bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: buddha

The Flawed Foundation of Feminism

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I enjoyed watching Emma Watson speak on feminism in this video. She articulated beautifully the need for worldwide immediate action toward gender equality. My concern is that while we women demand respect and equality from our male counterparts, the foundation of our argument is weakened by our own interpersonal habits.

By gossiping about each other and cutting each other down through our words and actions, we disempower our entire gender. Yes, our entire gender. Because it’s not just me doing it, it’s not just you doing it. Almost *all* women do it. And if we’re not woman-bashing out loud, most likely we’re struggling with jealousy or pettiness in our heads.

If the sisterhood should thrive in political and economic society, it must first thrive within itself. And while international campaigns shine a bright light on civil imbalance, the movement really starts with private, daily efforts in consciousness. Tiny efforts that eventually become a new normal.

This movement is a political overhaul in the making, but I’m suggesting an overhaul of the female ego. We can start by vowing very simple things: “Today I will not engage in idle gossip. Today I will be kind to every woman I see. Today I will support another woman in business.”

We’re stronger together!

What are your thoughts on this recent surge of the feminist movement? Is feminism only the new black? Why is it that vulnerability is a requirement for women to support one another while vulnerability seems to be detriment for men to support men? What are you doing to propel the feminist movement? Why or why not?

http://www.vanessagobes.com

Emma Watson Delivers Game-Changing Speech on Feminism

“our children are our greatest teachers”

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I awoke this morning to the sound of my son vomiting on the floor next to my bed. My husband nursed him for an hour before I took over. I set him up on the couch with a pillow and blankie, Saltines, a cup of water, and a tupperware container. It’s just after noontime now, and he’s thrown up into that container about six more times. Poor baby.

I asked him if I could do a little Reiki (a Japanese practice of healing hands) on him, and he weakly nodded his head while he stretched his body long on the couch. I said my invocation aloud: “I invoke the divine light of the creative source within. I am a clear and perfect channel. I am light. I am love.” A few ritual steps later, I was laying my warm hands on his head, beginning the healing practice.

His dark eyes raised to mine and silently said, “Thank you for helping me, Momma.” I smiled and slowly moved my hands down his body, resting on his chest, his quickened heartbeat slowing under the weight of my palms. I watched his veins pulse to the rhythm of his heart and repeated my invocation, pausing on the phrase “creative light within.”

I’ve uttered those words during healings plenty of times, believing that I am the channel for something divine that lives outside of myself, imagining a gorgeous light funneling into my body through my crown chakra to strengthen my energy and inspire healing. As if divine energy comes to me because I call for it. As if I am inviting it for a boost of strength.

Feeling my son’s heart beat under my hands, I suddenly realized that I am the source. I am the divine. God is whole within me. I don’t invite energy into my body; the power is not outside of myself. I don’t invoke it from the great beyond. I release it through my own ego’s surrender. The creative source is within me and my chakras are the portals that connect my energy to the those in the universe who are available to me. Like my baby boy.

I set my ego aside so that the purest light and love within me (that exists within each of us), could shine and connect and heal. I touched my forehead to his and whispered, “You are sick for me today. To teach me this lesson. And I’m so grateful.” My throat felt tight and my ears pulsed as tears started to burn my eyes. “I’ve learned the lesson, buddy. You don’t have to be sick anymore. No more throwing up.”

I sat and reflected for a moment, thinking about all the lessons kids teach parents, thinking about the sacrifices they make for us so we can learn the power of love. I imagined my son and I as two souls long before our birth, planning our journey together, him saying, “I’ll feel this pain so you can learn, because I love you.”

Our children are our greatest teachers. Today I’m understanding this old saying in a whole new light.

From mine to yours,
Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com

cancer wife: (more) thoughts from the edge

May 20, 2013

 

My meditation practice is key to managing my fear.  A few weeks before learning of Mick’s diagnosis I’d been blogging about the strength of spirit I’d been feeling but wondered if that strength would hold up when tested.  I mean, meditation is great in theory.  But does it work when the shit really hits the fan?  I soon learned the answer.  YES.

