Posted in meditation

Covid and Our Changing Lives

The Governor of Missouri stated that all adults in my state will be eligible for the Covid 19 vaccine on April 9th. I can only assume other states will put similar things in place. That’s good news to me because I’ve been waiting for my turn. That’s not to say the Pandemic is over. I think some aspects of this will change our lives forever.

I think Coronavirus is to Millenials what 9/11 was to Gen X’ers like me. Or it is to Gen Z what 9/11 was to Millenials. It’s a watershed moment, we’re all going to remember what it felt like for the rest of our lives.

A great many people said things like “2020 is the worst year ever!” And to me it feels like 2020 is really coming to an end now, three months after the official end.

It’s been a roller-coaster for me.

I gave up on a meditation group I was trying to establish. It was costing me too much money to rent a space. Giving that up was hard for me. I really want to share meditation practice with people, but it is what it is. There are so many places people can go for that in Kansas City. If I could work for someone else as a meditation teacher instead of trying to make my own opportunities I think I’d like that. Some of this was because I really wanted a new spiritual community after I got uncomfortable in my old one (the rime center) a few years ago.

I traveled to Washington DC in March to meet with members of Congress as a representative of Federal workers. That was an amazing experience. I met then-Senator Kamala Harris, among many other people. The last time I was around a crowd was a rally on the lawn of the US Capitol. This was all for my labor union. I was elected to a leadership position near the end of the year. Representing workers that need help feels like a calling to me.

When I got back from that trip in March things changed. That sticks in my memory.

I found out I have the gene for a heart condition and I’ll have to see a cardiologist every year for the rest of my life, but I’m considered low risk as far as this dangerous condition goes. I call it “the other kind of broken heart”

Lots of people had bigger struggles with Covid than me. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work from home for the last year. Alicia has as well. We know how lucky we are and how many people have not been lucky. If/when we have to return the transition will be hard.

Speaking of Alicia. We got married this year. We had planned a big reception, which we felt the need to cancel (we’re having a big first anniversary party in September) so we just had a small simple wedding. It was wonderful. I can say this relationship is the best I’ve ever had by far. I have the family I’ve always wanted.

We also bought a house in Parkville. (a cute little college town outside of Kansas City, if you’re not local). It took us a long time to find a house with enough space, we have four kids. But we did find a wonderful house and we love it here. I’m building a garden full of Buddha statues in the backyard. I call it “the Buddha Garden” but I’m hoping I come up with a better name.

I’m now meditating and burning incense every day, and working in the garden. I’m chanting too, which was always something that I didn’t like very much. I’ve been doing mantras dedicated to personal transformation.

And it all feels like it’s doing something for me.

I’m coming out of this Pandemic a better person than I was at the beginning. I have some optimism.

Posted in Uncategorized

40

Today I am 40 years old.

I have grown SO MUCH in the last 5 years. I used to be afraid of so many things.

I’m in the best relationship I’ve ever been in, with someone who really encourages and supports me. I never knew what was missing before. I have a partner.

Two kids became four, creating a big family. I’m thankful all four of these children are in my life and I’m so excited to watch them grow up. I always wished for a big family when I was a kid. My brother is 8 years older than me, so I didn’t have a lot of the experience that my kids are having. I think big families are good.

I taught myself public speaking, which would have been terrifying just a few years ago. I can get in front of a crowd (or a camera) without feeling nervous anymore. My next thing to work on is learning how to be better at communication when I don’t have total control of the situation. I’m not always great at that. 😉

I learned how to budget money so I can take trips and have adventures, so I’ve visited mountains and been to the Great Lakes. Of course I’ve found adventures to have here at home too. I think there are interesting things to see and do everywhere in the world and we often miss what’s in our hometown because it’s so familiar.

I started doing union work, which is leading to all sorts of opportunities. I’m learning how to help workers advocate for themselves (I still can’t believe I’m going to go to Washington DC).

