We are approaching the Winter Solstice and the New Year. In this time of darkness and slumber, we wait to awake to new possibilities. Throughout the year we have the chance to make change in our life, but in this moment every year we can be in harmony with nature’s natural cycle. When there are parts of your life that could be stuck, it is a time to plan new directions. And so… in the spirit of my own changing direction, we will meet in a new space for meditation. It is a big, open room with space for us to move and experience something new. Bring a yoga mat and your preferred meditation seat to cushion you on the hardwood floors. The space is only reserved for 5 Tuesdays– but if we like the space and enough of us can gather together, there may be an opportunity to continue there. I look forward to seeing you on January 9th and to see your own changing directions.
The Sun, the Moon and the Stars: this is the way my mother and I would express our love to each other. Seems like this encompasses all the universe. May you have all that, may you be all that, and may you know you are loved as much as all that. This is the last of my group meditation classes. I will still be able to sit in my home studio for individual or small group sessions, which I am happy to do whenever you’d like. If I don’t see you as often, I’m wishing for you the sun, the moon and the stars…
I hate to think that this sounds like just some platitude. I do believe this, and have believed this since my hippie days of youth when it felt to me as if these changes were inevitable, already set in motion. Currently it takes a lot of faith to remember this and hold onto this belief. The more of us who stay close to our own spiritual awakening, the more others can hold onto theirs as well. This is the best way we help each other: maintaining our own daily spiritual practice to remind ourselves and others of these truths. I hope you can find strength in the quiet connection within, as well as find healing for your self and your environment.
For yourself, the ordinary can come alive every day. Of course when someone tells me about some extra-ordinary experience– how magical, how amazing– I am happy that they became awake and open in that moment. And… I wonder how many mundane, unextra-ordinary experiences they miss all they time. Couldn’t the everyday be enough to bring joy and meaning to life? Find the un-noticeable acts of kindness, the random sensory sensations, or the unexpected visions that touch your heart, and make note with a smile, maybe even just an internal flash of happiness. Noticing and appreciating simple, sweet moments is the essence of a spiritual life. I wish for you that your days be filled with the beauty of the ordinary and the delight of the mundane.
So much suffering in the world. It feels like more hardship than ever, but I always resist this idea because human nature hasn’t changed in our many years. In different ages of history, different things create hardship, but it’s always there; always there in abundance. Over and over again, we come back to this idea that in the midst of the mess, there is always some beauty– be it small, be it fleeting, be it hard to find. Allowing your self to feel the pain in others will grow compassion, and it is that growing compassion that opens you to the wonder that is the goodness of the human spirit. It’s ironic but the more you feel the hardship and suffering, the more you will see the kindness and sweetness. In these days, let’s remember to remind each other of this again and again.
Do you know when to say and do this? You see someone struggling and your first impulse is to jump to help. Surely that makes you a good person and perhaps this struggle could be alleviated because it is simple and easy for you to do/fix/take care of. When is “help” not really helpful? Honestly it’s hard to know, but often if you remove the challenge the other person didn’t get the benefit of the struggle and the learning that comes by gaining their own insight. Try to respect this person you care about enough to believe they can grow better and overcome obstacles. Support often comes by just showing up and holding the space– maybe no words, no actions. This time it’s something easy for you and hard for someone else, the next one will be difficult for you and easier for others. Ask them to allow you your own growth just as you did for others…
Ask yourself this same question. As human beings, we reside between the earth and the sky– both are integral to our physical and spiritual beings. We are the same as the tree in our meditations. The deeper the tree’s roots into the ground, the taller the tree can grow. When we meditate we stress the importance connecting to our roots, the base energies, so that the connection above can be just as strong. Without the foundation below us, we are likely to float untethered and lose our center core; just as a tree without deep roots will break and fall in the winds. As you grow and seek the heavens, always remember your rootedness in the earth– we need both to be flexible and strong.
It all starts with your beliefs. We know how powerful belief can be. Those of us with a belief in an unseen greater power see evidence of that force at work in our lives, all the time.
Even more basic than those thoughts that tell you to feel good or badly about your self and your life are the beliefs that underlie everything. These beliefs start very early. Many of them are generational within a family: maybe unspoken, but maybe spoken very often and very loudly. They become so ingrained that they are difficult to see, or to see how you could unravel them. These beliefs are what holds you up and what holds you back. It is so important to dig deeply with internal questioning to notice and challenge your core beliefs. It may be that the judgements you place on your self are unnecessary and it may be that so much more is possible for your self by transforming some of those beliefs.
I have thought of this so many times since I first heard it over 30 years ago. In life there are many times when we need to be the rock amidst swirling waters, so I don’t believe our Teacher meant to imply that we should never be the rock. Instead, this was meant to address those many times when the challenge is to accept our current condition and surrender to the flow. Sometimes acceptance and surrender feels like giving up and giving in– how do you know the difference? Acceptance is more than giving up the fight against. Acceptance is being willing to engage in this new reality as a way of transforming yourself and then surrender to those changes willingly as they appear. This receptive (yin) approach to life’s challenges is a powerful force for growth. Flowing water always wears away the rock river bed.
I am almost a hundred years old; waiting for the end, and thinking about the beginning.
There are things I need to tell you, but would you listen if I told you how quickly time passes?
I know you are unable to imagine this.
Nevertheless, I can tell you that you will awake someday to find that your life has rushed by at a speed at once impossible and cruel. The most intense moments will seem to have occurred only yesterday and nothing will have erased the pain and pleasure, the impossible intensity of love and its dog-leaping happiness, the bleak blackness of passions unrequited, or unexpressed, or unresolved.
You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories…
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. ~Helen Keller
This from Helen Keller (who lived to almost 88). As someone who unable to be distracted by the seen or the touched, she knew firsthand how to feel from the heart. I can remember hearing this kind of advice over the years, many times, but it has only lately come to a place of real meaning. If I could give you a gift, it would be that you might heed this wisdom earlier than I have. Remember the stories: the big picture of your life as puzzle pieces fitting together and the moments from your life of indescribable beauty, unbridled exuberance, lackluster dullness and emotional heartbreak. All of it. It all adds up as it’s racing by, but it’s those stories that will buoy you when things slow down.
What if I created my own geometry? After all, there must be more than one kind.
The prevalent geometry today is Euclidean Geometry. That implies that we didn’t have geometry before Euclid (fl. 390 BCE). If you change the postulates and theorems, your geometry will be different. Geometry deals with points, lines, angles, surfaces, and solids. Using a ruler and a compass is fundamental to Euclidean geometry. We should be able to draw any combination of straight line and segments of a circle. But what if we begin not from straight and curved but freely flowing lines? What if we don’t start from a stylus but with a pointed writing brush? What if we don’t even start from two dimensions but stay in three? What if our geometry is our body and life? –Deng Ming-Dao
All of you that know me will understand how much this resonates with me. Actually, there is mathematics to describe any kind of line, shape or volume in all dimensions. Still, I find it applealing to think about the metaphor of creating a life beyond the current construct. Those of us of a certain age started life with a mind-boggling number of rules, and now we feel an urgency for barriers of privilege, bigotry, and prejudice to be broken forever. When I think about how fast the possibilities for a person has expanded in my lifetime, I believe that every life can be lived beyond what you imagined while growing up. It still may take courage and conviction to be beyond prevaling norms, so let’s encourage those who can see a new “geometry” for their own unique being.
I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.
I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is sacred.
I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task.
I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.
I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.
I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.
I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.
I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.
I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.
I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.
I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.
I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness.
I believe, I Believe.
— Mary Anne Perrone
It is a true challenge to live life to the fullest with our whole, complete selves, so as a result, we allow many small little deaths within. That childlike innocent mind might be left behind. That wide-eyed wondrous awe of the unknown might have grown skeptical. That adventurous, wild spirit that pushes you to the new and different might now be cynical. What else? For some of you, you’ve allowed your spirits to be crushed by disappointment and by your own harsh internal voice of blaming and shaming. But you aren’t dead yet and as long as you still draw breath you have the opportunity to revive your dark parts. Wake up and nudge what has been lost, stolen, or crushed within. When death does arrive, don’t you want to say you lived the fullest life with your whole self?
