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Archive for February, 2008

Thursday, February 28

Well, meditation last night was a disaster.  I tried to sit for my night-time clearing, but I couldn’t do it.  I was too tired.  It was definitely too late to meditate at 11:30 p.m.  So, I said my prayers and went to bed.

Then, when I woke up this morning, once again, my meditation didn’t go the way I had hoped.  Rather, it ended up being an extension of my sleep.  I didn’t have the best night’s sleep.  I tossed and turned quite a bit.  Not sure why.  But, I was too tired to meditate last night and then again this morning.  Rinpoche might say that’s a lazy little Buddhist.  Well, since I’m not officially a Buddhist, I don’t feel so badly.  But I do want to try harder.  I know the benefits of this kind of meditation is life changing. 

But I had a very productive day, and for that I am content.  It is important to me to be useful.  When I see my efforts at work come to fruition, I am happy.  I might not being saving lives, or teaching our future, but I am part of a smart and talented team that seeks excellence in what we do, that aims to create a fine product that can enhance a meal, bring friends, family or lovers together, that can make a special occasion feel even more celebrated.  When I think of my happiest moments sharing a bottle of wine, it’s usually around a table with great friends or my family, smiling, laughing, sharing stories, enjoying each other, and eating amazing, local, seasonal fine cuisine. 

I had forgotten the sentimental reasons of why I enjoyed what I do and, at one point, considered my career to be superfluous, trivial, cursory.  And when I started getting all introspective, I thought I should change my career and do something more meaningful.  I thought I should perhaps get my masters degree in nutrition at Bastyr after my diagnosis of celiac disease.  Or, perhaps I should get back into non-profit work.  But, then I remembered why I loved wine so much and why I ended up moving to Oregon in the first place.  Let’s just say I was slowly rekindling my love affair for Pinot and the wine industry when I returned to this place in September, when I started writing this blog.  And now I am happily serving my company, doing my best to creatively and authentically market and communicate what’s so special about the winery and vineyard that employs me.

Something is changing within me.  I am able to pull myself from places that had become negative in my perception.  I think I’m learning to accept my path, the way it has been winding along, and I’m beginning to trust that I am right where I am supposed to be.  I am breathing better, I’m not suffering from the congestion that had been ailing me for so long.  I am changing for the better, I am recognizing the good and the positive within me.  And my writing has certainly enhanced this experience of being in the moment and appreciating my circumstances, of coming into my own.  My writing is and will continue to be a way for me to work through my personal life, to explore and document, but also to serve my life’s purpose of using my God-given gifts to make the world a better place. 

It is wonderful to be on a journey toward self-reflection and improvement, or enlightenment, and to see your progress along the way.  165 days into this journey to find love (of self, etc.), I am pleased with my progress.
 

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Wednesday, February 27
11:06 p.m.

Today was gloriously sunny.  We’ve been having spectacular weather for Portland in February!  It made it up to 61 degrees out.  The days are getting longer and I can’t wait for daylight savings time to kick in, in just a few weeks. 

I managed to get in my 15 minutes of meditation.  I had a busy day at work, which was good.  I’ve got some great, creative projects in the queue, which I am excited about. 

I was the last to leave work tonight and met my friend Susan at Tigard High School.  We walked about 2 miles around the track, watching the high school girls lacrosse practice, and then some grade school soccer teams.  There are some talented youth athletes in this region.  It made me want to coach!

After our walk, we went over to Bridgeport Village.  Our friend, Kerry, was supposed to meet us for sushi and then Men In Trees at my place.  But after our walk, when we got to the restaurant, Sinju, we got messages from Kerry.  She had to cancel, which was a bummer because we wanted to hear all about her recent trip to Napa for a wine writer’s conference.  Susan and I split a basic California roll, edamamme, a leafy green salad with a ginger dressing and then mochi ice cream.

After dinner we went back to my place to watch Men In Trees.  I’ve missed this program.  I don’t watch a ton of t.v., but I like the quirky characters on this program.  I was a little out of focus while watching the program, and ended up getting online, but it was a good episode – I’m glad it’s back.

I was going to try to squeeze in a meditation session before going to bed – we’ll see.  This is when it gets tough – when I’m up later than expected. 

