Post #3293: Changing the lock

I feel like my “real life” has been on pause the last couple of months. Between a very difficult tenancy situation in my parents’ home (and by difficult, I mean that police intervention was required repeatedly as the tenants harassed and attacked my elderly parents), and perimenopausal symptoms that have seen a real uptick since turning 50 — I have been a bit of a wreck. Frozen at times, hyper-reactive at others; it’s been a roller coaster ride of reactions lately. Fortunately, the most acute situation (the tenants) was fully resolved this week and my brother and I changed the lock on the suite Wednesday. It’s remarkable how much my mood has lifted in just the last 48 hours.

Pretty much as soon as I got home on Wednesday night I started to drop back into the normal routine of my life – getting into my studio and finishing up some yarn that had been languishing, yesterday I wove two napkins on the small loom, and started plotting out my next weaving projects. This morning I found myself thinking about rebranding this dormant blog, or possibly another writing project. Though I am still exhausted from the last few months, my creative life seems much more do-able again.

I’m going to be careful though, not to take these signs as license to start a million more things right now. I’m making a pact with myself to get some studio work finished over the next couple of weeks, and then we’ll see about new projects over the summer. My theme for 2023 is “Making Do” which is something I landed on after realizing that task lists and daily goals just weren’t working for me anymore – so I’m going to continue to touch base with that – working with what I have at hand and taking things slow as I continue to recover from my period of perpetual anxiety.

The immediate resurgence of energy and interest has been a reminder of something I recognized after the whole work debacle last spring (when I quit a work assignment due to toxic dynamics and unrealistic work expectations). That experience taught me that no matter how on point you are with all the practices – creativity, exercise, meditation, eating healthy, etc. – they can only do so much for you when the stress valve gets turned onto high. When big stressors like high stakes conflict, abuse, or violence are present, the goal should always be to get away from/bring an end to the situation, not to find new ways of tweaking our psychology or spirituality in order to tolerate it.

There are, of course things that we can’t escape from, like perimenopause and past trauma – things we have to face head on using all of our skills and practices. Since changing the lock on Wednesday, I’m a lot more free to work on those things since I’m not getting out of this body anytime soon (knock on wood). So onward with the healthy practices! Not to mention the therapy and journaling. I’m just glad to be back in myself a little bit more as this week closes out.

Post #3292: Seeds and stuff

Here we are, right on the vernal equinox – and just like that the neighbourhood is full of bird and frog songs. The serenades started a couple of weeks ago, baby birds first, the frogs joining in about a week later. Such welcome sounds after late snowfall this winter. This morning there is rain, but also the strong scent of ocean in the air, the gulls were squawking well before dawn making me wonder if there is something dead on the beach they were excited about.

I’ve been pruning trees and moving plants around in the garden a bit as I start to orient myself outside again. The rhubarb was not thriving in the spot I planted it three years ago, so I’ve moved it into the orchard which left a patch of acidic soil open to move the struggling blueberries into. I’ve got some dye seeds in the planting tray, and flower seeds to sow outdoors (hollyhocks and sweet peas – both of which I need more of in my life). It’s really just puttering at this point, but pretty soon we’ll have to get serious about the yard again.

I’ve been a bit mentally absent from things these last three weeks, owing to an epic issue going on in another part of my life (not health-related, I’m fine – just stressed). Because my life normally hums along in a drama-free way, and I do lots of meditation and exercise to help keep things stable, I had forgotten how much acute stress acts to separate the self from the body (the chemical flooding, racing heartbeat, and dissociative states). It’s made it impossible to write anything other than my handful of daily instagram words, and I haven’t been very good at keeping up with anything not immediately in front of me.

As a result, some issues I thought were long resolved have returned. Fortunately I know that can be helped with a bit of therapy, so I’m figuring that out right now as well as doing what I can to alleviate the actual situation that created this chain effect in the first place. It’s been a trying time, all round, though I recognize how well-resourced I am, including having a very supportive life partner who pulls out all the stops in our life together.

I’ve got a new warp on the loom as of last night – napkins with squares of texture which you can see in the photo above. I’m not sure about my colour choices after the soothing blues I was working with last month, but I think when these are finished they will work and I do love the combinations coming out in the weave. Working with my hands is one of the things that calms me most, the project-oriented nature of functional work brings me immense satisfaction, whether that’s weaving a domestic item or winding a ball of yarn.

