Saturday, October 27, 2012

shambhala adventure, part two

Avondale Park

Level V of Shambhala's Heart of Warriorship series is titled "Open Sky" and is described as: "Communicating with the world gently and fearlessly, our awareness is sharpened and we find the open clear sky of mind — a delightful source of wisdom and uplifted energy. We trust our nature enough to let go into the present moment." While I loved the weekend, I will admit that I found this pure awareness form of meditation a challenge.

On the other hand, I feel like I do know this open state of being and spend a lot of time in it at work at the reference desk. My experience in working with the public is that the more open and in the moment and free from preconceptions I am (and the better sense of play and humor I have), the more I can connect and help my patrons with their various needs. I especially love the wide range of humanity I get to serve, which truly brings out the best in me, so when we were chatting in the discussion group about our challenges with the meditation I mentioned my experience at work and playfully said, "Bring me a homeless person!"

We broke for lunch and I headed over to V. Richards where I got this amazing meat and three trio of salads:

V. Richards' meat & three salads

Yes, that is a salad of chunks of avocado, tomato, cilantro, and feta. Needless to say, amazing!! I'd been tipped off about a beautiful park in the area, Avondale Park, so I wandered over to enjoy my salad and take in the gorgeous day. The weather was perfect - bright blue sky and sunshine with a refreshing mild breeze. Since I wasn't familiar with the park, which is in an urban area, I found a table in an area with plenty of other people wandering about, right next to a busy play area.

I dug into my delicious salads, savoring the food, the beautiful day, and the sounds of happy families at play. And that's when my morning "wish" came true, in the form of a homeless man named Moses, who came and sat at my picnic table with me. We chatted about the lovely day and he told me about the history of the park, which once housed a zoo. We talked about the challenges of living in the park and being homeless. I could tell that the people around me were initially a little concerned about me, which I appreciated, but Moses didn't give off any kind of dangerous vibe and while I was attentive to him and my surroundings I felt very comfortable.

In the course of our conversation, we laughed about this and that, which seemed to put people at ease. And it was so helpful to really consciously be in that state of openness that I seem to find so easy among my homeless friends - they do an amazing job at opening my mind and heart. I was able to see how I might try to have that same interest and curiosity and attentiveness about my own mind and awareness, which I was able to take into my practice that afternoon.

It truly was a gift to get that time with Moses, plus he kindly took my leftovers from my oversize lunch off my hands (in addition to a little money for some food of his own). As fall sets in, he is definitely in my prayers - his is not an easy life.

The ceremony that afternoon was beautiful and so heartfelt. I'm very grateful to have fallen in with the perfect group to finish up these last two levels with. And now I even have a pin to prove it! For Kath's benefit, you can see it here on my wall of favorite things, under the Lojong slogan card: "Be grateful to everyone." And I am.

favorite things

Saturday, October 20, 2012

shambhala adventure

fan flower

I'm posting this from the road in Birmingham, AL, where I'm finishing up Shambhala Training's Heart of Warriorship. This five-weekend series of meditation workshops is often completed in a year or two, depending on one's proximity to a Shambhala center, but I started in 2006, so it feels pretty amazing to actually be this close to "graduating".

I've wondered lately what's brought me back to Shambhala, after having been away for about five years. And honestly, it's out of love and respect for the man who founded this tradition and poured so much of himself into creating this very series of weekend workshops: dear, brilliant, infuriating Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

When I took the Bodhisattva Vow in 2007, I told the teacher giving the vow that I would be finishing the Heart of Warriorship. It has always weighed on me that I haven't done so, mostly because of the deep love and debt I feel to Chogyam Trungpa. It is especially meaningful to me that when he was alive other senior teachers led Levels I-IV, but he led Level V. In fact, the book The Great Eastern Sun is comprised of his talks for the various Level V groups he instructed. So this is for you, you amazing holy rascal! Thank you for everything you did in your lifetime that continues to resonate and help us to create an enlightened society. I will do my best to live up to it.