Two of the greatest qualities in life: 1. patience 2. wisdom
Time for another good laugh as we know this pitiful dog has no choice– she has patience because she has the wisdom to know the consequences. Instead of saying the word “older”, some people like to say we get “wiser”. As someone who has come to patience late in life, I do believe that growing older into wisdom has brought the ability to be more patient. I can’t remember anything that turned out well because I rushed into it or rushed through it. Wait for it… maybe it’ll go more easily or even just come to you. As this dog watches her dinner disappear, I can assure her that there’ll be more and everyone will be glad she allowed that skunk to have its fill.
So many of you have to learn this after some difficult period in your life. Injury, illness, divorce, job loss, death of a loved one, etc. and all I hear you say is, “I just want to go back to the way it was.” When a larger life shift sideswipes us, we feel unprepared to adjust our perspective. Although we don’t volunteer for these life changing events, they are perfectly orchestrated to take us to the new place we need to be. Accept this new reality, although not an easy new reality. If you embrace the change for the challenge of new learning, all will flow more easily and happily. We are never the same, not this day to the next. Each morning wake up to the new you and know that a new river crossing awaits this day…
Today is a day when events of nature should leave your jaw gaping, your mind in awe and your heart inspired. I hope you have clear skies wherever you are to experience the magic of the forces in our solar system. Rarely do I cross the spiritual with the political in this forum, but current events have crossed these two forces (as the moon and the sun- ha) and I need to address it. Here we are in a situation where we know from history that silence is condoning, such that we are morally obligated to call out darkness for what it is. To “stay positive, to “send light”, to “pray for good” is some kind of new age bunk. We are required to stand up, speak up and show up against racism, bigotry, hatred, and even our own special brand of privilege. Our spiritual practice encourages us to wrestle with our own internal demons as they surface. We do that to heal those scars and transform those impulses so that we don’t act on or speak out from places of anger or judgement, to keep that from effecting others. Addressing our own negativity builds internal strength which allows us to hate the hatred without our own darkness interfering. So silence is our downfall. Speaking out matters, and be sure you remain centered, steady and strong as you do so. This is where your years of spiritual practice matter and this is the time to put that cultivation to good use.
How often have you heard someone explain exactly why they can’t do something? This happens all the time in yoga: “my hips aren’t open”, “I never could even as a kid”, “this old injury won’t allow that”, plus as many more as you can imagine. I believe in being realistic: as life goes on certain things become less possible, but why discount something if you want it? The more you argue for your limitations, the more they become who you are, the more they are yours to keep. I am trying to check my internal dialog constantly to make sure I’m not holding onto my limitations. If you believe that anything and everything is possible– not for someone else, but for exactly you– then those possibilities can in fact happen. At least you could try to lean into that existence so that your own, unique version could be created. Surprise yourself.
I confess I am someone who asks myself about the meaning in life far too often. I understand the notion that life itself is meaning enough, but I also believe that it is very human to ponder and question life’s meaning. Since I’ll never really know, it is comforting to be reminded that it keeps changing. Some people believe that a person could live their entire life only to have that moment of transformation happen in their dying days. Others may be focused on their work accomplishments when in fact their life’s work could more importantly be found in some small moment of personal action or decision. If we take this idea from Victor Frankl that it is never constant, then we must find meaning in this moment, this day, this hour.
Don’t miss this unique opportunity for a once in a lifetime experience. Although total eclipses of the sun are not so rare on earth, the last time we had one near Atlanta (not even directly over) was 1900. This year our mountain house in within the direct path and that’s where we will be. Here in the city, you will be able to have 95% totality, so be sure to be prepared for this awesome, awe-inspiring display of the nature.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Jon Kabat-Zinn has some wisdom here. Maybe he lifted it from the Beatles. I do agree that the metaphor of “letting go” implies some loss, probably a loss of something we have known and held onto for many years. This quality or circumstance may have served you well at the outset. Even as you know it no longer serves you at all, it is familiar and without it, life isn’t familiar. We are always reluctant to step off the edge into anything unknown. If you say “let it be”, it feels like an easing up on the grip. It is an acknowledgment and even gratitude for the way this may have helped. Letting it be allows some separation which eventually leads to the slipping away. Now you may not notice until later that it’s gone, gone for the good of all.
We often speak about “coming from the heart”, which to me is the same thing Einstein refers to as the “intuitive mind”. Learning to listen to your intuitive voice, be its source the heart or the mind, isn’t easy. Years of meditating, connecting to the inner self, and still it’s hard to let go of the need to “know” and figure it out by rational, logical explanations. Your brilliant mind helps you understand the world, so use it to be practical even as you learn to listen to your intuition. Our spiritual journey is in essence a process of honoring this sacred gift and trusting your own still, small voice that comes from a connection to greater guidance and higher knowing. Trust it– your intuitive mind is wise beyond your rational mind’s ability to know.
How many of you can relate to this? I wondered who Robert McCammon was because I love the straight, forthright language of this message. To my surprise, it turns out he’s a bestselling author of horror literature from the late 70’s- early 90’s. I believe almost all of us looking for a spiritual life as adults had some strange experiences as children which were discredited, ignored, or reprimanded. Reconnecting to the inner self through meditation is an excellent way to start finding that magic again. It’s also important to remember your innocence and openness. Those qualities enable you to be willing to allow the possibilities that connection can bring. If your magic and wildness have withered, please start the journey to remember the magic you once knew.
I apologize that this seems like a lot to read, but I think each verse is important, as it is a great reminder. Each person will be challenged to let go at some point. Some people will be challenged to let go over and over again, depending on how much they enjoy the illusion of control. We all are challenged to let go as we age. Some of us like to hold on with every fiber of being until control is ripped away. Of course, life goes much more smoothly if you can practice each day as situations arise. Each letting go is a bit of healing. Those who feel they can control life are focused on what’s beyond and outside of the self. If you can bring that attention back to the self, you grow stronger which helps to live with uncertainty in life.
This always makes me laugh. It’s a good time for some light hearted humor. Enjoy– that’s what life is about. We are here to be happy, have fun, and enjoy those we love. Many seekers often are too serious: looking, examining, and going deeper. These dogs are the best: just wanting love, and another cookie– go ahead, get that extra cookie and a good laugh.
If you look up “receiving”, you’ll see a lot of “It is more blessed to give than receive”; or much about those who don’t receive well because they feel they don’t deserve it. I have always had trouble receiving, but my issue isn’t about deserving it, nor is it to be a saintly giver. Do you receive well from others? Do you accept compliments, gifts, or help with a refreshing smile and a heartfelt thank you? I have always felt better being the giver, not because it is blessed, but because it is the place of strength. Even knowing this truth stated here, it has felt vulnerable to be on the receiving end. Allowing the gift of giving for others isn’t a weakness. I believe it is part of our sacred contract of being human. We learn from each other, we rely on each other, and we bond with each other through the exchange of love and assistance. It’s time for me to be receptive with a gracious smile and a grateful heart.
This is the view from my room in Berga, Spain, nestled into the craggy mountainsides of the Pyrenees. I am back from a retreat. All that hiking, all those waterfalls, and all that meditation has left me thinking of this Anne Lamott quote. How you live your life isn’t really a “problem” as much as it is a calling. The times when the illusion of control slips away and I must dive deep into my self is when learning and growth happen. I feel I am upon such a moment in my life when life will ask this of me. In the coming weeks, I will share more about those changes. Meanwhile, we will meditate on Thursdays for the summer and see what happens…
At first this appears to be one of those Zen koans that makes no sense. Stop for a moment, you’ll “understand” it just says that things are the way they are whether you get it or not. So simple, so true. Stop analyzing the whys and wherefores of everything. The world keeps moving and changing whether you took the time to pick apart the details and rearrange events and statements, or not. For those of you who love to do this, go ahead, knock yourself out– chances are, things are still just as they are. For those of you who get bugged when people go crazy figuring it all out, just know that things are just as they are, whether you do or do not understand.
Nothing outside of you will help you in any real, lasting way. If it is someone else’s problem, you probably don’t have the solution.
Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy and scared. Everyone, even the people who seem to have it most together.
Earth is a forgiveness school. It begins with forgiving yourself — then you might as well start at the dinner table.
Laughter is really carbonated holiness. It helps us breathe again and again, and gives us back to ourselves.
