About

Jessica McKimmie is a friend and confidant to many, mindfulness and meditation practitioner, mindfulness educator, and Buddhist / Interfaith Chaplain, based in the Seattle area. Jessica believes that accessibility to therapeutic and spiritual services...

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Beginners Meditation Series in Seattle, May 9-June 13
Beginners Meditation Series in Seattle, May 9-June 13

Beginners Meditation Series in Seattle, May 9-June 13

Beginners Meditation & Mindfulness 6-week Series, led by Jessica McKimmie. Drop-in to one session, several, or enjoy the development of your practice through the whole series.

Thursdays beginning May 9, for 6 weeks; 7-8pm**. Please arrive 10 minutes early to remove shoes and jackets and settle into your seat. ** New Practitioners: Arrive at 6:30pm to learn basic meditation and posture instruction. Your comfort and stability is key to the practice! **

Dates of the Series, all Thursdays:

May 9th, May 16th, May 23rd, May 30th, June 6th, June 13th

Series Description:

Want to learn "how to meditate"? Curious about how mindfulness could be incorporated into your life? Designed for beginners and those with beginners-mind, this drop-in course will introduce various breathing and mindfulness techniques, including the ancient practices of sitting and walking meditation.

Each session will begin with some brief mindfulness instruction, and a different guided meditation from "The Blooming of a Lotus" by Thich Nhat Hanh. We will then practice walking meditation together, followed by a shorter sitting period in silence. There will be a brief time for reflection at the end of each class. Each evening will conclude with the dedication of merit, where we send the fruits of our practice to our ancestors, loved ones, and all beings.

What to Bring:

Just bring yourself, as you are. Cushions, meditation benches, chairs, blankets are provided. Bring a friend who has wanted to try meditation if you like! LGBTQIA+ led and supported.

Cost:

This series is offered freely, and Dana (the age-long Buddhist practice of generosity) is accepted in whatever form you wish, with gratitude.

About the Facilitator:

Jessica McKimmie is a mindfulness and Zen meditation practitioner, Buddhist/Interfaith Chaplain, grief blogger, and mindfulness educator in various Seattle area schools. Jessica is a practicing member and board member at Mindfulness Community of Puget Sound (MCPS) in Seattle. Jessica's recent studies include completing the Buddhist Chaplaincy training at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM, under Roshi Joan Halifax and other great teachers.

About Mindfulness Community of Puget Sound:

We are a diverse group of people who practice meditation in the tradition of mindfulness taught by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Zen master, poet, author, and peace activist. Our practice encourages the importance and joy of bringing a mindful awareness into all aspects of our lives.

Thich Nhat Hanh predicts that the next living Buddha will be the sangha (or spiritual community). Our practice reflects a special emphasis on community-building. We welcome people of all backgrounds (spiritual, ethnic, race, sexual orientation, gender, ability, etc.) to practice with us. More info on our website at: http://mindfulnesspugetsound.org

About Dharma Gate:

Dharma Gate is a converted house that is home to two sanghas (Buddhist Communities), Mindfulness Community of Puget Sound and Three Treasures Sangha. Located in Mt. Baker neighborhood, it is a quiet respite in busy city life. Come just to sit in the garden, and you may notice time slow down a bit.

Dharma Gate is located at on 24th Ave S, between Plum and Holgate, just east of MLK. The address is: 1910 24th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

The Art of Grieving
The Art of Grieving
photo courtesy of www.tnhtour.org
A year and a half after my mom passed, I attended a 7-day meditation retreat at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA with Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (or "Thay", as many affectionately call him, which is Vietnamese for "teacher".) My first exposure to Thay's teachings was in an Eastern Philosophy class in college. I always found his writings to be healing and accessible, so when I heard about his retreat, I signed up immediately. I had no idea how much that week would help my grieving process or the impact it would have on my life. A pivotal point in the retreat happened a few days in, when Thay shared these words during a dharma talk:
"Once we understand the art of suffering, we will suffer less."
I had so many questions.  What is the "art" of suffering? We all want to suffer less...but how is this possible? If we understand the art of grieving, will we grieve less? As Thay continued his teachings on "The Art of Suffering", I realized I had intuitively begun to practice this "art" when my mother passed. As I wrote in my earlier blog post,  Be Crumbled, Be Changed, I surrendered to my grief, not over-philosophizing or compartmentalizing my mom's passing, as I had my father's. I let myself feel the pain and did not push it away. I dove into meditation which allowed me to connect with my mom on a spiritual level. Meditation also allowed me the stillness necessary to begin to accept the reality of my new, changed life. But I had only begun down the path of understanding my grief, and was ready to uncover more. Based on my experience over the past few years, this is my attempt to share "the art of grieving" in a few digestible steps. These steps can also help with other emotions that cause suffering such as fear, anger, worry or jealousy. Please realize that this is not a quick fix, rather, these steps can help illuminate a deeper understanding of our emotions so that we may emerge on a path of peace. (For more info, videos and articles, you can search "Thich Nhat Hanh" Art of Suffering.)

