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“Beliefs, assumptions and judgments, Oh my!”

After an upsetting and disturbing conversation with a friend last night in which I crashed head-on with her beliefs and judgments, I found myself musing about such concepts today.

One of the things I like about the Zen, as I understand it, is that it’s about stripping away all the layers of conditioning that keep us from a direct experience of the truth. Whereas other religions require one to adopt a prescribed set of beliefs, Zen is just the opposite:  Enter the meditation hall, and leave your beliefs at the door.

The expression, “stand naked in the truth,” is what it’s all about (not the hokey-pokey, as we were mistakenly led to believe!).  If our nakedness, metaphorically speaking, is the truth; our beliefs, assumptions, and judgments — all of our conditioned mental concepts and constructs — are the layers and layers of clothing that keep us from directly seeing and experiencing and knowing the truth that lies beneath those layers. Read more…

Buddhism meets 12-Step: Spiritual lessons from my cats

For many years I’ve come and gone from the 12-Step world, “taking what I like and leaving the rest,” as the program encourages.  And for the past five or so years since I discovered Zen Buddhism, I have endeavored to absorb and apply its teachings to my life.  It has been difficult at times to have one foot in each world, both being spiritual paths with their own perspectives, some of which seem to conflict.

One of the most notable ways they differ is in regards to the belief in some sort of God or Higher Power, which is central to the 12-Step path.  Zen, on the other hand, is non-theistic, which frankly, feels more comfortable for me having been raised in a non-religious family — one of my parents an atheist; the other agnostic.

One place in which these two paths do intersect is in the 12-Step program’s “Serenity Prayer.”  For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it asks:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

“The serenity to accept the things I cannot change….”  Central to Buddhism is the desire and intent to end suffering, and this is where they meet.  If I don’t accept the things I cannot change, if I resist them, I suffer.  If I accept what I cannot change, I don’t suffer; I have serenity.  The suffering is not inherent in the “things” — the circumstances — themselves, but rather in our resistance to them; our lack of acceptance. Read more…

The Rules for Being Human

It’s been a long — too long — of a hiatus!  I’ve been very busy baking pies — largely Suffering Pies (see my most recent post)!  I return to you now with some words of wisdom that live magnetized to my refrigerator door.  These rules are supposedly handed down from ancient Sanskrit.  Here goes:

1) You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.

2) You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time, informal school called life.  Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons.  You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.

3) There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error, experimentation.  The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works.”

4) A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it.  Then you can go on to the next lesson. Read more…

Suffering Pie

I’m not much into cooking, but I do have a few recipes I’ve gotten pretty good at making over the years.  Repetition is key.  As they say, practice makes perfect!

One of my personal favorites is called “Suffering Pie.”  It’s good, but it’s more tart than sweet.  Doesn’t take long to make, which is nice if you’re in a rush.  Starting with the crust, don’t go with store-bought. They tend to be dry and tasteless.  I don’t know about you, but I like a moist, flavorful crust.  It’s easy to make yourself.  Really all you need is a bottle of “Life review.”  You don’t have to use all of it; just enough to get the effect.  Most stores carry it.  It’s expensive, but it does give your piecrust that extra zesty flavor.

When you go to the store to get it, basically what you’re looking for are what are called “Regrets.”  They come in a few varieties.  You can try each and see which flavor you like best.  The two most popular ones are the “What I should have/could have/would have done, but didn’t,” and the “What I shouldn’t have/wouldn’t have done, but did.”  It’s really up to your personal taste which to choose; both work well for the crust. Read more…

“The long and winding road”… with pitfalls along the way

The other night I attended a presentation about a non-traditional, holistic chiropractic approach called “Network Chiropractic.”  The chiropractor facilitating it guided us through some exercises in which we were lying on our backs, putting our hands first on our chests, then our solar plexus area, and lastly our bellies.  We were to breathe deeply into each place, feeling with our hands the movement of our bodies with our breath.  He then asked us to find a place of ease in our bodies and place our  hands on it.  Once we connected with that feeling, we were then to bring it with our hands to the places that felt tight or constricted.

I could find no place in my body that felt peaceful or at ease.  Instead, my body felt filled with anxiety.  All I wanted to do was to tuck my legs up, cross my arms over my chest, and curl up into a little ball.  Self-consciousness kept me from doing the latter, but I did allow myself to fold my arms over my chest, which helped me at least feel a little safer and more protected, though certainly not peaceful.

