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.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Poem for Memorial Day--Draft

I want to share a poem I'm still working on. I started this last year on Memorial Day and have just been trimming words and clarifying images from that first draft. I won't say what I think it needs; I'm open to other suggestions.

Some Living Veterans are Taking Part

Some living veterans are falling apart at the gums as rotted teeth separate from blackened tissue and oops the VA nurse radiated the wrong side. I can’t chew. Can’t swallow.

There are many voices in my head. Flashes of fire and rubble that I wrap in layers of silence. A pack only I will carry. A burden that knots my muscles and scabs me over. Callouses. Layer upon flat layer of skin that will only add to my weight. I remember the way Roscoe leaped over latrine holes making it back from the whorehouse before curfew. His arms and legs spread like . . .

The way my life is really two lives, ten, twenty, a battalion, a division, a nation.

Ruthie, so young, pressed the permanent crease out of my trousers. Medallions, ties, hats. Everything measured and its place. Appearing.

Coins from other countries. Play pirate maps. Photos of me with men my family will never know.

I mowed the lawn with a beer in my hand, bought my daughter braces, took up assembly work and payment plans. These have been the spoils of war.