Photo credit: Josh Bulriss

The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts, in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate.
— Thich Nhat Han



Photo credit:  Josh Bulriss Gallery


The (Re) Cycle of Life

A couple times a week I leave my home and drive eight miles down the mountain to do my food shopping and errands. The first couple of times I did it, I will admit, I was terrified. I’m not used to driving windy country roads and I also have problems with vertigo. Going down anything, especially a mountain is not my favorite thing to do. The way I got through it (and still do), is to say mantras and keep my eyes on the road.

This morning I felt more relaxed and actually could look at the scenery while I drove; that’s how I noticed several huge birds flying around. I thought, They look like turkey vultures. Turkey Vulture in flight

A minute later I saw why they were flying overhead. A dead deer laid by the side of the road and three turkey vultures were feasting. I’m guessing the others were flying, waiting for their turn or were scared away by the passing cars. I only looked for a couple seconds. My heart felt sad for the poor deer.

As I continued down the mountain, I thought about the impermanence of life and yet at the same time, how all sentient beings really never die. Well, that’s what Thich Nhat Hanh said in one of his dharma talks and it makes sense to me. Yes, the deer was killed but it soon became food for the birds and whatever other critters might have shown up. The essence of the deer became part of the birds, who ate it’s flesh… and someday those same birds will become food for something else. Maybe not for another creature but their bodies will decompose and become part of the earth, which will help grow flowers or grass or trees.

Even though I understand about impermanence, I still felt sorry for the deer.



Meditation With Eyes Wide Open


This morning I decided to meditate with my eyes open. I wanted to see if it felt any different than when I keep my eyes closed. For the most part it was the same.

I observed my cats making faces at each other, while my dog kept his eye on one of them who he thought was getting too close to his “personal space.” I heard him give a faint growl. I could barely hear it but I’m sure Annie knew it was directed at her. She kept her distance and focused her attention on Lily who is always ready for a good wrestling match. They ended up playing a game of chase.

Outside my patio window a June bug visited and buzzed around a few of my succulents. A hummingbird stopped by for a quick morning snack from the feeder hanging outside.

Off in the distance I heard a car alarm sound off for nearly four minutes (I know because I checked the clock) I will admit, the noise got to be a bit annoying. I found myself thinking “Doesn’t the owner hear his or her own car alarm? If no one goes to check on it, what’s the use of having one anyway? We have a lot of car break-ins here.” Then I stopped myself and focused on observing and not editorializing.

The garbage truck arrived and I heard the dumpsters being moved from their spot and the garbage being dumped.

A few birds chirped, along with a crow. I heard the jingling of a dog’s leash as a neighbor walked by with her Jack Russell. A couple small airplanes flew over my house to land at the airport nearby.

A few times an idea for an essay and a chapter for my book popped into my head. I though about filing it away in my memory bank and writing it down after my meditation but then I remembered that my memory is not what it used to be post chemotherapy. If I wanted to remember, I had to get up and get my small pad from the coffee table and write it down.

I did the best I could to remain in the present moment, write down my idea and go back to what I was doing. I believe it was Thich Nhat Hanh who said you can meditate anywhere anytime. It’s all about being present.  I believe I did a pretty good job accomplishing that.

Later today I will sit for another 20 minutes the same way. I’ll see how that goes…



My First Walking Meditation


etsy3 004

Thich Nhat Hanh  writes a lot about walking meditation, so today I thought I would try it when I took my dogs for their afternoon walk.  My dogs are probably better at it than me since they always live in the moment, but I was willing to give it a try. Luckily we didn’t run into any neighbors.

I’ll admit I wasn’t always in the present moment. I found myself thinking, Hey! This is nice. Just me, Hoss and Bingo, enjoying the outdoors. I know from reading about staying in the present, as soon as I acknowledge I’m in the present, I’m already out.

I did find an interesting leaf laying on the sidewalk and a small lizard! The little guy was hiding by the steps close to a bush. It was looking right at us. Maybe if I hadn’t focused on staying present, I would have missed them–or not. The thing is, I experienced them. I took time to really look at them. I plan to do more walking meditation at least once a day and see what I’ve been missing.




Cat Fur and Laptops

computer cat

Tuesday night Annie (my laptop) went on the fritz, so Wednesday morning I brought her in to get checked out at the tech gadget hospital. She ended up staying overnight. Luckily, it wasn’t anything major, like that dreaded blue screen problem I had with another laptop several years ago. Apparently, cat fur is able to get into the inner workings of a computer and if there is enough of it, it will clog up the thingys that make it work. The tech doctor gave Annie a good cleaning under her hood and I am now back in business.

While I was waiting to pick her up, 3 people in line ahead me were bringing in their Smartphones to be fixed. I found out the majority of the tech gadget hospital’s revenue is made from people dropping their Smartphones in water (lately swimming pools). What dipshit brings their Smartphone in the pool? Apparently, at least these 3 people did. I am working on not judging others, but sometimes I have to roll my eyes.

Being without access to social media for almost forty-eight hours wasn’t that hard and it gave me a chance to think about, how much time I spend reading other people’s blogs, tweeting, checking email, snooping around Facebook and Pinterest. I spend way too much time on Pinterest!

When personal computers and cell phones first came out, I said I would never get either one. I did just get rid of my flip phone a few months ago and went back to a landline, but my Annie is staying. I use her for everything and she helps me continue writing. Everyday I either blog, write essays or rewrite my book. If I had to do it with pen and paper my fingers would have worn out long ago. Annie helps me be a better writer along with her friend Ms. Spellcheck.

The Internet introduced me to other writers, famous and some not so much, all of whom I would never have known. It also turned me on to Buddhism and many of it’s teachers (this is a shortlist); Thich Nhat Hahn, Alan Watts, Ram Dass, Chris Grosso and Brad Warner. YouTube gives me front row seats to lectures about Buddhism, spirituality and contemporary philosophy. I could never have learned as much as I have in such a short time before the Internet. Libraries are still one of my favorite places to hang out (second to cemeteries) but there’s nothing better than sitting in my living room, alongside my cats, whose fur will eventually clog up my laptop again.

That being said, taking a break from Annie gave me a chance to put all the Buddhist and spiritual teachings I learned into practice. I spent more time outdoors, played with my cats and actually cleaned my patio. I spent more time “being” than doing, although I did finally read Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird that has been sitting on my coffee table almost 2 weeks.

bird by bird

I can thank the Internet for introducing me to her. She’s been around for many years but I never heard of her. Actually it was her picture that caught my attention.

anneI don’t know any middle-aged white women with dreads. Actually I do know another one but she isn’t a writer.  Bird by Bird is a book for aspiring writers like me. I go to a creative writing class at a senior center once a week to learn basic grammar, but Lamott’s book goes into detail about how to be a good writer.  She tells us how to get over writer’s block and stuff like that. I probably could find that information on the Net but its nice to actually read a real book. I don’t own a Kindle or whatever else they have out there and I can guarantee you, I won’t ever. I like the feel of a real book and flipping through the  pages. You can’t do that with an eBook and don’t get me started about the iPad. That thing makes me dizzy!

Lamott writes that we can find inspiration for a story anywhere if we pay attention. That’s how I got the idea for this post today. Actually, I thought of it yesterday and wrote it in a small notebook I keep close to me for the sole purpose of jotting down ideas, so I don’t forget.

From now on I will make it a habit to unplug at least one day a week and if I’m really brave, a whole weekend.