September 28, 2006


We have all returned safe a sound from Shambhala Mountain Center. This trip was successful by all definitions of the word in all aspects. Yet I find myself curiously disappointed. At first, I did not understand this. I just knew that all the enthusiasm I thought I would feel (and did feel the day we arrived) was somehow absent. I blamed it on my cold and the altitude and not feeling well. Now that I am back in my comfortable breathing zone I think I understand it better. Something is lacking, something which I expected but do not feel – triumph.

I think somewhere inside, I felt that this trip would in many ways be the culmination of so much hard work. It should be the climax, the finale, the zenith. I think I expected something to change somehow, yet life goes on as it has. Here I am, back at school, back to work, back to studying, and everything is much the same as it was before I left. I guess that proves life really isn’t a movie. There aren’t intricate plots with introductions, actions, challenges, and finally endings. There are no endings; it just continues, one infinite denouement.

I was attached to this vision I had create for myself and of myself. I had this lovely (fictional) story all laid out in my head of how my triumph would be achieved. The funny thing is – it was achieved, as beautifully as I ever could have hoped for. It just lacked theme music. And the credits never rolled.

Buddhism teaches us that all things change. Clinging and attachment to things which we believe to be concrete and lasting causes suffering. Turns out that clinging to ideas of how change will occur causes suffering too. Attachment to our own ideas of how the plot should run is an obstacle in our perception of reality.

Sometimes things change and sometimes they don’t – and sometimes they just change in ways you didn’t expect.

PS – The object of my earlier ‘Fixation’ wasn’t even there. I did not ask after him.

September 24, 2006

Buddhist Not In Nebraska

This Buddhist is in Colorado, at Shambhala Mountain Center. It feels like coming home. It feels like family, even with all the unfamiliar faces of the summer staff. There are more than enough familiar faces, smiles, and hugs.

I am doing my best to have a good time and keep my energy up despite lingering on the verge of altitude sickness, complete with fatigue, headache, fuzziness, dizzyness, and worst of all, nausea. I'm never had altitude sickness before, but then I've never tried coming here when I have a cold.

I drove ten hours on Friday with a van full of students from the College of Architecture, leading a second full van to someplace only I had ever been. It shows that the college has put a great amount of faith in a student and I appreciate that. Not that they didn't do their research, of course. We have kept them running around, investigating, and talking to people and overall I think they are having a good time. They are already having good ideas.

Dickie can't stop telling me how thrilled he is that we are here. I was thrilled on Friday. Now I'm just kinda tired, but a strong sense of satisfaction remains. I did it! We did it! We're here!

The place has matured and changed over the summer. Flowers are blooming and people are bustling about. The Rigden Lodge is finished and being used. The Dalai Lama came and went last week. All the cats and the magpies are safe and fat. A few of the aspen groves are just starting to change to gold.

It is very good.

September 17, 2006


I have had an exercise in equanimity this week, one quality which I cultivate as part of Buddhist practice. More than anything it leaves me even now with the irrepressible urge to giggle.

On Wednesday, our professor arranged for an evening field trip to Reimers Kaufman, a brick and block contractor. Masons were on hand demonstrating how to lay brick and block walls and to give us the opportunity to try our luck with a trowel. It was very interesting. Two slices of pizza and two cans of pop later, I politely asked out host if they had a restroom I could use. He pointed in the direction of their office building but sheepishly informed me there was only one bathroom available as it was after hours and the other was beyond the second door of the vestibule which was locked. He would keep and eye out and make sure no one else headed in that direction. Unworried, I headed that way myself.

His sheepish expression was soon explained by the fact that the one available restroom was clearly labeled “Men’s” Still undaunted, I shrugged and pushed open the door. It was clean and contained one sink, one urinal, and one stall. I had just sat myself down in the stall, when the door opened. Even with a very limited view, it was unmistakably a male who entered - a rather large burly male who no doubt had no idea anyone was in there and let alone female. I surmised he was not one of classmates since none of them have as of yet attained that scale. I was more concerned with not embarrassing the poor guy to death than being embarrassed myself.

Never would I have believed it would take any man that long to pee, but of course, it did. I quietly waited for him to finish, wash his hands, and leave, before slowly doing the same myself. I don’t think anyone noticed when I exited the building a few moments later, all but bursting with the need to tell someone, anyone, of the funniest thing which had happened to me in years. All I did was grin a little foolishly and manage to suppress all my giggles and my nagging urge to share my secret.

Who knew equanimity could be found in the men’s restroom?

September 12, 2006


My Dad bought a book for me over the weekend, Apartment Therapy, which is also one of the only two blogs I read (along with Vegan Lunchbox). At this point, I think my mother has actually read more of it than I have, but I have gotten far enough to look forward to the rest. In the introduction, the author mentioned something which got me thinking. He taught for a while and found the children who excelled in school had not only a good home environment (speaking from an interior designer’s point of view) but also had good home rhythms, such as regular meals, set study times, and bedtimes.

My life has been feeling willy nilly and out of control since school started again and I think much of this has to do with a lack of rhythm. By rhythm, I don’t just mean daily routine or habit, but something deeper and more physical. I lost ten pounds in the first two weeks of school. I skipped meals, but ate too much junk food at other times to make up for it, my sleep schedule was disrupted, and I wasn’t getting my regular exercise. The dishes piled up and so did the piles of paper, laundry, and unopened mail.

My days have a rhythm now of working and resting. I ride to school in the morning and have my coffee to wake me up. I work well all morning until lunch, which I stop to eat, even if it’s only twenty minutes. I ride back and forth to east campus twice a week (six miles) and the exercise helps me sleep at night. I get home after five o’clock and rest (sleep with the news on TV) for an hour before making dinner (and doing dishes). I watch some television and relax and then do homework for two hours before bed. I’m slowly cleaning the accumulated mess, five and ten minutes at a time. This is a simple rhythm and it’s helping. Physically I feel much better.

I’m finding my natural rhythm.

September 07, 2006

Nirvana is Now

My favorite basic Buddhism primer is “The Heart of Buddha’s Meaning” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I remember reading this part of the book. I was in the student union on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Up on the second floor, in the back is a hallway that leads to and from offices and some of the large assembly spaces, which are mostly unused in the middle of a weekday. This hall is lined with sofas and chairs and is generally used for napping. I used to go there between classes to read and sleep. One afternoon, I lay there and read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book quietly chuckling to myself. I couldn’t help giggling in shear delight.

About two-thirds of the way through the book, he reveals that Nirvana is not some mystical place like heaven, or even some other realm of existence, or alternative state into which one can transcend upon death. Nirvana is now, this very moment, this very life, this very place. We simply don’t see it. We don’t let the perfection of the present moment penetrate our daily lives. We create mental shields against it.

It was the greatest joke I had ever heard. I laughed, not in a cynical or jaded way. In that moment, realizing that one thing, I was happy. Every time I think of it, I am happy. I smile. My mood lifts, I breath easier in that moment, and my shoulders finally loosen. Of course, the trick is to always keep that thought in the forefront of my mind no matter what else is occurring in my life, which is not always easy.

Nirvana is now - go figure. :-)

September 06, 2006


I'm tired and probably just need to ramble a little. I'm waiting for the glue to set on a model base, then it will be finished, but I don't think it is the amount of work I've put in which is making me so tired. I think I am more weary than tired. I've put a lot of time, thought, and effort into this model. I like it and it is the best model I've ever built, both from a design and a craftsmanship (craftswomanship?) standpoint. I am not good at building models. I don't enjoy it and I don't have the patience for it and worst of all, my hands shake. Give me a two by four and a circular saw and I'm happy. Give me a basswood and an exacto knife and I will consider using them to stab my eyes out.

I'm tired because I know, I fear, my best effort will be looked down upon and ridiculed as a weak attempt to mimic my betters.

When I was young, I didn't care what anyone thought of me. I was a tomboy and a rebel. I would do anything, dress as I pleased, speak as I pleased. Then somewhere along the way, I decided that wasn't going to get me very far in life. I saw the popular kids, how they were outgoing, positive, and took care of their appearance. They cared about both their image and their actions and how they impacted other people. They seemed to do better in life, they had more friends, got good grades, were going far in the world. They were happy. So I decided to become an extrovert. Now that I've succeeded, I'm wondering if it was such a good idea.

Then there's compassion, that empathy the Dharma teaches us is so important. When does empathy become anxiety? When does caring about others become caring about others' opinions? Is this the vulnerability, the soft spot in your heart, that Chogyam Trungpa and Thich Naht Hahn were speaking about? Or is this just misplaced ego? I want my teachers to be as happy with my work as I am. I don't want them to be annoyed or angry or frustrated that I am so far behind my peers. But do I want this for them, or for myself?

Where is that damned Middle Path when you need it?