Our daily rituals, traditions, practices, and exercises — while personal and involved for some are simply a way to live for others. Rituals can keep us sane, keep us honest with ourselves, and keep us going, whether we are aware of it or not.
Five girls wait for their egg sandwiches and I’m calling their names. A baby throws up and her mother is bewildered. She can’t connect child, vomit, napkins, high-chair, table, and floor. Can you help me? Of course.
Most of us have been raised in a culture of reward and punishment. We do something “good”, and we are praised; we do something “bad” and we are blamed and punished. We’re trained early on to respond to the external judgements of others to feel safe and included.
Drought, poverty, worker exploitation. The poisoning of the air, ground water, and soil. These are just a few of the crises facing our world today. We see them everywhere and they seem overwhelming. What can the average person — people like us — do to combat them? We can start with a decision we make every morning: what we choose to wear.
Her work blends metal with metaphor, craft with compassion, and art with empathy. It’s unexpected, both in subject and design, and frequently demands a second look. That’s perfectly fine with artist Anne Mondro, an associate professor at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan.
David Lawson and a number of other experienced meditation teachers and practitioners have begun a new Buddhist meditation center in town, Still Mountain Buddhist Meditation Center. David was a meditation teacher for many years at the Deep Spring Center, and The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal published an article by him on meditation just two years ago.
Picture this: Your nutrition practitioner can be criminally prosecuted for offering their services, just because they aren’t licensed by the state. This situation was nearly a reality in Michigan. In a historic vote (July 1, 2014), the Michigan legislature repealed the Dietitians Licensure Law, and is the only state ever to have done so. Registered Dietitians (RD) would have had automatic licensure as Dietitians/Nutritionists. The licensure law would have prohibited non-RD nutrition practitioners from providing dietary and nutritional counseling.
Burnout is a popular topic of discussion among healthcare professionals, but preventing it often eludes us. While burnout is common in many professions, it is particularly present in healthcare. Some estimates put the rates of burnout as high as 75-80 percent among physicians-in-training. Even after a potential grueling training is done, burnout rates remain high. This burnout is associated with detachment from those around them and feelings of isolation.
Instead of sitting, we paint; instead of coming back to the breath, we come back to what our hands want to do from moment to moment. The nature of the mind doesn't change with the activity itself; we still get hijacked by thoughts of the past or future, or are influenced by critical inner voices, such as, It’s supposed to look like something by now, or What everyone else is doing is so much cooler, or I can’t really change it in the last week …
Have you ever attempted to create a self-portrait? I was required to do just this in a number of fine art college classes, from figure drawing to figure sculpting. I recall it being an uncomfortable experience to spend that much time looking at myself in the mirror. The point of the assignment was to learn to draw or sculpt using the available model — myself. The unexpected benefit was that, in addition to improving my skills as an artist, it led me to a new level of self-acceptance.
The compelling sound of the wooden mok’tak pierces the early morning silence as the wake-up person heartily chants the “Great Compassion Dharani” to the drumbeat of this traditional wooden instrument. She makes slow rounds of our Temple building and even crosses the back garden to the Hermitage, to rouse residents there. Each one of us washes up, then joins with others in rooms next to our seonbang (meditation hall) to stretch a little - some with yoga, some with tai chi.
One cannot compare or try to match some other creative work with one’s own work; one needs to allow creative energy to blossom from within. I did not know how to do this. I had not been to art school nor studied art history. But I loved art: in museums, in nature’s unique and unsurpassable expression . . . in all manifestations.
Change in every moment is a given. It is empowering to set conscious intentions around what changes will support your growth, health, and long-term goals. However, knowing what you’d like to have in place “someday” is very different from the day-to-day process of making that happen. The latter is usually much harder! Using an alphabet analogy, it can feel overwhelming to set an intention to change at point “A” knowing that all the steps between “B” and “Y” are needed to finally have the new change at point “Z” fully integrated in our lives. The brain gets exhausted just imagining all those steps that might be needed -- and the initial spark from the intention quickly burns out if motivation is missing to start the action steps.
Part of the curriculum in Integrative Medicine at the University of Michigan is to get students to think beyond the paradigm of making a diagnosis and then matching the right drug or surgery to the problem. Unfortunately, many physicians, as well as many medical consumers, have fallen into this trap. With medical visits crunched by time and society trained to look for the quick fix, using pharmaceuticals is often the go-to treatment for a particular condition.
There is an important lesson in these lyrics that goes beyond growing healthy veggies. It also applies to our spiritual growth. In Buddhism we believe that each person is a piece of fertile ground that can be cultivated to produce the fruits of joy, equanimity, love, and compassion.
As the inhabitants of this very special planet, we often ask ourselves where we are going and when will we get there. We are in such a rush to get there that we miss those present moments that fill our lives with joy. Maybe the question is not where are we going, but instead, where we are, and perhaps once we are aware and awake, we can see that we have already arrived.