This article is this week's New Beginning Blog, which Cheri is writing from the Monastery's new home in Sequim, WA.
It’s been a quiet week here, largely the result of a return of winter weather. Snow, snow, and more snow followed by rain and wind. It’s beautiful—and more in a bit about awarenesses concerning the enormous upside of all this—but not really conducive to a great deal of work outside, not for a native Californian accustomed to “summer weather” throughout most of the year. Yes, California is paying a huge price for all those years of weather perfection, and I am happy to report that even they are getting hit with cold and rain. A very good thing.
In mentioning this to Ashwini, the encouragement I got was to make this blog “even more practice/process” since it will be in the newsletter. Okay, it’s a deal, and I will get to that after a couple of little announcements.
The first is that there will be, I am pleased to announce, the annual Going Beyond Self-Hate Celebration Workshop on Sunday, April 17. Please mark your calendars. However, this is a workshop unlike others; it’s more “mini-retreat” than workshop. The “retreat” piece will be out by tomorrow and consists of workshop activities to be completed in preparation for processing the insights on Sunday. The second is a 4-week group coaching beginning Tuesday, May 10. The focus is to address the quandary many of us find ourselves in when there are “life activities” that conflict with our concerns for the planet. “I want to travel to X and I know flying is terrible for the environment.” How do we navigate these issues without ego turning them into a self-hate bonanza? Keep an eye out for an email with details.
I subscribe to Anthropocene, an online magazine that puts out a newsletter (free of charge) of interesting, fun, exciting, uplifting mini-articles regarding the “latest sustainability science and innovations.” If you’re attracted to such things, give them a look. If I’m remembering correctly, it was there I came across an article on the AOP2 Keystone gene. I could not do justice to the content, however, here’s a snippet to assist you to decide if you wish to pursue the topic. From a quick google: “The keystone species concept is used in ecology to describe individual species with disproportionately large effects on their communities. We extend this idea to the level of genes with disproportionately large effects on ecological processes.” In that same newsletter there was an article about the folks who are applying biomimicry by looking to squids for how to create packaging. The example was a to-go coffee cup that can keep the inside hot and the outside cold. And nobody needs to die in the process! Plus, it’s biodegradable.
Most of us who practice awareness are familiar with the “I’m really glad I saw that; I hope I never have to experience anything like it again” place in practice. A visit with challenging relatives, a difficult conversation with a friend or coworker, a health scare, losing a job. “It was a grand workshop, thank god it’s over. Whew. Made it. Survived.” Often the feeling good for having made it to the other side is quickly replaced by ego’s stories of how horrible the whole thing was and how being glad it’s over proves that no change happened and how the same thing is going to happen again and it’ll be way worse and ….
A while back I went through an extended period of time I call my “fingernails on a blackboard workshop.” Excruciating circumstances. Trapped. I can see my whole life in each one of these. My whole tenure practicing awareness. Decades ago I would scream and throw things. Then I progressed to just screaming. Then I was able to remove myself from the circumstances and scream from afar. Now, after many more decades of practice, no screaming is required. Not even any clenched teeth. I’m not going to claim total equanimity, but pretty darned close. Well done! And, I’ll be fine if I’m never in one of those situations again. Wait. What? Really?
Sitting with that message I got to see it replaced with something brand new in this particular “spiritual opportunity”: excitement. I can’t wait till the next time. I saw so much in this one. What might I get to see next time?
Ego voices want us to go along with their conclusion that because something keeps happening there’s no progress. It’s true that there’s no progress in awareness, but we do change. Those kinds of experiences are such a gift because we get to see how different we are now than the first time it happened, or the last time. Which brings me to my most recent, “Thank you, Practice” moment.
I confess that, as someone who has spent most of her life out of doors, this new climate has taken some adjustment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been the best time of practice for me and in many ways the happiest time of my life. I leave the house once a week to do errands. That leaves a lot of quiet hours, even with a work schedule. No complaints here. But the not being able to go outside (yes, I could, obviously, but snow, frigid temperatures, wind, and rain bring out the wimp in me) has been a challenge. Additional confession: I’ve wished it would let up just for a bit; not permanently, since this climate is precisely why I’ve chosen to live here, but for just a little respite.
Then, one of our Sangha neighbors on Whidbey Island sent us this video and all my resistance melted away. Without this marvelous snow and rain our beloved cousins would not thrive. And, oh, how we want them to thrive!