bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

fencing lesson

I try so hard to be a cool cucumber when dealing with confrontation, but this morning I was all hot pepper! I called Reliable Fence of Woburn to contest a $250 charge for a 5 minute quick-fix on a gate hinge in my front yard. The guy who answered the phone over-talked me, didn’t listen, acted evasive, and was downright insistent on proving me wrong. He offered no solutions, service, or understanding. I boldly let him know what I thought of his interpersonal and customer service skills and somehow instead of him apologizing for swindling me, I was apologizing to him for raising my voice.

I try to share positive posts on BUBs, so I was hesitant to write about this episode, but isn’t this the sort of crap we deal with every day? Often times when we interact with frustrating service issues, we feel powerless. We’re paying for something and we expect that our payment entitles us to a perfectly balanced transaction. “Here’s our hard-earned money, now you give us what we want.” When perfect balance is not achieved, sometimes we can let it go; other times we become infuriated.

We project our expectations onto people who aren’t capable of or have no interest in fulfilling them. Maybe it’s a professional interaction and we’re the disappointed customer. Or maybe it’s something more personal – we’re the offended friend, the betrayed lover, or the exasperated parent.

All of these contentious feelings are happening because we’ve exposed ourselves to them through human experience, through vulnerability. We voluntarily sign up for these relationships and we trust that we will be valued. When we feel undervalued, like we’ve been taken for granted or been taken advantage of, we can either harden or soften with the blow.

Every time we harden, we make it more difficult for higher thinking to fully express itself. Softness allows more flexibility, more space for consciousness to flow. This morning I hardened. But next time I’ll work on remaining soft. I will not engage. I will maintain composure. I will breathe when I’m ready to blow. I will be patient, and wait to speak to the person who better matches my energy vibration. Good advice for dealing with a bullish fence guy, or a challenging relationship.

There is nothing more frustrating than the feeling unheard or misunderstood. This morning’s tiff was a good lesson for me, and I’m grateful to the guy at Reliable for reminding me that I have no control over the way other people receive me. I have no control over the way other people behave. I have no power to change anyone’s mind. And it’s not his fault I got frustrated; it’s mine, because I allowed him to get under my skin.

Oh, and I can’t forget the most obvious lesson: When multiple online reviewers warn you that a company is sketchy and has sh*tty customer service, believe them.

From mine to yours,
Vanessa

LifeLesson

the revelations hidden in life lessons

Talking about revelation in today’s video blog – wisdom vs. knowledge, and how we can use mindful awareness while experiencing lessons to force revelation and make life a little easier. The main point being, if we can be mindful while the shtuff hits the fan, we have opportunity to shift trajectory in an empowering way. Better yet, through meditation and Self work, we can accelerate the learning process and spare ourselves of future pain and seemingly chronic dis-ease. Learn it today or live it tomorrow.

Healing is uncomfortable, especially in the first few weeks and months of effort.  This is why we call it Self *work*.  But hold tight, because eventually the pendulum will resume its steady tick-tock and wholesomeness will be the new normal.  I’m writing this to you AND to me!  Wish me luck with this whole eating transition!

If you can’t see the video in your inbox browser, click on the blog to view:  www.bringingupbuddhas.com.
From mine to yours,
Vanessa

Kindness4Kids

hearts on fire

I’m on day #8 of the flu.  The nice thing about day #8 is that my head is finally clear enough to read, so I spent last night pouring over magazines and books.  Just before bedtime, I read The Secret of the 5 Powers, a comic book featuring Thich Nhat Hanh.  The comic touches on the actions of two monks, Thich Quang Duc and Nhat Chi Mai, who practiced self immolation (burning oneself to death), during the Vietnam War.

Don’t ask me why I’m reading this stuff after coughing my lungs up for a week, but I learned something totally fascinating and couldn’t wait to share on BUBs this morning.  You may or may not know this already, but for whatever reason, I’d never learned what happened in the aftermath of the burning expressions in 1963.  This is not folklore.  This is true.

On June 20, after six hours of cremation, all of Thay Quang Duc’s body had become ash, except his heart, which was still dark reddish-brown and intact.  After a second cremation, at 40,000 degrees Celsius, his heart remained exactly the same shape, although an even darker color.

huyenquangquangduc

Miraculous.

Please feel free to share reactions in the comments below or link your own blog post to this page.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

take a break from your life!

Sometimes we get so caught up in caring for others or responding to unplanned interruptions that we struggle to manage our own needs and desires. By asking others for help, we can create space for some much needed *alone time* and allow the flow of inspired action!

are you a spiritual hypochondriac?

