Stream of Consciousness: Planting

Feminist Thought, Spirituality

A bitter heart is fertile ground for the dream of revenge. It can extend beyond heart and mind, into body, into world. Enact the vengeance, and the recipient may agree, yes, this is justice.

Or she may not.

Her family may agree, or they may not. Her friends may agree, or not.

What if?

The wronged heart, too, grows bitter then. Poison cultivates a new dream of revenge. Imagination and courage dance, a perverse action.


Pain inflicted on another.

What if…

Newly wounded burn with anger, rot with pain, and poison the ground for a dream.

And so it is, the potential in actions born of bitterness.

With life comes pain. But in pain, do you seek restoration or destruction?

But what of a family, community, or nation? What is in the heart of those who act on behalf others? Does the seed inspire healing and wholeness? Or hurt?

How do you cultivate your heart? What fruits will it bear?

Food for thought

Zaimu Challenge

The Japanese word for mission (shimei) means to “use one’s life.” For what purpose do we use our lives? For what purpose have we been born in this world, sent for from the universe? ~Daisaku Ikeda

Some people spend years seeking, but never really finding, their mission. Others seem born understanding their place in the world. I believe each life, no matter how many breaths allotted on this this plane, is here to accomplish something. Perhaps  some are more fortunate than others in being able to discern (and even work to fulfill) their mission early in life.

When you can’t perceive your mission, you may feel your life is meaningless. But this is false. Reflecting on the events and the nature of your life can provide a window.

Even when, or especially when, your overwhelming experience is pain, you can find a way to use the events of your life to create more peace – for you and for those around you.

This is I think is the key from the statement above. It says “For what purpose do we use our lives?” This implies choice and effort rather than a passive anointing.

You needn’t await permission or a special phone call. You can look at your current circumstances and ask yourself, what can I do where I am, as I am? How can I create value here and now? Your answer may evolve over time, and based on your capabilities. It can be as simple as creating a more hopeful environment at work, or as complex as finding ways to eliminate lupus.

The point is to use your life in a contributive way. In so doing, you can better discern what you can do best; how you can help best.

For what purpose do you use your life today? How will you develop yourself to do even more tomorrow?

The wise will rejoice

Zaimu Challenge

I watched a short video this weekend, and it featured excerpts from a piece by Buddhist philosopher and peace activist Daisaku Ikeda. I haven’t felt anything resonate so deeply in a long time. I quickly jotted down all the words I could remember and then found part of the poem excerpted online:

Morning sky by nicole denise.
Morning sky by nicole denise.

Quietly ask yourself
if it isn’t in fact true
that each of us,
before being defeated by an external adversary,
is first defeated by ourselves.

The weak in spirit,
the cowardly,
even before wandering reluctantly
at the foot of the wall
that towers in their path,
shrink first before the sight
of their own shadow.
Terrified of illusory figures
of our own creation,
we are defeated by the bandits
that infest our heart.

The strong-willed,
the courageous,
are always the conquering masters
of their own minds.
Thus, they fear nothing,
remain unbowed, unflinching.
Whatever occurs,
they live in perfect accord
with the Daishonin’s counsel:
          The wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat.
They know that they themselves
are like that brilliant monarch, the sun.
Shooting bright beams
through the clouds
of impermanence and change,
they advance, heads held high
into the raging tempest.

From Be an eternal bastion of peace in Journey of Life: Selected Poems of Daisaku Ikeda

Puzzle Pieces

Zaimu Challenge

lotus-304976_640If you pursue a question or an idea and are open to the myriad whispering voices in your midst, it’s almost miraculous how you’ll begin to receive information, encouragement, something to bring you closer to understanding.

Almost miraculous, but on further reflection, it seems more of an equation. The first part, of course, is the question itself. The curious mind, the curious heart, desires to know; to understand. If there is no desire, even if the information is close at hand, it remains invisible. Undiscovered. Present, but ultimately useless. It’s a glass of water for one who has no thirst presently, and none approaching.