 

The more I learn about life and energy through Buddhist philosophy, the more deeply I understand and appreciate other religions.  I’m reading A Course In Miracles and finding it to be a great companion to my Bu-curious ways, examining mindfulness, fear, and delusion.  The book has more fluoro sticky tags than any other in my well-highlighted library.  “You are much too tolerant of mind wandering,” says this Christian text that continues, “No one who lives in fear is really alive.”

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Meditation yields acceptance.  Acceptance yields trust.  Trust yields fearlessness.  When we are fearless, we are confident that everything will happen exactly as it should and we are okay.  When we are quiet in meditation, we open ourselves up to spirit’s guidance and can then confidently take inspired action.

 

I allow this notion to sit front row in my prefrontal cortex, so when fear begins to creep in, I comfortably acknowledge it then meditate through it.  But for me meditation isn’t all good posture and spiritual brain dumps.  Through non-doing I clearly see all of things that I need to get done.

 

1.  I need to be caring for my husband and offering him affection.  This, admittedly, is very hard for me as I am not a warm and fuzzy wife-type.  If I’m being painfully honest, I can be a little cold to my husband.  I blame this on my parents’ divorce when I was 11.  There, I said it.

2.  I need to be working on building a career.  If the worst happens, I will have no income to support my family and I haven’t earned money consistently in a dozen or so years.  Time to put that journalism degree to work.

3.  I need to spend free time with my kids and let go of social events.  Socializing when my husband is home sick is not so great.  It’s okay to pass on parties.  There will be fun times when all this is over and right now no one needs me more than my family.

 

May 23, 2013

 

Mick’s hair is everywhere.  I can’t keep up with the friggin shedding.

 

“Shave it,” I plead.

 

“I’ll do it in the Caribbean,” he promises.

We are supposed to be leaving on a trip to the BVIs and he is planning a ceremonial raze on the beach.  Unfortunately he’s got a 102 fever and it looks like he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.  Sucks.  This sucks.  Meditate on that.

do you believe you’re perfect?

Self work (that’s Self with a capital “S”) is something that we all experience over the course of a lifetime.  This work begins with our very first breath, when we start figuring out how to survive on earth, how to use what we learn to create new experiences.  Some make choices that lead to hardship and struggle.  Others experience hardship and struggle that lead to better choices.

I’ve gone both ways – creating messes and surviving them.  And I’ve found that both ways of living are equally valuable.  I can especially see this now, after several years of active awakening.  Though I fail at tasks, though I say the wrong things, though I fall short in my domestic responsibilities and sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotion, I trust that my Self is perfection and I don’t feel embarrassed or egotistical for saying it.

Perfection is funny word.  It’s stacked with all sorts of subjective assumptions.  Can a person be perfect and still make mistakes?  I think so, yes.  Because my interpretation of perfection is through a divine filter.  Every time I’ve royally screwed up, the screw up has led me to a healthier or more productive place.  So in that regard, I see “imperfection” as a catalyst to course correct, and therefore is actually divine perfection.  And I see all of those decisions that led me to the royal screw up as perfect opportunities to more deeply connect to love through the empathy and compassionate understanding that only comes with personal experience.

My meditation practice allows me to see my own perfection and to do the best I can to live in that state of acceptance; but I still get mad.  I still feel jealous.  I still get overexcited.  Just not as much as I used to, and not for as long.  (Thank God for that!!!)

It’s not that feeling these things is wrong or bad.  Anger, jealousy and excitement are important parts of the human experience.  But they are also feelings that manifest physically in the form of conditions like anxiety, depression and IBS among other things.  Contentment, joy and acceptance, on the other hand, manifest physically in ways that can make us feel pretty great:  restful sleep, younger skin, emotional well-being and a thousand others.  The practice helps the practitioner to notice the more challenging feelings when they arise so that they can be processed and balanced in a period of time that does not wreak havoc on one’s body.