— Anne Lamott, TED2017
These are four of the “12 things I know for sure: Anne Lamott speaks at the TED2017”. These are just my favorite four. You can check out the entire talk at http://blog.ted.com/12-things-i-know-for-sure-anne-lamott-at-ted2017/
If you aren’t familiar with Anne Lamott, get familiar. She is an author, both non-fiction and novels, mostly autobiographical. Over the years, she has shared her personal journey for sobriety, human truth, and spirtuality with humor and grace that strikes to the heart. As you listen and read, you will find yourself crying and laughing; and then you think. Each of these 4 “things she knows” are so so true. As you know, the first one is my mantra. The second one I have lived each day of this long life, and live each day still. The third speaks to what’s essential for healing. I like her lightness in this statement because telling someone to forgive themselves is so punishing. Lastly, this statment about laughter is brilliant. We all know the power of laughter to heal, bridge relationships, or lighten, and so I love her turn of phrase to help us remember the truth.
GOD BREAKS THE HEART AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN
UNTIL IT STAYS OPEN — Hazrat Inayat Khan
I think each one of you knows this firsthand. We are always striving to keep an open heart, but it seems that the past experiences of heartbreak remind us to safeguard our heart– just in case, to insure that pain doesn’t happen again. Of course we don’t have any guarantees in life that we won’t face more heartaches and suffering, so we want to protect ourselves. Protecting the heart by holding yourself back doesn’t save you from anything except having the full, awesome experience of the moment. Like anything in life, there comes a time when the effort to resist is too much, so we just give in and give up. Now, this is the time that spirit can work magic; now, this is the time when the heart can stay open to the wondrousness of life. Do you think yours been broken enough to stay open?
Some wisdom from Dr. Seuss and the Cat in the Hat. One of my mottos is “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”. Surely one, or all, of these resonate with you over and over again. Maybe today is a great day to be reminded of these simple truths and life lessons. You’re welcome…
This moment is only here now. So simple. If you are sitting in the past or worrying about the future, you just missed this moment– and now it’s gone. It’s easy to appreciate the moment of a beautiful sunset or the moment of a special event but where are you just this second, in this breath, with this thought? Did you wander and forget to notice? Are you quick to leave your body to avoid the feelings? As you know, each moment, each breath, each thought will add up to create the whole of you. Today, right this second, start being here, now– cause it’s not coming back for you to catch again.
Let’s change the first sentence to “Everything we do is infused with the energy which we have inside.” I find this is a difficult concept for most people– well, maybe not the concept but the application to your own life. Your entire life– all the people, places, actions, thoughts, even your health– is a result of your internal being. It goes beyond being frantic or peaceful. We enter our adult lives with deeply held beliefs about who we are, what we are capable of, who we’ll love, as well as almost everything else. The more deeply entrenched these beliefs are, the more difficult they are to notice and unravel. Look into areas of your life that feel uncomfortable to see if this discomfort matches with some basic assumption you hold which just may not be true for everyone. In fact, if it’s not true for others then it doesn’t have to be true for you either– how did you believe that for so long? As hard as this is, it can be so liberating.
When you are with someone you love very much,
you can talk and it is pleasant, but the reality
is not in the conversation.
It is simply in being together.
Meditation is the highest form of prayer.
In it you are so close to God that you don’t need to say a thing
It’s just great to be together. – Swami Chetananda
It’s just so great to be together. You don’t need to say anything. You don’t need to set an intention. You don’t need to actively create with mudras or mantras. You don’t need to be anything other than exactly who you are in this moment. Just sitting with the someone you love, yourself, is the closest and best connection to spirit you have. How beautiful– don’t you want this more often, even every day? And… you get to have the acorn hat!
There must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home. If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart. ~ Lao Tse
This is a famous Taoist saying about how everything starts within your own heart. Change yourself and you change your life and you change your world. Sounds too grand and too simplistic at the same time. Do you know how hard it is to find peace within and then to keep it within the storm? If your meditation practice has been revealing your challenges for healing, then you do know that this internal peace is elusive and transitory. You know it is the true work you do as you arise each day. Keep at it. Never let anyone or anything steal your peace or the things that bring you peace. You have the power to calm chaos and spread well being– see what you will do today.
I began to be born the day after my grandfather died. My mother adored her father and so even though her water broke before the service, she waited until after he was duly memorialized before going to the hospital. As my mother mourned the loss of her father, she greeted the new life in my arrival. That was 65 years ago.
Recently, my aunt showed me the program of the memorial service for my grandfather which included this poem along with a personal message related to its central theme from my grandmother to my grandfather. Indeed, my grandfather was well known for his human kindness and innate goodness, but I was very surprised that she chose this poem because she had no religious or spiritual beliefs.
As a child, I always felt alone in my spiritual life; a secret I kept for comfort, strength and my own truth. The message of this poem is so central to my own beliefs: that to be a good person on earth among our fellow (wo)men is our highest calling. It’s a true birthday gift to rest in the knowledge that my ancestors and namesakes held these ideals sacred as well and expressed it in this spiritual language.
I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~Maya Angelou (photo credit: Edward Burtynsky)
This is the prayer I have said without knowing these words specifically. I think this is why we are human and why we try to become better human beings. A regular meditation practice can help you grow stronger, more alert, more compassionate, but for what/why/when? We never know. We keep practicing without knowing if it will ever be put to good use. In fact, each of us may have already been useful for a greater purpose without being sure it was happening. Today, this is a great time to connect with like-minded people and to join together for a purpose greater than ourselves. I believe this is what gives life meaning.
“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”–W.B. Yeats
This is a time when those years of spiritual cultivation and meditation practice can be put to good use. When those around us are in chaos but we are still and calm, then the chaos will settle and quiet. Using our ability to stay centered through whatever we encounter, we won’t engage in fear based thinking, irrational emotions or disruptions. Our own stillness effects others so they too can stay clear, focused, and quiet. It’s an amazing phenomena and I know many of you have experienced it. In these days of frustrations and changes, this stillness we possess is more important than ever– for yourself and for others. Find your calm, believe in it and watch this super power help others.
Which is your world? We are seeing these worlds collide these days. Every day something new emerges from that bitter, hate-filled world. Many nights these events get into my dreams and so I know that in spite of my best efforts, they are effecting me. This is another reminder that we uplift each other. Look around and support those you love and help each experience the friendly, caring, love-filled world. Now more than ever your spiritual cultivation needs to be put to good use.
On this Valentine’s Day, let’s remember that love always overpowers hate. In this moment of time, add to the romance of your Valentine’s Day a greater love for the earth and its inhabitants. In standing strong for the rights of humanity, we stay focused on love and goodness and leave hatred, bitterness, and anger behind– at least today. Over and over let’s help each other remember the power of love beyond romance, bigger and stronger than any fear, hate or injustice.
“Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.” Barack Obama
Last week’s email was written before all the fast moving changes began happening. I felt that message was not what I would like to say given current events. I think we need to talk about serenity every week, but even more important was Obama’s swift response in support of our outrage. American values are at stake. I know I am shaken each day but I also know that being shaken internally doesn’t help me or anyone else. Each of us should try to remain strong and serene within the storm so we can take action as needed, and taking action is needed. Being serene doesn’t keep us from being strong defenders of our American values.
If you don’t know Caroline Myss, please take some time to explore her writings and teachings. I have learned so much from her over the years, and this year she posted this list of truths. You don’t see many of these concepts often enough. I could do a weekly email for each one, but then if you look back, you’ll see I already have in one way or another. Please pay particular attention to #3 and #4 because I think people are confused by these– so many stumble on this idea of being extraordinary, as well as spending too much time needing to name purpose and meaning. For more explanation on each of these twleve, take a look at the link to her blog and look for twelve greatest spiritual truths: https://www.myss.com/blog/
(photo credit alice franklin, Koh Samui, Thailand, 2016)
Change is a theme often mentioned in the new year, or whenever times get tough. The Teacher has often complained about his “in box” being full of students asking, “why me?”. His answer is always, “why not you?”, along with “stop asking”. Why not you? In fact, you can know where you need to made adjustments by looking at what you resist and detest. Whatever it is you’d wish away is uniquely and perfectly designed for your growth, for new understanding, and for change. Stop wishing it away. I can feel sure the old ways haven’t been working that well for you anyway so embrace this opportunity to start doing it differently.
I am alert
Ready to take action
The first on the scene
The last to leave
I take chances
But I am precise
I know where things belong
I am orderly and fastidious
Nothing escapes me
I am always prepared
I never give up or in
I AM THE ROOSTER
Saturday, January 28, 2017 begins the Year of the Fire Rooster.
Let me remind you that we are leaving behind the Year of the Monkey: this was a year for “taking risks and being rebellious, a year where agile, inventive minds, sheer guts and bravado will win out.” (astrologyclub.org) We were told that anything could happen, for good or not, and as we know many things beyond imagining did happen.
