Monthly Archives: December 2003



A rascal of a fish at Selby Gardens, Canon Eos

I’ve been reading a book called My Grandfathers’ Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen. Every time I pick it up and read even a few pages, my eyes well up with tears. (I had to stop reading it in public because it just got too embarrassing.) This book moves me because it is kind. It’s like that moment when you feel blue and someone says something unbearably nice and you just break down. When someone blesses you.

What is a blessing?

When I was in Thailand a few years ago, Matt and I discovered a cultural exchange called Monk Chat at a temple in Chiang Mai. It gave foreigners an opportunity to talk to monks about monastic life, Buddhism and Thai culture, while giving these young men a chance to practice their english and learn about us.

We asked one of the monks about meditation and he said, It is about training the mind to be skilled in thought. When you are on the bus staring at the back of someone’s head, you can use that time to worry about money or all of the things you need to do, or you can use that time to bless the people around you. This is skilled thought. Thought that serves others.

Since then, I’ve tried this trick on the bus and I noticed that it did two important things:
1. You get out of your head long enough to be present and actually see the people around you
2. It stirs a compassion in you for those same people. It’s as if the act of blessing is what cultivates compassion and not the other way around. You don’t feel compassionate so you bless, you bless so that you are filled with compassion.

I find that a lot of things work this way. For example, there is a romantic misconception that painters are struck with inspiration and dart to the canvas to create their masterpiece. Usually this is not how it happens, and if you wait until you are inspired to paint, you might never do it! But if you simply begin moving the brush around, dipping into the colors, you find inspiration (and even joy) in the process and want to continue.

The same goes for meditation. If you wait until you feel peaceful enough to meditate, you might wait a lifetime. But if you simply stop and sit (out of a commitment to the practice) you begin to find that peaceful place within.

Maybe we have it backwards. All of this waiting to feel ready, inspired, strong enough, smart enough. Maybe the writing of the book is in the end what will make us feel ready to write the book, and the blessing of others will make us feel blessed ourselves.

Merry Christmas y’all

Cherie and Oscar, Nikon Coolpix 4500

Happiest days to you all.
I loved your lists on the previous entry. Keep em’ comin.

Things I learned in 2003


Fern in Selby Gardens, Canon Eos

1. That I love being married. That the ritual of a wedding is even more powerful, sacred and deep than I ever imagined. That when people ask the slightly ridiculous question of, So, do you feel different? You actually do.

2. That I’m allergic to papayas and if I drink the juice my face gets so red hot and blotchy that my husband will exclaim, Ew! and take several steps away from me.

3. That sometimes doing is better than thinking. That being in action is better than plotting, strategizing, planning, worrying and speculating. That one can think oneself into a black hole in about 30 seconds.

4. That it’s never too late to ask for a bright orange basketball for Christmas. (I can’t wait to play HORSE with the drunk guys at the playground)

5. That meditation is difficult, shows no signs of getting easier, and the desire to scream FUCK! into the stillness will never go away either.

6. That having faith doesn’t always mean trusting God, or the universe or spirit. It also means trusting yourself, your partner, your friends, your body. That having faith means trusting not only in what you can’t see, but what you can.

What have you learned in 2003?

Every day matters

Drawing by Danny Gregory from his book Everyday Matters

Okay, so I’ve been working my arse off and haven’t been writing in ages. What I have been doing however (when I finally collapse at the end of the day) is reading. And the book that has brought me the most joy these days is a book called Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory.

This book is a visual journal filled with drawings, stories, and bits of wisdom tucked into unlikely places. I love that the drawings aren’t perfect in any traditional way and his stories are incredibly personal and real. Danny is not afraid to tell the truth about things and he does so in a simple and beautiful way.

The story of his family will move you (and his insights that follow) but what brought me to tears at several moments in the book were Danny’s descriptions of why he draws, and how drawing saved his life.

They are so many ways to access the present, to capture the moment, and really stop and see what is around you. But being a visual person, I am attracted to drawing as a way to do this elusive thing As a way to pray or to count your blessings as Danny says. He reminded me of why drawing is a meditation, why it is a spiritual act, and why art makes life richer.

You can see excerpts of his book on his web site. I think you will love it.