But even in the course of writing this story, I’m sliding in and out of my perception of perfection.  For example, sometimes I’ll read articles or books written by gurus who are further along in their spiritual development than I.  And then months later I’ll watch them in an interview or read another account in which they appear to be attached to material things or fame or power, and then I get miffed.  I assume that because the guru seems to be far along the path that he should have the strength and wisdom to resist temptations and challenges – that he should be more resilient to those things – more so than us reg’ler folk.  That he should be “perfect” in his choices and behaviors because he is on a huge platform instructing people how to live through spirit.

But I have to remind myself that for the most part, with few exceptions, they’re just reg’ler folk, too.  Today they’re enlightened.  Tomorrow they’re swirled up in a twister of materialism, competition and Nielsen ratings.  The day after that they may be enlightened again.  (Not that I think it all happens that fast.  😉  The awakening process is a practice, as is enlightenment.  Imagining that enlightenment is a higher level of awakening, even an enlightened person must continue his Self work.  Humans are only human, after all.

This said, I find that more than any spiritual teacher or guru, the person I need to trust the most is myself.  When I follow my heart I can’t go wrong.  And I can never disappoint myself, because I know I’m perfect – in my own way and in my own time.  I need not worry about the state of someone else’s practice because depending on someone else’s state of awakening only distracts me from my own.  I do my own work and I encourage others to do theirs, in their own way.  As the Buddha said, “Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

So we’ll try our best not to judge ourselves or those around us as we all stumble and glide and stumble and glide through life collaboratively.  We can lower our expectations while raising our frequency to find harmony with the perfection that exists in each of us.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

don’t-worry-be-happy mother’s day

It was spring and I was walking under the pink magnolia blossoms lining Commonwealth Ave in Boston, on my way to a prenatal yoga class.  After a long struggle with morning sickness and lethargy, I was starting to feel energized again and was exploring ways to stay in shape while carrying.  Yoga sounded like a safe bet so I trotted off to my first class.

I was five months along, just starting to develop a visible roundness to my belly, finally wearing real maternity clothes and beginning to think of this baby as more than just the impetus for nausea and a stuffy nose.

There was a teensy person in there, growing fast.  I’d just found out she was a girl and obsessively tried on baby names.  I can’t be sure, but I can imagine myself mentally combing through “The Best 1,000 Baby Names of 2004” when my clog caught a mislaid brick and I face-planted right there on the sidewalk – well, more like belly-planted.  I landed tummy first, arms reaching awkwardly forward and legs stretching behind me.  I didn’t move.

A man in a business suit hustled over to help me find my feet and I stood there for a few moments, examining my scraped, bloodied palms, brushing sand off my protruding belly.  I told the good samaritan I was okay and hobbled off to yoga, sniffling and deflated.

The scene, in general, was nothing overly memorable.  The pain was minimal, the spring day was ordinary, the clumsiness was nothing I hadn’t experienced before.  But this stumble laid the first foundational stone in what would become a motherhood filled with worry.

During the weeks following my fall, I had convinced myself that I’d caused my baby harm.  I would lie in bed at night with my palms splayed out on my belly, begging Baby Girl Gobes for a kick or a hiccup or an arcing elbow to confirm that she was still alive.

I called my OB, “But I fell FLAT on my belly, doc… all of my weight… must have crushed her.  Should I come in for an ultrasound or something?  Anything?”  My doctor assured me the baby was fine.

Pregnancy progressed normally but I still found other things to worry about:  smoke rising from manhole covers, cabin pressure on a trans-Atlantic flight, chlorinated pools, bumpy car rides and arguments with my husband.  All of these ordinary things seemed to pose a danger to my unborn child and I began to stockpile an armory of “what ifs”.

As I neared week 40, I committed myself to natural childbirth.  I worked with a doula, an extraordinary woman who assured me that both the baby and me would be better off for a drug-free experience.

No drugs.  No way out.  Well, one way out – between my legs.  Holy shit.