Please tell me I’m not alone in this!  Click on the link to watch this quick video and please strike up a conversation in the comments below!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

you and me and a donut makes three

There’s nothing like a donut to bring two people together.

I brought my truck in for a long overdue oil change yesterday.  My five year old son came with me and we decided the one hour wait would be a perfect opportunity to visit the donut shop next door.  We hustled in from the cold and ordered up a couple of hot chocolates and sweet treats.

I invited my little man to choose our table and he pointed toward a two-top in the far corner.  The space felt noticeably peaceful.  Nearby three old men sat reading the paper, enjoying a warm ray of sunlight shining through the floor-to-ceiling windows.  We smiled at them as we passed and I followed my son to the corner, listening to the quick, rhythmic shoosh-shoosh-shoosh of his snow pants he walked through the quiet shop.

We sat down and got cozy, shaking off our jackets and releasing shocks of staticy hair from under our hats, then reached for our goodies.  I unwrapped my go-to flavor, Boston Cream, and he slowly revealed own his favorite, Strawberry Sprinkled.  He laid the pink donut on a napkin and sipped his cocoa, “Too hot!”  I peeled off the cap and poured in a little more milk.  He tried it again.  “Mmmmm.  ‘S good.”

“What happened in school today, buddy?”

No answer.

“Did you learn anything new?”

Shrug.

He was not interested in conversation.  He pushed his cocoa aside and turned his focus on the awaiting spongey delight.  I decided to stop talking and simply enjoy the sight of my little guy wholly engaging in an exquisite eating meditation.

With deep concentration he examined his snack on the table.  He picked it up and sunk his teeth in.  When a tiny red jimmy toppled onto his napkin, he pinched it between his thumb and forefinger and meticulously nestled it back into the icing.  He chewed and paused and chewed some more.  He lifted the donut high above his head with one hand, clearly in awe of its deliciousness.  He held it up to me as if to say, Look, Mamma, isn’t it beautiful?  But he didn’t utter a word.  He just returned his full awareness to the slow and methodical extinction of one pink donut.  He carefully selected which portion to bite, mindful to save the sweetest bit for last.  He chewed and relished and appreciated the donut so entirely, I could only imagine that for him, in those moments, not one other thing existed in the whole wide world.

The last bite was upon him.  He popped it into his mouth, chewed for a long while, swallowed, then tossed his head back in the chair, staring at the ceiling, seemingly reconciling the experience.

I paused to take in the warm hush of the donut shop.  And I realized that silence is a pretty amazing way to communicate.

I smiled then laughed out loud.  I told him I loved him.

“I love you, too, Mamma,” he finally responded.

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Managing the Cold Mindfully

The mountain is so cold my son's head is covered in a layer of frost, but he's fearlessly reveling in the weather regardless.

The mountain is so cold my son’s head is covered in a layer of frost, but he’s fearlessly reveling in the weather regardless.  He doesn’t even have a scarf on!  Brrrrr!!!!!!

Close that door, it’s freezing out! has been the most often heard command in my house this week.  It has edged out, No candy canes before dinner!, Don’t throw ice at your sister!, and even the recurrent Put-on-your-snow-boots-we’re-gonna-be-late!!!!!

Welcome to winter in New England – five plus months of chattering teeth and cracked lips, drippy noses and numb fingertips.  The cold here is called biting for a good reason.  The wind has teeth and its nips can hurt.

This morning I took a quick drive downtown to run errands, nestled in my car’s cozy seat warmers.  I parallel parked and pushed the door open, gasping as a frigid shock of air flooded my car.  Heaving myself carefully onto the slippery pavement, I skated to the curb, searching for salty spots to plant my feet.

Making my way to the bank, I skidded over the brick sidewalk, involuntarily tightening my lower back muscles with a shiver and tremble, reflexively recoiling from the cold, adjusting my balance to stay upright while defending a blast of wind.  I hustled into the bank and scuffed the salt off my boots, relishing a few minutes of warm reprieve before heading back into the bluster.

As I walked out the door and immediately went stiff, I realized I was engaging in an internal battle against the cold – clenching my body so much my back felt achy.  The discomfort triggered my mindfulness practice.  I don’t need this discomfort.  It’s only here to tell me something.  And I’m listening carefully to what it’s saying. 

I took a deep breath, inhaling frigid air into my warm lungs, releasing it as steam through my mouth.  Warm steam.  I could produce warmth.  I relaxed my tense muscles and took a few steps, continuing to walk that way until I noticed my head and neck shrinking back between my shrugging shoulders and my lower back aching once again.  Then once again I mindfully melted the contraction and returned to the posture of a cold hardy New Englander.  Thich Nhat Hanh would’ve been so proud of me.

