Midway check-in

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

Blue skies swirl to pink lights. Fade to gray.

It’s dusk.

I missed the blood moon eclipse last night, but I’m enjoying the sunset tonight.

I’ve been sweeping away cobwebs, opening taps, stretching writing muscles. This is blog entry #15 in 15 days, and as usual, I’m glad I opted for the challenge. Also as usual, there are pros and cons to posting every day. But the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and I’m glad to get back into a writing rhythm.

I’ve tried different approaches, but none seem to work as well as writing everyday. Writing everyday doesn’t mean publishing my writing everyday, and that’s the balance I’ll work on once we enter May.

For now, I shall continue with my daily entries.

To strive even higher, to do even better—the creative process is a desperate struggle to go beyond what we were yesterday. It is a battle against resting on our laurels, against the fear of losing what we have. It is an adventure into unknown territory. ~Daisaku Ikeda

The Drum at the Gate of Thunder and other gosho to women

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

One of my projects-in-progress is a review of Nichiren Daishonin’s gosho to women. Nichiren was a Buddhist monk who came of age in 13th century Japan, and a gosho is an honorable writing (go is an honorific prefix and sho means writings).

Nichiren wrote many letters and treatises in his lifetime, and the extant among them were translated and published with background about the recipient when it was known. English versions of his writings are in two volumes published by the Soka Gakkai International: Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol 1 and Vol 2.

lotus-150693_640Over the course of several years, I read all of the writings in volume 1 in chronological order. I thought it would be an interesting project to reread them in a new way, through a different lens. For instance, I know some people who have undertaken the study of all writings to Shijo Kingo, a samurai and physician, and arguably one of Nichiren’s greatest disciples.

What can you learn about the practice of Buddhism and finding happiness in this world viewed through Nichiren’s encouragement to this one man? He received quite a few letters, and through them we learn about mastering your anger (Kingo has a famous temper); doing your best at work, even when your co-workers gossip about you (Kingo served Lord Ema and almost lost his estate due to this very thing); the importance of perseverance, and other timeless lessons.

A woman who embraces the lion king of the Lotus Sutra never fears any of the beasts of hell or of the realms of hungry spirits and animals.  ~Nichiren, The Drum at the Gate of Thunder

At a time and place when women were considered inferior to men, and indeed, were sometimes thought incapable of attaining enlightenment at all without first being reborn as men, Nichiren was decidedly more feminist. Basing his teachings on the Lotus Sutra, which celebrates the limitless potential inherent in all living beings, Nichiren praised women for their steadfast faith, and encouraged them with the same life-affirming wisdom he shared with men of the time.

All of the offenses committed by a woman in her lifetime are like dry grass, and the single character myo of the Lotus Sutra is like a small spark. When a small spark is set to a large expanse of grass, not only the grass but also the big trees and large stones will all be consumed. Such is the power of fire of wisdom in the single character myo. Not only will all offenses vanish but they will become sources of benefit. ~Nichiren, The Drum at the Gate of Thunder

Today I read The Drum at the Gate of Thunder, written to the lay nun Sennichi. This gosho is one of 46 written to women included in volume 1. Some women received multiple letters – Sennichi received five as did Shijo Kingo’s wife, Nichigen-nyo. I may share some of my notes as I work through the gosho.

Someday let us meet at Eagle Peak, where Shakyamuni Buddha dwells. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. With my deep respect, Nichiren. ~Nichiren, The Drum at the Gate of Thunder

 

What are your must-reads?

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

The ladies of Whiskey, Wine and Moonshine have books on the brain. We may share some of our recent convos on an upcoming podcast. In the meantime, I want to know your thoughts about books. For all questions, you can choose more than one.

  • Who is your favorite author?
  • What’s your favorite children’s book?
  • What’s your favorite book? What makes it special?
  • What book did you read that you wish you’d encountered earlier in life? How did you come to read it?
  • What book would you recommend to someone? What makes it worthy?
  • What notable book did you try reading, but abandoned?
  • What book is on your “to read” list?
  • Complete the following sentence: {Insert name of book} should be required reading for {insert individual or group} because (insert reason}.

 

It’s probably not fair of me to ask these questions without sharing some of the answers, and I may reveal my thoughts in a future post.  For now I want to hear from you! The floor is yours…

Today I Ran

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

Today I ran.

Mostly, I jogged, if you want to get technical. I wasn’t out there sprinting or going particularly fast. But I was out there. And it was great. Tough, yes, but really nice to be outside again.