I liken the feeling to preparing for a date with the firing squad.  The sentence has been decided, it’s scary, people are watching, it’s going to hurt like hell and the aftermath is a complete and utter mystery.

As it turned out, all those things were true.  But instead of a blindfold and a lit cigarette, I was equipped with an IV and ice chips.

After several hours of contractions and pushing, my baby girl was placed gently on my chest and I briefly bawled my eyes out.  I didn’t die after all.  Instead heaven came to me.  And with heaven, as is expected in motherhood, came even more worry.

Am I doing this right?  Am I permanently scarring my child?  Am I a crappy Mom?  Is my kid going to hate me for all of the mistakes I’m making?  We all ask these things, right?  Unfortunately, the answers to these questions validate all of our parental concerns.

Because we aren’t doing it right.  No one does.  We are totally scarring our children.  That’s what parents do.  Every parent wears the Crap Crown sometimes.  And yes, our kids will hate us at some point – we’ll just have to hope it’s short-lived and based in irrational, hormonal, misplaced illogic.

But unlike the pain of childbirth, there is a way out of our looming motherly fears – acceptance.  When we accept these inevitabilities, something really amazing happens.  That tight grip we have on the worry and concern and anxiety, nestled so conveniently into parenthood, loosens.  The worry evaporates.

We accept that there’s only so much we as mothers can do.  We can guide them.  We can educate them.  We can encourage them.  But we can’t live life for them.  They are who they are.

They’re going to fail classes, get sick, lose games, offend adults, break arms, lose expensive electronics, crash cars and make fools of themselves, just like we did.  That will change when they are adults.  Or it won’t.

Some will overachieve early then burn out – or maybe continue to overachieve and stress out.  Some will fly below the radar then launch into the stratosphere of success later in life.  And some will be total screw-ups for the duration of the ride.  And all of that is okay.

There are important lessons to be learned regardless of the path, each as valuable as the other.  In fact, the drug-addict / drop-out / derelict probably learns more about life than the magna cum laude MIT grad groomed by his parents for high achievement.  Life without life-learning is no life at all.

But enough about them, let’s get back to us.  The Mommies.  Because we’re the ones connecting here.  We’re exploring our own feelings associated with worrying about our kids (who probably aren’t worrying about themselves at all).

Our worry is like tumbleweed, picking up all sorts of garbage as the winds of life roll it along.  Garbage that doesn’t help us one bit.  If we Moms allow the tumbleweed to entangle us, we’ll only end up with deep wrinkles, sleepless nights and multiple prescriptions for Xanax.

But worry and acceptance cannot exist in the same space.  It’s impossible.  And there are beautiful side effects of acceptance: liberation, trust and peace.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from the obsession?  From the projection?  From the competition?  From the fear?  From all of those ugly tendencies that we’ve been carrying around since scraping our bellies off the sidewalk in week 20 of pregnancy?

Dragging around a garbage bag of fear will only encourage those same feelings in our children.  That black Hefty is only so thick.  And our trashy bits end up ripping the liner, leaking out and causing a big stink for the people around us.  People like the kids we’re worrying so much about.  Sure, we can tell them not to worry.  But our kiddos do as we do, right?  So let’s do something helpful – model acceptance and collaboration.

Easier said than done, I know.  But acknowledging fear and the reasons for fear is a beautiful stimulus for change, creating wide crack for light to shine in and expose fear for what it is:  Useless.

Meditation is a great way to drag those useless habits out to the magnolia-lined curb.

Often when I meditate lately, I hear the words “create space”.  (I’d love to know who is saying that to me, by the way.)  For me, the creation of space is a deliberate effort to push all of life’s clutter off to the sides and invite an open connection between me and the universe.  In that open space, I can find acceptance.  Anyone can do this.  You don’t need to take a class or read a book or have a special degree to do it.  You just have to know how to breathe.

Solutions don’t have to be complicated or even external.  Peace is as close as your breath.