I started a meditation group of my own. I found the confidence to do it in spite of my fears and without thinking about people who think I’m not good enough. (if you’re wondering if you’re good enough to do something, you are. Do it) And yes, it’s not sustainable yet. My wish is for it to pay for itself. But I’m comfortable with the possibility that I’ll have to shut it down, things will come and go. That’s how life is.

I have faced some of my baggage and learned how to put it down. I’ve learned how to be more mindful and not so anxious all the time. I think a lot of people I know would have a hard time believing I used to be a very negative person. I’m not that now. I am joyful.

 More than anything, I am so lucky that Alicia Marley fell in love with me.

 I’m looking forward to my 40s. I’ve spent a lot of my life afraid of getting older. But now I am fearless.

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

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My Life

Do you know that my life exploded last year?

People reading this probably know I spend a lot of time at the local Buddhist temple these days. People reading this might also be aware that my life changed a lot last year. What you may not realize is that these things are connected.

I fell apart last year. By the end of the summer my life had exploded and everything was destined to be different. I could have made a few different choices, of course. We can always make different choices.

I don’t want to go into too much detail because I think it is too soon and it would be, at the very least, very rude. I just want to let you know that I was married and I’m not anymore.

It didn’t explode like a roman candle. It was more of a slow burn like one of those snake fireworks that just spreads out over the ground burning a slow silent death.

What I learned is that a loveless marriage can breed madness. People stay in loveless marriages every day, I think. And loveless relationships too, really. Even when it’s really easy to leave people sometimes don’t. But when it’s hard, it’s really hard. It’s easy to say, “unhappy people should leave,” but of course life is rarely that simple.

Looking back, I am so incredibly different now. I made plenty of decisions that make me think “why did I do that?”

I feel like I died and I was reborn.

Then I had to grow again.

I struggled a great deal in those first few weeks. I did things I shouldn’t have done. I made plenty of mistakes. My entire life was different and I didn’t have a clue what to do. If not for my two wonderful children I might have given up. I might have become an alcoholic or something worse.

I started working out and that’s done a lot for me. My body feels better than it ever has and I have plenty of energy. I don’t want to gloss over that because it is important. There’s a free gym in my office and I make use of it. Physical fitness was never important to me before but it is now.

Mental and spiritual fitness are important too.

I also threw myself into spirituality. I’ve always been a dedicated Buddhist, as anyone reading this knows. I spend an inordinate amount of time writing about it and reading about it too. Not a lot of things inspire me. I don’t just practice Buddhism and study it.

I love it.

 

Historically most of my Buddhist practice has been done on my own.

After my life exploded that changed.

I was just a casual visitor to the Rime Center before, as many are. I would go once in a while, but that was it. (although I did lead the children’s group for a while).

After my life exploded I became a regular. I became one of those people that goes all the time. I’m like those people who go to church twice a week and have bible study.

I go to the Rime Center three times a week, every week. And even more every time I can.

I’ve spent countless hours writing about Buddhism (as everyone reading this knows) but actually putting it into practice, especially with other people, is something different. I’m so happy to have a supportive spiritual community. Being able to go there, to add visits to the Rime Center to my regular routine really helped my put myself back together.

My community saved me. I had to put myself back together and I used the programs at the Rime Center to do it.

Now I’ve found ways to give back.

I’m leading a Zen practice group every Monday night. We’re sitting in the traditional Soto Zen style, which is completely unavailable in Kansas City. Which is weird. There are Soto Zen temples in Wichita and Omaha and Cedar Rapids, but we don’t have one.

And I’ve been given the title ‘Gegan’ which means teacher. I’m teaching classes too. I’m going to teach a class on the Diamond Sutra (the best Sutra ever) in the Spring and then more classes going forward. I’m really excited to share the teachings.

Dogen said, “The life of a Zen Master is one continuous mistake.”

I won’t go around calling myself a Zen Master. But I think I know what he meant. My life has been one continuous mistake.

But I’m getting better.