This time I wanted to hold onto the posture, so I envisioned warm blood flowing freely through my body, heating up my skin and keeping my muscles loose.  Cold isn’t bad.  It’s just another way of being.  Be comfortable, I thought over and over.  I considered my young children who dive into the snow hatless and spend hours digging out forts from the plowed white heaps along the driveway.  Why is it they don’t seem to battle the freezing cold like adults do?  Maybe it’s because joy trumps discomfort.  They’re not surviving the storm; they’re reveling in it.

I walked with this thought for a block or so, doing my best to fill up on joy, when another blast of wind surged, stopping me in my tracks.  My head lowered, my watery eyes squeezed shut, my hands plunged deeper into my coat pockets.  Be one with cold, be joyful in the cold, I urged myself, this time out loud.  I looked up and caught the eye of another soul braving the single digit temps.  “Brace yourself,” he warned.  “The Almanac calls for a harsh winter.”  I smiled and tried to feel thankful for all of the opportunities I’ll have to practice mindful freezing this year.

I climbed back into my car, the radio tuned to Christmas music.  “I really can’t stay…  Baby, it’s cold outside.”  You can say that again.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

This article was originally published by Vanessa Gobes on Intent.com and has subsequently appeared in Vanessa’s column “Mine to Yours” in The Winchester Star.

putting our animals to sleep: is it really an act of compassion?

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This is Rufus “talking” to me at the hospital. Maybe you can hear him, too. He’s beautiful, isn’t he?

Rufus has been moody lately.  I attributed his swings to the new gal in the house – a rescue pup from Tennessee.  Her name is Lolly but we affectionately call her “the rat.”  She’s a dump puppy – predominantly rat terrier, we believe, with a sprinkle of spaniel that makes her ears flop down and her hair stick up.  She’s sassy and playful.  Her favorite activity is growling viciously while hanging off Rufus’ beard by her clenched teeth.  If a thought bubble could magically appear above his head it would say something like, Girl, I’m too old for this.  Go play in traffic.  

But Rufus is too sweet.  When he’s napping in his bed, he simply looks the other way when Lolly wedges her tiny body next to his.  When she scarfs his food, he shuffles back quietly and seeks me out for a snuggle.  When she howls at the squirrels on the fence, he lets her bark be the one that scares them away.  He’s just a great animal.

A wheaten terrier, Rufus is predisposed kidney problems.  At age 8 this predisposition became his reality.  He hasn’t been moody because of his new little sister.  He’s become moody because he’s in kidney failure – and apparently has been for some time.

I discovered the severity of his illness at the vet last month (on my birthday no less).  I climbed into bed that night feeling distraught about what I’d learned that day.  I meditated for a little while, creating a tiny angel version of myself that hovered above my head.  Then I created a tiny angel version of Rufus that hovered above his head.  And we talked for a little while.  What do you want me to do, buddy?  my angel asked.  Let me go, his angel replied.  I tried to make his angel say something different, something like, Fight for me!  I can survive this!  I want to live!  But that’s not what happened.  Let me go, was his reply.  Let me go.  That was it.  There was no denying.

Being the creative child of the Universe I am, I wondered if I could help him through meditation.  Could I do enough Reiki on him to repair his kidney damage and save his life?  Could I channel my inner Christ light and heal him with my mental fortitude?  What if I tried and failed?  Would I lose confidence in the strength of my spirit?  What if I tried and succeeded?  What difference would it make?  And then I remembered what Roof’s little angel guy told me.  Let me go.

The next day was grey in every sense of the word.  My schedule was as messy as the weather.  My emotions were even messier.  I made some calendar adjustments, hired a babysitter, and trucked my boy through sideways rain to the animal hospital where we spent the entire day.  It went sort of like this:  ultrasound, consultation, tears, prognosis, tears, privacy, tears, $530 bill, tears.

The full story?  The radiologist advised me to keep Roof in the hospital for the weekend.  He was incredibly dehydrated and she wanted to flush his kidneys with fluid.  The idea made me uncomfortable, but as the doctor told me emphatically what was best for Rufus, that intimate angel-to-angel conversation from the night before seemed a little woo woo and ungrounded.  I agreed to admit him.