I’m so grateful for this mindfulness practice.  Through non-doing, I’m actually doing the best thing I could do for myself and my family.  There will be times ahead during which my trust in the universe will be tested, I’m sure.  Nights when I’m wearing a trench in my hardwood floors from pacing.  Days when my kids are flailing and I’m desperate to carry their pain the way I carried their little bodies so long ago.  But the more I practice acceptance, the easier I’ll recover from those angst-ridden moments.   Mindfulness is a lifelong practice that deepens with time.  And as far as I can tell, time is all we’ve got.

Have a happy Sunday, Mommies.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

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I am ever-so-grateful to those who share, tweet, like and/or promote my writing in any way.  I’m a stay-at-home mom trying to rub two sticks together and spark a career.  Matches welcome.  🙂

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this is my favorite personal pic. holding my first baby moments after birth. my face full of unanswerable questions.

a hard pill to swallow

I love writing about my spiritual awakening.  And I love reading about other people’s spiritual awakenings.  What tickles me most about it all, is how we all seem to feel as if we’ve just discovered uncharted new insight or invented a revolutionary technique that can help not only us, but anyone who is willing to try to think like us or act like us or serve the world like us.

We’re Utopians in that respect – so sure that if the pained people of the world could just drop their weapons, feel gratitude for their challenges, treat others with kindness, be mindful of the environment and eat healthier food, that a giant wave of tenderness would wash over the planet and soothe humanity’s woes.

I’ve had a revelation or two of my own following a particularly meditative and pensive week.   I’ve realized that, while world peace is the goal, it is simply impossible.  Earth is designed to be a place of learning.  And without suffering, there’s little opportunity to understand the incredible depth of love.

Though this tiny shift has been simmering quietly in my being for quite some time, I’ve been unable to accept it.  Unable to accept that man is robbing the earth of her heartbeat; unable to accept that our children are being taught to value competition over collaboration; unable to accept that national leaders are so angry and disturbed that they truly believe nuclear attacks will heal their pain; unable to accept that children are abused and people are starving and corporate greed rules the world and there’s very little a peace-yearning person like me, like you, can do about it.

I cannot change the world.  I can only change myself and, as Gandhi said, “be the change [I] wish to see in the world.”

This whole planet spins for us.  So we can learn.  The Universe lives only in our own hearts, and there we can find peace.  This tormented planet serves our human existence so we can learn and elevate and evolve.   It’s all so clear to me today.  I get it.

Heal thyself.

The Universe in Krishna’s mouth.

Work hard to gain your own salvation.

Instead of wishing that the world were different, I’m replacing that wish with a feeling with gratitude.  I’m thankful for the existence of this place of learning, grateful for the opportunity to serve my soul as a human experiment, joyed with moments – the highs and the lows – knowing that each experience is a valuable addition to my soul’s journey.  I see that the best thing I can do to create peace in my heart is to love unconditionally and serve others as much as I can.  I don’t have to fix the world, in fact I can’t.  I just have to fix myself.

Honestly, I’m a bit weepy typing out these thoughts.  I feel like I’m mourning a lifetime of misdirected thoughts, but I’m also relieved to come to grips with what I believe is truth, even though it’s a hard pill to swallow.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

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boys won’t be boys

Men completely baffle me.  No offense, guys.  As a gender, you’re real go-getters – strong, handsome, and a very necessary component in procreation.  But honestly, between the insatiable need for power (be it in the form of money, attention, strength or remote control handling) and the twisted inclination towards professional wrestling, porn and realistically bloody video games, I can’t decide if I should run away from you screaming in terror or just move into a lesbian commune and wash my hands of you entirely.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately thinking about men.  Young men.  Well, boys really.  I’m rearing one currently.  He’s four, the caboose on a train of three older girls.  Generally, he’s very sensitive and sweet.  He cares about people and animals.  He articulates his feelings and is well-behaved.  At least I think he’s all of those things…  until he finds a stick on our post-winter lawn and immediately begins whacking the dog with it.  Then imagines that stick as weapon and fires it dramatically at his sisters who are chalking quietly in the driveway.

