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Showing posts from March, 2016

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 11 - What Wakes YOU Up?

"Nobody but yourself can tell you what to accept and what to reject...We begin to figure out for ourselves what is poison and what is medicine, which means something different for each of us....we are the only ones who know what wakes us up and what puts us to sleep." --Pema Chodron

What are you learning about yourself this month? What can you accept and what do you need to reject? What is poison and what is medicine for you? What wakes you up and what puts you to sleep?


28 Days of Abstinence - Day 10 - The Seven Stages of Abstinence

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"Control is the enemy; grief is our friend." --John Eldredge 
When I first choose this quote for today I was thinking about the need to grieve whatever it is we are letting go. Even our bad habits have some positive benefits otherwise they would not have become habits. They may also bring to mind happy memories: great times with friends when we were drunk out of our minds, our favorite co-worker who was always willing to join us for a smoke break or a certain time we had a certain food with a certain special person. I could go on (and on and on). Our habits are intertwined with our memories and must be grieved.

That led me to consider the Five Stages of Grief as they are commonly understood: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I think I have moved through each of these stages at least once every time I realized that I needed to abstain from something I had previously enjoyed.

That got me wondering if perhaps there might also be five stages of abstinence and…

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 9 - It's About Freedom

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"Freedom is about cutting off and eliminating a rigid persistence of basic needs. If you are hungry, you want food; if you are cold, you want clothing; if you are sick, you need your mother's and father's love. As you grow older, these many needs accumulate in the heart and mind to trigger emotions, creating every kind of possible sorrow. Freedom is about letting go of all of these attachments, all of these figments of the mind." --Nassim Assefi, “Aria”

Wow! I LOVE this quote so much. It pretty much sums up why I began my spiritual journey in the first place - to find FREEDOM. From my Ego, from my many wants and desires, from my resistance to what is, and from the sorrow I cause myself and others because of these "figments of the mind."

It is also a powerful quote for us to contemplate this week as things may start to get a bit more squiggly and difficult in our abstinence practice. When you deny yourself the thing you are abstaining from how do you feel? W…

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 8 - More Tea Bag Wisdom

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"If you're brave enough to say 'goodbye' life will reward you with a new 'hello' --Paulo Coehlo, YogiTea tea bag

Yes, I drink a lot of tea. It's what I said, "hello" to after giving up coffee. What will you say "hello" to today? What is popping up to replace whatever it is you are abstaining from?

If you don't know yet, that's okay. It's early days after all, but spend some time today thinking about what it might be. What would you like it to be? What are some possible options?

In my own life, meditation has replaced compulsive doing, side salads have replaced French fries, kindness has replaced anger, kombucha has replaced wine, and rooibos has replaced coffee. I consider these all to be exchanges in which I got the better end of the deal, although of course these new "hellos" weren't always easy and I didn't always say, "goodbye" willingly (or in some cases, permanently).

Try this exercise whene…

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 7 - Tea Bag Wisdom

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"You can't reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday's junk." --Louise Smith, from a Good Earth Tea Bag

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 6 - BE STRONG!

"Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go." --Herman Hesse

Be strong out there today. Continue to let go - bit by bit - of that food, habit or behavior that is no longer serving you. You are doing great. Even if you have cheated a little bit (or a lot) you can always start again this moment and let go again.

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 5 - Caring for Ourselves

"Saying 'No,' can be the ultimate self-care." --Claudia Black
I think most of us when we hear this quote will immediately think of saying No to other people. And that is a good interpretation. For the sake of our challenge I think it also works to say that saying "No" to YOURSELF can be the ultimate self-care.
But don't we say "No" to ourselves all the time? "No, don't take a break, keep working." "No, don't make plans with friends this weekend, stay home and be with the kids." "No, don't sit down and read, do the dishes instead." 
No. No. No. No. No. We say "No" to ourselves all of the time, but not when we should. Which may be one reason why we have been saying "Yes" to whatever it is that we are abstaining from. Often we say "Yes" when we should say "No" and "No" when we should say "Yes." 
So today let's turn that around. Say "No&q…

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 4 - Letting IN

"Letting go clears the way for letting in..."--From a UNITY Direct Mail Appeal

Here's a question: What are you clearing the way for this month by letting go of something that is no longer serving you? What do you want to let in? 

I want to let in more raw foods (like crunchy organic carrots), more healthy foods (like baked goods made from almond flour and applesauce instead of wheat and sugar), more savory foods (like a quinoa cabbage salad with peanut sauce dressing and cashews). Food that energizes my body and makes me say, "Ah-h..." instead of "Ugh. I wish I hadn't eaten that."

I also want to let in more energy, more vitality, and more freedom because I am not so weighed down trying to digest all of that heavy wheat.