So a seeking spirit is the first key.

Aside from the question, there’s the matter of receptiveness. This is related to a curious heart, but it’s a separate consideration. Many people express interest in this, that or the other, but due to trauma or maybe ego or the like, they can’t receive. She thirsts. Water is plentiful. But it’s as good as invisible. She cannot drink.

So openness/receptiveness is the second key.

But what of wisdom? It’s of no use to to seek jewels and collect them, never realizing their true value. This is when one foregoes the offered water in favor of something sweeter or bubbly, but ultimately unsatisfying. It may be yummy, but does not quench the thirst. You must be able to discern the truth when it comes, whether you read it in a book, hear it or overhear it in conversation, or simply come to know it in the silences of your mind.

So wisdom must be the third.

I jotted these ideas today over lunch, after receiving a few puzzle pieces this morning. What, if anything would you change or add? 

Lead Through Art

Personal Narrative

Before my blogging break, I had the wondrous opportunity to attend the Aspen Institute’s Seminar on Leadership, Values and the Good Society. I found the experience a rewarding, albeit challenging one. It stretched me well beyond my introverted comfort zone. (Read my series about it here).

The seminar was geared toward leaders, and I found myself uneasy that I was not a leader in the traditional sense. There was one professional artist – a novelist – in attendance, and she admitted she felt the same. It was something I pondered throughout the experience.

I tend to take labels, categories and rules quite literally. And although I sometimes bend or break or mold things to suit me, other times I allow myself to feel confined and constrained. Quite often, the more constrained I feel, the more likely it is I’ve built the prison myself. In other words, I’m free to be or express myself, but I impose the limitations. It’s a lifelong struggle. In some moments I am able to break through, but others find me longing for true freedom.

I’m working on it.

Aspen Seminar Cohort

In that setting, I gave up a lot of my freedom and power to external circumstances. I had a sense this gathering was important, that I was somehow lucky to be there and although smart enough to understand the content, not really “qualified” in the technical sense. Classic impostor syndrome: What if they find out I don’t belong?

I know and understand many models of leadership, especially those on an intimate scale. Leadership in a classroom. In a family. In a situation. Still, in this group, I felt as if that wasn’t enough. That maybe, I wasn’t enough.

These were my internal demons. Lies. And yet there I was, chipping away at the lies each moment of the Seminar. Each session found me reframing my internal dialogue, encouraging myself to participate. Reminding myself I belonged. I was leading myself to Truth.

In the closing session on March 8, 2015, we were to handwrite a letter to ourselves, responding to the following questions:

  1. What take-aways do you want to remember?
  2. What commitments will you make to yourself?
  3. What personal goals/changes do you want to make?

The seminar organizers promised to mail those letters six months later, and I received mine right around Labor Day this year. I won’t share all the details, but I will share my closing determination:

Lead through art!

Looking back on the experience, I feel more confident of my ability to contribute in the future. To be myself. To realize that in a room of leaders with highly regarded and diverse experiences, I belong.

Beauty treatment

Personal Narrative

Take time to stop and smell the roses.

It’s an old sentiment, but one I’m thinking about as I fly home. I’m above the clouds now, and over my shoulder I spy the warming tones of the setting sun.

The sight made me want for Florida at first. But on second thought, what I’m missing is beauty. Winter’s cloudy, chilly mornings have kept me indoors on days I’d rather run.

Running outdoors is my meditation. My journal. It’s high fives to the rabbits who line the greenway, and smiles to the rising sun. It’s awe with flowers blooming in spring, leaves turning in autumn. It’s deep breaths in time with my feet – percussion behind a chorus of birds.

It’s been a while.

Sometimes my entire work day is spent in the bowels of a school. Cinder blocks obstruct the sun and the evergreens right along with cell service. “I’m in a bunker today,” I tell Blue.

The moments left before sunset are spent navigating Atlanta’s traffic. If you wait too late to hit 400 from 285, you might as well stay put another hour or two.

