Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Some Brainstorming on Strength

I was just about to write that I have never considered myself a strong person, but I couldn't write it because it's not true. I think instead that I have wanted to be a strong person looking like I'm trying to be effortlessly strong. And there's a strength in trying something over and over without it working. That type of imbecility certainly takes persistence, and persistence builds a muscle.

But to acknowledge something and then to say no to it. That takes a strength I haven't developed yet. And I tend to think, "If only . . ." and then I rely on the outcome to prove that I'm doing something right. I rarely breathe in the anger on the spot. I rarely believe that there's a finite amount of anger and that I can make a difference by transmuting the anger I encounter. I think anger is finite, but like the universe, expands. And yet I believe love is infinite? I don't know how to put these ideas together. I don't know who the Devil is, exactly. Temptation and ego and God and love. Creativity. If conflict is how I learn about myself and others and if I grow by taking that conflict and turning it over to love, then wouldn't I want to be tempted into the evil? Or does the evil just find me? Where is the strength in being found? I'm very confused!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Karma, Desires, Forgiveness, Reflection

This morning: Oh, please forgive my trespasses. I will forgive anything I need to! I'm trying to build it up! How can I look at things differently? The sun rose with it's pinkness peaking over the grey. Always bright. I come to my mantra to try to remember that things are the way they are. It may not be a matter of forgiveness as much as it is forgetting. Letting go.

Upon reflection, I see my role in the pattern of things. I will keep coming back to this. I know I will be an old woman thinking these things--but maybe I can also think about other things, too. Can I accept without judgement the thoughts I have about wanting attention? What I label girly is what is causing me damage.

Ram Dass: "And therein lies the tale that I'm still paying for. If you've got power desires you get everything you ever wanted. That's what's so horrible about it. You recognize having something that you wanted about 10 years ago. And you gotta have it now. And if you want to get rid of it you'll have it again, that's what so horrible about it. You just gotta have it. Let it run off, running off old karma"

And all things we never named and all the desires of others. We're bound.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Compassion While Angry

The other day I was in a fit. I was fed up and overwhelmed. And the worst part of it all was that I was treading familiar territory; being mad about the same things I've been mad about before was just adding to the flame of anger that was already within me.

I tried a new practice and was annoyed with it when just days earlier I had been so happy and so pleased with myself! Then, I was on new path! Now, I was dried up, yesterday's news, no one going anywhere.

I curled my self-pity and lostness into bed and picked up one of my trusty books. Somewhere between someone's good advice, I realized I had been believing that when I'm angry I don't deserve my love, kindness, or compassion.

And this is true of how I treat others. If anyone or anyplace is angry, then I want outta there. I will leave leave leave.

So this time I chose not to believe the worst about myself during my time of anger. I practiced tonglen with a very specific audience in mind (to all thirty-four year old women who have been in an unmarried relationship for four years and do not have children . . .) because I cannot be the only one going through this anger.

I understood better the wisdom that the anger would not be inside me if I didn't have the capacity to be this angry. So I tried something new and prayed to God for help with this anger. What makes me laugh is how much I hate the phrase, "I gave it to God." This is prompting me to make a distinction. I like the phrase, "Give it to God" because it implies that no one has to carry her burden alone. It implies a humbleness that the load is too heavy and that it's ok to ask for help. But I hate the "I gave it to God" because that implies my part is over. As if I just gave it away once and now I'm good to go. Maybe no one ever implied those meanings. Many of my discussions with people about prayer have felt naive and superficial to me. Maybe those seeds of naivete and superficiality are smaller in me now so that I can have these types of discussions.

I'm trying what I can these days to go deeper, especially now that I see better the ways in which I have dug a rutted dirt road with my same old patterns. Here's to the water to wear the path down and let me start anew. (Especially as we begin a new year!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Caroline Myss Quote

Always go with the choice that scares you the most because that's the one that is going to require the most from you.--Caroline Myss

This is a tricky one because the ego/mind is almost always getting in the way. The first time I heard this, I was in tears because I thought I was afraid of action X (leaving). It turns out I was afraid of action Y (staying), which was the opposite of action X. Oh, mind!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Like a Seed

Tonight Sister Ellie continued talking about the five hindrances and focused on restlessness and worry. She cited Gil Fronsdal's talk on restlessness and worry, which talks about understanding our restlessness and worry the way a farmer would plant a seed. We need to take the time to see what this hindrance is about.

I have been blessed with the bad habit of overeating and I recently saw two things that triggered my overeating. One cause was being overwhelmed by things to do that I do not want to do. Eating became a way of trying to hurry up time and to buy more time all at once. In other words, it was a way to bliss out (not that the eating was blissful; it was actually quick and, eventually, physically painful) and not pay attention to what was actually happening. It happened because I was restless and worried.