"The Education of the Warrior"
by Chogyam Trungpa

That mind of fearfulness
Should be put in the cradle of loving-kindness
And suckled with the profound and brilliant milk
Of eternal doubtlessness.
In the cool shade of fearlessness,
Fan it with the fan of joy and happiness.
When it grows older,
With various displays of phenomena,
Lead it to the self-existing playground.
When it grows older still,
In order to promote the primordial confidence,
Lead it to the archery range of the warriors.
When it grows older still,
To awaken primordial self-nature,
Let it see the society of men
Which possesses beauty and dignity.
Then the fearful mind
Can change into the warrior's mind,
And that eternally youthful confidence
Can expand into space without beginning or end.
At that point it sees the Great Eastern Sun.

fall reflection

beautiful birmingham shrine room


Friday, October 12, 2012

buck adventure

Buck Brannaman clinic

Way back in early February, I signed up to be a spectator at a Buck Brannaman Horsemanship clinic near Huntsville, AL today. This may seem to be a little out of character, but then again I did go to a couple of heavy metal concerts this year, so clearly I'm open to trying new things in 2012. But actually, having seen the beautiful documentary, Buck, I felt that his message of kinship with one's horse is completely applicable to many other areas of one's life, including one's relationship with other people and with one's own mind. In other words, horse whispering skills extend far beyond horses.

The initial weather forecast for Friday called for beautiful clear skies, but as the week progressed it looked like Nashville would get some early morning showers, so I wasn't that surprised when I was awakened around 3 this morning by thunder and lightening. However, when the rain was still heavy at 4:30 I started getting nervous. Looking at the daily forecast for Huntsville, the prediction was still for decent weather, but it seemed to me that the storm I could see on the radar map was heading straight for it. Undeterred, I headed out at 6AM, in the dark and rain.

The weather made for a somewhat hair-raising drive out of Nashville, but once the sun came up and traffic thinned out, it felt great to be on the road, off on an adventure and game for whatever would happen. Plus I had the delightful audiobook company of Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez reading their memoir, Along the Way.

It was still raining when I arrived at Harvest Farms, where the event was being held. As I pulled onto the soggy field to park my car, I got stuck in the mud a couple of times, which left a little nagging feeling in the back of my mind about potential trouble leaving this afternoon. While we were initially directed to a dry barn where several picnic tables were set up, word came that Buck was down on the field and would be holding the morning session outside, in the hope that the rain would be breaking up soon.

Luckily I had my umbrella with me, which was much more than many of the other spectators had. I created a little zone of dryness, snuggled up in my chair purchased especially for the occasion and thankfully incredibly simple to set up, as I was taking it out of its bag for the first time. I loved hearing what Buck had to say to the riders about the importance of creating boundaries for the horse to stay balanced within. He said that if a horse can find this sense of balance, they are centered and feel relieved and content. I also enjoyed his description of working with a horse with a lot of energy. The rider wouldn't want to just exhaust the horse, but should put that energy to good use, to see the energy as a gift, not the enemy. All of this seemed very relevant to how I could work with my mind in my meditation practice.

I'm pretty used to feeling like an outsider at many of the events I attend. This summer I was on an India kick after having seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and went to what I thought was a talk by Amma Sri Karunamayi that turned out to be a rather lengthy blessing ceremony, attended mainly by people dressed all in white. Even at the Level IV Shambhala training session in Birmingham, I was referred to as "the new girl." I don't really mind it. I was the new girl, the outsider, so often growing up. And deep in my heart, I really do feel very connected to all of humanity. But I knew today I was going to be out of my element once again.

So I know I came off a little funny when the woman sitting next to me asked me something about one of the terms Buck was using and I said flat-out that I didn't know anything about horses. My directness may have even come off as somewhat unfriendly and defensive. So when she seemed almost offended, I realized I needed to allow myself to be a little vulnerable and I said I felt that I was really there for my meditation practice. And right there, the deep connection opened right up. Practically with tears in her eyes, she said that when she'd first learned about horse whispering techniques she realized what a better mother she could have been, how she could have been present with her children in a different kind of way. Instead of getting laughed at, I was welcomed into a moment of shared understanding and humanity.

After a couple of hours I felt like I'd gotten what I wanted out of the experience. It didn't seem like the rain was going to let up and I was getting increasingly nervous about getting my car out of the soggy field. And my premonition was quite accurate, unfortunately. But once again, I was treated kindly by the other attendees and a small group pushed my car out, laughing as they were splattered with mud, encouraging me out of the lot and away. "Don't stop!" they cried, and other than making a quick visit to a highway rest area, I didn't, until I arrived at the welcome home port of Lemongrass Sushi and once again felt that love really is all around.

yummy panang curry

Monday, October 8, 2012

artober adventure

poodle book

Here in Nashville October is Artober and boy, did it take over our weekend! Between the wonderful activities of Handmade & Bound and the Soundcrawl, plus an informational session for NaNoWriMo that I needed to go in to work to help host and a record show for Rodg, this was not the usual hanging out at home, spacing out weekend. Very nourishing for the soul, but I think it's still going to take these homebodies some time to recover...