I’m not sure how to close this off except to say I’m still out here, doing my thing, and working through the stuff that needs to be worked through. More soon when the writing returns to me – and happy equinox to all! May your days unfold with grace as the season transitions to warmer days!

Post #3291: Notebooks

I have a too-many notebooks problem at the moment. I have one titled The Journal of Endings in which I note and write about things coming to an end. I have a process journal for the book I was writing last year. I have one titled Daily Noticing which has become more like a planner/catchall/tarot diary since the layout is not the best for free-form writing. I have one on the dining room table to catch thoughts from reading and reflections; and this week I have started another for daily writing practice. Though I wrestled with marking up yet one more blank book, I couldn’t see my way around it given the specific purposes of the other notebooks in play.

The problem here lies in the fact that by having this many notebooks on the go, I will never come to the end any one of them – or at the very least, my satisfaction of *finishing* a notebook will be delayed into the far future. Which begs the question of whether I really only keep a notebook in order to prove to myself that I write enough to fill one.

The other problem with multiple notebooks is that I will likely eventually abandon one or more of them, leaving the irritating half-finished notebook cluttering up my desk for the many months it takes me to come to terms with the drift of my attention. Future me will pull these half-finished notebooks out and feel frustrated at the fact so many pages went un-used, and yet she won’t be able to bring herself to re-start an old notebook. The chronology is wrong for one thing, not to mention the fact that the content from one period of life doesn’t hold up beside another.

My conundrum brings to mind the notebooks of Anna Wulff In The Golden Notebook, that classic of western literature by Doris Lessing. In attempting to analyze herself, Anna starts four colour-coded notebooks dedicated to various parts of her life (including her alter-ego Ella). She doesn’t like the idea of keeping a single notebook which she feels will lead to a kind of chaos, but over the course of the novel she starts slipping between them, confusing one for the other and inserting content in the wrong places. It is only when she embarks on the synthesis notebook (the golden one) that things in her life start to make sense to her, and she overcomes her alienation and paralysis in both relationships and creativity. Anna is integrated by drawing her worlds together into a single object of reflection. There’s a lesson in there for me, I’m sure, but I’m not heeding it.

Though I don’t write in order to self-analyze, that is likely the root of all this. After all, notebook content almost never makes it into the public except in roundabout ways. But by writing down quotations, reflections about my reading, thoughts about the day, things I notice, and conversations I am moved by, I show myself to myself with each new entry. In Harper Lee’s words: writing is “a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily [the writer’s] demon, but of his divine discontent.” And what is discontent if not the state of perpetually not quite knowing oneself?

Post #3290: My personal inbox situation

Since the beginning of the new year I’ve been in a decluttering and re-organizing mode: inbox, closets, studio, finances. It wasn’t a resolution since I didn’t make any this year, but it’s clearly where my focus has attenuated in these last few weeks. Perhaps it is connected to my “Making Do” theme for 2023, as that requires a bit of taking stock to find out what I am making do with – or perhaps it’s just reflective of the breathing space I’m feeling since stepping back from union responsibilities. Either way, it feels good to follow my attention to some long-neglected corners.

One area which has produced a tremendous result in a very brief period of time has been getting down to it with my personal email. Over the years I have subscribed, or been subscribed to, a shocking number of lists, newsletters, and systems/app notifications – to the tune of several hundred emails per week (if not thousands). When Google introduced it’s new inboxing system a few years ago, which included tabs for “updates” “promotions” “social” and “forums” – I figured this would help me deal with the email onslaught and I dutifully sorted inbox messages that came in, hiding away messages beneath their appropriate tabs.

Turns out, that only made my email-hoarding problem worse as I read next-to-nothing under those tabs and periodically found myself deleting thousands of emails in a go, invariably ridding myself of something important like concert tickets or receipts along with all the “clutter”. Plus, the Promotions and Social tabs deploy Google Ads, which can never be removed and lend to my email the overwhelm.

This problem with unread messages lead to other issues, like being billed for services I no longer wanted to subscribe to, but missing the notifications because they went into the updates or promotions tabs. There was also the fact that I wanted subscriptions to some things but didn’t see them because they were buried in the never-ending stream of irrelevant messages.

The problem was so bad, I had stopped recognizing it as a problem and just accepted it as the way that email works for me. It’s funny what we grow to tolerate just because that’s the way it is.