This year we are told: The Year of the Rooster will be a powerful one, with no middle of the road when it comes to moving forward. This year, impressions count. You’ll want to look your best and be clear on your intentions concerning love, money, and business. Stick to practical and well-proven paths to ensure success, rather than risky ventures. (astrology club.org) This year people will be more polite and less stubborn, but they will have the tendency to complicate things.
You probably know that most Chinese ideographs are organized according to radicals that indicate the category the word belongs to. For example, all words having to do with plants use the grass radical. Words having to do with emotion use the heart radical. Words for the spiritual use the shi radical (示), which means to show, manifest, or demonstrate. It represents a sacrificial altar.
The altar shows us the unseen spiritual. It stands plainly before us. We are called to approach directly, symbolized by the upright and symmetrical form of the word, and to engage completely. The spiritual can be plain to us.
When Tao is revealed to you directly, accept it. There can be no doubt about what you experience yourself.
In this time of winter, the clouds descend from the sky close to the earth. The snow falls. The cold chills to the bone. The spiritual is here—and it is for you. –Deng Ming-Dao
Another teaching from Deng Ming-Dao. This one interested me because of the relationship between “altar” and “manifest”. I want to embrace the idea of the spiritual made real in our lives. Even if you doubt the presence of anything beyond us, you likely feel the presence of your own life-force. It doesn’t matter where it begins nor where it resides for you, it is the force that we make manifest in this world. For those of you who meditate at an altar, it is lovely to think about it as the revelation of the unseen. As you meditate, you reveal your own unseen to make it strong and visible to others. Be mindful of that connection…
Love peace above all.
Begin this year with peace.
When you embrace your children, hold them in peace.
When you greet your spouse, smile with peace.
As you begin your work, strive to finish every job with peace.
As you go about your day, wish everyone peace.
As you think about our nation, choose the path of peace.
When you kneel before your altar, pray for peace.
Love peace above all
and all will be loved in peace.
This is wise advice from Deng Ming-Dao, whose Taoist teachings are meaningful to me. We know we improve our lives by finding and holding internal peace, but this is a lovely reminder of how your own single self can spread peace around. We need constant reminders this year. Stay close to your own peace. Don’t be discouraged and don’t let anyone disturb your own peace. Watch how it touches others.
Just as we leave 2016 behind, let’s remember fondly those whose lives touched us in remarkable ways. It makes me smile to see these small snippets from people who gave us so much more. As we leave behind a year of upheaval and tumult, let’s carry forward the good lessons and good feelings from those who taught us by living their lives in public. They were able to share their wit, their courage, and much of their goodness. Let’s face 2017 with some of what they showed us.
Honestly, I don’t know about this list. I’m not one for making resolutions. I like the idea of these suggestions and if you can follow them, then it’ll be a good year for you. I hear many people say that they will be glad to see 2016 finished. Maybe… but maybe we will be even happier to see 2017 leave. Just remember in these unsettling times that the only person you control is yourself. Trite as that sounds and as frustrating as that feels, it is crucial to remember. I am an optimist and I do believe we will see goodness arise when goodness is challenged. Stay close to the positive things you find and spread them around. HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017 !!
This one has special “meaning” for me because this question, and quest, for the meaning in life nagged at me for so long. Losing my parents at a young age made me wonder if their lives had meant anything– to whom (besides me) and in what ways. I now believe I got sidetracked. Life itself is meaningful when lived in joy, harmony, and love. We are meant to be happy and we are meant to extend that goodwill. During this holiday season, find your own internal goodness and share it with those you love. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!
The converse is also true, as many of you know: it can take a few seconds to cause harm that may take years, a lifetime, to heal. All the more reason, every day, to remember this advice of sending out goodness . It doesn’t hurt to be nice– ever, really– and how beautiful to acknowledge the beauty in others. It may come back to you in unforeseen ways…
I’ll be back from a trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand on Monday, November 28. I took the road less traveled to Asia so I know when we gather for meditation the following day, I won’t really know where I am. Come to an Advanced Meditation Group on Tuesday, November 29, 7 -9 pm, for the experience of a new moon. I may have tales to tell from our travels and new things to share for our meditation. I look forward to seeing you.
This is so funny to me because of the truth of it. I call these my previous incarnations. I’m sure each one of you is old enough to remember phases of your life you can’t relate to now. Of course, this is probably a good thing. Awakening our consciousness with meditation allows you to create an ever changing, better you. In fact, the process of lifelong meditation is one of fine tuning and purifying the self to allow you to be fuller, more complete, and more open hearted– this is a version of a you that is possible. Stay with your practice as you lose touch with those old, out-dated people you used to be.
Where did you see God?
I heard of a practice of listing the places where you saw God that day. Think about that. It’s possible. In fact, once you open to that possibility, there are opportunities everywhere.
When I wrote “365 Tao,” it was the challenge to myself. What happened to me that day that revealed Tao?
You can do that too. You can ask yourself how Tao was revealed that day, and if you are conscious of that, you can find something every day.
Where did you see God? Where did you see Tao today?
Just try this. Even a few days. Too often people need a “miracle” to see the hand of God at work. But miracles happen in each breath, each moment, each turn of the head. The mundane, the everyday, is so miraculous to me but I love this idea of making note– even writing it down, or drawing it, or taking a photograph. Make this your spiritual practice, your art work and your gift to give others. Ultimately, it’s a gift you give yourself.
“Why shouldn’t things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together.” – George Santayana
“In Antiquity, every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men, but were very unlike men; centaurs, fauns, and mermaids show their ambivalence. Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feeling of natural objects.” -Lynn White, Jr.
Both of these are from the epigraph page in Annie Proulx’s new novel, Barkskins. I’m not far enough through this book to give you an overview, but she had me at this page before anything got started. This looks like the book will address the idea of whether we, as humans, could in any way be separate from the world around us. It is so important to us as meditators to understand the natural world and be able to connect to those energies. I loved the first quote for the so simple statement that we, as beings of this world, are connected to all around us– the world no more absurd, futile, and transitory than we each are. And the second quote clearly asks us to remember the consciousness of all the living of this world– humans no more so than elements of the environment. I’m enjoying this book so far and I’ll let you know how it turns out– meanwhile, keep these statments in mind.
“It’s like a dance. And we have to give each being space to dance their dance. Everything is dancing; even the molecules inside the cells are dancing. But we make our lives so heavy. We have these incredibly heavy burdens we carry with us like rocks in a big rucksack. We think that carrying this big heavy rucksack is our security; we think it grounds us. We don’t realize the freedom, the lightness of just dropping it off, letting it go. That doesn’t mean giving up relationships; it doesn’t mean giving up one’s profession, or one’s family,or one’s home. It has nothing to do with that; it’s not an external change. It’s an internal change. It’s a change from holding on tightly to holding very lightly.” – Faryal Khan
I suspect many of you have experienced this. Those worries, responsibilities or burdens are familiar but try to lighten your load. When we allow each other the space to dance, without controlling that dance, then life improves. Allow space for joy, spontaneity, and carefree relationships.
Just because you can say it doesn’t mean you should say it. We talk about this a lot, but maybe not often enough. Cultivating your own expanding awareness and also learning to connect your heart with others allows insights. Remember that these insights are for yourself as much or more than for the other person. It is so important to discern what, when, and how to impart your thoughts and extend your energies. This image shows a key concept: people don’t actually take in all that you meant to say or do. They will have their own experience just as you have yours in that same interaction. This makes communication so complicated and difficult. Stop to think before you speak or do, and try to be sensitive to the what, when and how.
If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. Lao Tzu
Nothing lasts forever– and so it is that the time had come to move my studio. I have created a space in our basement at home that has interesting energy, new and different. It’s cozy. It’s heart opening. It’s grounding. Come experience it for yourself. Fall is an excellent time to reinvigorate your meditation practice and nothing is better than a group to give that boost and support to keep it going at home.
This is from a 18th century Jewish mystic, considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism. I find this quote to be so powerful, and am really moved by it. I have always felt that if I stumble from a decision I made from my heart, then the learning is uniquely designed for me. I can only be grateful for those challenges, the ones that are perfect for growing the me I will become. I love this idea a better version of me emerging from the struggle. Who among us doesn’t struggle? I will forever now going forward imagine a stronger me as the one guiding the way out of the darkness and beyond to the pure light.