I also experience restlessness and worry when I indulge in my fantasies and dreams. This has been something I've tried to reign in because it takes me out of the moment and it breeds malcontent with the current state of things, yet I also try to be clear to myself about my deep desires so that I can gauge whether I'm taking action in places where I want to take action. I'm learning, that is, when to be fanciful and when to be more pragmatic and disciplined. These are admirable qualities. When indulging in these dreams, the fears and the shoulds begin to arise. I think of what won't work, how I'm repeating past failures, how much time I need before I can start anything, how if I change then I would be betraying someone or acting in a way that I should be ashamed of.

This only serves as a metaphor that maybe one day I can investigate further--a seed does not question its own growth. It allows itself to grow. It doesn't want to get out of the present moment just because it hasn't realized its final (as if there were such a thing) form. Nor does it stop itself from becoming what it will be.

I would like to keep this in mind as I continue to grow into myself. Nothing will be wasted (even the energy spent in restlessness and worry), but I would like to cultivate a healthy ground where I can stay in the present moment and recognize that even if the present moment may not be what I would choose for myself that it will indeed lead me to my future self.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


In tonight's meditation class, Sister Ellie continued discussion of the Five Hindrances (hindrances in meditation and life), which are: sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt. "Please talk about restlessness and worry. Please talk about restlessness and worry. Please talk about restlessness and worry," I thought while Sister Ellie gave us some background information. And, sure enough, she did.

I had been having a feeling of insecurity creep in today and as I mulled it over, I realized that I was hinging my identity on what others thought of me. That sounds like an obvious realization! I guess this one had fooled me because I had given my identity to someone close to me and I unknowingly masked it by saying I was preoccupied with other people. I knew then that I needed to detach and go deeper into myself. Who am I really? What is that bright space inside of me?

Sister Ellie talked about planning as a symptom of restlessness and worry--not that we shouldn't plan, but that we shouldn't plan when we are doing other things. Planning signals that we are not comfortable in the present moment. She shares Gil Fronsdal's advice for sinking into the present moment: the RAIN method. I cannot remember what RAI stands for, but the N is for non-identification. We are not, as Sister Ellie says, our thoughts, feelings, habitual tendencies. We are something else.

I've just started reading Bryan Stevenson's beautifully titled book, Just Mercy. Stevenson says we are more than the worst act we've ever committed.

We are more than all of what we think, feel, sense, and do. I think most of us are willing to grant this to the people around us, to the extent we can, and yet cannot grant this to ourselves. I'm embarking on a journey of self-love. I've tepidly started this week by praising my body and I plan to continue later this week by writing affirmative slogans to myself. Of all the crappy things I've believed in my life, why not replace some of that with either nothing (impossible right now) or something that sounds better?

Sunday, October 26, 2014


A handful of things all together:

The chance to go camping. Seeing the land roll out around me. Watching the stars pop out against the black sky. Black sky in Oklahoma! Listening to Caroline Myss's The Power of Prayer. Trying to be brave. Understanding I have no control. Do I understand this?! Understanding I am here by grace. Understanding that I can give that back. Seeing how I'm easily threatened and primarily fearful; seeing how I can provoke this in others. Asking for our common demons to be at peace. Even more, please feel welcome. Offer them their favorite drinks! Build the most comfortable lounges, complete with soft, elegant blankets in the deepest emerald green. But modify for their tastes. Name those feelings. Each and every one. Is breathing out light supposed to be cold and white or warm and yellow? I don't know yet. Remember humility! Who do you think you are, Courtney? When I thought I was doing it on my own, I was so naive. Others were carrying me. And I feel more confident now that I can carry someone in return. But I will never know how or when; so many things are not mine to know. I had mistakenly staked ground on the land of knowing like a colonist. And what about faith? What about being whole-hearted? How some others settle on something that feels hard and cynical, but carries a sense of humor that attracts me, but still feels sad. Like a mask, in some sense. What about me wanting to run away? What about commitment? Making mistakes. Learning how to fail. Failing and failing and letting that be a way to open up. How telling everything that I never wanted to stay for a while helps. How years of reading The Language of Letting Go and More Language of Letting Go finally made me realize, "It just seems like a lot of letting go." "Yes, it is." And I easily slip into self-pity: I am living in the wrong time, there has to be a place for me. What brave person hasn't seen the end of times or the end of a way or the end; what brave person hasn't seen the demons? Was their time the wrong time for them? No. How my place is the human condition. How my time has been steeped in self-absorption and me first and if I were doing it right then I'd be successful; my dreams would be coming true! How these are lies! How under each wish is a deeper yearning, Martha Beck tells me (and I believe her). Our wishes may not come true, but our yearnings will. How year two of my life plan has stalled but I have been able to name my yearnings for the first time. My place is around me now; I am in my place right now. My life will not happen to me down the road. It is for the living right now. There is space for this. It's in the green flatland (don't be ignorant; don't ignore the fracking silos right by the fat cows). It's in the neon orange sunset (vibrant from the air pollution). It's in what scares me and the yearnings of my soul (the same and the same). To finally name what is happening: a spiritual journey.