She left the room to start paperwork.  Roof jumped off my lap, where he’d been curled up for the past hour, and put his chin on my thigh, looking for eye contact.  He’s always searching for my eyes these days.  It’s amazing how much a person can learn just by looking into an animal’s eyes.  We stared at each other for a long while and once he felt like he’d been heard, he squeezed under my chair, flopping down with a humph, his legs sticking out from under the chair like a frog’s.

He was hiding, nervous.  He didn’t want to be there.  Instead of helping Rufus by admitting him, I felt like I was making frantic, harried, desperate repairs on a sinking ship.  I called my husband who was indecisive but leaned toward admission.  I called my sister-in-law.  She was supportive of my intuitive urge to take him home.  Clearly this was my decision and mine only.

When the radiologist returned I apologized up and down for spending hours sniveling and waffling then told her I would not admit my dog.  I loaded up on IV bags and Priolosec, paid the extraordinary hospital bill, and carried my furry boy back into the rain.

Rufus doesn’t understand time.  He lives only in the NOW.  And his NOWS have been so happy.  He’s had a great life.  If this is his time, it’s okay.  I started thinking about the lessons we’re both here to learn and what brought us together.  Why me?  Why him?

People who practice Buddhism do not take life.  Not even to end the struggle.  Those who practice understand the karmic purpose of the struggle.  We struggle through the lesson and find the wisdom in it, when we accept the wisdom, we no longer need the pain.  We completely align.  The pain ceases to exist.  It is a delusion, just like life.  I keep wondering if Rufus has chosen me because I will allow him a *full* life, with all its joy and all its pain.  If I end his life early, even by a few hours or days, will he have to return to physical form again in order to learn that painful lesson?  One I could allow him to learn now and possibly evolve his spirit?  I don’t know.  I don’t know what to do.  I mean, I think I know, but the norm is to provide compassion to animals in a way that relieves them of their pain.  I’m just not sure if physical compassion is aligned with spiritual compassion.

Spirit is our most natural state.  Our physical bodies are just the vehicles through which spirit functions in this world.  We settle into the physical with discomfort and we’ll transition out of it with discomfort – if the lesson of discomfort needs to be learned.  I think of childbirth, of how incredibly painful that experience was for me.  When I had my first baby I thought I was going to die.  My intention was to give birth naturally – no drugs, no epidural – but 3/4 of the way through I was searching for my doula’s eyes, sort of like Rufus searches for mine.  Help me.  Please help me.  I don’t want to do this.  I’m terrified.  I’m not strong enough.  But she looked at me and stroked my hair and said, “It’s just the baby coming.  It’s just the baby coming.”  I trusted her.  I trusted my body.  I trusted my baby’s transition into physical life.  Within minutes I was fully dilated and ready to push.  I had my baby naturally.  It hurt like hell but I understood the purpose.  I learned the lesson.  I had to trust the process and let go of the fear.  Paradigm shift.  When I had my subsequent babies, the labors were much more manageable and free from fear.  And I never once considered calling the anesthesiologist.  Never once.

Can I be that person for Rufus?  Can I help him through the transition naturally?  I think I can.  The vet has clearly told me that when the time comes, the only humane thing to do is put him to sleep.  But I keep going back to these questions – What’s so wrong with death?  Death is a release, a return, a reunion.  Death is natural.  And why are we all so afraid of pain?  Through my own fear of pain am I stifling my animal’s spiritual development by disallowing him the full experience of life?  Am I really helping him?  

Compassion to me looks different now.  Can I find the spiritual compassion to let go of my own fears of physical death in order to transition this animal to his natural state of spirit?

So we’re home, Rufus and me, riding out the storm.  My vet and I are on the same page with his treatment.  No extraordinary efforts.  I give Roof a bag of subcutaneous fluids combined with a little Reiki three times a week plus a few inexpensive meds twice a day.  This will keep him as comfortable as possible over the next few weeks or months.  I will not interfere with the course of Roof’s life but I will pray for mercy.  That is the plan.  And just as I knew that epidural was nearby when I gave birth to my first child, I’ll have the number of my vet nearby if it all gets to be too much.

This whole experience has caused me to think more deeply about my own life.  I made a birth plan for myself, I can make a death plan for myself, too.  I’ve now dedicated years of my life to spiritual evolution, and every day I feel more trust in the Universe.  I trust that the Universe can provide peace for me better than any clever manmade invention.  I’ve begun to think of my own physical departure as just another experience in life, and I’m not sure dulling it in any way will benefit my spirit.  If part of my divine plan is to suffer, I hope I can accept it and learn from it.  And if I can do that, I know I will be released from the suffering with mercy.

Kind of a lot to think about.  You are so welcome to join me in this conversation in the comments below.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

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