Enough said. Just remember that listening and paying attention to nature really is a great way to be busy. Sometimes being active with all the busyness of our lives isn’t as important as stepping back and taking stock of the little details. Enjoy your time whenever you can doing the important tasks of listening and taking in the really nice day. I’ll be happy to join you…
This one applies to me, in this moment in my life. Getting old isn’t for wimps and it’s certainly no time to sit down and shut up. To everyone: keep it moving. That works for your mind, your body, and your spirit.
What’s she up to now? I’m adding two new classes: Thursday mornings and an Advanced Class. Those of you with flexible daytime schedules, please join us for a morning session. The Advanced is a spontaneous monthly event which you can attend by asking me for permission. The days change each month, so be surprised and be amazed!
ALSO: I’m moving the studio soon so please stay tuned to the schedule for location of classes in the next few weeks. We will begin meeting at the new studio in September – keep checking for exact dates.
In June 2016 Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, gave a TED talk on how trees commuricate. In this talk, she explains that the forest is a complicated, yet harmonious, interwoven network of mutual support and information. In our practice we learn to be aware of energies around us, even in nature. I found this talk so interesting in explaining the science of what we have known by going out into the woods to meditate and to sense. She explains about Mother trees who support and nurture young trees, even of other species. Also look for the section where she shows a map of the networks between trees which show those formations we have felt. If you have the time and the interest in this talk, here is the link: http://Most importantly, this talk may help you remember why respect is vital any time you venture into the forest to learn.
This passage from Lao Tzu so concisely expresses the learning of our spiritual path. We call this walking the “middle way” because we don’t renounce the world to go into a monastery or ashram, nor do we ignore our practices to gain mastery of self. Instead we live in our world and make the best of it, always trying to be a good person. This list from Lao Tzu of what is involved in being a good person is detailed and daunting. It’s not easy to be a good person, but our striving is the heart of our growth and strength. Always remember that your transcendence doesn’t come from the practices purely but more importantly from your thoughts, words and deeds in life.
I should buy this tee. I should sell this tee. Sums it up: years of meditating and purifying and still life and other people present difficulties. We don’t transform quickly– plus, what about those people who should be smacked (just kidding!)? I think there is a lot of growth in honesty: to be aware of the frustration, to be able to see it honestly as your own challenge, and then to be able to catch yourself before any damage is done. It’s inevitable that we will want to smack some people sometimes, but it’s our responsibility to turn that into our own learning. Hopefully, it arises less and less often.
How beautiful– how perfect a sentiment to wish for those you love. Knowing that enough is more than enough is a place of internal peace. We all want more– to have more, to be more, to know more. “Enough” doesn’t mean we don’t keep striving to better ourselves. If you can aspire to more from a place of gratitude for all the ups and downs, there can be more harmony within and around you. Try to see all the “enough” in your life, and pass along this wish to those you love.
Part of that positive outlook on your own life is to see the best in others. Giving someone a boost can be as simple as lending a sincere listening ear or giving a few words of encouragement. Remember that there is enough room in this world for everyone to succeed– it’s doesn’t count if you step up by pushing others down. Your own internal strength has an unseen, but not unfelt, effect on those you touch. It doesn’t hurt to be nice and a bit of niceness can go a long way for someone who could use a lift up. Know your own strength by how you can spread it around.
This is that weird kind of circular Taoist thinking that doesn’t seem to mean anything, really. But this represents that innocent attitude of openness that can be so helpful in life. I have often joked that the more I learn, the less I actually know. It’s not a joke. When you recognize that life is very often just unknowable is exactly when you are likely to understand more with your heart. If you don’t know, then those “other ways of knowing” can guide you. Let’s just all agree that we really don’t know much even as we begin to really know our own self.
I liked this monk’s message, but I liked his warm, open expression enough to look him up. He’s the first Zen monk to establish a Buddhist center outside of Asia, Tassajara and San Francisco Zen Centers. As it happens, I have visited both famous places. “Don’t serve them tea” is an excellent version of my own “don’t add to the grocery list”, but I particularly liked the idea of leaving all the doors open. It has been my experience that without the mundane thoughts, insights and awakenings can surface to surprise us in meditation. Leave the doors open: letting the thoughts out and the fresh winds in.
What have you packed inside your heart? The growth of your soul from your meditation practice is forever. The increase in your connection to your self can’t be diminished as you move on past this lifetime. Make the time here, now, valuable– make this lifetime count. Might as well meditate as much as you can to build up some good souvenirs of this life to take with you.
That little whisper of the heart can be so hard to hear. Even if it’s much softer than those ideas in our heads, it speaks the truth. Your meditation practice can strengthen the connection to your heart so that you can trust that quiet voice. “Coming from the heart” means we allow those heartfelt urges to influence our decisions, our actions, and our relationships.
By now you’ve seen and heard enough praise for the life and courage of Muhammed Ali. Some of you are young enough that you hear all this as history before your time, but some of us remember the news of his life unfolding as the shock of it. Even his death comes at a time where it’s refreshing to reflect on an outspoken Muslim and patriotic man. We can learn from his example of holding his convictions with grace.
This is so super important and it’s been too long since I discussed this. Please. Let the people you love be who they are. Sure, they have shortcomings and difficulties that should be addressed, but it is their job to do that work on themselves, not yours. If their challenges challenge you, then you have a responsibility to work on your own changes without blame. It’s not yours to correct or be their conscience or even keep track of failures. Just keep being there for advice but not action. Just keep appreciating who they are in their weaknesses and their strengths, and hope someone does the same for you.
“If you try to pursue happiness, you will miss it because the search for happiness will cause discontent. Searching is bound to create turbulence within. A turbulent mind is an unhappy mind. Your search for happiness is always in the future, it is never in the present. The future is outside; the present is within. Bliss awaits you within.” -Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi)
One by-product of a regular meditation practice is the surprising emergence of happiness. This often comes on unexpected, without asking for it– a feeling of being content, grateful and peaceful. Who knew? Try being in the present moment, without worry or fear, to allow this strange sensation to surface: happiness.
Just a happy reminder of how fun life can be. Keep it simple. Be simple and approach life in a simple way. Of course life has a way of getting complicated– it’s your job to find the simple truth in the midst of the chaos. There is much peace and harmony in simplicity.
How deep is your mud? Never look around at someone else’s challenge and wish it was yours. Each person’s struggle is unique, and perfect, for their own learning. You decide how gracefully you navigate the mud. Even the little dog who’s in pretty deep might be having more fun than the taller dog who hates any mud on his paws. You never know. And you never know how difficult another person’s troubles are to them– if it all looks easy to you, then you don’t need it as a challenge. Figure out how to wash your own mud and have fun in that puddle…
Do you notice when you do this? Are you expecting something from children, spouses, parents, coworkers, even friends? Many do without even being aware of what they expect and then become angry and disappointed when they feel it isn’t reciprocated. Can you feel when someone has been extra kind but there’s agenda attached? None of this works well on the giving or receiving end. Try to notice so you can remove the investment equation. Just be generous of spirit and free with your heart– love makes the world go ’round.
Meditation opens up our connection to all the parts of who we are. Even as we grow stronger, more grateful, less stressed, we also touch into areas of weakness, arrogance, ego. We transform our past pains by facing them directly. Understand how much of life has been spent protecting those soft spots, acting to deflect new hurt, or even attacking to push healing away. Embrace it all. Befriending who we are already with understanding and compassion is how we become something better. We don’t discard the old self, but meditation can help transform the past.
I like this variation of the Serenity Prayer we all know. Most of us know as a concept that we can’t change others, even as we find it difficult to remember. Beyond that, to accept others unconditionally can be a spiritual practice all in itself. Watch out for that judgy little voice inside, catch it, and know that the change has to be within you. Transforming that judgemental self to an accepting one may be just the change you need.
Use all three of these internal questions, not just one. Take a deep breath before you speak any time you think you might be helping. Being true doesn’t mean it should be said, and truth can be relative– my truth might not be your truth. Even if you think it’s necessary, take it one step further and imagine if it’s beneficial and needed to be heard. When you develop a keen sense of seeing others clearly, it’s important to practice the art of extending in a helpful way. As to the last one, make it kind. Sometimes we have difficult, hard to hear, personal truths that need to be said. Kindness can be received more easily than anger and meanness, so find a way to speak with a compassionate heart.