My last run was a PR!
My last run was a PR!

It was my first run since my milestone of November 2013. Five months to the day. I didn’t realize that when I decided today had to be the day. I just knew it wasn’t too cold and the sun was beckoning.

I decided to just go out a mile and back. I hit my target pace of 10 min/mile. I had some difficulty breathing on a few stretches and some histamine reactions in my muscles. Both of these were to be expected.

The breathing will take care of itself as my lungs remember the work. The histamine reaction is a new/old problem I’ll have to solve, so I’ll be keeping the mileage low while I sort that out.

I’m not yet ready to set my monthly mileage goals, and I don’t know when my next run will be. For now I’m celebrating today’s return to the pavement as I look forward to many more!

Free write

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

I’ve set a timer for 5 minutes and I’m just typing stream of consciousness.

I had so many plans when I woke up, and I’ve been working through them, but, well, you know how it goes sometimes. A few interruptions here, a fire to put out there, and it seems there’s been a lot of busyness, but not as much business.

That’s fine. I can still check a few items off my list and create a clear plan of action for tomorrow based on what I accomplished today. And really, that’s the best you can do on any given day. Since the fourth agreement is “always do your best,” I can close out the work day in peace and look forward to a productive day tomorrow.

Me & Blue, after my 1st run in 2013.
Me & Blue, after my 1st run in 2013.

Speaking of tomorrow, I’m excited because I think time and weather are on my side. If I’m correct, I will run my first miles of 2014! I’ve missed running. And although I need a new pair of running shoes (I never really bonded with the old ones), it’ll be so lovely to get outside and get fresh air. Running is one of my favorite forms of exercise for many reasons, and I have some new goals/approaches in store for the running season. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Time up!

The Four Agreements

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April, Love, Spirituality

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk had been on my mind earlier this week, and The Four Agreements have now taken up residence in its stead.

I’ve been actively working on unblocking by committing to write, so I’ll take these little bells as encouragement to keep going.

Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a short book, based on Toltec Wisdom. In it, he elucidates four agreements, or practices, we can implement daily to enjoy a more fulfilling life.

I’m very consistent on agreements #3 and #4, and I easily redirect myself #2. But I must admit, I abandon the very first one when I’m not careful. That’s the one I’m revisiting  now.

It would be a good exercise to (re)read the book and do some extended writing on each of the four principles. But for now, I’m posting them in their simplest form as a gentle reminder to myself:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

 

 

TED Talk Tuesday

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April, Writer's Craft

Although I haven’t seen it in over two years, this TED Talk has been on my mind the past few days. That means it’s time to take another look.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer, most famously known for Eat, Pray, Love. She quips early in the talk that it’s quite possible her greatest success is behind her. Even so, she was born to write, and she wants to keep writing.

Creative minds beset with the pressure to create and achieve outward measures of success are at times overwhelmed or downright tortured. Sometimes to the point of being unable to continue with their work. In the darkest cases, they are unable to continue living at all.

Said Elizabeth, “I would prefer to keep doing this work that I love. And so, the question becomes, how?”

Her TED Talk is the story of the answer.

Freedom of expression.

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

Lloimincia HallRandom things are feeding my spirit today. Namely, Lloimonicia’s #bossy floor routine (2014) and Carter G. Woodson’s The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933).

In completely different, yet parallel ways, they are radical performances. They are unapologetic. They are in your face. They demand you pay attention.

Whether you agree or disagree with Dr. Woodson’s stance or Ms. Hall’s choreography, you can’t help but notice. They are energized and focused on conveying a message. That freedom, across time and space, inspires me today.

The audaciousness makes me smile.

Just as I was finishing this post, I noticed this from ForHarriet. It features the tap dancers Syncopated Ladies, led by Chloe Arnold. I followed them to YouTube and discovered joy. Maybe you will, too.

Wishing you audacity, creativity and inspiration.

Probability, Possibility and Change

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April, Love

I believe in the potential for change. Change is, after all, one of the few constants in life. Even at the cellular level, there is always change. Birth, aging, sickness, death. Rebirth. Change.

I’m speaking about it in grand terms, but what I’m really talking about is the potential for individuals to evolve. To shift in attitudes, ways of thinking, and behaviors. To learn new things and be affected by them.

Ultimately, I believe in the potential of humans to be human.

