Category Archives: Inspiration

Things Fall Apart

Photograph of pelicans by Celeste Budwit-Hunter

When people ask what has helped me “stay positive” on my cancer journey, I should just quote Pema Chödrön. She summarizes the approach that has been the basis of my dharmic path for half my life. I would be miserable without it.

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” (from When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön)

Maria Popova, brilliant writer of Brain Pickings, highlights these teachings in a recent blog post

The “letting there be room for all of this to happen” is an attitude and practice firmly grounded in the experience of meditation. Meditation is the foundation, in my experience and according to traditional teachings, for developing genuine openness, cheerfulness, and bravery.

Life is a TARDIS

For months–well, years, to be honest–I’ve been meaning to visit West 11th Street Park. I felt some kind of neighborly, good-citizen obligation to visit this park. Somehow my usual enthusiasm for urban parks became a compulsion in this case. I wanted to like it.

I have a strange passion for urban parks. I love the idea of connecting with nature in the midst of the city. Providing trees for a healthier atmosphere. Allowing just a little bit of signBannernature to have its own space. The natural world was here a long time before we showed up to pave it over.

The reason I took so long to check out this park is that it looks predictable from the outside. It’s on a square bit of land, a few blocks in length on each side. You can see two sides from each street corner; it takes just a minute to drive around it.

I’ve heard about the park for years. It seems like a noble gesture on the part of a handful of citizens to preserve this land and prevent development when property values are skyrocketing.

From the outside it appears like a mostly undeveloped, densely wooded park, but it’s mowed along the perimeter, so there’s plenty of oOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApen space for throwing balls of various sorts, playing with dogs, having a picnic.

I must confess I’m often shy to walk by myself when people are around, even though my body craves exercise. I prefer nature hikes to speed walking, and I really love to walk and talk, especially with my husband, but he’s often not interested. Sometimes I feel self-conscious, and talk myself into staying in the car. I wonder if I’m somehow wrong, as I project onto imagined others their judgment of me: maybe the residents don’t like people parking along their street to visit the park. Or maybe I’m just easily, painfully embarrassed.

Earlier this week I walked into the park for the first time. Today was the second time. I was wrong. W. 11th Street Park is small on the outside, but it’s another world on the inside.

On the British TV series Doctor Who, the Doctor calls his time-traveling spaceship a TARDIS (short for Time And Relative Dimension in Space). You enter the spaceship by stepping into a British police box. A police box is not much larger than a phone booth, which we don’t see in Houston any more. Basically, it’s very small. Upon entering through the door of the police box, you discover the vast interior of a spaceship.

In that respect, I experienced W. 11th Street Park as a TARDIS. Entering it, you step into another world.DSC_1

You can enter from any of several gravel trails and smaller grassy trails around the square of woods. Once you’re inside, the trails crisscross each other so often that when it’s cloudy, like today, I temporarily lost my sense of direction. It’s densely wooded, and the trails curve around so much that you can’t see what’s around the corner. The dead trees are allowed to stay and decompose, to a great extent, in order to maintain that circle of life thing. Wildflowers and native trees thrive.

It’s apparent that the Friends of West 11th Street Park have worked hard for years to provide a rich urban-park experience. There’s even a cell phone tour with 18 stops.

The TARDIS park was active today. Because the sky was overcast, birds and small creatures came out of hiding. I startled a large pileated woodpecker–flashes of white when it spread its wings, and a vivid red head. (There are six species of woodpecker in the park.) I spotted two brown rabbits on opposite sides of the park who were surprised by my movement. (I didn’t expect brown rabbits. I’m sure readers will inform me they’re as common as possums in Houston, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them in the city before. In the middle of the day, no less.)

I practiced a bit of aimless wandering–walking without a goal, choosing which path to take without much thought, noticing thoughts and feelings without being directed by them. Listening, just listening, I heard distantDSC_10 knocking that drew my eyes upward. Way up, probably a hundred feet up, another woodpecker hammered its beak into the side of a dead pine tree. Its tail feathers, firmly bracing the bird against the tree for balance, supported the concussing percussion.

It’s a shame that I thought I could predict the experience of this “small” park.

I think it’s a common human failing that we need to make things small. Perhaps ego feels more important or substantial, or more in control. We shrink the world with assumptions and categories, contain it with concepts, and turn it into something completely predictable. We’re so quick to pass up opportunities based on first impressions.

This is the old “can’t judge a book by its cover” phenomenon. Does ego reduce the significance of an experience by labeling it with a cliché?

When we relax ego’s habit of drawing conclusions and dismissing possibilities, and we replace that mental overactivity with relaxed, open curiosity–the world gets bigger. Much bigger.

(Warning: Objects in mirror are more interesting than they appear.)