I read some of my Stages of Meditation book by the Dalai Lama and started keeping a journal to take notes and write entries.  I am treating this like a school text book.  I really consider myself a student at this point and can’t wait to learn and fully practice the suggested meditation.  This book helps to explain the importance of it, why it’s such a cornerstone of Buddhism.  The role of meditation is to put enlightenment into practice.  With meditation, the blessing is received when “the mind’s virtuous attributes gain strength and its defective characteristics weaken or deteriorate,” (p. 13, prologue).  What I hope to learn and gain from meditation is the ability to eliminate the defective characteristics – anger, jealously, stress, fear, etc.  In becoming whole, I hope to live a life of compassion.  Even the nicest, most compassionate people can improve their path of enlightenment.  I just want to be the best human I can be.

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Tuesday, February 26
8:50 p.m.

I decided to write earlier than usual tonight because I couldn’t find my charger for my home laptop.  So, I pulled out my work laptop, but I had left the power chord at work.  So, this was going to have to be fast while the life of my computer was still relatively viable.

So, ever since I created a profile in Facebook I have reconnected with many people from my past – high school, college and my early post-college years.  Che fico!  That’s how the young Italian hipsters say that’s cool.  Anyway, I have received a lot of great messages from my old friends, and I can’t respond quick enough because between going to work, working out, cooking dinner, stretching, meditating, then working on my writing, working on this blog, and getting in at least an hour of reading, well, I’m pressed for time.  In particular, a former classmate of mine has been sending me encouraging, thoughtful and auspicious emails about my writing all the way from India.  Now that’s cool.  So Nick, when you finally get to this page, here’s my public acknowledgement (and gratitude) for your kind emails! 

I am considering a lot of next steps for my quest to get my book published.  And I have been excited about one particular idea that, ironically, was also suggested by friend, Nick.  I won’t disclose that idea in this blog just yet.  I will write about it after the fact and create a link to the finished product.  So stay tuned. 

I should mention that I put in my 15 minutes of meditation this morning.  It was good.  Real good.  I was focused and clear, I think I’m getting the hang of this kind of meditating.  No music, no distractions, but I am still using the incense.  This morning I kept my gaze downward, per Rinpoche’s advising.  I’ve been looking forward to my 15 minutes this evening.  I’m a quarter of the way toward my goal, with no real rush to get there.  I’ll get there. 

I got in 150 crunches this evening and did some weight training.  I’m going to get back to practicing yoga.   I miss doing my Rodney Yee DVD yoga sessions.  First of all, I have a mad crush on him.  His Yoga Burn rocked my world.  But I can’t get my DVD player to work.  Come to mention it, my stereo system doesn’t work, either – there seems to be something wrong with the CD stack, as the system simply won’t read my CDs (yes, I tried cleaning it!).  And, to make audio matters worse, the CD player in my car isn’t working.  Now, the latter two are not old by any means.  Brand new, even.  This is when I wish I had a man in my life (they’re the utility workers in our lives – I mean the knights on white stallions…). 

I simply can’t figure this stuff out.  And I’m a competent woman.  I even read the directions.  Still, I just don’t get it.  I’m not one to tinker around with electronic stuff, so, I’m really going nowhere with this.  A delimma, but not at all the end of the world.  

But, to backtrack a little, the DVD player worked when the cable guy hooked it up at my old cottage, when I paid for the mother load cable option.   I only have the basic channels now, which didn’t require a cable guy to come in and hook it up.   So I was left to figure out this anomaly myself.  I hooked everything up following the instruction manual.  Still, nothing. 

As for the CD player in my car, I will ask the Hyundai service dudes to check it out when I go in for my next oil change.  It stopped working after I had work done on it at a collison center my insurance company sent me to after my parked car was hit and the front bumper dropped (it was a hit in run in Portland).  In any case, when I picked up my repaired car, after returning from holiday travel, I couldn’t even get the CDs into the slot in my dashboard.  Something is very wrong.   I probably should have brought the car right back to the collision center as soon as the CD failed to insert.  Two months later, well, it’s too late.

As for the stereo at home, well, it’s still packed up in its original box and stored under my stairs.  Meantime, I have been listening to my old ‘box’.  It’s pretty lame and nearly broken, but it works.  I will either try to get the stereo fixed or get rid of it and eventually get a new one.   Hopefully then all of my electronics woes will be resolved. 

