Dogma Runs Deep

buddha fire head wood

I’m letting go of the personal dogma engrained so deep in my habitually chaotic brain. I’m sitting with the questions instead of demanding the answers. I’m reevaluating the doctrine I’ve held so tight for so long. The process of trying to empty yourself of programmed mental and emotional response and open up to new, authentic thought comes from a place of pure self love. Pure self love comes from a realization that you really want to be happy and tend mindfully to yourself.

I’m sorting through the figurative boxes of old, abandoned trinkets that I saved all these years for some reason or another. These are the parts of ourselves that we never put out on the shelves for visitors to see, the sacred bits and pieces that may stay secret from even our most intimate partners in life, and the raw justifications that we create and censor. 

There is a level of spiritual vulnerability that we can approach within ourselves yet may never reveal to others. Some things are only meant for self-reflection. I don’t want to know how some people feel about some of the parts of me. It takes a true Spiritual Gangsta to let that stuff be taken out and tossed around in front of another person. You risk judgement of your enshrined inner truths and stories that you tell yourself over and over so convincingly. But, with the right person and the courage to reveal these exclusive rationalizations, you may receive rescue, not ridicule. The choice to reveal should not be taken lightly. The decision of whether or not you sort through those inner junk drawers of doctrine in a meaningful way and with pure healing intention is ultimately yours. The gifts of self-reflection and enlightenment should be treasured instead of measured.

gratitude to keencarleen on for the above photo

Being Present


Being present means living in the moment. Being present means enjoying right now instead of replaying past events or role playing possible future scenarios. There is a time for each of these to take place, but when it’s time to be present, it’s good to be able to relax into the moment at hand. It’s a skill worth mastering.

Our ability to be present depends a lot on having good boundaries. Your boundaries should be intentional and unapologetic. Keeping good control and understanding of what you want and need helps you to stay “in the moment” and enjoy more. Having weak or undefined boundaries makes you more likely to be passive or let others define them for you. Taking responsibility for yourself avoids the opportunity for others to take control of us. At the same time, respecting other’s boundaries will demonstrate how you want to be treated.  This means often letting go of our attachment to outcomes and need to control each result. Inner peace comes from letting the outcomes naturally play out in each moment without judgement or attachment. Being present means paying attention to yourself and whether you are trying to alter the moment and outcome instead of just observing and accepting it.

When you add judgment, comparison, or competition to the present moment, you are no longer being present. If you can let go of what you think “should” be happening or what “might have been” then you can more easily let go and enjoy being present. There will be enough time to lick your past wounds later. Trust that you can handle this moment, you deserve to enjoy what’s happening now and you will be capable of juggling whatever is thrown your way next. “Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure” -author unknown 

Do you have a mind that constantly races in every direction? One way to bring yourself into the present is to learn how to quiet your mind and focus on what matters right now. Taking yourself out of the moment and becoming an observer when you begin to feel anxious or fearful may help you to gain insight into whether or not this moment really requires that response. Fully experience this moment until it’s time to move on to the next. Being an observer of yourself may help you learn more about what triggers those moments of fear and anxiety. Knowledge is power. Observe and breathe…

The moments are going to keep happening. Fighting against the moment does not make it go slower. Each moment comes when it is supposed to come. Take a big, deep breath in. Now let it out slowly. You either took the time and felt present enough to enjoy that breath, or you rushed through it to see what was next. Each breath happens, quick or slow is an illusion and a judgement that you put on those moments. Time never speeds up, time never slows down. Even if you fight against the present moment it will still happen and still move at the same speed. Change will happen, change keeps coming. No matter how hard you try, you can only breath in OR out… never both at the same time. Each breath comes when it is time. 

Staying present means realizing that you can only do one thing at a time. Whether it be work, pleasure, obligation or otherwise, multi-tasking with either your body or mind is just not possible. Being able to do several things in quick succession with great ease should not be confused with multi-tasking. Complete one thing, then move on to the next.

