Posted in Essay, Photography/Photographer, Priscilla Galasso, Spiritual Practice


Habit might be the enemy of Awareness or Mindfulness.  Doing things routinely without thinking is a practice that allows our mind to wander into the past or the future or the make believe without really being present.  Sometimes, this is just what I want to do!  Yes, I admit to blowing up Mah Jong tiles and Free Cell rows when I want to veg out.  But if I want to be truly alive, I try to pay attention to each present moment.

Thich Nhat Hahn gives a wonderful lesson to Oprah Winfrey on drinking tea mindfully in this clip.  Oprah, out of habit, takes a sip of her tea before the meditation even begins.  I smile, thinking, “how embarrassing!” and noting that I probably would have done the same thing if I wasn’t careful.

Habits can be comforting…and they can lull us to sleep.  Do you want to be awake?  Do you feel like there will be plenty of time to be dead later on?  I do.  Except when I don’t.  It takes a lot of psychic energy to be alive!  Think about all that’s involved when you do a simple thing like climb up a short flight of stairs.  Your weight is shifting, balancing, your muscles are contracting, your toes are gripping, your hand may reach out to the banister, your eyes are measuring the height of each step, you’re breathing with the exertion, and all while trying to remember what you’re going upstairs for!  Walking meditation, tea meditation, stairs meditation…it’s all the same practice of mindfulness.

This picture adds another aspect: Steve in meditation.  I see him every day.  I want to be mindful of that miracle.  He’s alive, different, changing, dynamic, and important.  So am I, but I have a long way to go on that one. Appreciating myself is the hardest practice for me.


– Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photographs (above and below), Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  started her blog at to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Posted in Essay, Michael Watson, Peace & Justice, Uncategorized

Life in the Bardo

Waterbury, VT, ParadeI just returned from purchasing a new computer monitor. Last night, my two-year-old monitor suddenly malfunctioned. When I went to the store this morning, the associate with whom I spoke said she thought the life expectancy of new monitors might be about a year. Expensive and time-consuming.

Last week a colleague attended a national conference in Seattle. This gathering of psychotherapists moves about the country from year to year. The Seattle conference was immense, forming a forum for many hundreds of therapists. It also took place in a part of the country with a large and obvious Native presence, yet seemingly made no attempt to include, or even acknowledge, Seattle’s diverse Native community.

During a workshop towards the end of the conference my colleague spoke to the absence of a Native presence at the conference. After the workshop, a woman came up and thanked her for speaking up, explaining she was Native and had been deeply disturbed by the notable absence of her community. (Tibetan monks had been invited to build a sand painting during the conference.) She was also aware of her light skin color,and fearful her whiteness might disqualify her from speaking, at least in the eyes of her fellow conference participants.

Also, last week the latest film version of The Lone Ranger came out. As you may know, Johnny Depp stars as a very wise Tonto, who just happens to wear a stuffed bird on his hat, an oblique reference to the imagined Native. A couple of day’s ago a panel gathered to chat about the film on NPR’s On Point. A young Native woman who blogs at Native Appropriations was also invited on briefly critique the film. Sadly, the non-Native reviewers, even with a bit of Native guidance, simply failed to understand why the film might be offensive. I invite you to read Adrienne K.’s comments at Native Appropriations for a detailed critique of the stereotyping and racism inherent in the film.

Finally, Thursday was the Fourth of July. For me there are three highly problematic holidays in the U.S. calendar: July Fourth, Columbus Day, and Thanksgiving. Each celebrates, in some way, the theft of our land and the genocide, physical and cultural, against our people. On the Fourth our family usually attends a small town parade, and always we look forward to the evening fireworks. Small town celebrations are all about the local, although even here in Progressive Vermont, there may be no mention of the several Native tribes that lived here prior to the arrival of Europeans, descendents of who still call Vermont home. I guess acknowledging Native people opens up to many uncomfortable questions concerning genocide, appropriation, and land claims.

As a light-skinned Native person I wrestle with questions of identity. I also, in my elderhood, am likely to speak my mind about issues anyway, although most of the time no one seems to be truly listening. One of my friends, an aged Cree medicine woman who stands just about five feet tall, sometimes wanders around carrying a large hunting rifle, “To get people’s attention.” Sometimes I despair.

Locally we have developed what amounts to a Buddhist/Native dialog. We’ve discovered we agree about most things. For instance, there is a lovely idea in Pure Land Buddhism and in some Native thought that we are already in Paradise and simply don’t recognize it or act accordingly. Rather, we seem to be caught up in the Bardo, spinning endless fantasies derived from fear, greed, and anger.

Life in the Bardo is challenging. We seem to be sinking in a sea of expensive, poorly made, often essential, material goods that break all too often. We go about trying to find distraction or release and fail to notice or acknowledge the suffering created and continued by our actions and those of the folks who came before. In the process, we cause more harm even though we might wish otherwise. No wonder the Prophets from many traditions tell us to wake up. I imagine paying heed to our lives might in the end be less painful than the road we are collectively on now; maybe we could even create the conditions for fine lives and rebirths. Now that is a good Dreaming.

– Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes portrait below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.