A deep breath, a shrug and on to my day’s end meditation session.  Yup, still fifteen minutes.

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Monday, February 25
10:55 p.m.

I started getting congested last night.  I realized that stress was the direct link to my issues with congestion.  My nose started off runny, and then I got slightly congested – not nearly as bad as I used to get.  When I got in bed, I sensed I wasn’t going to sleep without a decongestant.  So, I put on a Breathe Right Nose Strip across the bridge of my nose, I swallowed a Claritan-D, and I fell asleep. 

Here’s the deal.  I learned that I must not handle any money matters in the evening.  I need to make it a priority to end my day in a stress-free environment, allowing myself to wind down in peace and tranquility.  I will not pay bills or balance my checkbook in the evenings from here on out, but will limit this activity to mid-morning and mid-day.

I woke up around 6:00 a.m. and my kitty, Capri, got up and came in closer, snuggling up against me, her little head purring under my neck.  I smiled and fell back asleep, clear.  I realized that simple things, like the loving purrs of my sweet cat, were enough to keep me happy.  I found if I focused in on moments like that, the pains and stresses of everyday life would not get me down.  My shoulders relaxed, my nasal passages opened and I slept until my alarm went off at 7:45 a.m.

I meditated for fifteen minutes and then stretched.  Baby steps for me.  I don’t think I’ll get to two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, but my goal is to eventually meditate for an hour in the morning and an hour at night.  As for my fifteen minutes in, I felt great.  Afterwards, I ate a small container of all-natural, low fat yogurt, one gluten-free banana waffle, and a small glass of organic orange juice.  I took my one-a-day vitamin and then I went upstairs to shower, get dressed and I felt ready to take on the work day.

I had a moderately stressful day of meeting deadlines for work but managed to get through the day feeling positive, and breathing clear.  I had a couple healthy snacks – an organic banana in the morning and an organic apple in the evening, and a healthy lunch of white bean soup, a couple gluten-free crackers, and a bottle of Vitamin Water.  It is so important to eat a healthy diet, to get plenty of sleep, to make time to meditate, to take supplements, to stretch and get exercise, to get up several times during the day to move and get the blood flowing in order to obtain a well-balanced life. 

After work I put on my workout clothes and Shadow was sitting outside my front door.  I administered in her ears the mite and flea drops.  Then, as I walked to the gym she followed me.  It was cute.  We walked together for about two or three blocks.  She was slow and looked tired.  I didn’t want her to have to wait for me while I was at the gym, so, I turned around and walked her back to her little shelter by my door.  I worried about her because her dark gray-black coat blended in too well with the road.  I thought I might need to get her a reflective collar.  Back at my home, I went inside and brought out a fresh bowl of water.  Then, I went on my way to the gym and got in a good 45 minute cardio workout.  When I got back home she was gone.

I made myself a lovely dinner of Porcini and Chantrelle mushroom risotto, broccolini with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, sauteed with pine nuts and garlic cloves, and then heirloom green, yellow and orange-red grape tomatoes slightly cooked in olive oil.  It was delicious.  I had a cup of Yogi tea Indian spice (with lots of spicy cardamom) after dinner with a gluten-free shortbread cookie with pecans and chocolate chunks.  I was happy.

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Sunday, February 24
9:19 p.m.

To summarize the weekend, I only need to began with the Tibetan Buddhism talk I attended on Friday night, setting the tone for a very deep weekend, to say the least.  So, yesterday I participated in a half day of a workshop that continued the dialog that begun on Friday, followed by a lively and enjoyable dinner with the visiting Rinpoche.  I only learned of the weekend retreat on Friday, and so I couldn’t make the time for the full 2-day (4 parts) sessions, so I was content with getting in at least one session. 

I realized I wrote freely about the Rinpoche who led the Tibetan Buddhism talks here in Portland this weekend, and I neglected to define what a Rinpoche is, asserting that most readers are not necessarily plugged in.  Rinpoche literally translates to “precious one”.  It’s a title honoring incarnate lamas and eminent spiritual teachers, and is used at the end of the teacher’s name.   The Rinpoche is considered a reincarnate of a great teacher.

So, I am in my infant stages of understanding Tibetan Buddhism, and I’m not altogether sure what’s drawing me in to it.  I thought, very briefly, that perhaps I would have a calling to become a Pema, or a nun.  Which, I know is not my dharma, or path to enlightenment.  I then thought perhaps I would end up adopting a daughter from Tibet – I have this intense pull to go there.  I don’t know why.  I have never been one to seek things out – love, religion – to make myself feel whole, complete or happy.  I have been one of the lucky ones who happens to simply find happiness from within.  I am content with my faith as a Catholic.  I do admit there are things that I don’t agree with the Catholic Church, when it comes to the order and politics of the Church, but I like ritual, I like the ceremony, and I feel really good after attending an uplifting Mass.

I am not a theologian so I will not even begin to try to speak or, in this case, write as an expert on religion.  I am a humble, spiritual human being trying to feel closer to God, trying to find enlightenment, contentment, and compassion.  My work here on earth is to understand my gifts and how I am to use them to help make this world a better place.  That’s really what we must all do, but, unfortunately, most will not take the time to search for their purpose.  Western culture, especially American, more or less puts people in social paths already formed and people seem to just go along with this – whether it’s in following corporate America, traditional occupations, and traditional roles.  I’m not knocking these roles.  But, I wonder how different the world would be if we didn’t all succumb to what’s expected of us and, instead, meditate and pray to find out what our purspose is.  Acting out the many roles we have as human beings is not the same thing as finding our primary purpose in life.  For example, I could attain the roles of wife, mother, girl scout troop leader, Sunday school teacher, and so on.  But my purpose is something altoghter different.  It is sacred.  It has everything to do with my very specific God-given talents, understanding that God created me as a unique, special human being, with the intention for me to use those unique, special gifts and talents to make the world a better place.  We all have the capacity to do this because we were all born with specific gifts and talents that God wants us to use.  And this isn’t a religion-specific notion. 

Anyway, so much of my time is spent contemplating, pondering, praying, meditating – and really, I learned my purpose a long time ago.  Which is the good news!  That’s cracking half the code.  Now, I must figure out the path I am to take toward being useful, toward making a difference.  Clearly, I am searching for ways to make my writing tangible, uplifting, and useful.  I hope that others read what I write and feel something – moreso, I hope that what I write can help people and bring positive energy, positive thought and, as a result, positive action in others’ lives – that it regenerates positive energy, that it continues to promote peace, enlightenment and compassion, constantly paying it forward.

I think Tibetan Buddhism practice is helping me to realize my purpose and find ways to best express myself, understand what it is I am to share with others, and truly live and share a compassionate, peaceful, enlightened life.  That sounds all lovely, but it is hard work.

At the moment, I am making connections with my religious faith, Catholocism, and my spiritual path toward dharma, and I really feel like there’s a golden confluence of Catholocism and Tibetan Buddhism, or simply Buddhism, in a spiritual sense.  For one, by observing practices, both faiths share a common use of incense; candles; malas (prayer beads used in meditation and prayer in Buddhism) and rosary beads (prayer beads used in Catholic devotions); mystics; ritual and ceremony.  Both religions have a hierarchical system of spiritual orders (monks/priests/nuns).  More often, Catholicism is related to Zen Buddhism, but more and more Tibetan Buddhism is compared.  This makes me think of trappist monks…

Anway, the topic has been addressed, see Zen Buddhism & Catholocism by Anthony E. Clark and Carl E. Olson.

I learned that Ippolito Desideri was a pioneer in the Tibetan Buddhism-Christian dialog back in the 1700’s.  Desideri was an Italian Jesuit priest and a scholar of the Tibetan language and missionary.   So Catholics and Tibetan Buddhists had been engaged in philosophical and theological conversations since the 18th Century.

I am curious if it’s possible to be both a devout Catholic and a Tibetan Buddhist?  Is religion so closed and tightly administered that there’s no possibility to open one’s heart, mind and soul beyond one thought?  Here is my conundrum.  I love being Catholic.  I love my faith.  I don’t want to feel like I’m betraying it or turning my back on Christ and, my favorite, the Madonna, by learning new concepts that are actually helping me to feel closer to God, to humanity.  I don’t see how this could possibly be a bad thing.  I didn’t address it with Rinpoche on Saturday evening, though I wanted to.  It didn’t seem appropriate for me to take up his time with my personal questions.  And, equally, I’d love to chat with my cousin Vincent, a Dominican priest in New York City.  I really want to understand how these two theologies and practices can co-exist in my life without me feeling like I have to drop one for the other. 