…humans are always evolving (Freire). Not in the sense that humans are some how deficient, but rather that they, like plants, continue to seed and bloom and remake themselves. To live is to grow. Stagnation is, in effect, death. 
~Nicole D. Collier, In Defense of Inquiry

Earlier today someone mentioned in an offhand manner that grown people don’t change. Moreover, an attitude a man held five or six years ago would still be his attitude now.

You could make the case this is likely true. But as someone committed to developing my potential and helping others realize and develop theirs, I’m not so stuck on probability. I invite you to embrace possibility.

If we all stuck to what was probable, inventions we take for granted today would never have been birthed. If we dismissed things based merely on probability, who would ever take risks? What would be the purpose of ever dreaming beyond the present moment? There would be no bucket lists. No Nobel Prizes. No late blooming ballerinas. No manned missions to space. What use would anyone ever have for toiling or exploration?

When we are quick to write off the very possibility of human change, it becomes easy to write off those who have made poor choices in the past. Because they’ll “never amount to anything,” we expel kids from school without a second thought. Because “they’re worthless,” we allow people to die slow deaths in cages. And those who get out alive can scarcely live because, “they’re criminals anyway,” so they’ve proven they can’t handle voting, making an honest living, or {insert thing “good” people can do}.

I’m not arguing that we should ignore current evidence of ideas and attitudes people hold. After all, it’s sage advice to believe people when they show you who they are. But they’re showing you who they are at a given moment. Not who they were at birth. Not who they’ll be at death. Life shaped us to be who we are right now. Are you satisfied that this is the final version of you the world will ever see?

Human revolution cannot be pinned down to one specific thing. It is any action that leads to positive change or improvement in the inner realm of a person’s life. It is an ongoing process. The important question to ask yourself is whether you are on a path of continuous personal growth. ~Daisaku Ikeda

If we’ve not bothered to investigate – to engage another in a conversation, to see if evidence warrants new opinions, we’ve denied another human being the chance to be human.

Transformative learning occurs when one makes meaning of her life experiences. It often happens after a disorienting event. Something knocks you off balance and you are thrown into emotional vertigo.

Someone you love dies unexpectedly and you question the meaning of life. You travel abroad and confront culture in previously unimagined ways. You experience a profound betrayal. You read a book or watch a movie that elucidates a deeply resonant truth.

Whatever the event, you’re suddenly off-kilter and you must fight to reorient your life. Sometimes this reorientation means revisiting images of the past and reframing them. Or discarding them completely.

But the point is, you change. Your perspective changes. You release long-held beliefs. You alter your behavior. You’re different. You do what humans have the capacity to do. You learn and grow. You evolve.

It can happen at any point to any one of us. Even you…

We mustn’t discard possibility.

The magic of “and”

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

People are binary thinkers. They revel in the use of or.

  • You can be smart or you can be popular.
  • You can be a tall woman or you can be pretty.
  • You can be masculine or you can be a good parent.

It’s ridiculous to consider these things mutually exclusive, although some people do. And if we think about it, we can easily access counterexamples which prove “and” is possible in these instances.

I enjoyed this article by Katy Brand. In it, she addresses sexism and the people who sometimes unwittingly perpetuate it (including a man she once dated). She opens with a vignette about a wedding toast, and closes with a nod to Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the main subject of the piece:

Much has been made of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s fantastic response to opposition leader Tony Abbott when he rather ironically accused her of defending sexism in the government. If you haven’t read it, please do.

She brought up good points, but I think she undermined them when she wrote, albeit tongue-in-cheek:

So I say balls to femininity – I want to grow a pair as big as Gillard’s.

I don’t think it helps the cause of feminism (the movement to end sexist oppression) to affix male-centered traits to a woman resisting sexism and misogyny.  In her piece, Brand explains the challenges of femininity,  but it would’ve been more in line with her point to say women can be feminine and {insert amazing things often excluded from the feminine label}.

The PM can have a “magnificent rant” and we can applaud her without noting the “balls” it took to do it.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks her mind with authority!
Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks her mind with authority!

I’ve seen the rant. (You want to see it, too). It truly is magnificent. And because she’s standing face to face with the very leader she rebukes, while a room full of people look on, one might also call her gutsy or brave.

Because she remains undaunted while Abbot smirks and laughs in response, you might say she was steadfast.

The PM backed up her assertions with direct quotes from Abbot’s record, so her rant was well-reasoned and  clear-minded.

She minced no words. She pulled no punches. She was fierce and direct.

Really she was awesome, and I was inspired that she fought back.

I did not see balls. I did see a feminine woman AND I saw bravery and rationality and a badass speech.

The magic of “and.”