is right before our eyes, that we just haven’t taken the time to recognize it, to name it. The denial of dharma.

This is all covered just by the book’s introduction & first chapter. Stephen does a great job of weaving in anecdotes of folks he has met at his Institute at Kripalu – and the teachings of Krishna & Arjuno from the “Bhagavad Gita”…

January 22, 2021

Say Hello to Yourself?

This one might seem a little silly. But maybe it’s okay if it is? It’s essentially talking to yourself. Except you’re not doing it out loud. It was surprising, but this mental exercise truly does work for me.

Fortunately, this can be short & sweet. And whatever you need it to be. It could be a pep talk. It could be words of self-compassion. Maybe it’s simply acknowledgment that you exist. This exercise should shut down your monkey mind & get yourself in a positive frame of mind. You can win an extra bonus if you talk to your “future self” in addition to the “now you.” Or even better, the future you can talk to the present self.

Here’s an example of how this would look: First you sit comfortably, closing your eyes and just breathing for a minute. Then start this type of thought process – “Hi Broc. I see you. You’re doing good. Feeling confident & calm. Feeling so relaxed now. I love you Broc.” Now you switch over to future self – six months in the future – talking to the present you: “I’m so proud of you Broc. For the past six months, you’ve accomplished so much. You’re remained calm when you needed to be. You handled that situation beautifully. You’re just a wonderful person.” Yep, I know it sounds crazy. But maybe give it a go and see how you feel…

January 13, 2021

Your Path Is What You Can’t Not Do

Like all of Jonathan Foust’s dharma talks, you can take away some real practice pointers about how to approach your life. This talk entitled “Your Next Step” is full of them. Here are a few to consider:

– Jonathan talks about someone who works in hospice & how many people on their deathbed discuss their regrets. The hospice worker’s motto becomes “your path is what you can’t not do.” Meaning that you have the freedom to do whatever you want essentially unless you have a financial or physical restraint. Be open-minded to what draws you.

– He discusses Jordan Peele making the film “Get Out” – and how decisions were made based on the principle of “follow the fun.” I love that – follow the fun!

– A lot of talk about the “pathless path.” Finding your path is your path. Be a light unto yourself (you need to be happy, healthy in order to best be of service to others). All you need is right now – living in the moment. The last 11 minutes of the dharma talk are variations on that theme…

January 10, 2021

Questioning Your Beliefs: The Power of “Not Knowing”

In this podcast about “not knowing as a spiritual practice,” Jonathan Foust explains how questioning beliefs can be  powerful. That “not knowing” can be a good thing. Is something that appears to be good news really good news from a long-term perspective? Or is it bad news? Who knows in the long run.

Jonathan explains how questioning a long-held belief about yourself is a “glimpse” practice. Just a short window, a brief sense, that what you think is true might actually not be true can create a shift. An awakening that one of your foundational beliefs perhaps is not true. That might well allow anxiety to dissipate. You might realize that a long-held belief has been living on the inside in a way that is harmful to you.

That when you tell yourself that familiar story, you’re able to recognize the story for what it is. “Wait a minute, I’ve encountered this story before – but I now see that I don’t have to believe. That I don’t need to preserve the notion that ‘I’m right.’” Powerful indeed.

Jonathan parses the four questions that you might consider asking yourself – these are questions that Byron Katie espouses – as a way to heal:

Start with bringing up – dwelling upon – something that you’re believing, a story that you’ve been telling yourself. In other words, think of something that you’ve been complaining about in your mind. Notice how crystalline you can you make that belief. Now ponder these 4 questions:

1. Is it true?
2. Do you absolutely know it to be true? You’re looking for the crack in the wall.
3. How do you react when you believe in that thought? How does it feel like on the inside? How does your nervous system hold it? Where do you feel it? This is a somatic inquiry. What “emotional” word comes to mind when you think of that belief? Consider how old that belief feels. Can you hold that in tenderness? How does it want you to be with it right now?
4. Who are you without that belief? Often, you might get a “feeling free” sense – this is the shift…

December 28, 2020

Saying Goodbye to This Year With Gratitude

I’ll wrap up this year with an excerpt from this wonderful blog by Anna Johns, one of the many wonderful people I’ve met this past year. Here’s the intro from Anna’s story of gratitude:

In the mid-1970s, the girls of the Bethel Girls Orphanage in a remote village in the Indian state of Kerala, gathered in our Sunday-best to remember the generosity of American families for our Christmas. We had a plastic Christmas tree with ornaments from America, including my favorite: holly leaves with red berries. I had no idea these trees were real until I came to America. Our home in northern Virginia has one holly tree in front and one at the back of our house. I am grateful to these two trees for keeping me grounded and not letting a day go by without remembering how lucky I am to have gone from an orphanage in India to America–the land we all dreamed of–against all odds, coming from the family and background that I had.

Americans sent us a variety of chocolate (stores only had two types of candy that I only saw on my daily walk to school), colorful hair clips shaped like flowers or birds (we only had bobby pins) and once, a beautiful yellow dress with faux-pearl buttons. We celebrated America’s kindness and generosity annually—those are my earliest memories of practicing gratitude.

That special day we forgot about our impoverished existence, which started with a breakfast of plain cornmeal porridge, made from meal in sacks with an American flag on them. After traveling from the U. S. the meal was full of tiny black bugs, which gave it a bitter taste but we picked them out and devoured the porridge.

During mango season I would skip the porridge and wait under the mango tree for a ripe, juicy mango to fall. You have to be fast, because there were 199 other hungry girls with the same breakfast plan. But on that special day in December, I gazed at the beautiful shiny objects in my hands. Even the painful, infected sores from the lice in my hair that plagued me didn’t matter; someone cared about me enough to send these awesome things. Now, lucky enough to be living in America, I have to say, thank you America for everything.