Either way, I am on to some great revelation, some greater understanding of why I am here and how I will be able to be more useful.  I am content with that, I feel light in knowing things will all just work out. 

I considered my brief conversation with Rinpoche at dinner last night.  I was curious about the role of Pema (Buddhist nun) and I had been reading a bit of Pema Chodron’s writings.  Because I am a writer, I thought maybe there’s a calling here that I am to find (plus, as I’m getting older, I’m not so sure the role of wife is in the cards, I’m not convinced I want to be a wife, so could that mean nun??).  He shook his head in opposition.  He flat out said, no.  So that was that.  And he explained in his broken English that I first needed to learn how to meditate, that it takes great discipline to get into the practice of meditating 2 hours in the morning, 2 hours at night.  Which, is true.  It’s still a challenge for me to get through 15 minutes!  And this isn’t just close your eyes and relax meditation – this is complete blank, empty space – no thoughts, no voices in your head, no distraction – just blank.  Not easy.  He was blunt, he said it wasn’t my path.  If any one would know if being a Pema is on my path, this man would know – he’s a reincarnate!  But he said he’d be happy to talk to me and help me find my way to learning, understanding and practicing tantra to get to a place of enlightenment, compassion and peace.

Clearly, I’m not there yet.  But, I think I’m on the right path… 

So, rather than go to the second day of Tibetan Buddhism teachings today, I went to my steady 11:00 Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  The Mass was about water and how important it is to Catholics, symbollic in baptism, holy water used in service and in a basin at the entrance of the church (for parishoners to dip into when giving the sign of the cross upon entering and exiting the church).  The priest’s word reminded me of Buddhist teachings on nature.  I closed my eyes during the many choruses gloriously sang by the choir and meditated.  I looked at the beautiful stained glass windows while listening to the priest teach the parish to love one another, to live in peace.  And while I was beginning to feel good about my faith again, it was time for communion.  And I was disconnected once again. 

About a month ago the priest there told me that I could not receive a gluten-free host at this church because it was their belief that there has to be some leavened wheat.  I was denied the opportunity to practice the most sacred part of Mass – receiving communion, the symbollic body of Christ.  It was like being excommunicated.  Rules, rules, rules!  As if God would deny his people, those of us with Celiac disease, a condition with no cure but to follow a strict, challenging gluten-free diet.  I am saddened and discouraged by this parish’s neglect of a growing population of Catholics.  It is as if we are not welcome to share in this symbollic ritual; but, we are welcome to suffer through the toxic ingestion of a regular host, or we can sip from the chalice of wine which, upon lip after lip of neighbors with who-knows-what kind of germs they’re leaving on the rim, could possibly make me sick anyway.  Celiac is an autoimmune disease, so I am avoiding anything that might compromise my health.

We have such a long way to go with food allergy education.  The church cannot allow this discrimination.  This could possibly be the final straw that makes me turn my back on the Catholic Church.  And here I made a capital campaign pledge of $100 to the Archdiocese of Portland – the same Archdiocese that’s denying my participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion.  I may have to write a letter…

So, tonight before I went to bed I burned some sandalwood incense, I turned down the lights, I lit four or five candles, I pulled out my Zafu meditation pillow and I meditated for fifteen minutes without a thought in my head, without voices, without lists of things to do, just a blank space.  And it felt good.

Happy 40th Birthday to my big brother Mikey!  Peace, love and light to you today and always…

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Saturday, February 23
10:57 p.m.

I woke up well rested today.  I did ten sun salutations.  I hadn’t been practicing yoga lately, and I thought it would be a nice way to wake up and open my day.  I fed the cats, showered then headed toward St. Johns to The Crystal Temple to sit in on the second half (Day 1) of Younge Khachab Rinpoche’s retreat on Tibetan Buddhism.  I arrived about ten minutes late and crept to the back of the room.  It was a bright room with about 25 students.  The first meditation was about five minutes long.  I did my best to block out thought, distractions and just be still, thinking about open space, open space….and I did it.  I had a clear mind for five minutes – which is not easy when you are first learning how to meditate this way.  My previous meditation was not in silence and my mind never fully went still.  I have a long way to go with my meditation, but I’ll take each baby step and celebrate each successful session.