Tears were rolling down my cheeks, both from the realization that there seemed to be no place in my body that felt this sense of ease he was repeatedly asking us to find, and from the memories my body carries of lying flat on my back, hearing the voice of a man standing above me…  Read more…

Keepin’ on keepin’ on

So here’s my question for you:  What keeps you going when times are tough? Have you ever felt so knocked down, worn down, beaten down, broken down or just plain down that you didn’t feel able to get up again and didn’t know if you ever would? Have you ever felt like you were in a long, dark tunnel and couldn’t see the light at the end of it, or doubted whether even was a light at the end of it? Read more…

From Bear Claw French Toast to Mama Bear

After a week’s worth of birthday festivities (May 4th, FYI) which left my poor, lonely blog temporarily abandoned and untended to, I now return to the keyboard and to more important considerations than which delectable variation of French toast to order for one of my (I kid you not) THREE-days-in-a-row birthday brunches! (Hey, if we can’t justify indulging ourselves in honor of our birthday, when can we?!?). It’s been brutal: “Should I get the one smothered in berries? Or the one with walnuts and bananas? Which can live up to the ecstasy induced by the French toast savored in Brunch #1 (bear claw, encrusted in toasted almonds, with an almond paste smothered between its two layers)?” Bliss, pure bliss.

Reluctantly switching gears from French toast heaven to childhood hell and its aftermath (yikes, tough change!)…

For some reason that I can’t identify, I started thinking today about the infuriating naiveté of people who make comments like, “It was a long time ago! Just forget about it; put it behind you!” Or the choice remark of an ex-best-friend who said after a few years of not being in contact, “You’re STILL dealing with that?!?” Just thinking about such statements brings up the slow, deep growl of a mama bear protecting her young from the threat of approaching harm (Do bears growl? I don’t know, but you get the point). It’s my inner young’in I’m protecting; a child who got invalidated and shamed then and certainly doesn’t need more of the same now. Read more…

Sh_t happens, a.k.a., practice opportunities

A funny thing happened on the way to my meditation group the other evening… Probably everyone has had days like this. So I parked my car, reached over to the floor of the passenger side to pick up my sweater, and was perplexed to find it soaking wet! I soon realized that the newly purchased spray bottle of cleanser with bleach, which had been sharing the space on the floor, had somehow come unscrewed enough to share its contents quite generously with my sweater.

I raced out of my car and over to the passenger side to try to do damage control with the floor mat. I crouched on the ground outside the car, trying to soak and wipe up the mat with water, in what I feared was probably a futile attempt to ward the bleach off at the pass before it left its permanent mark. While doing so, expletive deleteds came spilling out of my mouth, to no audience other than myself… or so I thought until I turned around and saw a woman standing there, quietly and patiently waiting to get into her car, which was parked next to mine. Read more…


Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether or not we are moving forward in our healing.  The task is so huge that the effects of the incremental steps we take may not be apparent for awhile.  If you set out to lose, say, 100 pounds, you may not see a difference in the mirror after 5 pounds, but after a few more you might suddenly notice that your pants fit differently.

I think it’s kind of like that with recovery.  We just keep putting one foot in front of the other, losing one pound of undeserved crap at a time, and over time we start seeing the changes — in our attitudes, our behaviors, our feelings, our relationships, our lives. Read more…

“No!” and “Mine!”

I was telling someone today how good it feels to have my own “domain” — a place and space out there in this virtual web of interconnectedness we call the Internet that is mine, all mine!  Out of curiosity, I looked to see what good ‘ole Webster had to say about domains.  I quote:  “1) a territory under one government or ruler; 2) a field of activity or influence.”  So after purchasing yesterday this domain called “survivor2thriver,”  I became its ruler!  It  is now my field of activity and influence; my territory!   There’s something about that that just feels so darn powerful and empowering!

Not that I’ve raised one myself, but from what I hear, two-year-olds are really into two new words and concepts that they discover at about that age:  “No!”  and “Mine!”  And I was thinking how those two words in a nutshell capture the essence of what we survivors needed to be able to say but couldn’t. Read more…