The Art of Grieving:

1. Say Hello

"Hello, Grief. I see you. I know your name. I am here for you." - Thich Nhat Hanh
This step has been extremely transformative for me.  It is also extremely difficult. When we are feeling a strong emotion, whether it is grief, anger, jealousy, fear,  or worry, we often fall into our habit of becoming swept away by the emotion, so much that it engulfs our reality and sends us into a downward spiral of helplessness and self-pity. Or, on the contrary, we push the emotion far, far away and pretend that we are just fine, in control, strong and resilient, and not affected at all (this was my old habit and much of how I handled grief and anger prior to my mom passing). We are either too helpless and weak to handle it or too strong to cry - both habits are equally destructive. By saying "hello" to our grief, by calling it by name, we can begin to see it as a part of our experience in that moment. We can hold our grief like a little child that needs nurturing. We can begin to separate ourselves from our emotions and look at them from the point of view of an observer. In my experience, the simple act of saying hello to my grief has shifted me out of depression and almost instantly placed my feet onto a path toward peace -- where I could take steps toward caring for my grief. It may seem silly at first, but next time you are feeling immense grief, try pausing and saying aloud, "Hello, Grief. I see you there. I will take good care of you."

2. Take Care of your Grief

"I see clearly the object of my grief. I hold space in my heart for it." - Thich Nhat Hanh
Once we say hello to our grief, we must make it our priority to take care of our grief in that moment. Stuffing grief down for another day or pretending it is not there only causes more harm in the future. So, as Thay says, hold space in your heart for the object of your grief. Taking care of your grief requires a few things. First, we need to make sure we have enough time and space to nurture our emotions as they arise. Second, we must find a healthy support system and perhaps even creative ways to work through the pain. For me, I allowed for a lot of time to be tearful and vulnerable with my sister, girlfriend and close friends. I wrote letters to my mom, had monthly therapy sessions, practiced daily meditation, took solo retreats, spent time in nature, and read several books on loss and grief. We all have our own path to carve, so find what works for you. Just be sure to take good care of your grief when it arises, not pushing it away for another day.

3. Look Deeply

"I see where you've come from, the path that brought us together." - Thich Nhat Hanh
It is easy to fixate on the moment we think our grief began, the moment of a death or break up, or the moment a loved one found out they were ill, the moment we got the phone call bearing bad news. Those moments are tragic and remembered for the rest of our life. But our grief can only be understood more fully by looking at the whole path that brought us to those moments. What happens when we look deeply at all of the events and moments that brought us to our grief? We begin to see the fullness of our relationship with that person, the ups and downs, the joy and laughter, the tears and sorrow. Often, there is a serendipitous relationship between joy and grief that exists, so this can be a time to look deeply at the love and the joy that travels along side our pain. We begin to understand that the tragic moment where we shifted into deep grief can not be separated from all of the other moments. We begin to craft the whole picture of our experience and see the interconnectedness and complexity of life. Looking deeply can also help us think twice before pointing fingers or blaming ourselves or others, as we begin to understand our grief in a new way. This step can come up repeatedly for the same grief, and each time, we have the opportunity to learn something new. Some helpful questions to ask are: What really happened?  What is coming to the surface of my grief  'right now' that I have refused to look at before? What part did my actions play in the path to grief? What elements were, or are, outside of my control? 

