Dharmage Podcast – Episode 2: Shaun Bartone of Engage!

Almost a year to the day that I recorded my very first podcast episode and well…. here we have the second dispatch. I’m hoping that it won’t be a yearly thing and  will be a bit more of a regular effort! This is at least a promising start for 2017. 

I’m so happy to have spent about an hour chatting with Shaun Bartone of Engage! – the Engaged Buddhist magazine/podcast. We covered A LOT of terrain in our chat, everything from Shaun’s personal journey on the path, the current situation with Trumpism, activism, interconnection, the mission of Engage, difficult discussions, the organizations and people who are lighting the way and the power of online sanghas balanced with the need for a physical group to sit with. I’m only skimming the surface on what was discussed. Honestly, I didn’t want the discussion to end because I was feeling so informed and inspired. It’s always cool when you can uncover someone who has been on the frontline of activism and learn new tactics, techniques and perspectives. It’s real talk here folks. 

Do check out the podcast and be sure to  let us know what you think and be sure to visit Shaun’s website to further open your mind and get information. Engage! Engaged Buddhism Magazine

Here are but a few of the organizations and individuals that were name-checked during this episode:

Linkage: Links I Love – Valentine’s Day Edition

I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day. If you do, I hope you have a lovely day. If you don’t, I hope you have a lovely day. 

Here are a few links that I want to share with you. May they be of interest, benefit, stoke you in some way or just serve as something to while the time away with.

  • All of this is everything. Go and buy everything that Liz Prince has ever made. 
  • Dharma Cowgirl has written a post that really resonated with me. Gah! It is so good, and so familiar. Thank you for sharing and for being brave. I’m getting comfortable with being a bit more brave myself. 
  • The best band in the world are touring this year and coming to my town. This brings me so much joy. 
  • A little musical entertainment for you from Flag

Good intentions

Oh hey. Remember when you were going to try to write more often because hey, you love writing and it brings you joy and you had all of these good intentions to sit every day and practice each morning and would try to do some at-home yoga at least once a weekend, and you’d break out the juicer and make sure to swig a wholesome and hearty juice to start the day?

Yeah. Good intentions. 

Before I would beat myself up over all of these failings and transgressions. After some mega-doses of self love and self compassion and a whole bunch of realizations that have hit, I’m being a lot more gentle on myself. I’m trying. I’m doing my best. That’s good enough. My habitual tendency has always been to DO ALL THE THINGS and then feel defeated when I didn’t succeed. 

Each day is a fresh start to get back at it. DO SOME OF THE THINGS! DO ONLY ONE OF THE THINGS! 

The phrase “Practice like your hair’s one fire” used to really resonate with me. It was a language that I was most comfortable with. Push yourself. Pressure. DO BETTER. DO ALL THE THINGS. DON”T FAIL. 

Now I’m experimenting with the discomfort that comes from letting some of the things slip. Sitting with the not-sitting. Knowing that this isn’t a race. Doing what I can and letting that be enough. With all of the chaos in the political space, I’m hearing many people feel like they aren’t doing enough. If you’re like me and tend to feel this way – do one thing. Just one thing is enough.

‘So our practice is one of being as conscientious, clear, and honest as we can. We can of course create incredible standards of goodness, but knowing ‘good enough’ means that you check: am I doing what I feel I can do within my capacity to do good? Am I doing something that’s deliberately nasty, stupid, and poisonous or not? Is my energy going into violating others or not, trashing other people or not? Trashing myself or not? This is not appropriate behaviour. What is it that wants to do that? That wants to criticize and continually castigate ourselves and hang on to guilty perceptions of things we did fifteen years ago? What is it that wants to do that? That’s harming us, that’s never going to lead to ‘good enough.’ 

via Ajahn Sucitto

Relax. You’re likely doing much better than you think. 

Readage: Detox Your Heart by Valerie Mason-John

Detox Your Heart

Having missed out on reading this book the first time around, I am grateful to have the opportunity to check out the new edition of Valerie Mason-John’s book Detox Your Heart- Meditations for Healing Emotional Trauma. I’m like a broken record lately in saying that again, a book that I needed at this particular stage in my life has made it way into my hands. Call it cause and effect, karmic forces or just plain great timing – I’m feeling blessed to have the chance to receive and be open to the materials within this essential book.

This book is a refreshed, revised and expanded version of the one that was initially released in 2005. It features more stories than the previous work as well as an update on the author’s relationship with her mother.

Anchored in the Four Noble Truths, Mason-John delivers an eye-opening autobiographical journey through her overindulgence in sex, drugs and rock and roll, or as she calls it a different kind of Triple Jewels than what Buddhists know.