Let time move and change and flow while just being within the movement of each moment. The less expectation of the next moment, the more you can fully enjoy the present. Reflection has it’s time and the process of learning involves thinking beyond the moment at hand and there will be time for all that too. But, when you can live and breathe in the now….. just be.


Meditate On It



“It’s almost like mindfulness is becoming a folk religion of the secular elite in Western Culture.” – David McMahan (Buddhist Scholar)

SInce Buddhism and meditation have been brought to Western Culture, it has been reinterpreted and reapplied to fit the needs and intentions of the varied followers who practice.  Are the meditation practices being used today truly in alignment with original Buddhist practices?  Or, is what we practice now just a modernization of an ancient practice that is meant to be independent of culture and time? Are we meditating authentically? Do we concern ourselves with these thoughts and comparisons or do we just meditate in our own way and veer from tradition to simply extract what we can and pull what we need from it?  This topic would no doubt give Buddhist scholars much to pontificate about, but my opinions here are those of a Westerner who holds a deep respect and appreciation for all that Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness have taught me.  I am not Buddhist, but I enjoy reading about what it has to teach us.  I do meditate and feel that I do it in my own way following my own agenda.  I try to live mindfully, but I interpret what that means for my life.  In my position in life it would be impossible for me to live up to true Buddhist customs.  I do what I can with what I’m handed.  I don’t concern myself with popular belief, I concern myself with what serves me and what makes me feel at peace.  Meditating in my Meditation Garden for as long as I have time for is what works for me.


What is being done in present day may be more like a quick and convenient shot of meditation espresso, but I feel that may be what we need and all we can accommodate right now. The life of a modern day member of Western Culture looks much different than that of a Buddhist Monk.  And, if the end result brings us the desired outcome then should we bother even considering our means to a desired end?  If our intentions are good then our methods are sound.  I see people pick their method and adapt their ways to fit their busy lifestyles and I don’t judge.  Judgement of these things would, of course, not be in alignment with practices such as this anyway.

However, if you decide to incorporate your version of relaxation meditation, understand that your result will be just that: relaxing.  Without internalizing dharma by reciting scriptures and sinking deep into your own mind for devoted periods of time as the Buddhist Monks do, you will technically not reach the insights intended to be learned through ancient meditation.  But, don’t misunderstand me.  My message here is one of support to all of you who meditate for as long or as short as you wish and in whatever way you decide.  “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.  Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” -Ella Fitzgerald

In this world of chaos and unpredictability, for me it is comforting to turn to meditation to quiet my mind and relax my body.  I feel comfortable calling what I do meditation even though it follows the guidelines of more popular beliefs about meditation than the Buddhist protocol.

With a healthy dose of self love and a whole heap of good intentions, mindfulness and meditation in any capacity will serve you well.  “Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines” – Shiny Happy People REM

photos taken in my meditation garden

Judgement Vista


You spend time in nature and enjoy magnificent views. You hear lovely sounds and smell fresh, crisp air. The wonder of natural things replaces the burdens of everyday thinking and you are grateful. If just for a moment, or for the moments in between, you take in the beauty and feel the experience and naturally place a judgement on what you see. You decide that what you see is beautiful or strange or what you smell is refreshing or pungent. Nature is as varied as the opinions of those who enjoy it. One person may assign one judgement and another will see things with a different reasoning. None of that changes the ancient layout that has been growing and changing since the beginning of time. It is YOU that places a name, opinion or judgement on those things, nature will exist and grow regardless.

You are standing on Judgement Vista.

When you look out at nature, your judgements are most likely simple and sweet. You see the beauty, or not, and with all of your senses take in the moment and process how you feel about that scene. But, the scene itself is unchanged. What if we could see all of life and all people with the same eyes we use when we are in awe of those magnificent views? What if those breathtaking moments of awe could exist within us and we could learn to live on that vibration consistently?