4. Announce Healing Intention

"I'm ready to find healing, joy, and peace again. With concentration, I will focus on this healing and liberate my grief." - Thich Nhat Hanh
By declaring aloud our desire for healing and transformation, we share this intention with our family and friends, and with the universe. We are ready to focus our energies on healing and liberation from our grief. When my mother passed, I set my intention to focus on my grieving. In the words of my amazing therapist, "You only have one job right now. That is to grieve." I did not take that job lightly. Be warned that this intention does not come without challenges. It can be a hard and scary road. As we develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of our grief, we may open ourselves to past instances of grieving - which can bring about additional pain and suffering. When you really decide to fully heal, be ready for the whole can of worms! In my situation, the loss of my mother brought about residual grief from the loss of my father, and other traumas. This can seem overwhelming, but when we stay committed and have the right supports in place, we will come out on the other side feeling much more grounded, with more love in our hearts, much more free.

5. Let Go

"I contemplate the nature of impermanence, that nothing remains unchanged over time. I release my grasp ever so slightly." - Thich Nhat Hanh

This step may sound familiar as there are very few buddhist teachings that do not incorporate "letting go" in some form or another. But "letting go" can often be a confusing concept for people. Why would I want to let go of my Mother? my Father? my Child? my Spouse? my Friend? Why would I ever want to forget them? or lose the love we had? "Letting go" in this context does not mean letting go of memories, forgetting about your loved one, or moving on with your life as if nothing happened or as that person did not exist. Letting go, in this context, means no longer fighting against the reality of what is. It means choosing the path of least resistance. It means accepting, in full, the present set of circumstances in which you live. In order to understand the art of grieving, we must learn how to fully to let go of the stories we have created of how life would be. We are so good at writing our own stories, aren't we? Of course I thought my dad would be there to see me graduate college, to walk me down the isle. Of course I thought my mom would be there to welcome my sister's first child into the world, to travel with me on a mother-daughter trip some day, to laugh with me into her old age... None of that is my reality. The sooner we let go of our ideas of how life was supposed to unfold or how it was supposed to be, and surrender to full acceptance of what our life actually IS, right now, in this moment, the sooner we will be able to turn our grief into peace. We can practice letting go of our story, our wants and desires, a little bit at a time. We can begin to hear the birds sing again and draw ourselves out of our darkness to feel the sunshine on our faces, or the rain drops on our skin. For me, the practice of gratitude helps remind me that life still has so much to offer. To enjoy simply being alive is the true gift of letting go, of healing. If you are ready to take another step toward healing, this meditation, along with the quotes used above, has been helpful for me:
"I contemplate the nature of impermanence, that nothing remains unchanged over time. I release my grasp ever so slightly. I contemplate the nature of non-having. I am grateful for all I do have. I contemplate the nature of inter-being that all is in me, and I am in all. I see what it feels like and looks like to let go. In this moment I let go of my suffering, and my happiness, and feel peace." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Deer Park, 2013
Thanks for reading... If this post was helpful to you, let me know in the comment section.  

With love,

Jess

Six Steps for Saying Goodbye to Stuff
Six Steps for Saying Goodbye to Stuff

Saying Goodbye to Stuff:

Six Steps for Letting Go After Loss

Sorting through our loved one’s  belongings can feel daunting and overwhelming, not to mention emotional. We often find ourselves clinging to their material items because we no longer have their physical touch. Every “thing” seems to hold a story. But deep inside, we know we don't want to haul around a truckload of stuff for the rest of our lives. So we embark on a journey through the tangible diary of their life, developing a more holistic view of the person we love. We begin the process of exploring, and purging, their stuff. As I near the end of this chapter of my journey – sorting through my childhood home, including countless years of my mom’s, dad’s, ancestors, and my own childhood stuff – I came up with six steps that have helped me let go through the process:

1.    Allow Yourself Time

Don't let anyone tell you that purging your loved one’s belongings should be done in a day, a week or a month. The reality is, every situation and relationship is different, so consult your inner self to determine how much time you need. In cases where belongings must be moved  immediately (like hospice or assisted living), plan a place for temporary storage along with a comfortable place to sort through things. My sister and I had the opportunity to deal with our family "stuff" within the walls of the the house we were raised. We are wrapping up our purging process at the two-year anniversary of my mom’s death. It's taken longer that we both thought it would, but in the end it feels just right to us.
Beware of extremes.
 Attempting to immortalize your loved one by leaving everything “just as it was” or storing away boxes to go through at some later date may prolong your grieving process, preventing you from moving forward with your life. On the other extreme, you may have impulses to purge everything right away, wishing yourself to push through or quickly "move on" . This too can be a sign of denial of the magnitude of your loss. If you are feeling either of these extremes, take a break or talk to a friend or therapist to help you re-center.