There are more boyish antics, of course.  The tasmanian-devil-style thrashing he displays for what seems to be no reason at all.  The make-pretend enactments of a werewolf mauling a honey badger in the forbidden forest.  The wet sponge ambushes on his sisters at bedtime as they brush their teeth.

I never taught him these things.  I’m pretty sure my husband didn’t either.  We don’t initiate or encourage this type of play.  But he’s a boy.  And he seems naturally wired for bursts of destruction.

This is no excuse.  Absolutely not.  I refuse to lie down and say, “Boys will be boys.”  I’m fighting this overused saying, not with my sharp claws or stick weapons, but with kindness, discipline and love.

I’ve also enlisted my daughters to teach our wild little wolf cub how to become a respectable human being since girls generally enter life with more compassionate tendencies.  It’s not a hard lesson, really, this lesson in compassion.  But it needs to be taught daily.  Daily.  Daily.  Daily.

This past weekend I had 7 kids here for a sleepover.  We watched Indiana Jones.  During the blood and guts portions, they watched unfazed.  But when Indy started making out with his leading lady, the kids all belted out, “Eeeeewwww!!!  Disgusting!  Hide your eyes!”

I was appalled, “You little turkeys mean to say you’ll watch happily as bloody monkey brains are served for dinner but Doctor Jones planting a kiss on his girlfriend makes you want to throw up?  Come on!  Love is beautiful and natural.  Hurting people is eeeeewwwww.  Get your priorities straight, small people!”

Whether or not my words hit home, I’m unsure.  My intent, however, is always deeper than a 30 second lecture at a sleepover party, or even a 500 word essay on mothering a typical boy.

Mothers of boys have a precious opportunity to co-create and inspire young boys who become compassionate and mindful men.  There are no other more important qualities for a man to possess.  When all actions, all intentions, all thoughts are created with mindful compassion, humans will be on our way to world peace.  And we mothers are 100% responsible for instilling this quality in our sons.

The end of sex-trafficking?  The solution to corporate greed?  The dissolution of hate crimes?  The pacification of violence?  This can all happen through compassion.

We spend so much time trying to fix the problems we have.  Counsel the women who have been exploited.  Mend the planet that has been ravaged.  Heal the people who have been pained.  Why not skip the pain and spend that time nurturing boys who value love over destruction?

No four-year-old boy thinks, “When I grow up, I want to pimp out 14 year old girls…  Or maybe I’ll be a bigot…  Or a banker who invests in companies that rape our planet of resources…  Or maybe a dictator that stockpiles nuclear weapons.”  I know mine doesn’t anyway.  So while they’re young, and while we mommies have control, let’s teach our boys how to love a woman, how to love a planet, how to love their enemies.  The world will thank us for it in 30 years or so.

Please share this post with mothers of boys…  or anyone you think might enjoy it.  I so appreciate your shares, likes, tweets and comments.  Peace!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

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Two of XG’s big sisters coach him through an Air & Space exhibit. He’s in control… at least he thinks he is.

you’ve come a long way, baby

i’ve been on a cleaning spree all weekend.  it began when my son came down with strep.  my husband took the girls up north to go skiing and i stayed home with the little man.  for the most part, he slept while i scoured every nook and cranny of my house.  i’m talking creepy basement closets, mudroom cubbies, behind the lazy susan in the kitchen corner cabinet…  whole hog.  the purge felt nearly blissful, undercut only by the inevitable shame attached to buying so many stupid things over the years.  i recycled as much as i could, but far too much junk was laid to rest in trash bins.

the rampage continued this morning – monday.  the kids left for school and i got busy clearing the useless contents of my personal space.  i started in my bathroom, tossing crusty bottles of hair gel and half-used hotel shampoo samples.  then i moved onto my closet, launching last decade’s kitten heels and tired pashminas into a box labeled “salvation army”.  i dumped loads of t-shirts and old sweaters into the same box without taking the time to consider if i’d wear them again.  it didn’t matter.  if someone else can use them, that’s what’s important.

