Monthly Archives: April 2021

Being Free Now

When the same message arrives from two different women with pretty different world views within a few minutes of each other, it is meant to be shared, I think.

In her Sunday sermon shared via her subscriber newsletter, Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber reminds us of Doubting Thomas who questioned the rebirth of Jesus until he saw where the nails had been driven into his hands. The story, Bolz-Weber says, isn’t about not doubting; instead it is about how Jesus reacted to the doubt. He did not judge or condemn Thomas. He showed him his hands and welcomed him as he was. Jesus doesn’t wait until we are perfect to love us.

Because notice that the text doesn’t say “and when they had repented of what complete asses they had been; and when they had perfected their faith and the purity of their doctrine; and when they had achieved the right condition of personal morality THEN they were worthy of receiving Jesus.”

Sebene Selassie practices Buddhism and is one of my favorite writers and meditation teachers. Her newsletter this week was titled We Are Free. She focuses on the present moment and reminds us that we are free. We are not getting free. We are free now.

She encourages us to take a hard look at the beliefs and structures we hold around all the facets of our lives. She and her husband rethought their living space and how beliefs about the functions of certain rooms were keeping them from really using the space for their own needs. She talked about getting off social media for a few weeks and postponing her newsletter, a decision that focused on her self care rather than the needs or expectations of others.

I really needed that. By that, I mean, the autonomous decision to take care of my damn self.

It is entirely up to me to remember this fundamental truth:  I am a grown-ass adult human, and I AM FREE.

Both women, coming from different belief systems and even world views, are preaching the same message. Stop waiting for perfection, for courage, for solutions. I’ll end with Sebene:

We will not get free once everything is resolved; we ARE free, right in this moment… And this one. If we allow ourselves to feel it.

PS I hope the colorful language these women use is not offensive. I have, as I have gotten older, also begun to get a little saltier so that may be why they both speak to me.

Laundry/Not Laundry

The Laundry Worker
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
From Wikiart

Renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg offers a variety of techniques for practicing meditation that focuses on the breath. One of my favorites is a very simple, nonjudgmental approach: as you practice, you identify what is the breath and what is not. The latter covers the whole range of things that happen as you practice from random, quickly passing thoughts and distractions to long, winding stories and fantasies.

The most important moment in meditation practice according to Salzberg is when you recognize those distractions and gently, without judgment, bring your focus back to the breath. You can mark that moment by mentally noting “not breath.” That’s it. Then, as you settle your attention, you note “breath.”

Salzberg often comments that you may do this thousands of times and that’s okay. I can hear her voice saying, “That’s the practice.” And, I am proof that you do get more skillful. But, as with life itself there are times when you feel very skillful and times you don’t. The beauty of breath/not breath is that it does not carry judgment. You simply identify the distraction as not breath, and then come back to breath.

Another lesson I am learning about meditation is that it isn’t just about taking a break or getting some quiet time to breathe and release. Another goal is to shift your mind so you carry meditative and practices with you throughout your day. I have been playing with the breath/not breath technique in other areas such as doing the laundry. Chores like this, I have discovered, are fertile practice ground as their familiarity means our mind can go elsewhere and while that can be good as it part of the creative process–I’ve had many an inspiration while folding the towels–we can also find ourselves revisiting our failings, rehearsing how others have failed us, rehashing old wounds or worrying about new ones, letting our mind spin tales that pull us into darker less welcoming places.

When my mind starts doing its thing while I sort the socks, I use that sorting as the focus of my attention.  I recognize that I have been led astray and think “not laundry” and go back to the socks, noting “laundry.”

Dishes are another good chore. I am the primary dishwasher as we don’t have an appliance. I sometimes listen to the news or music, but lately I have been experimenting with focus: you guessed it, dishes/not dishes. Besides a good meditative rest, I think my dishes are cleaner.

I encourage you to give this a try, perhaps as a stand alone practice but also as a first step towards a more formal meditation practice. While I used to find laundry and dishes as necessary but somewhat boring practices, I now look forward to another opportunity to tweak my consciousness and practice mindfulness throughout the day.