But near the end of 2022, I got to Zero Inbox on my work emails – which took a few days of sorting, deleting, and responding to things – and I recognized how much lighter I felt at the end of each day with only a couple of emails left to address. Looking for more lightness in my life, I figured I should apply the same to my personal inbox situation. I’m fine with my inbox as storage for conversations and connections, but I didn’t need to also keep thousands of ads and social notifications.

Since that realization, I’ve been unsubscribing from things like it’s my full-time job. I started by running through the first hundred or so emails under each tab and unsubscribing from everything I no longer wanted. Then, I deleted everything in my promotions, updates, and social tabs and got rid of the promotions and social tabs altogether, so things can’t hide there anymore. And now that I’ve got a handle on it, I evaluate each thing that comes in and decide whether I want to continue my subscription or not. The first few days of this were rough, but now I’m three weeks in, and there are only a handful of emails per day.

I’ve directed the subscriptions I want to keep to the Forums tab, which I review every morning and actually read now that I’m not overwhelmed all the time. The Updates tab is for receipts and reminders, which I delete when I don’t need them any longer. My main inbox is personal email.

There is no question this feels waaaay better than the “hide it under the bed” approach to my inbox I’ve relied on for years. I am not stressed when I open my email for one thing, but I’m also allowing time in the morning to scan the actual news bulletins from the NYT and Globe and Mail (subscriptions I pay for) so I feel more informed and in touch as I start my day. I’ve also realized that although there are many worthy Substack newsletters in the world, there are only a handful I am excited to get in my inbox. I can scan the rest from the Substack app once a week without all the clutter.

The inbox cleanse is also helping me identify automatic payments I no longer want to be subscribed to, and how susceptible I am to email advertisements from my favourite craft suppliers. As much as it pained me to unsubscribe from the Maiwa mailing list (not to mention all my fabric stores!), my bank balance is sure to be healthier without first-thing-in-the-morning impulse purchases prompted by email. Just last week I created a spreadsheet to track where my money goes on a monthly basis – an action completely related to the email taking-stock I have been doing.

Now that I’ve swept out the dirt from under the bed, is it possible to keep my room clean beyond the first month of the year? Only time will tell! I’ve never undertaken an inbox cleanse with this much rigor – but as we all know, old habits are hard to break. I think I’ll have to give this You’re Wrong About episode with Anne Helen Peterson on “How Email Took Over the World” a listen every six months to remind me how damaging the continued drain on attention can be – and I’ve set a recurring task in my calendar to take stock of my email situation every three months to see how things stand. Given the net-positive so far, I’d like to keep my inbox situation under control from here on out.

Post #3289: My Way-Seeking Mind

In my Zen tradition, some time after we take our vows (precepts), we are called on to deliver a “Way Seeking Mind Talk” to our community. This commitment had been on my agenda for some time, but between foot dragging and the pandemic, I only delivered the talk this past September 2022. Although it was well-received by the people who attended (and those who listened afterwards), I was reluctant to share it elsewhere. It is an intimate talk that reveals some painful details from my life – it took a lot of courage just to share it once! But the spiritual path is one of courage, and of facing up to one’s own life – something one of my teachers reminded me on my trip to the zendo this past weekend. I’ve removed my identifying details from the talk so it doesn’t show up in a google search of my name.

My name is….  My pronouns are….. 

I live in….. / territory of…..

I grew up in…… / territory of……..

I have been in this practice for eight years, taking Jukai in March of 2017 and adopting the Zen name of Tosho Jakuen which means Clear Advocate/Serene Garden.

This is my first time back in the zendo in about three years – though I have practiced online with many of you during the pandemic. I thank my teachers Shinmon Michael and Myoshin Kate for the prompt to prepare this talk, something I have been planning to do for many years. After such a lengthy absence from the zendo, returning to give a talk feels like the right way to re-enter physical community with you all. 

I’ve been sifting through my ideas for this talk like a handful of stones from the beach, trying to choose the one that stands out the most or could be polished up as the shiniest. It seems foolish to collect stones, but I do. Almost everytime I go to the beach across from my house on Gabriola Island, I come back with another stone which might sit on a window sill or find a place in the garden. I have a stone that sits beside my laptop on my desk, one that I chose earlier this year when I was having some difficulty with work. It’s got an almost satin surface, and yet it’s not so smooth as to be boring. When I close my hand around it, I am reminded of the ocean down below and the way in which it gives me solace when I am most in need.

