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suffering is natural

One of my teachers, Michele McDonald-Smith, once recounted that a 92 year old relative of hers, on being informed by her doctor of a terminal cancer diagnosis, became upset and implored “Why me?” As a species we seem to have solidified a very real revulsion for the inevitable, as well as toward the smaller slights along the way. We hide death like some grand failing; we distract ourselves into oblivion as if to avoid taking our predicament seriously.  Another of my early teachers, Sharon Salzberg, tells the story about a friend of hers who had to explain to her four-year-old

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just try your best

Meditation is not easy, I get it. There are aches and pains in the body, the mind gets restless, and the breath fades in and out of awareness. Sometimes, mostly out. But, as Hawaii-born retired Sumo grand-master Akebono would say to reporters after winning yet another match, “I just try my best.” That’s all we ask. Try your best. Just show up on the cushion, again and again. If you just keep showing up, the magic starts to happen – but it helps a lot to show up in the right way. We can all dutifully drag ourselves to the

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savor the resistance

Do we feel we are missing out on some better, or more spiritual, experience by being stuck with a mountain of laundry, a sink overflowing with dishes, or a yard full of leaves to rake? Karen Maezen Miller, in a piece in Lion’s Roar, describes the domestic practices of ancient Zen masters as intimate daily life transformations. Following in their steps she reflects: In the fall, the broad canopy of giant sycamores in my backyard turns faintly yellow and the leaves sail down. A part of every autumn day finds me fuming at the sight of falling leaves. Then, I

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faith in small things

“Don’t think that love must be extraordinary to be genuine. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” –Mother Teresa There is a Tibetan saying popular in mindfulness circles these days: “If you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.” When I remember this saying, my heart releases what it’s fixated on, and it’s almost always fixated or worrying about something. Sylvia Boorstein once quipped that she is a “recovering worrier.” That’s me. But my recovery is a work in progress.

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no self help

Mindfulness meditation leaves the self-help mindset in the dust by challenging the existence of the very thing we are setting out to improve, the self. In an article on the self-help movement in New York Magazine back in 2013, Kathryn Shultz observed she knows people who “wouldn’t so much as walk through the self-help section of a bookstore without The Paris Review under one arm and a puzzled oh-I-thought-the-bathroom-was-over-here look on their face.” (Back when there were bookstores to hang out in). Some of you reading this may have found appropriate advice at times in self-help literature, while some others

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an ordinary new year wish

While everyone is wishing their co-workers, friends and family a fantastic new year full of creativity, self-improvement, and relationship-hacking bravado, I would settle for an ordinary new year. — Nothing special. Wishing others an entire year of monumental experiences or events, is curious to me. I am not sure I can handle anything too out of the ordinary. In fact, I am quite happy with ordinary. what’s so special about being special? I’ve been around the “special” block quite a few times, enough to question the entire project of assessing and attributing special-ness stature to things which – on deep

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