The author shares her personal story of how she grew up under terrible circumstances and was unable to shake the negative self-talk she was imprinted with. Her honesty is direct. You can’t help but feel deep empathy for the pain that she suffered. The stories of the obstacles she overcame throughout her life will inspire you towards enacting change in your own situation. She views the human spirit as what helped her break out of her addiction and self-destruction. Once we discover this promise of a way out, we need to overcome our habitual tendencies – those hindrances that keep us stuck in what causes us suffering. Mason-John suggests that we need to detox and purify ourselves in order to fully heal. She calls us to use kindness, generosity, creativity, meditation, and mega-doses of self-love to help in our healing. This book in her words is about “reuniting heart with mind.”

“This book is a self-awareness book.”

Detox Your Heart- Meditations for Healing Emotional Trauma will help you to see where you’re hung up, and then will provide you with suggestions for how to change your habits. As was the case with Valerie, all it takes is a willingness and desire to heal. Getting in touch with our emotional self and how we are not to blame for many of the circumstances that befall us is a central element of this book and one that resulted in a major shift. In sharing her story, Valerie’s bravery is helping others like her. She notes that we must face our inner demons in order to come to inner peace. Slowing down and looking at ourselves – our experiences is what helps us tap into feeling and connecting to our emotions. Emotions play a key role in Mason-John’s book and she spends a good part of this work on identifying, exploring and working with our emotions, thoughts and feelings. Creating a space for emotions, welcoming them and then seeing the wisdom that can come from exploring them further than we traditionally do is key to transforming our habitual reactions.

Valerie is an example of resiliency and recovery. This book draws the reader in and explores exercises that they can do to help them to view their situation from a new perspective. Her goal is to help individuals heal their bodies, minds and hearts with the idea of taking “stepping stones towards inner change.”

In the author’s words “Detox your heart and you’ll detox your life.” This book is essential if you are seeking freedom from suffering and want to step into a path of healing and self-awareness.


Linkage : Links I love – January edition

Same blog – Different look

Keeping up the tradition of the old blog and my love of sharing good stuff, here’s a few links and things that are making me emotional, keeping me inspired, blowing my synapses and just generally causing some feels.


Fear of a Trump Planet – or How I Came Back to Studying Buddhism and Still Fear the Bomb

Binders full of Buddhism

I won’t opine on what I think or feel about politics these days. I’ll save you from this dear friend. You get enough of it on social media and in in the sometimes anti-social media so I’ll spare us all. 

We’re about to be challenged like never before. We’re about to need all that loving-kindness, peace, love and understanding like never before. We are going to need all that mindfulness, awareness, compassion, compassionate action, compassionate in-action – EVERYTHING! 

A few years ago I had a crisis of faith. Not in Buddhism but in myself. I had be pushing myself so hard to study and practice. To be perfect. I had schedules, timetables, apps, bells, whistles, reminders, post it notes, memberships to communities, blogs, magazine subscriptions, books, books, books. I didn’t lose my path, I filled it up with too much. It all became so overwhelming. I had a goal- to become a teacher in my local Buddhist community. It wasn’t out of a sense of desire for fame (I’m so shy that I think I’d prefer to give talks or instruction while wearing a ski mask). I was out of a sense of seeing how much Buddhism brought to my life and wanting to share this.

I taught a few sessions with a close friend in my sangha, but when he died, I put that all on a shelf. I lost my main cheerleader and was left with my own judgey little mind to fill in the gaps and tell myself that I was best to focus on other things. Best to be a cheerleader for those who can teach than to be a charlatan, an imposter. 

So after a sabbatical into the realms of full on suffering and grief, I’ve emerged with a whole new headspace. It’s a path of ‘get there when you do,’  rather than the disciplined treadmill I had myself on. I’m enjoying the ride so far. I have a great coach Practice Instructor. I’m being gentle on myself and applying a bit more loose to my formerly too tight. I’m not sure if I’m in the middle just yet, but it’s feeling much more effortless and joyous than before. That counts for something. 

I’m feeling more like I’m on a pathless path, without a goal and with no idea where I’ll end up. Before that kind of perspective would freak me the flip out but now, I’m seeing this spaciousness as exciting. It’s potential. It can be filled with whatever comes my way. I’m open to the mystery of not knowing. Not controlling. Studying the Dharma with an idea in mind of where I’d like to go, but knowing that it can take me anywhere. 

Or nowhere at all. And that’s OK too. 