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 3 - My First Time

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"Where things are not equal, balanced, or healthy, they need to be let go of or re-negotiated."--Harmony 
The first time I remember consciously abstaining from anything was during my junior year of high school. I am sure I had "given up" things earlier than that, certainly I tried to give something up for Lent each year as a young Methodist, but this was the first time I made the decision of my own free will to forego something I loved. 
I was sixteen and I was having some very intense periods. Every few months on the first day of my period, I would feel sweaty and light-headed, and sometimes my vision would tunnel and I would feel like I was going to pass out. On one particularly intense day, I went to the nurse's office and my mom was called to come and take me home. As we walked down the hill from my high school I had to sit down two or three times before we made it to the car. It was in that moment I decided: NO MORE FRENCH FRIES. 
In addition to a cafeteria, …

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 2 - Beginners

"Be willing to be a beginner every single morning." --Meister Eckhart

Day two. How's it going? If you have already cheated, start again. If you are already struggling, repeat the letting go meditation from day one. We are just beginning. Be gentle with yourself and be willing to begin again (and again and again and again).

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 1 - Spiritual Warriors

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"Generally speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors – people who have a certain hunger to know what is true – feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we're holding back." --Pema Chodron

Hello! And welcome to 28 Days of Abstinence. Come on in. Pull up a chair and get comfortable while you still can. :) I am not going to lie to you, this is not going to be easy, especially if what you are letting go of (I prefer this to "giving up") is a long-ingrained habit or addiction.

Abstinence, I think, scares people because it brings up right-wing politicians trying to rescind our abortion rights or keep girls "pure" for marriage while looking the other way while boys (and men for that matter) do whatever they want.

If you can, send any preconceived notions you …

28 Days of Abstinence - Coming Monday!

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"To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness." --Bertrand Russell
Today I am pleased to announce that beginning Monday, March 21st I will be leading another month-long spiritual challenge. This one on ABSTINENCE (I know, FUN, right?).

By abstinence I don't mean twenty-eight days without sex (unless that is the particular monkey that is on your back right now), by abstinence I mean taking time off from anything - a food, a habit, or a behavior - that may be in some way detrimental to your health or well being.

Over the course of twenty-eight days I will be sharing daily inspiration as well as my own struggles and successes with abstinence. At one time or another I have given up French fries, soda, talking, coffee (notice I didn't say caffeine because I cannot bear to think about giving up dark chocolate), alcohol, and meat. Each experience of abstinence included both challenges and gifts. I will share these with you and more.

So ple…

Non-attachment for Beginners (like me)

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"We are flawed receptacles of wisdom moving between moments of seeing a little clearly and moments of being in the darkness." --Kaspalita Thompson

I have been on a bit of a Buddhist trip lately. It started with Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha by Jack Kerouac, which I started reading for my bookclub, veered off into Just As You Are: Buddhism for Foolish Beings by Kaspalita Thompson & Satya Robyn, which I read because it was free on Amazon, then back to Wake Up and on to Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki and Why I am a Buddhist: No Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey by Stephen T. Asma, PhD (the latter I am not sure I would recommend, but it has further deepened my understanding of Buddhism, from a decidedly American academic perspective).

Perhaps the most fruitful outcome of all this Buddhist literature has been a rededication to my meditation practice, which had been in a bit of a maintenance mode. I was consistently doing twenty minutes a day, with the od…

A Mud Day

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"...[S]ome days are magic, some days are mud." --Donn "Murph" Murphy
I am having a "mud" day today. My body feels heavy, everything feels hard and the darkness seems to be squeezing out the light. 
At first I fought against it. I sat at my desk, "to do" list in hand, waiting for inspiration to strike. Nothing. 
I surfed the Internet. Checked my email. Wasted time on Facebook. It only got worse. I decided to take a walk. 
At first it didn't help. Instead of sitting in the mud, I was trudging through it, but I kept going. And going. And going. 
And then I remembered this quote, which I heard many moons ago in Xcalak, Mexico, and I remembered: some days are just mud. And there is nothing you can do to change that. But there are things you can do to make it more bearable. And soon the darkness cleared a bit. 
Here are some ideas for what to do on a "mud" day:
1) Sit down in it and have a good cry - Let it all out and allow the tears to wash a…

Write Your Life! - The Book

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"And we should forget, day by day, what we have done; this is true non-attachment. And we should do something new." --Shunryu Suzuki

After almost five years - and more drafts than I can remember (fifteen? twenty?) - I am pleased to announce that I am publishing my first book today.

What began as a class I first taught in August of 2011 at East West Bookshop, was scribbled out long-hand in a series of sketchbooks during a somewhat uncomfortable weekend writing retreat in New Mexico, and revised and designed over the past nine months since I began my blogging hiatus in May of last year, is now complete. It is not perfect, but I am proud of it.

I hesitate to say proud because pride brings to mind an overabundance of good feelings about oneself, but checking the dictionary just to be sure this is the word I wanted to use, I found that "overabundance of good feelings about oneself" is actually the secondary meaning of proud and that it primarily means feeling pleased or…