Rinpoche then led a beautiful chant/prayer.  I quietly hummed along, as I missed the morning session and didn’t know the words.  He then spoke about meditation and began to get into the basics of tantra.  After the talk and a break, we did another five minute meditation.  This time around it was much more difficult for me to clear my mind.  My mind kept wandering.  Eventually my head would almost snap and I’d focus again, my mind going blank.  And it would last for like 45 slow seconds, then a thought would pop into my mind, or I’d readjust my legs, that were uncomfortable holding the same position.  Which made me think I need to get back into yoga.  And then snap!  My mind would go blank again.  It was bizarre.  Another prayer/chant followed. 

The great take-away I got from the day was the position of the eyes/head, depending on the time of day you meditate.  In the morning, you look upward to take in the sun and start of day; mid-day, you look straight ahead, forward; and in the evening you look downward.  So, this afternoon our heads were positioned straight ahead and even.

He mentioned we should get into the practice of meditating for two hours in a row twice a day.  Example, meditate from 6 -8 a.m. in the morning.  And then two more hours at the end of the day, like 5-7 p.m. or 9-11 p.m.  He mentioned we should shower in the morning and before going to bed. 

Finally, we read the following Precept Dedication Prayer by Shantideva, revised by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

May all beings everywhere,
Plagued by sufferings of body and mind,
Obtain an ocean of happiness and joy
By virtue of my merits.
May no living creature suffer,
Commit evil or ever fall ill.
May no one be afraid or belittled,
With a mind weighed down by depression.
May the blind see forms,
And the deaf hear sounds.
May those whose bodies are worn with toil
Be restored on finding repose.
May the naked find clothing,
The hungry find food.
May the thirsty find water
And delicious drinks.
May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy.
May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy.
May the forlorn find hope,
Constant happiness and prosperity.
May there be timely rains
And bountiful harvests.
May all medicines be effective
And wholesome prayers bear fruit.
May all who are sick and ill
Quickly be freed from their ailments.
Whatever diseases there are in the world,
May they never occur again.
May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed.
May the powerless find power
And may people think of benefitting each
other.

After the session, one of the organizers invited the group to dinner.  I left the center feeling a little chilly.  The room was kinda cold, or perhaps my body’s temperature changed during the session.  In any case, I didn’t have a decent coat or sweater with me, so I went to REI in the Pearl and found two killer sweaters, each on sale for $19.99.  I then drove over to Plainfield’s Mayur for our dinner reservation at 6:30 p.m.  I’ve heard great things about this Indian restaurant.  I was the first to arrive and chatted with a server who wrote down the menu items that could be prepared gluten-free – they were very accomodating!

The group arrived and we went to the downstairs room next to the wine room.  It was lovely.  The organizers ordered a magnum of Burgundy and shared it with the group – which was very generous and kind.  Then all the ladies and the Rinpoche plucked the lovely fuscia-colored orchids from the table and placed them behind our right ears. 

We started off with the Dahi Wada – which they prepared gluten-free.  It’s crispy fried lentil balls in slightly spicy ginger-coriander yogurt sauce.  Instead of bread, I was given Papadums, lentils soaked and made into a paste mixed with a special masala and garlic, then rolled paper thin and fried (they were like Indian tortillas).  I ordered the prawns in a coconut sauce.  Finally, after the meal, I ordered a cup of their amazing chai tea.

It was a lovely dinner with engaging conversation from politics to travel.  I thought it was a gift to sit across from this holy man and giving teacher.  We did speak a bit about meditating.  There was mention of a dream yoga workshop up in Seattle in April.  If I am able, I will attend.  I’m really enjoying the learning and I am meeting kind, compassionate, good people.

When I got home, I was getting congested again, with a runny nose.  Oh no!  I had been cured from this for a few weeks.  There are colds and flus running rampant, but I had been so healthy.  I’m not going to let it consume me.  Hopefully I will be able to sleep soundly without it interrupting my rest.  Fingers crossed!

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Friday, February 22
10:03 p.m.