It was only recently, at the Chinese New Year, that we discussed the idea that changes are afoot in new endeavors and wild rides. Are you feeling it yet? I am… and it is easy to be frustrated and get caught off guard. I often don’t like it when things change without my initiative, but I do know that change can clear out what’s stagnant and bring in exciting new and better ideas. Things go much better when I remember to be agile, flexible, and centered in my strength. Bring it on… I’m ready to transform the old and embrace the new. Let me know what’s changing for you and how you are making it great.
Maybe it’s been too long since we talked about this? Many of you know that this is a bit of a pet peeve for me so I was so glad to see someone else agrees enough to post this. Our only purpose while we are human is to transcend our base nature in order to purify our hearts. Whatever you do, wherever you go, and whomever you see is an moment for you to fulfill your purpose. You don’t need some high-minded, lofty accomplishment to expand your heart. Look for those chances everywhere…
This one’s for me. I’m facing yet another birthday and the numbers are starting to mount up. It seems like a big, fat disconnect because I feel the same even as the mirror is showing me a new image. I am a better version of myself internally– so grateful for that– which allows for acceptance as physical changes appear. I need to hear this (it’s a present to me from Richard Gere) but I feel anyone can benefit from the message to be present at each and every age. My parents died young, so I know the truth of this privilege called aging.
I have always had this idea about growth and learning. Just as energy spirals up your spine as you connect to meditate, so too your learning happens in a spiraling pattern. Each time you come back to an issue, you are different because of all the experiences you’ve had as you traveled around the circle. Each spiral ascends to a great purification of self as you heal, as you become stronger, and as you detach. This is happening without any special attention by you, but it is a good idea to pay attention so you can make note of new understandings and greater depths of learning.
There are times when it is beneficial to catch a pattern that has been repeating in various forms throughout your life. Each new version of that challenge gives you another opportunity to learn the lesson. You catch yourself, see the pattern, and move through it in a different way. Lesson done– once learned there’s no reason for that to show up again. It’s better to move on to the many other things you are ready to learn. Be careful that you don’t hold on to the idea that this pattern will repeat your whole life. That’s just fear and fear can create things just so you learn to let go of the fear– another lesson learned.
When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal.
I see a living being.
I see a friend.
I see a soul.
This boy can show us how to greet each and every being we encounter: with joy, respect, and clarity of the soul. Animals can teach us compassion and patience and openness. Try to remember this image of sweetness as you go out into your day. Greet everyone and everything with this level of care.
A funny reminder that your perspective is so important. I love that both these guys are excited by their prospects, sure that they are facing exactly what they think they need. So someone out there is thinking: but they will both be disappointed, right? Even if their expectation isn’t exactly on, they are changing their situation. They have each other now– who knows what will happen with the positive attitude. Keep that positive perspective. No matter the angle, you can see what’s positive.
In the spirit of beginning the new lunar year of the Fire Monkey, let’s just address the fact that many of you will be shaking up parts of your life and your self. Shaking things up allows the old to drop away– it wasn’t working that well for you anyway– so that a more open, more compassionate, stronger and steadier you can emerge. I always think of the signs on roadsides during the years that we built the interstate system in this country: “Pardon our mess while we make improvements”. When the apple cart gets turned upside down it can feel messy but try to welcome the new construction.
Happy Chinese New Year ! Monday, February 8 begins the Year of the Fire Monkey. Please come to the meditation class that evening. We will try to take advantage of the special energies that are at work that day.
“A particularly auspicious time for new inventions, the Year of the Monkey is for taking risks and being rebellious, a year where agile, inventive minds, sheer guts and bravado will win out. Now is the time of courage, action, anarchy, and true devotion to even the wildest of schemes, a time to start new endeavors, for they are destined to succeed under Monkey’s influence. But a word to the wise: those who can hang on for the wild ride, outsmart the confidence-trickster, and bluff their way through will come out unscathed. Those who are dull or slow witted, and can’t handle the stress will come unglued.” (astrologyclub.org)
“Key words are: erratic, irrepressible, ingenious, clever, unpredictable, resourceful, adventurous, selfish, magical, quixotic, amoral. In other words, keep your wits about you because anything, absolutely anything, can happen. All manner of apple carts could be turned over in the most surprising ways. This will be a test of your ability to stay calm and unruffled in the face of relentless and unexpected challenges. But remember—on the other side of chaos is magic and transformation. Be brave and keep your sense of humor; never forget that there’s spiritual gold at the end of the tale.”
“How you handle the coming year is largely a matter of harmonizing your own nature with this Monkey qi. The Monkey King was famous for his secret powers and magical weapons, one of which was a staff that he could shrink to the size of needle and hide in his ear. My advice is to conjure your own secret powers, (yes you each have at least one,) and think of yourself as the hero of your own myth. What part do you play in this year’s adventure? What’s your strategy? How resourceful can you be? Learn to see magic everywhere.”(narryecaldwell.com)
What comes to mind for you when you first see this startling image? Is it hard to see? Life is indeed fleeting. We wake up in the aged body before we can think to savor the youth. To me, both these women possess extraordinary power. Life has given the older woman the power of wisdom and life has blessed the younger woman with grace to embrace life. If you grow your inner self, you can have strength at every stage of life.
Happy healing! The more fun and happiness you allow and embrace into your life, the more positive changes you will see in your attitude. As you know, your attitude is the only thing you can control, so focus on the fun, the laughter and the joy– you will find yourself becoming lighter and sunnier. Maybe you can say it is a form of “fake it until you make it”, but see if this approach can have a good effect.
Apparently this graphic is associated with some movie I am not familiar with or endorsing, but this phrase is one of my favorites. This esoteric mantra is found in many teachings throughout history, all over the globe. I first encountered it in numerology, but you can find this teaching in the Tarot, astrology and elsewhere.
What a powerful thing to understand and live with. What you connect to greater than yourself will manifest within you. What you cultivate within you can create your deepest self into your life. All aspects of your being are connected in a seamless union. Live your truth and be responsible for your thoughts, words, and deeds.
It’s the start of another new year and I find this graphic to be hopeful for anyone looking to make changes. We are constantly creating ourselves to be new. I’m also not sure why we feel a new beginning every year when the calendar turns. It’s another day, another sunrise and sunset, but we allow ourselves the sense of opportunity in waiting. I am feeling this myself and I want to grab the opening if I can. In order to create new magic, I will need to remind and rededicate myself each day in this direction. Let’s help each other realize our dreams this year…
As you get ready to start another new year, take this truth from Georgia O’Keefe as encouragement. If you really feel strongly about doing something, chances are you will feel some trepidation. We all do, it’s not just you. I am sending out this advice because it is important for me to remember as well. Take that terror and use it as fuel to get you going on that next step, that next endeavor, or wherever your heart leads. New beginnings in the new year are the the perfect time to reinvigorate those efforts that will feed your soul– go for it in 2016!
As believers, we also feel close to those who do not consider themselves part of any religious tradition, yet sincerely seek the truth, goodness and beauty which we believe have their highest expression and source in God. We consider them as precious allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building peaceful coexistence between peoples and in protecting creation. A special place of encounter is offered… where believers and non-believers are able to engage in dialogue about fundamental issues of ethics, art and science, and about the search for transcendence. This too is a path to peace in our troubled world. – Pope Francis
Here is a prayerful image with a ecumenical message from Pope Francis. I wish for you to enjoy a holiday season filled with internal peace, harmony with loved ones, and gratitude for all of your blessings.
Ironic, isn’t it? God may not be as invisible as we think. Just look, feel and sense Nature, and God can become tangible. Even those who are skeptical and agnostic can admit there is some greater good at work in the midst of our natural environment. Even if it is winter, it is a season for the sacred. Remember that the sacred is all around you: in those you love and in this place you reside.
Here is a essay from TEDFellows that addresses a thought that keeps persisting for me. It is long but I wouldn’t ask you to read it if I didn’t think it clearly, and thoughtfully, explains the issue. We have so many instances of tragedy from violence, natural disasters and hate. As people with spiritual beliefs, we like the idea that prayer can help. You will feel better, but is that enough? It is also our spiritual responsibility to follow up with action, action as you are able without accessing the size or impact. This essay explains why action is important, action in the form of continued, and constant, kindness. At this time of year, we focus on kindness, but make it year round, everyday, and help it spread. https://medium.com/ted-fellows/prayforeverything-or-what-to-do-when-nothing-makes-sense-5243b9689ca5#.fvw4cz1ty
As we enter the last month of the year, you may be reassessing how this year has gone and what might be coming up next year. This is an accurate description of my own experience. Planning/ dreaming/expecting has a place but try not to be attached to those plans. Often life has its own twists and turns– unexpected, unpredictable, maybe even undesirable– that send us in new directions. Embrace these surprises as they arise. I think you’ll be glad you did.