I’ve heard adults boast that they tell their kids, “Life is fascinating. If you think things are boring, you’re boring.” That always sounded mean to me, but I think the intention is a good one: to inspire kids, teens, young adults, to wake up to life. But there’s something missing in the delivery that defeats its own purpose.  It would be better to demonstrate what curiosity looks like. Show how you uniquely relish everything that life offers. Be what you would like them to become.

We often say that people are more interesting than they might first appear. We remind ourselves that, “Everyone is fighting a hard battle.” We say this referring to people we don’t know.ts

The funny thing is, we can also say this of the people we think we know best. I find it helpful to remind myself that my husband is greater than the sum of my conceptions about him.

Everyone is a TARDIS.

I can’t wait to get back to my park.

(Source of photos: and

Sweeten the World Up

What we do, for good or ill, sends ripple effects through the lives of those around us and beyond. Our jealousies, small-mindedness, and insecurities affect our families, friends, and coworkers. So do our integrity, confidence, cheerfulness, and generosity.

Doesn’t it make sense that working on ourselves can improve the state of our sweet old world? Doesn’t it make sense that it’s the best starting point?

This is a quote from renowned meditation master Chogyam Trungpa.

There are many international problems, and throughout the world chaos is taking place all the time — which is obviously far from the expression of enlightened society. In the past, various disciplines or faiths, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, had great dignity. There were extraordinarily sane people among the ancients who worked to make the world worthwhile and passed down their wisdom generation by generation. But there has been a problem of corruption. The world has been seduced by physical materialism as well as by psychological materialism, let alone spiritual materialism! The world is beginning to turn sour.

Our measures may be small at this point, but we’re trying to sweeten the world up. In the long run, we want to offer something beyond a token. We want to make a real contribution to the development of enlightened society. That begins right here. As they say, charity begins at home.

From “Working with Early Morning Depression,” in GREAT EASTERN SUN: THE WISDOM OF SHAMBHALA, by Chogyam Trungpa, pages 26 to 27. Sign up for Ocean of Dharma Quotes of the Week.

My wish for you

You have strengths you don’t know you have. You can be kind to yourself, and on that basis you can be kind to others. Know that the worries you carry can be set down.

My wish for you is that you be free from suffering, anxiety, fear, sickness, emotional upheaval, discord, and financial obstacles.  Continue reading

Finding your motivation for meditation

Why do you want to meditate?

Meditation practice isn’t easy. It goes against the grain of our habitual patterns. So it is very important to be clear with yourself: why do you want to sit still, doing nothing? Continue reading


It’s time to refresh—my attitude, my feeling of connection, this blog—you name it.

Continue reading

Start fresh

I started the morning early. I sat my butt on my meditation cushion for a few minutes, connecting with being before being seduced into the multitude of activities of my day. Then I was inspired to take a fresh sheet of paper – blank drawing paper – and a box of Crayons. I haven’t done that in a loooong time. In various colors, I wrote a couple of words and drew a couple of images that represent my view of what I would like this day to be.

Do you have any rituals for starting the day – greeting the world, connecting with being before doing?

No time like the present

There are several meanings of the phrase “no time like the present.” Conventionally, it means “do it now.” While you’re thinking about it, don’t put it off, whatever “it” happens to be.

More deeply, we realize that we don’t know how much time we have. We don’t know how much of a future there is in this precious life. Life is unpredictable, and no one has a guaranteed life expectancy. We don’t know if we’ll be too sick, or too overwhelmed with some other form of suffering in our lives. If something is meaningful for you, and you are capable of doing it, pursue it now while you can. Express your appreciation for your life through your choices.

Even more profoundly, when you start to pay attention, you realize that the future is a fantasy, and the past is fleeting memory. Past and future live in our imagination, but we’re only alive now. There actually is no other time than the present.

The beauty of pausing

Hello, friends. Take a moment to stop all activity. Breathe. Feel the ground under your feet. Open your senses.

I’m working on some recordings that I will be posting to the blog very soon. The first one is about the value of pausing in our busy lives.

My daily reality is a reminder of humility. I have a tight budget – I have to wait until pay day to afford to upgrade my blog to allow recordings. I have the time and the inclination today to focus on this, but who knows when the stars will align to support my working on this again. I’m hoping by this weekend, if not before.

Pause. Breathe. Be glad you’re alive.

I wish you a wonderful day. Back soon.


The season of giving

Putting aside for a moment the question of why giving can’t apply to every season…

I’ve been touched in a new way in hearing people’s giving stories. Someone saved up for a guitar for himself, and ended up giving the money to the guy in line behind him at the pawn shop who was pawning his son’s Playstation to pay the rent. A woman whose father is homeless in Las Vegas, living in a tunnel, is grateful for the woman who keeps an eye on him, and allows him into her home every once in a while for a shower. Hearing that daughter’s story, a man keeps cash in his car so that when he has found a homeless person (he looks for them), he meets them, talks with them, and gives them enough money for a couple of meals.

Do you practice this kind of generosity yourself? Do you know of giving stories you can share here?