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

When I look at nature and stand on MY Judgement Vista. I like to absorb the beauty and stand in awe that I am a part of it. I don’t mind feeling small and insignificant within it’s surroundings because it takes the pressure off of me to be bigger than life which is how I normally tend to feel in my world of caring for others. If I can take that simple, peaceful feeling that I feel in nature with me into my everyday world, my judgements may be lighter and have less ignorance. Maybe I can gain more perspective of how small I actually am in the scheme of things and revel in the simple things that make me happy. I often wish I could spend more of my time in nature instead of trying to channel the feeling, that would make me happier, but for now I will take it all in and refill my reserves.

Existing in judgement is natural, we need to judge lots of things all day long to keep us safe and healthy. We judge whether or not it’s safe to cross the street and we sniff the milk to judge whether it’s still fresh enough to drink. We need to have good common sense and reasoning to get along in our daily lives. Good judgement is a quality I hope to manifest well in my daughters. Without judgement we are in danger.

We also judge each other. We either judge from a place of necessity or negativity. I judge whether or not I think people will be nice and have things in common with me when I meet them and hope to find a friend in them. I judge whether people are devoted, committed and responsible when I consider doing business with them. I judge all the time and I make an effort to do it from a place of goodness. I am only human after all, a small piece of the nature that created judgement. I place these judgements, but I do it with care and respect.

I judge myself. I consider whether my reasoning and savvy are being put to good use and I try hard to develop the wisdom it takes to use my judgement for good. I am often hard on myself with my own judgement and I try to remember to take it easy and be kind. I am a work in progress. I aim to stand on my Judgement Vista as often as I can to remind myself the true nature of things and how I can let go of negativity and be in awe of the beauty of my life. It’s healthy for me to be reminded, gently.

Moving from judgement to admiration of people and situations just as I am when I look out on a beautiful scene of nature is what I hope to accomplish more often than not. Those same people who receive our judgement are also creations of nature and are imperfect just like us, and imperfectly perfect just like that scene in nature.

I hope I have made you as happy as you’ve made me. I hope I can judge you gently and you can see me through eyes that have visited YOUR Judgement Vista. Because if you judge me with eyes that have not yet looked out at your world with awe and gratitude, then I choose to acknowledge your judgement and release it. It doesn’t serve me and it doesn’t serve you for me to receive it.

“When you delete critics and fault-finders from your life, good things will start to happen to you, and it won’t be a coincidence.” ~Art Jonak

Studying The Happy Animal


An ideal site for a brisk, early morning walk.

There are many folks out there writing about how to find happiness, how to sustain happiness and the many keys to why happy people have been able to successfully sustain a happy life.  The truth is, one person’s definition of happy may differ so greatly from another’s that these articles often make me pause.  Giving general advice on how to make the masses happy seems like a valiant effort, but an uphill battle to say the least.

Each person has their own story, their own sense of happiness and joy that can either elude or consume them depending on the moment.  Happiness can be fickle.  Happiness can be fleeting.  Happiness can be simple.  But, the common thread of happiness is that it’s worth the effort and people will forever chase the carrot.

I will forever be a seeker of a more abundant, happy life.  I seek more time, more fun, more food, and often more spiritual growth in an effort to reach a happier state.  The abundance that turns me on and satisfies my definition of happy may not be what excites my neighbor.  My ideas of happiness may bore or disappoint others but leave my heart pounding with anticipation.

Recently, I went for a brisk, early morning walk around my neighborhood and listened to Native American flute chakra music to get my day started.  Next, I went to The Body Mind Spirit Expo with my dear friend who is a Healer and Reiki Master in her own right.  Throw your hand up if this sounds like a great day so far!  Maybe not everyone agrees, but for me, I’m pretty happy about this plan.  A happy, abundant life looks different for everyone.

Opening your mind and heart to being able to let go of your own judgements long enough to see the perspectives of other people’s happiness and how they may have arrived at their reasons can be an exercise in studying the social animal.  Have you ever pledged to reserve judgement only to immediately form an opinion of whether you like it or not?  Reserving judgement is a talent that takes practice, and considering other’s perspectives takes patience and understanding.  We are raised to form opinions about our environment constantly throughout the day and we often look to others to form those opinions.  Naughty or nice?  Accepted or not?  How often do you make your own choices and how often do you wait for others to make them for you?