i then scooted into my bedroom and pulled open the drawers to my nightstand.  i barely use these drawers.  they’re oversized and hard to open, so i don’t put anything in there that i need to access frequently.  as it turned out, my life’s story was buried inside:

a stained rasied-seal birth certificate for one “Vanessa Linsey Cronin”; a gold necklace given to me by my beloved gram who passed 7 years ago; a diary filled with pages cursing my father for leaving me when i was 11; unsent love letters to boys who broke my heart; calendars marked with cheerleading practices, key club meetings, midterm exams and sleepovers; a panty liner, random, i know, but it stirred the clear image of me at age 15, with a figure like flat stanley, pleading daily to the menstrual gods that i’d get my period; a little red monopoly hotel; expired immodium AD tablets – left over from my years of suffering from IBS, a time when i was so emotionally twisted up that i could barely leave my house for fear of pooping my pants; an autograph autobiography on rex trailer, an old time TV star who helped me put together the resume tape i schlepped down the east coast in hopes of landing a TV reporter gig, a gig i never got; postcards, maps and museum passes accumulated over several european adventures; a white silk rose from my wedding gown that i swapped out for a peach one for the big day; a funny sex kit i won at a winchester neighbor’s club yankee swap (too embarrassed to leave it for the trash man); a loving birthday card to me from my husband; my first baby’s hospital ID bracelet; a pile of books about buddhism and spirituality; a few pens, some yoga pose cards and a box of matches.

looking at all this stuff, i really felt for the girl i used to be.  though her life was pretty good, it wasn’t always easy for her.  as you can probably tell by the contents of the nightstand, that girl’s adolescence was emotionally challenging.  she experienced some real torment, some desperate times, some sadness and sickness.  but she was a survivor.  shit happened and she found a way to make it better.  she cried then laughed then cried again.  but in the end she was just fine.  she got involved, had some fun and dreamed big.

sifting through these relics, i saw the progression of things – how that girl overcame one obstacle at a time.  sometimes alone, sometimes with help.  but she forgave, she worked hard, she acted on good advice, she never said no to an adventure, and she remained hopeful.

life has continued to move along, the young girl’s patterns and tendencies creating the woman i am today.  sometimes i think about my herstory and wince, happy it’s in the past.  sometimes i look back and smile upon fond memories tucked away in a fuzzy thought bubble.

it’s the goodness, to which i was able to cling, that overpowered the angry, insecure, disappointed, lost kid i used to be.  i still have my shortcomings – the same ones that have haunted me all my life.  i’m messy, i procrastinate, i talk too much, i’m a terrible eater, i’m too sassy to my husband, i hate to exercise, i’m jealous, i give up on things easily.  but these qualities are very manageable now.

i think they are manageable because i love myself just the way i am.  good at some things, bad at others.  some people like me, some don’t.  some things i screw up, some i kick ass.  i don’t need to spin my wheels trying to reach the unreachable goal of perfection.  because when i’m perfect i’ll either be enlightened or dead.  and based on the rate of awakening i’m experiencing these days, death will come sooner than enlightenment.  so why not just accept myself as i am and spare myself years of frustration.

the point is, we don’t have to define ourselves by who we used to be.  we can clear out those unhealthy habits and traits like we’re clearing out a drawer full of junk.  it’s just a matter of deciding that it’s time to let go of the clutter.

from mine to yours,

vanessa

p.s.  feel free to share this with other formerly flat 15 year old girls…  or anyone who might like the story for that matter.

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first grade, front row left, shortest (always the shortest) kid in my class.

engaged whatever

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It’s funny how some words pop spontaneously into your vocabulary and then you start saying those words all the time.  For months.  For years.  It could be a a saying – Gag me with a spoon, Cool beans, Shut UP!, Seriously?  Really?, That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout, etc. For me, it was a word.  Last year I was using the adjective “engaged” a lot.  Random, I know.  It’s not a hip saying, but that word got stuck in my craw and I was inserting into sentences at least once a day for about 6 months.   And then one day I was reading something – an article, a book, I can’t remember – by Thich Nhat Hanh about “engaged Buddhism” and thought, “Oh my God!  That’s my word!”