I was listening to Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson while I began typing this entry.  This song was the haunting climax to last season’s finale of Grey’s Anatomy (when Christina arrives in her apartment and Burke has moved out and all she can do is take off the tight wedding dress that’s literally strangling her).  All we can do is keep breathing

Then my playlist went straight to Who Knew by Pink.  So, naturally, I got up and started dancing!  This is kind of an angry woman’s song.  Not kind of.  It is.  Or maybe a scorned woman’s lament.  A.D.D.-blogger-in-me needs to mention I love her anjou pear green dress in the video.  Gosh, in light of her recent statement about her separation with her husband of two years, this song must really strike a chord with her.  She’s way cooler than her now ex, anyway.  And that’s the end of my pop culture commentary for this entry.

On a totally diverging and deeper note, I attended an enlightening workshop this evening on Tibetan Buddhism, which continues to lead me to a reverent place of heart and mind, teaching me to let go of pain, anger “bad energy” as the teacher put it, within, and to just be happy and grateful for all of the blessings in my life.  Okay, so I am a very basic student of Tibetan Buddhism, if I may seriously call myself that.  But I am not ready to depart from my Catholic faith – at this point in my life, I do not want to foresaken my Christain roots.  I love my faith and find deep peace and spiritual meaning in it.  It certainly sustains me.  But… I am interested in the philosophical practices and teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.  From the most basic principals, Tibetan Buddhism, unlike Christianity and most other religions, doesn’t get tangled up in politics, nor does it manipulate people to have a fear-based relationship with God; rather, it instructs right from wrong without politicking and it establishes a very open relationship with God through nature.  It’s a very peaceful religion.  And how many Buddhists do you see murdering, raping, child molesting, shooting up heroin, setting up meth labs, paying for prostitiutes, and waging war?  This, alone, makes Buddhism a very powerful instrument of faith and worship, no, it’s less about worship and more about practice.

I am curious to learn more. 

The workshop I attended was sponsored by New Renaissance Book Store.   It was actually an evening talk with Younge Khachab Rinpoche, who spoke about the fundamental concepts in Tibetan Buddhism:  Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen.  Younge Khachab Rinpoche was engaging and had a very warm way about him, a sunny laugh and a gentle disposition.  He spoke eloquently about topics like dharma and meditation and the work it takes to be a student of Tibetan Buddhism. 

He will be around for a weekend retreat at The Crystal Temple in North Portland, broken down into four sessions.  I would like to try to get at least one of the sessions.  Younge Khachab Rinpoche will expand on what the subjects he introduced tonight, and, ultimately, will make himself available and return to the Portland area oftento deepen the teachings for his students.  My question – do I wish to become a pupil?  There is desire to create a Portland Sangha (community) for learning and meditation.  Is this something for me?

After his generous talk, Younge Khachab Rinpoche looked straight at me and asked me my name.  I timidly approached him, clearly unaware of the proper customs, and told him my name.  At first he repeated Clea.  I gently corrected him and said Leah.  He repeated my name a couple of times while rocking or bowing forward.  I thanked him for the evening.  He did not reach out to anyone else, but a gentleman then quickly approached him and bantered off questions.  I backed up, realizing something special had happened.  It was a kind of spiritual connection.  I felt like he could see right through me, not exposed in vulnerablility, but it felt more like he had been expecting me.  

I plan to get to bed at a decent hour in the event that I decide to attend tomorrow’s session(s).  I won’t make it up to the Fisher Poets annual festival in Astoria this weekend, sadly.  Meantime, while I was at New Renaissance this evening, I picked up a new Nawang Khechog (Tibet musician and composer) CD collaboration with R. Carlos Nakai (Native American flutist) called Winds of Devotion.  I have been listening to their other collaborative CD, Music as Medicine, every night at bedtime to fall asleep, and I truly believe it has helped to irradicate my sinus problems.  I have been congestion free for a few weeks now.  It’s amazing.  My life literally changed over night – I feel so healthy and well!

I also picked up a copy of Stages of Meditation by the Dalai Lama which includes his teachings on how to meditate; I got the book Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodron, described as “an indispensible handbook for cultivating fearlessness and awakening a compassionate heart”; and finally, I picked up The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer, a book designed to help you transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you.

These aren’t self help books, but are guides toward enlightenment and compassion, a track I have been on all my life, I think, but I’m much, much more aware of my personal need to study and practice this.  I am also dedicating at least an hour a day toward spiritual reading.  I decided these are wonderful gifts to myself.

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