I wonder how many of the things that make up my life exist in my world because they make me happy and how many of them have been put into place because I have been told they should make me happy?  Do we need general articles written about happiness to tell us how to be happy or should we all write our own?  Could we?

I challenge myself to continue to be a seeker of my own happiness.


Another photo of an ideal walk. I just love bridges! Oh, and I just love those two little girls walking across this particular bridge.  Photo courtesy of Paul Drake

First photo in this post courtesy of Mary K Baird from

Judge or Jury?

I think you CAN judge a book by it’s cover. Isn’t that the point of the cover? The declaration that you CAN’T judge a book by it’s cover has always been a confusing one for me. We all have a story to tell and our covers reveal to the world exactly what we want others to judge us by. The way we decorate, or not decorate, ourselves each morning as we leave the house and go out into the world speaks volumes about who we are and even where we are going.

When we cross the line from judge to judgement is where we fall into peril. Is it natural to form opinions and judgements about others within the committee that lives in your head? Whether your thoughts and opinions about others are positive or negative is your own business, but be warned: The way you perceive and judge others may have more to do with yourself. How often do we use that same judgement on ourselves? How fair and impartial are you on yourself compared to how you judge others?

I can be pretty hard on myself. Why can’t I step on the scale and simply record a number in my head without the inner monologue about baby weight and not enough “me” time to work on it? Why do I even need to step on the scale at all? No reason really, other than to set the tone of my day: winning or defeated? Depends on the number. But, in the end, that’s all in my head. THAT is self-judgement and it isn’t making me happy.

Letting yourself be prisoner to harsh self-judgement is like being trapped under something heavy. What is gained through constantly being your worst critic and how do we learn this behavior? More importantly, how do we un-learn it. I’m digging deep. Then I’m digging deeper. I want to finally break through to my inner self and reveal the root of all this guilt and negative self-judgement. Now that I’ve picked up the pace and started to muster the courage to go deep, it feels like I’ve gone from a walk to a run. I pay more attention to my initial reaction to a situation instead of dismiss it and move on. I’m becoming an observer of how hard I can be on myself, and others, and I don’t like it. If I had a friend that was as hard on me as I am on myself, I would be very hurt. I need to stop hurting myself and start showing myself a lot more love and patience. I have a choice to be my own best friend or my own worst enemy.

It’s a lot more complicated to judge from the inside, but it’s easy to find the good in people, and yourself, if you try. I do believe that karma is only a bitch if you are.

On Being Mindful

Before I can start making changes, it’s important to start evaluating the things that need changing.  Intentional mindfulness is an acute awareness of how you feel and react in each moment, the goal being to begin practicing this without judgement on yourself.  Being aware of every thought, feeling and intention can be hard to take, but it allows me the ability to start taking inventory of the things holding me back and standing in the way of my happiness.  This level of reflection seemed difficult, and throw in a dose of reality and it can be beyond challenging.  I’m in the midst of raising 2 toddlers and find myself focused far more on their needs than on my own.  Being able to stop and focus on myself seemed selfish and irresponsible at first.  Anytime I tried to take any kind of moment for myself, even taking a bath, I had overwhelming feelings of guilt that I was wasting the time I was supposed to be spending on my daughters.  But, as I move through my days now with the intention of being mindful, I realize that I can benefit from some time to myself to recharge and collect myself.  I now recognize that it is important to identify the things that fill me up and the things that deplete me so that I can move closer to my goal.  So, I am now an intentionally mindful person moving through my days with the goal of learning how to become a happier person.  Just making the decision to learn more about myself has helped me to move towards learning to “let things go” in an effort to actually figure out how to achieve a more relaxed mind in the midst of any chaos.  So, I’m starting to take a long, hard look and hoping to benefit just from being open to it.


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