Right as the pandemic was starting two and a half years ago, my neighbour Nancy died of heart complications resulting from a long bout of pneumonia. She wasn’t very old, only in her early sixties and her death troubled many of us in my neighbourhood even though she had only lived among us for a year or so. She died alone, for one thing. But for another, she was a person very much not at peace in her life and it seemed wrong that she was robbed of having a chance to grow old enough to find that peace. At least that’s how it seemed to me. 

At this time, I was hosting a weekly meditation circle at my house, which Nancy attended along with some others who lived close by. I decided that in the absence of any closer person to her, I would convene our neighbours in the park at the appropriate social distance. I found a zen prayer and collected beach stones. As part of the informal service, I asked everyone to write a word or thought on a rock and then share some words with the group before returning the rock to the basket. After everyone had dispersed, I took the basket of written-on rocks down to the beach, and I chanted the Makka Hanya Haramitta Shin Gyo (the Heart Sutra) on the edge of the sea before taking the rocks and throwing them one by one into the water, wishing our friend Nancy well in her travels on the other side. 

There are two things at work here as I write this talk, one is the solidity of stone – the reminder of earth and hardness – and the other is the fluidity of water as represented by the ocean which washes the stones away and makes them soft. These are both a kind of refuge which I will touch on in my Way Seeking Mind Talk today. Like a collection of stones in my palm, it’s hard to choose the right stories with which to begin. I have started by talking about the ocean which I live beside, and the death of my neighbour Nancy, but I could start just about anywhere. 

In Brad Warner’s recent book The Other Side of Nothing he calls the Way-Seeking Mind Talk “What Am I Doing Here”. I just happened to read that a few weeks ago, after I had agreed to come and give my talk in the Zendo. This rephrasing was helpful because it made the whole thing seem a bit more approachable, but it also made me laugh because the first time I went to Dokusan here in this Zendo, I asked Michael – What Am I Doing Here? It seemed to me very preposterous that I would find myself in a Zen meditation center sitting in a room the size of a supply closet with a monk-like person wearing black robes. I’m sure I am not the first person who has gone into the dokusan closet and asked this very question, and now many years later I am here to give some thought to that question in front of all of you. 

I am grateful that so many of you are here to listen to that answer, here in the Zendo and online. I am grateful that as the pandemic winds on, there is still a Zendo to attend. So thank-you to my teachers, and to my Sangha for that.

There are a lot of ways to answer “What am I doing here?” and so I’ll start with the simplest story I tell about how I ended up in this Zendo, which is that way back in 2013, I was doing my Master’s degree in Liberal Studies at SFU downtown. That program is different than other graduate programs – it’s aimed at older, working students – and the courses are all over the intellectual map. So in one semester I was studying the philosophy of scientific discovery and I did a term project on the emergence of neuro-plasticity as a concept. In the course of that research I read a lot of scientific studies about meditation that were interesting to me. In the next semester I chose a course lead by Heesoon Bai, an education professor, called “What is Enlightenment,” in which we explored the philosophical concept of awakening. As part of that course we were required to do an experiential project, and so curious from my prior research, I decided to meditate for five minutes a day and write about that experience as it unfolded. Pretty soon I was meditating for longer and longer periods of time, becoming more curious about the experience and the subtle changes to my thinking and awareness. During that time I met a couple of guiding meditation teachers, one at my workplace, one at the university – and at the end of the semester I went on a four-day self-guided meditation retreat. I wasn’t ready to go find a temple or anything at that point, but I was interested in finding people to meditate with – and I started having people in my neighbourhood over to meditate once a week. 

Around this same time I heard Norman Fischer giving an interview on a podcast and liked the sound of his voice, so when my friend Carmen recommended coming to this Zendo and I made that connection between the voice and the head teacher, I was more willing to come here than I might have been to another Buddhist Center.

But still another part of that story involves going to a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat on Denman Island when I had just started coming here, and deciding that the aesthetic of Zen practice and practice life worked better for me than other forms of Buddhist practice. 

So that’s one thread of how I ended up here. But it’s the simplest answer and perhaps not the truest. It makes the whole thing sound like a rational, academic venture – like through research I discovered meditation was good for me and so I became a Zen Buddhist. The end. It’s a good story for parties. Doesn’t make anyone too uncomfortable and so on. 