2.    Start Easy

As much as I experienced the extreme of wanting to hold onto everything right after my mom passed, we also had family flying in to stay at the house for her memorial. My mom had a habit of keeping clutter, so in the first week after my mom’s death, I circled the house several times a day, throwing away anything I had zero attachment to and doing some general cleaning and organization. This actually felt good, like I was paying the house and my mom respect.
In general, start with whatever feels easiest to you and leave the harder sections or rooms for last.
Pay attention to your heart and gauge your feelings as you go. If something is too much to handle at the moment, close it up and start somewhere else. This gives your heart and spirit time to prepare for the more emotional tasks.

3.    Let Go in Rounds

It can be difficult to think clearly and make decisions during grieving, so my sister and I adopted the approach of letting go in rounds. When we were on the fence about an item, we would put it in the “keep” pile to revisit later. As we entered the second and third rounds, our “keep” pile kept getting smaller and smaller. More often than not, the items on the fence ended up in the give-away pile. In later rounds, we even found ourselves purging things we had thought we really, really wanted. It just goes to show that heightened emotions can get the best of us. Letting go in rounds can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by decisions and can make the process much more relaxed and forgiving. As you get down to the harder stuff, ask yourself, “Was this important to him/her? Did he/she like this?" if not, it may become easier to let go. If the item was important to your loved one, ask yourself, "Is it important to me? Do I like it?"
Keep things because you like them, not just because you think they did. Remember, you are going to be living with the stuff you choose to keep.

 4.    Invite Company

It’s important to have alone time and private time with our memories, but I am SO GRATEFUL for having amazing friends who helped me through the purging process. Many days, I just didn't have the energy to clean out another closet, and if it weren't for the help of my friends, I would have stooped into a much darker place and still be struggling to get out. Having company was extremely therapeutic and strengthened my friendships as well.
Inviting friends who knew your loved one can be especially healing - you can share stories while you purge.
However, make sure you consider the energy of those you invite to help. The more grounded and supportive they are, the better. You don't need extra stress during this process, so if you have a negative gut reaction about someone who has offered to help, politely decline and seek out friends that you want by your side.

 5.    Cry, Laugh, Feel

This may seem obvious, but for many people it's not. Remember, this is not an emotionless time - so don't pretend like it is. Know that it’s going to be emotional and be careful not to overextend yourself. Emotions are exhausting, so when you feel tired, stop and rest.
You will find things that make you cry, that make you laugh, that make you angry so do your best to embrace and care for those feelings.
I shed a lot of tears in the past two years, but also found things that made me laugh, like funny cards and old photos. I found things that made me angry, like letters addressing my dad's former partners around the time of his death, and lots of little things that irritated me, like why did my mom have so many bottles of shampoo and conditioner and 20 pairs of reading glasses? All of these emotions generally boiled down to sadness, missing my parents and all of their quirks, along with self-empathy for the fact that I was having to go through all of this. Fortunately, I was able to transform some of these frustrations into good, donating my mom’s personal care products to a women’s shelter and her glasses to a eye-care mission in Mexico, and we are donating the majority of clothes and household goods to local charities.

6.    Remember: Your Loved One is Not Their Stuff

As I have been working hard to limit the stuff I keep to a box for my mom and a box for my dad, I recently asked myself, “If I could keep one thing of my dad’s, what would it be? If I could keep one thing of my mom’s, what would it be?” My answer was clear and concise, and also surprised me. "I would keep my dad’s hugs and his sense of humor. I would keep my mom’s kindness and her wisdom." I immediately felt lighter knowing no material items could come close to what I really want to keep from my parents.
At that moment, I knew that I could have what I wanted by simply nurturing the best qualities of my parents that are already inside me.
If you are still struggling with holding onto stuff after reading this, you can practice saying these words to yourself: (Insert name) is not his/her (insert item).  For me, it is: My dad is not his records, his Ranchero, or his running shoes. My mom is not her sweaters, her books, or her rocking chair. Even for things you decide to keep, this can help separate the person from the thing, and help you make decisions based on what you want in your life.
Good luck letting go, dear friends! ~Jess
contact
Seattle, WA
jessica@peacethroughgrief.org
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