Category Archives: Pema Chodron

Painting the Continuous Mile of our experience

I am grateful that I shared a rich and full time with my parents, sister, her husband and Julia up in Ithaca, NY. We celebrated and were able to bestow little gifts to one another.  My mom gave me the sweet reminder after I had been self critical of my appearance, to make sure my thoughts and words reflected what I want to bring into my experience. It becomes second nature to complain and let fear or humorous shame paint our self portrait.  It is easy to forget that we have the paint brush in our hands at all times and that the canvas shifts from moment to moment.
On the last day of our vacation we went to the Corning Museum of Glass and one of the exhibits was Liza Lou’s Continuous Mile which she made with “a team of beadworkers from several townships in
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa*”.  They weaved 4.5 million tiny glass beads into a cotton rope a mile long. The artist got a grant and was able to pay her co-weavers. She said it was something she knew she could not do by herself and that it became a lifeline connecting the community; a work about work.  They sat around laughing and telling stories, living with one another.  The process was the goal.
Liza Lou- The Continuous Mile
I got to finish reading Pema Chodron’s book When things Fall Apart and in the last chapter she quotes her teacher Rinpoche who said, “Everything is workable.”
This is a moment by moment canvas painting, continuously working with one another, mile after mile. One tiny bead after the next weaved into the collective coil. We remember to ask and receive what we want for ourselves and others. We forget. Situations surprise us, we get thrown off track, we make our way back on. We watch each other do the same. “Everything is workable.”
May our process be an inspiring exhibit we can smile at, even as we are moving on to the next one.
Love you, Ira
*-www.cmog.org › Press Center

Opinions and hot sauce

Julia and I sang at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival this weekend. It is a three day affair with lots of stages, showcases, and a chance to see fellow musicians, friends and friends who are musicians. On Sunday morning Julia and I were singing in front of the Meier’s hot sauce tent.  Julia had caught a bug and a horse which was galloping in her throat.  Still, we pulled off a rousing heartening set and the people gathered round were cheered.  After we played we could hear Susan Werner and two other acts on the main stage.
For a moment or three, I felt the pang of not being on the main stage but instead playing in front of a hot sauce tent.
My opinion that things should have been different in that moment or wanting them to be different caused me some suffering and doubt.   Yet here was Susan Werner, one of the most prolific songwriters and accomplished instrumentalists, equally as talented as any pop star in the world today on the main stage at Falcon Ridge, when she could be at Madison Square Garden or doing a co-bill with Bonnie Raitt.  Many of you will not know who she is.  Of course, there were many deserving musicians at the festival who would have loved to have been asked to play the hot sauce tent. It’s always all relative (and Meier’s hot sauce is great on eggs.)  While I pictured Julia and I up on the main stage again, deciding to be grateful and bring what we bring, we brought lots of folks up at the next showcase. We also spotlighted and praised many musicians as well as hard working musical promoters who often don’t get the recognition they deserve.  That’s my opinion.
Last night, I read what Pema Chodron had to say about opinions:
“Opinions are opinions, nothing more or less. All ego is, is our opinions, which we take to be solid, real, and the absolute truth about how things are.  …how easy it is to get into a war in which we want our opinions to win and someone else’s to lose. …no matter how well noble our cause is, it won’t be helped by our feeling aggression … Nothing will ever change through aggression.
We have to do our best and at the same time give up all hope of fruition.  One piece of advice that Don Juan gave to Carlos Casteneda was to do every as if it were the only thing in the world that mattered, while all the time knowing that it doesn’t matter at all.
There is nobody on the planet, who doesn’t have what it takes to wake up.  We all need support and encouragement to be aware of what we think, what we say, and what we do.  Notice your opinions. … Cultivating a mind that does not grasp at right and wrong will find a fresh state of being.  The ultimate cessation of suffering comes from that.  Finally, never give up on yourself.  Then you will never give up on others. Wholeheartedly do what it takes to awaken your clear-seeing intelligence, but one day at a time, one moment at a time. If we live that way, we will benefit this earth.”
– Pema Chodron/When Things Fall Apart
So, here is to giving what we have to give, regardless of opinions. May we be motivated by a clarity that allows us to see our circumference and the rippling effect of our efforts.
“May I suggest this is the best time of your life.”- Susan Werner

A Conversation between two books and a TED talk

A Conversation between two books (When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron/ Letting Go by David R. Hawkings) and a TED talk (Listening to Shame by Brene Brown):


Listening to Shame: There was a part of me that was working hard to engineer staying small.
Letting Go:  Blame is the world’s greatest excuse.  It enables us to remain limited and small without feeling guilty.  But there is a cost- the loss of our freedom.  Also, the role of victim brings with it a self-perception of weakness, vulnerability, and helplessness…
Listening to Shame: Vulnerability is not weakness, it is our most accurate measurement of courage.
When Things Fall Apart: What we’re talking about is getting to know fear, becoming familiar with fear, looking it right in the eye- not as a way to solve problems, but as a complete undoing of old ways of seeing, hearing smelling, tasting and thinking.  The truth is that when we really begin to do this, we’re going to be continually humbled. There’s not going to be much room for arrogance that holding on to ideals can bring.  The arrogance that does arise is going to be continually shot down by our own courage to step forward a little further.
Letting Go: It is not a matter of right or wrong; it is merely a matter of taking responsibility for our own consciousness.
When Things Fall Apart:
When we don’t blame it on anyone else, and also don’t blame it on ourselves, then…we encounter our heart.
As one student so eloquently put it, “Buddha nature, cleverly disguised as fear, kicks our ass into being receptive.”
Listening to Shame:
If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path. And I know it’s seductive to stand outside the arena, because I think I did it my whole life, and think to myself, I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive. But the truth is that never happens. And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that’s not what we want to see. We want you to go in. We want to be with you and across from you. And we just want, for ourselves and the people we care about and the people we work with, to dare greatly.
Things Fall Apart: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
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Letting Go by David R. Hawkins

Arrows to Flowers