Another version of how I ended up here starts for me in a childhood in which I was much alienated from myself. Though my parents did their best, I did not come from a family of unconditional support. We are very duty-bound to each other, but I think it’s fair to say we find one another difficult a great deal of the time (and haven’t been afraid to tell each other so over the years). In our family mythology, I was the difficult child – fussy and angry in babyhood, and labelled too emotional by the time I was a toddler. During my formative years I was frequently in trouble because I talked too much, was too loud and exuberant, got frustrated easily, and often cried. Attempts to control my behaviour involved yelling, scare tactics, isolation and sometimes hitting. I was blamed often for larger family problems such as marital issues and my mother’s depression which I believed myself to be the cause of. As I have come to look back on my childhood, I now understand that I was a child who didn’t know how to regulate my emotions, being raised by people who were pretty deficient in this way also. 

But when I was younger, I didn’t understand that at all. Because there are a lot of mental health problems on both sides of my family – clinical depression, manic depression, schizophrenia, and suicide are leaves on the branches of our genealogical tree, as are alcoholism, violence, and other forms of acting out – I was lead to believe that my moods were hereditary and something that were not quite my fault (even as I was being punished for them). I think it was supposed to help me somehow, to know that other people in my family had similar difficulties, but instead of making me feel better, that knowledge left me feeling defective and trapped inside something I had no control over. 

As a teenager I attempted suicide and was medicated for depression which left me feeling ill and lethargic. SSRIs weren’t a thing at the time, and the drugs they gave teenagers were intended for adults and mostly heavily sedating. Trouble within my family intensified during these years and I spent much of my time with other alienated youth hanging around on the streets and at punk rock shows, beginning a period of fairly heavy drug and alcohol use in my life that lasted into my early twenties. I moved out of my parents home the day I graduated from high school and from then on have refused to take any medication for my mental health episodes which up until a few years ago involved severe bouts of depression, anxiety, and a form of obsessive compulsive disorder which manifests in recurrent negative thought patterns. Although I was raised to believe myself genetically doomed to suffer from disorders like this, I have come to understand them as something else – something learned in a disordered family system, something embedded through repetitive stories and projections, and something that I can ameliorate through diligent practice if not eradicate all together. 

I have no doubt this persistent alienation and my mental health context is a major factor that brought me to meditation and then to Zen practice. Though I didn’t perceive myself as in crisis when I showed up here eight years ago, my practice since then has illuminated for me the crisis that is just being alive, and my need to find a place of rest and refuge. This practice has become my daily refuge when I take my cushion for morning meditation and chant my robe chant. 

About a year after I started a daily meditation practice, the obsessive compulsive thoughts ceased completely. I almost didn’t notice when it happened because it’s hard to remember an absence, but one day I realized that my mind was so much clearer without those persistent thought cycles. My mental health is much better for it and I experience life quite differently now than I did when I was younger. 

But meditation isn’t the only factor in that, because yet another part of the story of how I got to be here is that fifteen years ago I met my husband Brian, and discovered the power of love in healing old wounds. Our anniversary of meeting is next weekend, as is our wedding anniversary since we met on the last Sunday of September fifteen years ago and married on the last Sunday of September twelve years ago. 

Brian and I entered each other’s lives at a time that was strained for both of us in different ways. Without going into too much detail here, I had been involved in radical environmental circles which resulted in a number of people close in my life arrested and in American prisons (or on the run, underground). As one of the key support people to those who were arrested, I spent much of my time taking phone calls from prison, and travelling to federal court dates in Eugene Oregon which is where the bulk of the hearings took place. My own life had been investigated by three law enforcement agencies as a result of my associations, but because I was never a law breaker I was mostly left alone to support the people I knew who were. It’s a weird chapter of my life, and one that few people could ever understand, but it resulted in the loss of many friendships that were very important to me. By the time I met Brian, my life and mental health had been unstable for a number of years, and I was recovering from a bout of serious depression in our first months of dating. 

It seems remarkable to me now that he accepted all of that about me, and not only that, came from a political family history that had some similar characteristics. From very early in our relationship he accepted me unconditionally, and not only that, loved me more than anyone has in this lifetime. He brought with him a daughter who became a part of my family, and from the two of them I learned so much about myself and my own family of origin struggles. When I was first with Brian and his daughter Mica, I would feel jealous about their relationship – not in the sense of being displaced in our partnership – but because it modeled for me what a healthy parent-child relationship might look like. Which highlighted that I hadn’t exactly had that growing up. Helping to raise a child and then teenager gave me an entryway to reflect on how I was treated and spoken to during my difficult years, and whether or not I would do the same to a child in my own care (turns out – no, I can’t imagine speaking to my daughter the way I was spoken to). 