Again, this is sort of silly, but since I’m always looking out for signs and omens, I took this as one of those synchronicities and read a little more closely.  Engaged Buddhism is living life with your Buddha light turned on.  It’s walking and talking and working, knowing that you are a sacred being and behaving in a way that reflects that.  It’s applying your practice practically.  It’s employing mindfulness and gratitude with every breath, with every action.  But you’ve got to engage your practice to make it work for you properly.

For example, your Mr. Coffee is just a kitchen appliance.  It has knobs and buttons and carafe that holds liquid.  But when you plug it in, your Mr. Coffee reaches its full potential, providing a beautiful service that tickles each of your senses.  We humans are sort of like that.  We are full of potential, but once we plug in, or tap in, to the source, we can do a wonder of the great things.

I subscribe to Buddhism, though I haven’t yet taken refuge vows because I want to be as sure as I can be that this is the right commitment for me.  Each time I listen to a sermon or attend a class, I’m amazed to discover how beautifully my heart lines up with the Dharma.  I think I’ve been a Buddhist my whole life but just didn’t know what to call it.  When I take in the lessons I think, Yes, this is what I think, too.  Yes, I do that.  Yes, these are my intentions, too.  Yes, yes, yes!  

Buddhism works for many, like me, but for countless others the answers to life’s mysteries are found elsewhere.  As passionate as folks are about their mindfulness practices, you will never find a Buddhist missionary out there converting people.

The important thing is, that no matter what your source, in order to live your best life you need to plug in.   Your source might be religion or philosophy or family or school – we’re all so different, there’s no defining what the source is for an entire race of earthlings.  For many, at least here in America, the source is Jesus Christ.  If Jesus is the guru that speaks to you, engage Him in your heart.

This does not mean knocking on doors and telling people they’re doomed to hell unless they commit their lives to Jesus.  This does not mean falling asleep in the pew on Sundays.  This does not mean volunteering to lead the church youth group retreat.  These are all important parts of a church community.  But engaging the Christ light means something deeper,  something that can serve humanity even better and create real peace in your life.  I’m talking about breathing in Jesus each time you inhale,  I use the word Jesus, but I could also use the word Holy Spirit or God, source, Universe, energy, Buddha, Allah, Krishna.

We’re not just human beings.  We are spiritual beings.  Hiding under those layers of skin and bone is divinely perfect energy.  Look down at yourself right now.  Spread your hands over your chest and your belly.  A little piece of heaven has broken off and lives right under your hands.  This energy wants to be acknowledged, to be useful, to shine.  And it can, if you engage it.

Use whatever awesomeness inspires you.  If you want to engage but find yourself forgetting during the day, wear something that reminds you.  We wear engagement rings to remind us of our commitment to a significant other.  Maybe you can wear a ring to remind you of your commitment to yourself.  I wear a special necklace.  Or sometimes I wear my mala beads.  They help to remind me to feel gratitude, stop gossiping, smile at strangers, meditate, clean my house, give my time, be a better mom.  They remind me to tell people, “I am here for you.”  They remind me to engage my spirit and let it pull me in the right direction.

I’m trying really hard not to sound cheesy or hippie right now, just honest.  While there’s nothing I know about this world for sure, tapping into my inner Buddha causes a shift in me that feels real.  I attended a retreat last weekend and at the end a Buddhist nun blessed me by gently wrapping a scarf around my neck while holding my forehead to hers.  A surge of loving kindness flooded my heart and I started to cry.  It was beautiful.  This energy is a vibrant gem in each of our hearts.  When treasured properly through wholesome behavior and daily engaged practice, it will become a magnet that attracts goodness and, in turn, spreads that goodness to others.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.  As always, if you like this, please share it!  Many thanks and much love!