This is just a sweet message for the week of Thanksgiving. Of course, whenever we see into anyone’s eyes, we connect to the soul, but somehow this tender image melts my heart. Elephants have shown us how smart, sensitive and emotional they are. Finding ways to love your own animals and the animals of the earth opens your heart and expands your soul. Have a grateful day of Thanks-giving; enjoy loved ones; and share good food.
We are approaching the season for acts of kindness. Too often it’s the big sweeping gestures that get our attention, but we do know that what Gandalf says is true. Find your own ways to be one of those everyday folk keeping darkness at bay. Be sure also to notice the kind acts directed your way. We should be sure to watch for the helping hands in the midst of great tragedy. In the wake of turmoil, look for the goodness between people and let that stand out for you.
Spiritual lessons are a series of paradoxes. Each one of us is unique, and special, but only as much as we hold ourselves in that way. Celebrate what makes you incomparable even as you know that life is dealt to each one of us uniquely, some more harshly than others. It is your attitude that gets you through any challenge. Your own path in life is yours, and yours alone, to navigate on your own. Even as that sounds so alone and isolated, remember that you are connected to all of humanity in your very humanness: the emotions, the physicality, and the ability for spiritual connection. And…each day take the joy that this boy and his dog have with you as you go.
This poor mountain gorilla, who lives in the Virunga National Park located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, recently lost his mother to some poachers. It is clear in this picture that he is in dismay as he mourns his loss. Park ranger Patrick Karabaranga does what any friend would do and comforts the gorilla in the photograph taken July of 2012. The mountain gorilla holds on to Patrick for support.
Photographer Phil Moore shows us a glimpse into that kind of tender moment.
This photograph is so touching to me as a demonstration that we can comfort each other with the simplicity of a kind heart and a sweet embrace. No words needed. When you think you have nothing to offer in someone’s time of need, remember that your presence alone soothes one heart to another.
I don’t know who Jackson Kiddard is but he is quoted on several blogs I follow. This time he says it very clearly. As you go through life, you are bound to be effected in these ways. Your job is to take a step back, take a breath, and ask yourself what you can learn as a result. Sometimes being annoyed, angry, afraid, or uncomfortable is just the clue you need to take you to the source of those feelings. Ultimately, you transform those emotions but first you unravel the story to the beginning of the discomfort. It can take time, but don’t worry because those feelings will keep coming up again and again until you find the learning.
Just for fun: what three words did you see right away? Mine were Love, Intelligence, and Experience. Does this say anything about you? Does it indicate anything about your unconscious mind? Probably not, but in a way, it’s fun to think it might. This fun can be like those times we find wisdom in instantaneous readings, wisdom that comes without any filter through our rational brain. Let me know if your three words resonate with you as a person or with your current condition?
Just this past week, I watched an amazing movie: HUMAN, the movie. Yann Arthus-Berthand who created Earth from Above, a book of astounding photographic images, has again blown my mind. It is a film shown in three parts, each of 1.5 hours length, that can be viewed for free on youtube. The film alternates between mesmerizing footage of earth from above with humans and footage of high resolution head shots of people speaking for short stints. Issues ranging from Love to Poverty to Abuse to Violence are explored. You may feel a multitude of emotional reactions, but I doubt you can come away without noticing the profound ease of your life. Being Human is complicated and difficult. If you can take the time to watch, I promise it will be worth the effort. Here is a link the Part I: https://youtu.be/vdb4XGVTHkE
This heartfelt prayer resonates with me. I pray for assistance from spirit for any support that I may need and each day there is new opportunity for growth. I am cautious about being too specific in my prayers. I have a small view what may be needed. I feel there is a larger presence that has a greater knowing of how to help. Turn your self over to the assistance that’s available to you. Trust that the support is with you and you will see that is.
Life is breathtakingly beautiful– all of it. When you can view the difficulties the same way you view the awesome, then you are living a spiritually inspired life. We all know it’s hard to see beyond the awful when you are immersed in it. As you shed light on your patterns of learning, it becomes easier to understand the challenges, and even at times to predict them. All of life is extraordinary– be amazed even when it’s awful or mundane. You’ll enjoy the ride a bit better…
The average student hears of the Tao
and gives it thought now and again.
The foolish student hears of the Tao
and laughs aloud.
If there were no laughter,
the Tao would not be what it is.
Tao Te Ching
It’s all the Tao. Each of those students is being who they are and doing what they choose. Not everyone will decide to live their life connected in a spiritual way, but everyone is dealing with exactly what life has given them in the only way they can. Taoism is a paradox because it is nothing, really nothing, just as it encompasses everything. We are all foolish and wise, and mostly average, and we all laugh because laughter is so important to life. Find your own path, follow it in the best way you know, and then you are the wise student.
Pronoia is a new word for me. All that vocab study years ago and this word never came up. I’m excited to start using this word, but even better, I want to be living this concept. We know how powerful belief can be. Believe in this and you will see evidence of support everywhere. Even in tough times, spirit is doing everything to support your process. Don’t forget it–
With everything that has happened to you, you can feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose. -Wayne Dyer
Be miserable or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice. -Wayne Dyer
When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace. -Wayne Dyer
Everything is perfect in the universe- even your desire to improve it. -Wayne Dyer
Wayne Dyer died late Saturday this past weekend. I want to make note of his life because I feel he helped many millions of people with his advice. His attitude was always positive and his message was consistently one of self responsibility. I never saw anything written or spoken from him that didn’t resonate with me in an uplifting way. He will be missed as a voice for change of the self. Go ahead, take his advice and put it to good use.
A persistent trap all along the path is pride in one’s spiritual purity. It’s a form of one-upmanship in which you judge others out of a feeling or superiority. This ultimately limits your spiritual awakening. You can see many people who are caught in this trap of virtue – for example, in the self-righteousness of some church goers. In the yoga scene in America there are many groups of people who dress in a certain way, eat in a certain way, are special in some way that gives them an ego-enhancing feeling of purity.
The harmful effect of this trap is not so much to one’s social relationships – though they may become strained from this display of subtle arrogance – but rather the effect on oneself. This feeling of specialness or superiority inflates the ego and feeds it with pride. The best antidote to pride is humility, which leads to compassion. The sooner one develops compassion in this journey, the better. Compassion lets us appreciate that each individual is doing what he or she must do, and that there is no reason to judge another person or oneself. Merely do what you can to further your own awakening. -ram dass
Once again, Ram Dass has said it so much better than I could. This trap of pride can be persistent in other areas of our lives as well: superiority in our work, in our children, in our travel, and on and on. Look to see where you forgot your humility and where you tend to judge yourself as better than others to feel okay. The ego will definitely limit your growth. Try to catch yourself in moments of judging and turn it into compassion.
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”
Remember to put the glass down.
How much water have you put in that glass you’re holding? Enough said– just put it down.
You all know this, and you have probably seen this passage from a speech by Chief Seattle. We can’t be reminded too often. Just as all things in life are intertwined, so too are all things within your own life interconnected. You and all that is within you are but a microcosm of the whole. Whatever you perceive in your life as separate from the rest, look again, and discover the connections that tie them together. And then remember that what you do to heal yourself can change your environment.
In general, I dislike platitudes that make it all sound so simple, especially about parts of life that aren’t so easy to put into practice. When you are stuck on something from your past, it’s so hard to put it away. Likewise, when some future looms, that fear isn’t easy to calm. Even when you know that regret and anxiety don’t change anything, it’s hard to keep yourself in the present and close to your strength. Try some grateful joy. Turn a switch manually in your mind to find some tiny something to appreciate. This kind of faking it often really helps to make it. Real grateful joy can be a surge from within that may be an overwhelming feeling. You can start with some small thought, let it grow, and see if it helps with those regrets and anxieties.
Does one really have to fret
No matter what road I travel,
I’m going home.
