Monday 7 July 2014

Just Camping

Yesterday, my sister and I were running together, down a lovely country road.  As always, we were talking as we ran, and we talked about how much we enjoyed camping.  We enjoyed many things about the camping, but most of all we enjoyed how when you're camping, you just do one thing at a time.  Make breakfast.  Eat breakfast.  Visit.  Play at the park.  Make a fire.  Sit by the fire.  You get the picture.  We were Just Camping.  It struck me today how much camping is like meditation, because meditation is Just Sitting.  Not thinking, or worrying or fretting or planning or stressing.  Just Sitting.  How nice that when I can't Just Camp, I *can* Just Sit.

Sunday 1 September 2013


Since my dad died, I think a lot about impermanence.  I think about small impermanences, like my breath that comes and goes every second, and big impermanences, like other people I love dying, or me dying one day, or 'the end of the world as we know it.'  And everything inbetween.  I've become a lot more at ease with small and medium impermanences, and I've gotten a lot better at appreciating things for how they are right now, even the things I don't like so much.  Because I know they won't be like this/that forever.  Maybe not even for today.

I'm getting better at noticing when my mind wants something to stay the same, or when it really wants something to change.  Meditation has helped with that.  More and more I can notice when my mind wants things to be/not be a certain way, and how there is suffering attached to that.  If I notice it soon enough, I don't get too wrapped up in the idea and I can just watch it come and go.

I've gotten a bit more comfortable with the idea that life and death are not that far apart.  The causes and conditions that lead to life happening at all are really quite rare I think.  Being alive used to seem so solid, so durable, so 'status quo.'  Now it seems so ephemeral, so fleeting, so brief.  There's poignancy everywhere.  I'm ok with that.  

Friday 31 May 2013

It's been a while...

Well, hello there.  It's been a long while since I've posted.  A lot has happened since my last post, way back in November 2010.  Since then, I've been trying to do things more than write about things.  I've been eating more mindfully, and running more regularly.  I've managed to keep off almost all of the 40 pounds I lost through mindful and balanced intake of calories and output of engery.  I ran some 5K races, and a few 10Ks.  Life was good.

Then came the year of 2012.  It started off well, with a nice trip to a southern location, for some rest and relaxation, just as I was starting a new and exciting job.  My sister and I started training for a half marathon.   Then my mom got sick, and was hospitalized for a while.  Then she started to get better.  Then when she was feeling pretty good again, my dad got sick.  He got sicker.  Then in May of 2012 he committed suicide.  He was not able to see that there was any other way out of his suffering.  Life for the rest of us has not been the same since.  We are managing, we've adapted, as best we can.  Things are mostly ok, much of the time.  We have pulled together, and we are a strong family, stronger than I ever believed was possible.

I have had to face up to the fact of impermanence.  Nothing stays the same.  Everyone I love and am close to will die.  I will die.  I am one day closer to death as I write this, and so are all of you.  But that is ok.  Life and death go together.  Life can't happen without death.  They are both essential to each other.  Like the yin/yang symbol, there is always light in darkness, and always darkness in light.  This is a necessary condition for existence.  These are lessons I wish for no one, yet know everyone must experience for themselves, one day.  Maybe even today.  The poignancy of life/death is everywhere, all the time.

My dad was a renaissance man.  He was wise, and kind.  He was a good dad, a fun and interesting dad, who wouldn't hurt anyone or anything on purpose.  He was a teacher; he teaches me still.  I aspire to be a willing student.  I aspire to fully inhabit each moment of each day, in the knowledge that each of these moments is singular, and perfect.  Even in grief, each moment is full.  Fullness in the face of loss, contentment in the face of grief.  These possiblities give me some comfort, some of the time.  As does the sight of a lone yellow butterfly, flying with me as I run up my gravel driveway.  Hi Dad.  I miss you.

Sunday 28 November 2010


It's nearly Winter again and so we've been firing up the woodstove regularly. I really like lighting the fire, and doing so when there are still some embers from the night before has been a good exercise in the benefits of waiting. It can be tempting to throw a match in there or use the butane lighter, but more and more I like to just lay the wood on top of the embers, sit back and wait. I'm trying to do that more in life as well: set the proper conditions and then wait for the results in Nature's good time.

Tuesday 31 August 2010

Mindful eating - revisited

I have struggled for a long time with my eating habits.

I have gone from whining in my head (and sometimes outloud) about 'how come other people can eat whatever they want?' to blaming western society in general for unrealistic body expectations, to saying, 'what the heck' and eating whatever I want, whenever I want, and then getting angry and belittling myself for not having the will power to eat less and exercise more. I've also found it maddening that I've been able to cut back consumption in other areas of my life, but not in the food area. I've blogged about that frustration before.