Despite an uncooperative schedule, it’s easy enough to experience beauty.

Seek and ye shall find.

When in doubt…

30 Day Blog Challenge

In 2010, I wrote a long letter of encouragement to a friend in faith who was mired in self-doubt at the time. I subsequently shared it with a mutual friend Tia, who graciously reminded me of it today. Perhaps I’ll do some revising and share it more fully. For now, here are a few excerpts:

With regards to cause and effect, you must remember that every single thought, word and action is a cause. All the minutes and seconds you spend in worry and doubt are causes for failure. Every single moment. Whatever is in your heart becomes your prayer and that is what becomes manifest. You must guard your heart and really challenge yourself to stop that negative thinking when it appears. It’s going to appear (you’re human), but how you react when it appears is a function of your faith…

How difficult you find something to be is always in direct proportion to your capacity to respond to it – or in proportion to your thoughts about your ability. So basically, we only think things are hard if we don’t think we are strong enough or smart enough or good enough to tackle them.

No matter what is going on, it always goes back to the fundamental darkness that we are not worthy, or smart enough or good enough. But the truth is, you have everything you need in order to be successful. Your challenge is simply to make use of the tools in your environment.

In love,

Nicole, the LadyBuddha

Just keep swimming

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

“I think that a lot of people in our country have gotten depressed, pinned in, pinned down with living lives they don’t want…tell me what your dreams are. What are you chasing? It’s not impossible.” ~Diana Nyad

There are lots of big stories in the news right now. Some of national import, others of international import, but the one of personal import is about badass Diana Nyad. She’s a 64-year-old marathon swimmer, she set a new record, and perhaps most importantly, she refused to be defeated by time, circumstances or self-doubt. She went for an Xtreme Dream and made it come true.

Age is not an excuse for giving up. Allowing yourself to grow passive and draw back is a sign of personal defeat. There may be a retirement age at work, but there is no retirement age in life. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Nyad swam 110.4 statue miles  in just under 53 hours, making the trek from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She wasn’t without protection – donning a special suit and mask to protect her from the jellyfish which foiled her previous attempt. And she wasn’t alone – her team was with her, stopping her for feedings and rest and making sure her path was as passable as possible.

Xtreme Dreams Require Relentless Pursuit

The seed to swim to Florida was first planted in Nyad as a young girl, and she made her initial attempt at the age of 29. That attempt, and the next three were beset by obstacles she couldn’t overcome. Despite the disappointing setbacks, she refused to give up on her dream without trying one last time.

You have a dream 35 years ago — doesn’t come to fruition, but you move on with life. But it’s somewhere back there. ~Diana Nyad

Not only is she a lifelong swimmer and dreamer, Nyad is also a lifelong learner. Although 35 years passed between her initial attempt and her final, successful one, Nyad said she learned we should never give up, we’re never too old to chase our dreams, and even solitary sports like swimming are a team effort.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about goals in recent years. And as I’ve hinted in the past, I have a lifelong dream or two I’m pursuing. As beautifully illustrated by Nyad’s victory, dreams don’t simply come true on their own. It’s not enough to have one. It’s not enough to hope and wish it will come true. It takes effort. Human action steps. And sometimes, even with planning and preparation, it’s not enough to go for it once.

Anyone who has ever made a resolution discovers that the strength of that determination fades in time. The moment you feel that is when you should make a fresh determination. Tell yourself, “OK! I will start again from now!” If you fall down seven times, get up an eighth. Don’t give up when you feel discouraged—just pick yourself up and renew your determination each time. ~Daisaku Ikeda

It took Nyad five attempts  – five – over the course of more than 30 years. This tells as much about physical skill and endurance as it does about patience and perseverance.