By experiencing and witnessing love in this way, the alienation I had always felt from myself and from the world in which I lived, diminished substantially, and through my partnership I have become a much more open person, truthful to my emotional reality instead of armoured in the shell of “toughness” I had cultivated from my teenage years onwards. This opening in myself allowed me to acknowledge my desire for greater connection and spiritual understanding of the world, something I had rejected since my teenage years. It was this seeking that lead me to my university program, and directly into a course about the nature of Enlightenment. As much as I can tell a story about neuroplasticity and meditation, the truth is, I was curious long before that. And when I got curious enough, I had a person in my life who encouraged me, who took my longing for spiritual communion seriously, and who has been with me in this journey all along. I might have made it here some other way, but the support and love of my partner has been instrumental in learning to give and receive love in the broadest sense of that concept. And to practice in vulnerability and unselfconsiously. 

But I’m not done yet, because another version of how I got here is about my never-ending desire to be a part of community, something bigger than me that holds out the possibility of change. Because I was dominated and alienated as a child, I grew up with a keen sense of injustice at play in the world. That drove me into activism from my early teen years, first engaging to save the Carmanah Valley old growth from logging in high school, followed up by anti-racist organising, housing actions such as WoodSquat, supporting the early needle exchanges in the DTES before they were legal, and into some more radical environmental circles in my mid-to-late twenties. It’s why I became a workplace advocate and the union leader I am today. 

I am an organizer of people and I strive to work with others in common on projects – my closest relationships and friendships have always been based on shared work. And I fantasize often about living and working in a more collective way. As part of that drive my partner and I run a residency out of our home for songwriters and musicians, as well as hosting regular house concerts (we just had one last night). 

Where I used to focus my drive for community around protest to make change, I now work towards building resilience and connection in all the work that I do. Which isn’t to say I discount playing an oppositional role in order to open up dialogue or space, but that I have found to live in continual resistance is straining. This was a significant identity shift in my life and one that came about after some hard experience that demonstrated how difficult it is to sustain love inside of inflexibility, whether that is systemic or personal.

My drive for common cause is still strong however, and that includes being in spiritual community, a place where we come together in acceptance of the present moment, and support each other in making the journey from one part of our lives to the next. A place where we co-create refuge in the zendo and on retreat, and in our minds when we think of one another practicing in another place like our teachers are this month. A big part of how I got here, is that eight years ago, I walked into a welcoming space with others who take seriously the ethics of care for each other and the planet – and while it might seem odd to build community with people who are mostly silent in each other’s presence, I have felt that by paring back the social expectations, I have known some people in the community as well or better than many people in my life. 


I started out by talking about stones from the beach and the ocean but I’d like to finish today by taking you to a different place from my life which served as a refuge when I was young. Besides books, which were my first refuge, I was lucky enough to grow up on the edge of a forty-acre wood, which belonged to an old man named Mr Baerer who let the community use it as a park. In that forest there was a creek, an old rubbish pile from logging days, and a small cave framed by an oak tree that was big enough for two children to sit in. There were trails that lead to other parts of the neighbourhood, and these took us to places away from adults for hours at a time. My friend Miranda’s older sister Tanis would make up stories and games for us to play, and drew magical creatures on the walls of their pony paddock. My brother’s best friend Tim spent hours learning to walk without making a sound so he could go right up to a deer in the forest without it running away. Though the original trees had been cut, the mature second-growth cedars and Douglas Firs towered over us, giving way every once and awhile to a grove of Arbutus trees up on the dry rock outcrops. I have walked those trails with my friends and alone through all the years of my life, it has recently been protected as a park. As I have been working on this talk over the last week, I keep coming back to a spot in that forest where the creek opens up from the foliage and a small log bridge crosses over it. There is a trail to this spot, but when I was a child it looked more like a deer trail than anything and so only the children followed it off the old logging road. I think the reason I’ve been returning to this spot in my mind is because it was a profound place of refuge and exploration for me, a place owned by no one and shared by all, and where the trees offered a watchful presence to life unfolding all around. 

I think about my practice these days much like that, like the cool forest floor on a hot day, like the creek cutting through the snow, like the nettles that only sting for a moment before they are made into tea. My practice is also like the ocean rising and receding over the stones that I pick up from the beach whenever I go there to walk. It is one of the ways that I continue to make peace with my life history. It is my refuge, and my path. 

I thank you again for being present to witness my way-seeking mind talk. I thank my teachers for their dedication to our practice, and everyone who helps to continue this tradition so that others may also discover their own way to it.

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