I've tried to be more 'mindful' while eating, and to not do anything other than eat when I'm eating. That worked for about five minutes and then I go back to doing what I've always done, which is chowing down while watching TV or reading. In short, nothing has worked (notice the disconnection here - it leaves me out of the equation entirely)...until now. Well, until about nine weeks ago. That's when (through the magic of facebook,) I noticed my sister doing an awesome job of losing weight, with the help of a website called .

Don't worry, I'm not going to use my nice, non-commercial blog to talk up some product or service. In fact there is no product or service to talk up, really - it turns out it's all about that whole connection/disconnection thing again. By that I mean that I was completely disconnected from the facts about how many calories I was burning compared to how many I was taking in. And I was delusional in a sense, because I seemed to have the idea that just because I felt guilty about what I ate, and really wanted to exercise but was too [insert excuse here] to get up and move, that the laws of biology and physics would change for me and I would lose weight merely because I wished I could so badly. It was the calorie counting tools at MFP that stripped me of those delusions and reconnected me with the truth of "doing the math." There was no way I could balance my input of calories with my output of energy until I knew how much of each I was consuming/expending. And so now, nine weeks later, the number on the scale is heading nicely downwards. :) It's another example of joyful moderation that I am glad to incorporate into my life.

So, at last, I am at eating and moving mindfully. Not in the sense that I am doing only that and nothing else at the time, but with an over-arching yet basic awareness of the connection between what I eat and what I do. And I really think that it is this kind of fundamental awareness between consumption and its consequences that we as a species have to get connected with, and soon. I'm glad that I can do this myself in an everyday way now, and witness the results!

P.S. - If anyone is using MFP, my username is themyriadthings, and I'd be happy to be your MFP friend :)

Friday 30 July 2010

Good News!

Earlier this week, the United Nations declared clean water and sanitation a human right! The declaration was ratified by 122 forward-thinking countries, with no countries voting against. But 41 members abstained, and you guessed it, Canada was among them.

Stephen Harper, you are a short-sighted, greedy coward. So there.


Have a lovely long weekend everyone!

Sunday 11 July 2010

Deep Ocean Heart

For the past week or so it seems like wherever I turn, something to do with water or water issues has come front and centre for me.

For example, earlier this week was the first talk in Tricycle's retreat with Sensei Bonnie Myotai Treace. In this talk, (which is free, by the way - check it out!), Myotai talks about a number of things water-related, in particular the koan, "give attention to water." (Note that this wording emphasizes something different than to "pay" attention.) Part of the practice at Hermitage Heart is the making and distributing of handmade ceramic bowls, in groups of 108, to form a 'water mala.' Recipients of the bowls give attention to water by keeping the bowl filled at all times, in the knowlege that the other 107 recipients are doing the same. I find this very compelling as I do my best to give more attention to water in my life.

Then, a few days ago, I saw on twitter that a new website and initiative was launched here in Alberta, by the name of . This initiative is in response to the Alberta government's wrongheaded and greedy idea to change how water is allocated in this province, namely, "a market system that distributes water based on the ability to pay." Because of NAFTA and other free-trade agreements, we won't be able to reverse this decision if we want to later. It is a totally short-sighted and completely irresponsible position for our government to take, sadly like a lot of their other decisions. (I could rant further here, but I'm restraining myself.) If you live in Alberta, and you want the government to actually look at more responsible ways to allocate water, say by fairness, ecological sustainability and the fact that safe, clean water is a human right, you may want to sign the open letter to Alberta's 'Environment' Minister, Rob Renner. I have.

And then today, just as I was getting into the shower actually, David Suzuki's CBC Radio program, The Bottom Line, began playing on my handy shower radio. He was interviewing deep sea diver Sylvia Earle, and they began talking about all sort of profound things. Like how we have environmental reserves for 12% of the land surface of the Earth, but only less than .1% of the oceans under protection. How there are only 10% of blue fin tuna left, and how if aliens saw our planet from space, they would undoubtedly think it odd that it is called Earth rather than Water, given the relative proportion of dry land to ocean. And, what really struck me was their conversation about why we prefer to shoot ourselves into space rather than learn about and understand our oceans. They mused about it for a while, without postulating anything. But I will postulate a little:

I think it's because we as humans are (in)famous for looking outward instead of inward. For looking away rather than toward. For distracting ourselves from what is right in front of us. For going for the brass ring instead of appreciating the horse. And I think we're a little bit scared to look into the deep, mysterious place that is the ocean, even though our very lives depend on the water it contains. Just like we're usually afraid to look inside ourselves and see clearly what's really there. It takes more courage to look there than it does to look away.

I hope, as a species, we grow up pretty quick now and start doing the hard work of looking inward at the source of our universal vitality. Because we are water, in a very literal sense.

Picture of one of the water mala bowls courtesy 108Bowls