But just as important as the thought to never give up, is the seriousness of intent and clarity of purpose. That 8-year-old Nyad dreamed of swimming the Florida straits, and 20-something-year-old Nyad was a successful endurance swimmer wasn’t happenstance.  Furthermore, that 64-year-old Nyad was ultimately successful, wasn’t a matter of luck. It was the culmination of focused determination and untold hours and years of disciplined work.

These are habits I’m developing in myself. Mostly I’m working to overcome my own efforts at self-sabotage through procrastination, something Joshunda tweeted about recently. It’s a process, but then again, growing and evolving always is. The point, at least for me, is to keep striving. Or, as Dory said in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming.”

The worst mistake you can make is to give up on yourself and stop challenging yourself for fear of failure. Keep moving forward with a firm eye on the future, telling yourself, “I’ll start from today!” “I’ll start afresh from now, from this very moment!” ~Daisaku Ikeda

Agnes asks the question of the day

Temple Building
Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 10.52.58 AM
Gru says goodnight to Agnes.

Four of us went movie-going yesterday – two adults, two kids. We donned our 3D glasses, cozied up to some popcorn, and settled in for Despicable Me 2. My movie watching has been severely limited the past few years, so I hadn’t seen the  original. I met the characters for the first time, and while I had a couple of favorites in the bunch, Agnes inspired this post.

Gru is our hero, super-villain turned anti-villain, and Agnes is the youngest of his three daughters. Without giving too much away, Gru finds himself sad and unsure of what he can do about something that feels out of his control.

He admits his sadness to the intuitive little one, and in an effort to comfort him, Agnes poses two questions:

  1. Is there anything I can do? (No).
  2. Is there anything *you* can do?

This second question resonated with Gru, who was sparked to action as a result. It moved the story forward and it moves me forward as well, whenever I feel similarly overwhelmed.

Materially, realizing there was something he could do didn’t change Gru’s situation all that much. On the other hand, realizing there was something he could do changed his attitude, and helped him uncover potential in what seemed a hopeless state of affairs. Spotting that potential and then taking the next step gave him power when he was otherwise powerless. And sometimes that’s all we need.

Realizing we can’t do everything but we can, at least, do something, can help us gain perspective. We can then take action rather than being defeated in our hearts, settling for nothing at all. The next time you’re in a rut, or feeling overwhelmed by adversity, think about Agnes, and ask yourself what you can do. It doesn’t matter how big or how small, but is there anything you can do? If so, get to it!

We cannot do everything at once,
but we can do something at once.
~Calvin Coolidge.

A word on hope. #NaBloPoMo #Buddhism.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Spirituality, Temple Building

NaBloPoMo March 2013What is your philosophy of life? Does it involve action, momentum, value creation and good cheer? Is it passive, reactive, somber? Quality of life is more about how we decide to live, rather than what happens to us in the living of it. There’s risk in choosing to live optimistically. We can’t predict or control the hurricanes or floods, the disappointing diagnoses, the betrayals. Sometimes we don’t see that knock out punch coming, and there we are dazed, contemplating the wisdom of standing. The decisions we make in difficult moments are grounded in our approach to life.

I advocate a philosophy of hope. It’s funny, because I’ve often said, “hope is not a strategy.” But that’s incomplete. What I mean is hope is not going to write your paper, deliver your presentation, or mend strained relationships. Hope doesn’t take the action steps required for living day-to-day.

But having hope can keep you facing forward, looking on the bright side of a dark moment. It can feed your courage so you can regroup and try again tomorrow. Hope ensures you don’t give up at the crucial moment, when time is still left on the clock.

Hope is for the living.

We must face each issue that crops up, without flinching, solve it, overcome it and move on to the next. That is what human life is really about. That is what it is to be alive. When you triumph over your sufferings, they will all be transformed into joy. And you yourself will grow and expand.

“Despair is the refuge of fools,” goes the saying. As long as you hold on tightly to hope, as long as you take earnest actions to fight, you can be sure that spring will come again. A Russian proverb says, “There is no winter in the kingdom of hope.”

~Daisaku Ikeda in Goya