Readage: Make Peace with Your Mind by Mark Coleman

make peace with your mind

Again, and this may get repetitive to hear – another phenomenal Buddhist book has hit my bookshelf at the exact time that I needed it. I’m blessed to be living in a time when “Buddhist self-help” or Buddhist psychology books are plentiful. To have someone articulate the human condition in a way that calls upon the Dharma is truly something I am grateful for. Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic left me feeling like I spent time with a good friend who had many similar experiences as I did and found a way to break habitual tendencies of self-hate.

The author, Mark Coleman is an experienced meditation teacher, counsellor and the founder of the Mindfulness Institute. This book shares his journey from a young, gruff punk to a calm and chill adult (yes, very familiar). It is a guide to how to “stop the war against ourselves” which Coleman believes is the greatest challenge we face. The tools of mindfulness, self-compassion, loving-kindness practice, and various therapeutic strategies are all explored in Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic.

“I learned that to navigate life’s inner and outer storms, you need two essential skills: awareness and compassion. They are like wings of a bird, without which flight is impossible,” writes Coleman. “Awareness would be the torch that lit my path to discovery and the key to cooling the fires that raged inside me.”

The book is full of many insights into what creates, motivates and then crushes our inner critic. There are examples from others who have come to release themselves from their own negative self-judgment. There are also many exercises to explore in order to help readers work towards peace and freedom. Coleman has also created a “Critic Toolbox” which offers many different strategies to employ to lessen the inner critic’s impact on one’s life.

The author starts by shining a light on the ‘critic’ and how by training ourselves in self-awareness, we can become aware of our negative self-talk. The critic is what causes us depression, anxiety, joylessness, low self-esteem and shame. It’s a cloudy lens we view ourselves through. It limits us and keeps us from living life fully and with passion.

There is so much pain in life. And it is sad to watch people needlessly add to that by beating themselves up,” writes Coleman. “It is the love in our hearts that allows us to be vulnerable enough to recognize the burdens we carry. Love gives us a quiet strength that enables us to keep the critic at bay, hold our pain tenderly, and begin the journey of healing.”

Coleman helps readers release from negative self-talk by offering that “you are not your fault.” He relays how little control one has on their birth, environment and childhood conditioning. Taking a trip back into the past to determine where rules and cultural norms began to manifest as the critical voice helped me to see the origin story for my negative self-talk.

We need to decide where we wish to focus our awareness and attention and one of the ways to start breaking this cycle is to decide not to be pulled into negative self-judgment. The concept of imposter syndrome is explored and countered with the application of realizing that we all have gifts, experience and talent rather than needing to be caught up with being perfect. Other nasty ways that negative self-talk emerges are explored, such as the belief that we’re never enough, comparing ourselves to others, regret, feeling inadequate or powerless, perfectionism, attacking or judging others,

His words read as soothing and present the ideal place to start to see how we must take responsibility for our healing. Via mindfulness and awareness, we are able to see our situations clearly and then tap into our feelings, reactions, and judgments and begin to see where the ugly face of the inner critic presents itself. Coleman provides numerous antidotes for negative thinking and self talk to help us learn to be more compassionate towards ourselves. An emphasis is placed on learning how to love and befriend oneself – moving from judgment to kindness. Meeting our pain with love and gentleness when this isn’t what our usual default setting is can be quite uncomfortable, believe me. When you start to generate this self-compassion, it is amazing how heart and mind start to feel renewed.

“May I be safe, peaceful and free.”

All of the topics that Mark Coleman explores in Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic are ones that I’m currently working through in my life. It has been so meaningful to have this book enter my life to help me recognize how hard I’ve been on myself for so long. To be given a Buddhist-flavored guide to pull wisdom and suggestions from has helped me do my own work with my inner critic. If you see that you have been holding yourself back, and wish to break the bad relationship you have with your inner critic, I highly recommend this book. I know I’ll be re-reading and journaling through this one.

Please let me know if it has helped you by leaving me a comment or if you are suffering (or have suffered from negative self-perception/self-talk). I’d love to hear your story.

Episode 1 – An Interview with Julie Price

Well. Here you have it. Episode number 1 is in the can!

Recently I had a chat with a wonderful Canadian Buddhist woman named Julie Price who was one of the contributors to the anthology I edited  titled Lotus Petals in the Snow: Voices of Canadian Buddhist Women.

In our chat, we spent a bit of time exploring Julie’s spiritual journey, the work that she does in helping others in need both within the Canadian healthcare system and abroad via her volunteering efforts. We also touched upon her love of India and the various projects she’s developed to help her with her wanderlust for this region of the world.

A few links from our chat that you might be interested in checking out include: