There is Life After the Thesis

After chronicling my thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences throughout the thesis process on this blog (formerly entitled Rites of a Thesis), it seemed odd to me to simply let the blog go just because I had turned in my thesis and graduated. I don't want to merely "shelve" my thesis nor do I want all that I got from my time at Naropa to lie dormant. I want my thesis to continue to live and breathe and become, and I would like all the teachings and experiences I had during my time at Naropa to do the same. So I am keeping the blog (changing the title), and am commiting to myself to (w)rite on as I journey forward.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mindfulness: Understanding and Acceptance

That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. It is the ordinary state of affairs. Everything is in process. Everything—every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate—is always changing, moment to moment.
~ Pema Chödrön
Last night I attended a performance at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts: The Mystical Arts of Tibet: Sacred Music and Sacred Dance for World Healing. The performance was given by a group of monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery (currently in exile in Karnataka State, in south India).
The monks who performed have been in residence in Scottsdale all week. They created a sand mandala (below) over the course of five days as a way to transmit positive energy to the environment and healing for the world. Today, the monks will perform a ceremony to disassemble the mandala and sweep the millions of grains of sand into flowing water so that the healing blessings of the mandala can continue into the greater world.

The mandala ceremonies also represent impermanence, and how we can honor that in ourselves and in the world.

I am currently taking a class online entitled Awakening Joy, led by James Baraz (one of the founders of Spirit Rock meditation center in Northern California). The class is a ten-month course with another month of wrap-up and follows Baraz's book of the same title. This month's focus is Mindfulness. In his letter of the month, Baraz explains that one of the four properties of Mindfulness is that "as we pay attention, we begin to see for ourselves that the present moment is constantly changing...we can learn to enjoy the roller coaster ride of life, rather than think we will arrive at some fixed destination."

I always find it auspicious when the Universe places people, words, ideas, and such together for me to see (and hopefully, understand) which direction I would most benefit from placing my focus.

Letting go of expectations - of myself, other people, places and things - is another way of practicing Mindfulness, and accepting impermanence. This morning I was scheduled to attend my sangha meditation group. It only meets once a month on Sunday mornings for three hours. It is not a big commitment, yet I have been so over-committed, that when I got up late this morning and after walking my dog, I just didn't have the energy to go. I want to have the energy. I want to be Super Woman. I think I used to be. But I just can't do it any more.

The expectations I place on myself to do everything are too high. Where I used to be able to say "yes" to everything and jump to, I am no longer able, and maybe, I really don't want to. I am realizing with my packed schedule that I need to have a day where I don't do, I simply be. As I sat in bed this morning practicing an Appreciation-in-the-Moment exercise from my online class, I realized that I need to accept what is about myself. Though I feel guilty for not attending the sangha meeting this morning (as attending is not just for my benefit but for others), I came to the conclusion that I need to accept who I am and where I am, and that that means I need to re-think how I do. I decided next month, I will not schedule anything for the Saturday evening prior to my sangha meeting. That way, I can wake up without feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

As the serenity prayer says (and as Baraz reminded in his letter): "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

*The photo of the sand mandala above was taken last night at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. If you would like more information on Tibetan Healing Mandalas please go to: