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

Just Tulips

Dedicated to: My Mom

Last week in my chaplaincy internship, we were asked to select a photo from a spread on the table, and write a story. Afterward, we each shared with the group and discussed how the story reflects our theology and style of chaplaincy. Here is my photo, here is my story:

My Mother often brought tulips home from the market. My favorites were the bright red ones with the touches of yellow. Tulips were one of the first signs of Spring in Seattle; after the daffodils and crocuses lost their petals, the tulips would bud and begin to bloom.

The vibrant hues of reds, yellows, oranges, would bring warmth to our otherwise green, mossy yard. Years ago, the tulips were planted near the base of our three large poplar trees so as to keep them safe from the blades of the lawn mower. Occasionally, one would be knocked down by a soccer ball and brought inside to live out its days in a vase on a window sill. Otherwise, those tulips in the yard would open and close with the rhythm of the sun, until they dropped their petals and returned to the soil. Year after year, they would return, evoking the joy of spring.

The bouquets of tulips my mother bought were always simple: just tulips. She would trim their stems carefully under running water, and place them in a clear vase, placed in the middle of our modest dining room table. Every few days, she would change the water, keeping it fresh, and occasionally re-trim the ends to help extend their lives.

But eventually, as all life does, the tulips would begin to show signs of decay. The bottoms of the stems would fray and yellow slightly. The edges of the petals would wrinkle and darken. Some of the tulips would splay fully open, the petals naturally giving way to gravity, dropping one by one.

We would keep the tulips on the table much longer than most people would. “I like to see the whole process,” my mom would say. After the water had grayed, no longer being absorbed by the plants, but now, instead, becoming infused by decomposing plant matter, the tulips and their water would be released onto the compost pile in the back yard.

To this day, every spring I enjoy the life cycle of tulips – evoking memories of my mother: her care, her simplicity, her allowing nature. Through her, I learned to look deeper into life, beauty, and the impermanence of all things.

 

~Jessica McKimmie

Grief Finds You

Grief finds you
Just when you think
you’re free
when you think
you’ve buried it completely
or washed it away
or cursed it off
or sang through it
in joyous revelation.

Grief finds you
when you think
it’s been too long
or gone for good
when you think
you’ve adjusted
to the hand you’ve been dealt.

Grief finds you
turns your up
upside down
piercing deeply
into your core.

Grief finds you
shakes you
YOU
the unshakable
and now
you can’t stop
shaking.

Grief finds you
hugs you
holds you
cries with you
embraces you
like an old friend.

Grief finds you
lifts you
through the mud
and murky waves
above it all
watching
breathing now
together.

Inseparable.

You
and Grief
can not
be made
strangers
again.

And in
this company
a new
still
clear
quiet
spaciousness
unfolds.

As you become
the love
you were
always
meant
to be.

~jessica mckimmie

~Jessica McKimmie

Self-Judgement on the Path

Entering a new environment of any kind can bring up wonder, curiosity, fear, anxiety, joy. The experience was no different as I entered the zendo (Buddhist temple) at Upaya Zen Center for the first time. Although I had been studying Buddhism and practicing meditation for several years, each temple has its own chants, forms, and overall “way of doing things”. These forms are an important part of Zen practice, encouraging constant mindfulness while moving through the zendo.

The following stream of consciousness (can I call this a poem?) was written the first evening of my practice at Upaya. With a chuckle, I titled it “Self-judgement on the Path”.

Self-Judgement on the Path

Foot falling asleep
Moving toes
Walking meditation…
fall down?
Laugh at self
Not knowing chants…
how could I know?
Experience, Age
Sit up straighter
Open the pathways to the body
sensation returning to the leg, foot
Fully returning
returning to my body
Body-Mind-Oneness
The moment of noticing the body
IS body-mind-oneness
Rain falling
on the rooftop of the treehouse/loft
Let it all go
Let it all fall away
Join the journey
Your body is here…
let your mind be as well
Self judgement is natural
Is it helpful?
It depends.

 

The next day, my Chaplaincy cohort gathered to check in. So many people shared early feelings of self-doubt, overwhelm, and self-judgement. I was humbled to know I was not alone; this inspiring group had insecurities and fears and were willing to be vulnerable and share them. What a true gift. I realized I did not need to compare myself to anyone else and that I too could lay down my fears in the center of our circle, honor them, and let them go. This ritual helped me to renew a sense of agency over my own unique expertise and experiences that led me to this very moment. As I looked around the circle, I could see in the eyes of the group that we needed each other. That together, we would forge a stronger path to service.

I have always found self-judgement to be extremely insightful in improving how I show up in the world. But I learned during this week at Upaya that my approach on self-improvement was missing something: self-judgement’s loving parent, self-acceptance. Self-acceptance does not mean resigning to all the ways I’ve learned to harm myself or others, saying “that’s just the way I am”. No, self-acceptance actually means being inclusive of all of my thoughts and feelings as they arise in order to begin to approach my unskillfulness with compassion. Rooted in self-compassion, I can work diligently to transform my negative habits.

This new-to-me path of pairing self-judgement with self-acceptance allows judgement to be a tool toward healing, rather than a jail that has kept me locked away from intimately connecting with myself and others.

Bowing on the path,

Jess

To Hold Death in One’s Hand

Today, I found a bird on my porch. It must have flown into the window and suffered enough damage to not wake up again. A fitting day with death, I thought, just days before I depart on my journey toward chaplaincy. I am going to spend the next several years becoming more and more comfortable with death, so why not now?

“What are you going to do with it?” Also with me was my partner of two and a half years – we were in the process of separating and had spent the previous evening packing some of her things, an emotional step toward parting ways. In the midst of ending of our relationship as we knew it, (and as we wanted to know it) here was death, right on our front porch.

“Bury it,” I said, with a shrug. My mind trailed off thinking about the ensemble of small birds I had buried last summer. They had each fallen fate to the bite of my dog or to run-ins with other cabin windows.

I sighed as I turned around, heading toward the recycle bin. I found a box that was once used to hold garbage bags and thought, this could be a perfect casket.

I had seen these birds in the yard often, singing and dining, especially after a hard rain. But I had not had a chance to see one up close until now. As I grew closer, I watched my mind continue with its story. I wonder if maybe the bird just knocked itself out momentarily. That maybe upon touching it, it will awaken and fly up, like a Phoenix Rising.

I reached out slowly and touched the bird with one finger, pulling my hand back quickly in anticipation of some sort of movement. There was none. I reached out and touched it again, this time placing my whole hand onto its soft feathers. Picking it up, I placed the soft round body onto my left hand, its head rested on my fingertips and its tail feathers extended past my wrist. Its body seemed to fit my palm perfectly. I sat down with my new friend in hand and noticed my breathing.  In, out… Deep, slow…

And in this moment, as I held death in my hands, I saw the whole world. I time traveled back fifteen years to the hospital room my father died in, his hand in mine as his vitals grew stagnant and death was upon him. To the hospice care of two dear friends whose families invited visitors to come and say their final words. To my many “last goodbyes” with lovers. I thought about my dear friend who had just lost her mother days before, and what her last words may have been.

“I love you. Thank you. I forgive you.”

In my hand, I saw the whole world. The tiny bug that crawled upon the bird’s back, not needing to know the profundity of the moment. The open sky calling the clouds to their next destination. The water whose tides push and pull at our our collective subconscious. The gentle, all knowing breeze.

I placed the bird in the box to prepare for burial. I walked slowly, observing my left hand outstretched, the hand that just moments before had held death so gently.

Even as I write this, I look at compassionately at this hand, as I discover again, one of its very reasons for existence.
-Jess

(This post was written on March 2, 2017, two days before I left to begin my Chaplaincy program.)

My Path to Chaplaincy

All moments in our lives lead us to the present moment.

With the support of family, friends, and mindfulness community (sangha), the cumulation of many moments has led me to the path of Chaplaincy. In March I began studying under Joan Halifax and other wonderful teachers at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Upaya’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Training program is described as: “…a visionary and comprehensive two-year program for a new kind of chaplaincy intended to serve individuals, communities, the environment, and the world. The program is open to those who wish to prepare to serve as chaplains as well as those who wish to deepen their understanding of service from a Buddhist and systems perspective.”

For years now, I have been practicing and studying Buddhism and meditation, looping it into my personal time, relationships, hobbies and work. The path has not been smooth or without forgetfulness and struggle. There have been times where I have needed the practice of meditation most, and yet I turned the other cheek. It is difficult to sit with ourselves. It is difficult, sometimes, to even breathe deeply. Our chest may be tight, our shoulders raised, our face and jaw is tense. We live in a society that inflames stress and pressure rather than relieving it…And the common options for relief are temporary and toxic.

It is becoming my year’s work (my life’s work?) to transform these difficulties. The first year of the Chaplaincy training is focused on “Inner Chaplaincy”, as we can not provide stability to others without being more stable in ourselves. Already, I feel immersed in these teachings and look forward to sharing my journey with all those who wish to walk along side me. Thank you to my friends, family, and sanghas, including the Mindfulness Community of Puget Sound and 40+ colleagues in Cohort 9/10 as well as to our numerous teachers at Upaya. I could not be here without all of you.

Some people have asked me what kind of work I will delve into after I complete this program. My volunteer and professional work within K-12 and the LGBTQ+ community have given me some ideas on where I may want to focus my energies, but I am also interested in expanding my experience and outreach into prisons and onto the streets, connecting with some of our most universally vulnerable family members. But the greatest thing is, I don’t have to know right now. In fact, one of the core foundations of this Chaplaincy training is “Not Knowing.”

So for now, I will sit with my notions of the future as just that, notions. And I will instead focus on the present moment of my budding meditation practice as the basis for healing grief in my own life. This program already inspires me to deepen my own grounded-ness, so that I may provide a stable shoulder for all beings in need of compassion who I may meet on my path.

Tall order, but I am taking things one breath at a time.

In gratitude,

Jess

 

Love Wins.

13641178_933652301286_6483631332467923224_oI just spent a beautiful weekend in San Diego where I had the opportunity to officiate the wedding of my dear friends – who happen to be a same-sex couple. Their ceremony told a story of their foundation of friendship, their vows were incredibly raw with emotion, and their wedding rings were passed through each guest’s hands to gain blessing and intention before we sealed the ceremony with the placement of the rings on their hands.

Even in 2016, being LGBTQ often means that your wedding, if you choose to marry, will have challenges that straight & cisgender weddings do not. Venues may choose not to return your call once they hear two female or two male names, or once they meet you and you do not fit an image that they have in their mind. Family members may choose not to attend due to discriminatory religious beliefs – which could mean no father-daughter dance or no toast from the parents or siblings. Often, the wedding party and guest list are made up of chosen family who represent the unconditional love that every couple needs in order to succeed at marriage.

Needless to say, it was an emotional weekend for all who attended as we witnessed this couple of amazing women vow to spend the rest of their days together in matrimony.

I settled into my window seat on Southwest and eventually a middle-aged, mixed-race hetero-couple sat next to me. The ride was a quiet one with no words exchanged, but as we got close to Seattle, I couldn’t help but point out the incredible view of Mt. Rainier to the east. The woman and I began chatting and soon I learned that she and her family had come from a church conference in St. Louis. Now “church” anything is usually a red-flag to LGBTQ people to stop talking and continue on quietly. I hoped the conversation would stop soon…but it didn’t.

Soon she was asking if I was married or had kids. “I’m engaged” I said. She became excited and quickly congratulated me. At this point in these conversations, I usually find a way to quickly say “She” to avoid any assumption that I am marrying a man (and there is always the assumption by straight people that I too am straight.) This time I didn’t have a chance – or perhaps the “church conference” line scared me into avoidance.

Before long, I heard, “What does he do? Does he live with you in Washington?”

Ugh. Here it is. “Coming out” to the third stranger this weekend.

For those of you who are not LGBTQ, I’ll assure you that this continual coming out can bring a particular guttural feeling — as if I were 19 all over again and coming out to my parents. And when I tell people I am bisexual, they get even more confused.

“It’s a she actually, I’m marrying a woman.” I said and quickly turned away to avoid any negative reaction. But when I caught myself turning away, I realized I needed to quickly turn back to see her reaction – in order to guide my next move. The crux.

“So does she live with you in Washington?” she said with a smile.

She had no reaction – the best kind of reaction. I felt a wave of relief fall over my entire body. I felt myself choke up in happiness and ease. We continued to chit-chat and shortly after, I met her husband, a Latino man from LA. She was Asian-American and together perhaps they faced their own share of discrimination from family or church. They were kind and open, not asking any questions out-of-the-norm for a conversation like this.

We reached our gate and she stood up to prepare to deplane. My emotions continued to build and I could not keep the tears back. She kept checking in on me with her eyes, as my gaze moved from the window to the front of the plane.

I needed to tell her thank you – thank you for accepting me. Tears continued and I reached out to her arm. “I have to tell you thank you. It can be really hard coming out to strangers over and over again, and I want to thank you for your kindness and response.”

“Of course. You’re welcome. You should never feel ashamed for who you are,” she said. That struck me as interesting. She didn’t realize that my tears were not about me but rather about her.

“I’m not ashamed,” I assured her, “I had fear of what your response would be. Not everyone responds with kindness. So thank you” Her eyes melted a little in witnessing such rawness with a complete stranger.

“In a time like this, we need more kindness,” she replied.

It is all too true. In the past month we have witnessed the shooting and killing of 49 Latinx LGBTQ members at a queer club in Orlando, and in the past week the police murder of two more black men and the murder of five Dallas police officers. I nodded in agreement.

I turned to the window and continued crying. A few moments later our eyes connected again and she tried to lighten the mood by introducing me to her daughters, 7 and 14. They smiled sweetly. I felt confident that they would be raised to love people unconditionally as their parents seem to, bringing even deeper tears of hope to my eyes.

From my experience with many past circumstances that did not end this well, I am hopeful that we are truly witnessing a shift in acceptance in our world, and a belief that Love truly does Win.

~ JM

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Why Black Lives Matter

The next time someone says ‘all lives matter,’ show them these 5 paragraphs — By Kevin Roose

from http://fusion.net/story/170591/the-next-time-someone-says-all-lives-matter-show-them-these-5-paragraphs/

This week, high-profile police killings of two black men—Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, who was killed in Falcon Heights, Minnesota—have renewed heated debates about police violence, and brought the Black Lives Matter movement back into the spotlight.

Every time this happens, cries of “Black Lives Matter” tend to be met with the response “All Lives Matter.” Even presidential candidates have made this mistake—last year, Hillary Clinton said “All Lives Matter,” though she has since corrected herself. And lots of white people have expressed confusion about why it’s controversial to broaden the #BlackLivesMatter movement to include people of all races.

The real issue is that, while strictly true, “All Lives Matter” is a tone-deaf slogan that distracts from the real problems black people in America face.

The best explanation we’ve seen so far comes from Reddit, of all places. Last year, in an “Explain Like I’m 5” thread, user GeekAesthete explained, clearly and succinctly, why changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter is an act of erasure that makes lots of people cringe.

GeekAesthete explains:

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn’t work that way. You see the film Nightcrawler? You know the part where Renee Russo tells Jake Gyllenhal that she doesn’t want footage of a black or latino person dying, she wants news stories about affluent white people being killed? That’s not made up out of whole cloth — there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it’s generally not considered “news”, while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate — young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives shouldalso matter. But responding to this by saying “alllives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.

Yep, there you go. Bookmark it, print it out, give it to your friends.

(Not an original Peace Through Grief article. Credits at top)

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So You Survived the Holidays

There is something about the holidays that tends to resurface grief in a uniquely intense way. The cooling of nature, the shortened hours of daylight, life all around us slowing down to a halt…countered by shopping fanaticism, coordination with (perhaps undesirable) family members, traffic and airport lines. The constant observation of families together can send a sharp pain when your own family feels broken.

Whether this is your first holiday dealing with intense grief or one of many you have survived, you may have noticed a certain reflection and sorrow that only comes at this time of year. Bringing family together, by nature, emphasizes the absence of family members and loved ones. Whether a loved one has passed, been estranged, or lives far away, there is no escaping the reality that things are not the way they once were. There are probably one or two people in particular that you crave to share a holiday meal with – and now you must learn to connect with them in another way.

As hard as the holidays may be, if we widen our lens outside of our own family, to our community, our friends, neighbors, country, and even the globe, we will see we are not alone. Every family shares in grief and struggle. Emotions can be high during the holidays. So, break now, and give yourself a bit of compassion. You made it through the holidays!

As we move into 2015 with the days growing longer and warmer, here is a little exercise to help us reflect and move forward in peace. Grab a piece of paper and pen.

First, write down three things that you feel gratitude for from the past holiday season. These can be anything – big or little – that warmed your heart or helped you make it through a day, an hour, or a week.

Mine are: 1) I got to play tea (among other games) with my two-year-old niece! She is amazing. 2) I spent a lot of time connecting with my sister while we sorted through boxes of old family photos 3) I received daily renewal of love and support from my girlfriend. <3 Swoon.

Now, write three intentions for the next holiday.  What are some things you wish would have gone differently? People you would have liked to see, rituals you would like to include next year to celebrate loved ones?

Mine are: 1) Plan ahead to have one night out to see more friends. 2) Create an altar for my parents, grandparents and close friends who have passed with a photo of each and a candle for each. I’d like to light a candle for each of them for one full week. 3)  Plan ahead for donations to heartfelt causes as gifts for any loved ones. (Because we really don’t need more stuff.)

Now, put these six items in your calendar for December 1st, 2015. Give yourself a reminder of what things helped you make it through the holidays, and what things you’d like to do differently to make your next holiday season even more meaningful.

Please share your 3 gratitudes & 3 intentions in the comments – it would be great to hear ideas from everyone in the Peace Through Grief Community.

Peace and be well as we move into our new beginnings!

Love,

Jess

A Wave of Grief

It’s been two and a half years since my mom passed — and approaching the 12-year anniversary of my dad passing. I’ve committed myself to the grief process and healing process, and this blog is a part of that commitment. It’s a lot of work. And I have enjoyed moments, days, and even months of extreme peace because of the care and attention I’ve given my grief. But guess what? Sometimes I have crappy days, too.

Right now, I am deeply sad. I am writing in a wave of grief. With tears just under the surface, I have spent much of today between sobs and snotty kleenex.

I’m finding it difficult to articulate why my grief came to visit today. But I know it is grief I feel, so I try not to over analyze it. Instead, I commit to feeling it — with the understanding that “this too, shall pass”.  And when it does, perhaps I will know something from it. Perhaps some part of my grief has been stuck — some grief I have been unaware of — and now it is moving through.

After a few hours, a few phone calls, some time of reflection with a few more kleenex, I sit back down to write.

So much of my life has changed in the past few years. Following the passing of my mom, which was a huge change in itself, I moved two states away from where I had built a life for myself, and back to my home town (bittersweet). An important relationship ended with someone I wish great happiness for, and she has since moved on (bittersweet). I cleared out and sold our family home to a beautiful new family (bittersweet). I closed my business of 5 years…and recently started a job I am even more passionate about (bittersweet). I have deepened my spiritual practice, opening many more questions to sit with (bittersweet). I am also happier than I have been in years, but at the cost of losing my mom (bittersweet). I’ve gained perspective that only comes with grief. I’m not sure I can make total sense of the juxtaposition I’m feeling right now.

I guess what I am saying is, I have accepted my new place in the world and my new found direction, but there is still grief in the difficulty of how I landed here. In other words, I am grieving this beautiful place I am in, and all that changed in order to bring me here. I am grieving the beauty of the change process itself.

The changes I face continue to challenge me in new ways every day. I have countless opportunities every day to let old habits reign and transport me into my old ways of sub-conscious living…Or I can choose to pause, slow down, and choose a different path. A path that says, “It’s okay to grieve. Even when you are mostly happy. There is something to pay attention to, here. And, not to worry. This too, shall pass.”

~Jess

 

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