Imagine Lindbergh flying from New York to Paris with only his little periscope sticking out of the Spirit of St. Louis to guide him. He can calculate his position from the stars, but all he sees is that there’s a lot of ocean below. He doesn’t really know whether he’s miscalculated or not until he arrives. He’s going on the faith that he’s getting there and that it will all work out. That’s what the spiritual journey is like. You need discipline to persist when the going gets rough or uncertain, faith to stick it out – to the end. –Ram Dass
This is so important. Finding the right practice to suit you is so important. There are so many methods available and they all lead to the same place. Those that look strange to you may work well for someone else. Experiment and find a technique that feels comfortable given your strengths and personality. Having the faith in your choice and its process helps it all work better. Once you can make a commitment, stick with it– and that’s the real key that opens the doors. The deeper work of any path can only reveal itself with the time shown by your dedication. If you’re ready for that deep, inner growth, stay the course and have faith.
“When I am not present to myself,
then I am only aware of that half of me,
that mode of my being which turns outward to created things.
And then it is possible for me to lose myself among them.
Then I no longer feel the deep secret pull
of the gravitation of love which draws my inward self toward God.
My will and my intelligence lose their command of the other faculties. My senses, my imagination, my emotions,
scatter to pursue their various quarries all over the face of the earth.
Recollection brings them home.
It brings the outward self into line with the inward spirit,
and makes my whole being answer the deep pull of love
that reaches down into the mystery of God.”
—Thomas Merton from “No Man is an Island,”
Our practice emphasizes the balance between the heart and the head. We grow our spiritual selves as we stay practical in our lives. We walk the middle road that creates harmony in all we do. If you find yourself out of balance– too little meditation or too much retreating from worldly pursuits– then bring yourself back to your self. Find that balance where all aspects of your life are sacred and spirit is present in all that you do.
“Slow ripening and rapid flowering alternate. One is not superior to the other. Be not concerned with pace, be concerned with depth.” ~Wu Hsin
Some of you go through changes at a rapid fire pace and some of you find yourself with steady, incremental changes. Actually, all of you experience both, but given your personality, you have a preference. When your growth is moving swiftly, it can be challenging but exciting, and when you are integrating new ways of being, it can seem stagnant or boring. Appreciate all the ways your process is unfolding. Remember to notice the distance you’ve traveled and how much life has changed.
It is so plain
and so obvious
and so simple.
everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” ☆Alan Watts☆
Just be alive. Live with exuberance. Make sure it’s fun. Pay attention to what seems insignificant and find pleasure in it all. We are meant to enjoy life, and when we do we spread that joy. It’s the best gift of the day, and ironically, thus becomes it something beyond yourself.
This could be you. Is it? I realize that the trappings of life change over time such that the new becomes the norm, but too much looking down keeps you from looking up and out. Your life in technology is lived as an observer. This is a reminder to create your life directly, no filters of pics, posts, or tweets. Take a break that allows you to reconnect with yourself and reset your view. I’m sure you’re having a pretty great life.
What are you not seeing? Have you taken a good look lately? Can you be really honest? Seeing our selves clearly is so hard, and often what needs to be seen is painful. Avoiding the truth leads to more pain and more complications. Our meditation practice can help– as our energies shift, deeply held emotions, beliefs, or past traumas can surface for us to shed light and transform. We can support each other in this process and help get our heads out of the sand. Don’t forget how important the group meditations can be.
It’s been a while since I sent you a monk story. Here’s something I love:
The emperor of China asked a renowned Buddhist master if it would be possible to illustrate the nature of self in a visible way. In response, the master had a sixteen-sided room appointed with floor-to-ceiling mirrors that faced one another exactly. In the center he hung a candle aflame. When the emperor entered he could see the individual candle flame in thousands of forms, each of the mirrors extending it far into the distance. Then the master replaced the candle with a small crystal. The emperor could see the small crystal reflected again in every direction. When the master pointed closely at the crystal, the emperor could see the whole room of thousands of crystals reflected in each tiny facet of the crystal in the center. The master showed how the smallest particle contains the whole universe.
True emptiness is not empty, but contains all things. The mysterious and pregnant void creates and reflects all possibilities. From it arises our individuality, which can be discovered and developed, although never possessed or fixed. The self is held in no-self, as the candle flame is held in great emptiness. ~Jack Kornfield
I have hesitated to share this before because I’m skeptical about whether this is really a direct quote. I searched for it elsewhere and couldn’t find it. But… no matter, it is a beautiful enough sentiment to pass along. It’s a perfect reminder of the essence of our spiritual philosophy: the most important thing is to be a good person. It sounds so easy, but it is so hard. Ultimately, it has nothing to do with religion or with any particular belief. It is to act from the heart, it is to live simply, and it is to be aligned with some form of higher good.
Those of you with a dog, or maybe a sociable cat, really have this experience. I remember that my dog Pete always started the day with his tail wagging. He assumed that the day ahead would be full of fun and grand adventures. Why not? Whenever we come home, our dogs are always waiting, eager to start the fun. Life can be just so simple. Let’s learn from the dogs.
Got chaos in your life? Experiencing tons of doubts and uncertainty? I was looking for something this week to express that feeling when you know something is changing, but how and in what way just isn’t clear. Are you old enough to remember those US DOT signs on the highways saying “Pardon our mess while we make improvements.”? Same principle at work: often the first step to creating new is to dismantle the old. Hang on and keep up your practice and wait to see what develops.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” Antione de Saint Exupery
Just thinking about this little girl makes me smile. I hope it makes your day. We should all have such clear, pure hearts such that all the animals can come to tea.
I don’t think I’ve sent you this quote before but it sure seems like I could have. This is something we discuss often and I think is central to our practice. It takes a greater awareness developed by cultivation to be able to notice when a small gesture will have an effect, but even as you are growing, don’t forget to extend yourself to others. Small acts have power.
Oh, don’t you feel for Kermit? I had to laugh and love this for the many layers of truth. First of all, so many of you can relate to this. Finding out what’s really inside will surprise you as it changes you. Are you really sure you want to know? Often not, but getting to the truth always leads to improvement. Then, if we start thinking about the puppet hand we may really shy away from knowing. How many of you feel as if fate or karma or whatever is moving you like a puppeteer? Free will is big discussion with many angles and many opinions, none of which any of us know for sure. So… just laugh and enjoy this good joke…
And.. you will even sometimes appear crazy to yourself. I think the important ancillary to this is that the more you know/learn, the less you realize you know. So you will get crazy and stupid, and feel amazing, grateful, and humbled in the process. But you can realize that you don’t actually need to know, or even that there are no explanations, and it’s totally okay to appear to others however they want to see you.
This is for those of you who are feeling tested. If you’re not there now, you probably have been or surely will be. In those times of trial, you may wonder at first why this experience would be for me. As it goes on, or even drags out, the perfection for all aspects of this uniquely designed set of circumstances becomes clear. It’s important to remember that your Teacher is always there; it’s you who can get lost, can feel separate, or can need some spiritual reassurance. We maintain our daily practice and we come to group sessions so that we have a strong foundation for those times when we need it. I hope my studio is a good place for support, encouragement and guidance.
I missed it again. So sorry to point out these significant eclipses after they occur. This is the third one in a 2014-2015 tetrad. Here in Atlanta, we had a partial view for about 6 hours but since our max occurred at 7:20 am, perhaps you had the chance to see it. The reason I want to point this out even after the fact is the association of these lunar eclipses with the energy of change. So many of you are experiencing noticeable change, often both as life events as well as as internal shifts. I’d like to think there may be a solar/lunar explanation, but I suspect it has more to do with your own efforts. Making that commitment to your self to grow strong and grow more aware will pay dividends, maybe even on the days of lunar eclipses. If nothing else, a lunar eclipse is magical and reminds us of the power of nature.
It is so important to share your struggles and your healing with other people. Being alone can be the greatest suffering there is. Not only are there people who have faced your same struggles, but there are people uniquely qualified to help with the healing. We are here to help each other. Say “me too” when you recognize your pain in another person, for that is compassionate. Compassion is healing as you extend it and healing as you receive it.
Read this sweet passage from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams as an explanation of your spiritual path, which is an easy interpretation of the story. We all are seeking to become our “real” selves through the experience of love. Remember that coming to your real self does take a long time. It isn’t for those of you who are inflexible, those of you who are vain, or anyone who isn’t strong. Once you can own your truth, the opinions of others, on any subject, just doesn’t effect you.
In memory of the great Albert Einstein, born March 14, 1879: “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and …to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein
I missed it, but I didn’t want it to go unnoticed. I never knew that Einstein was born on Pi Day. Pi day honors the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, otherwise known as the mathematical constant π (3.14). It always falls on 3/14, and this year it was more incredibly 3/14/15, which is the ratio’s number with its first four digits after the decimal (3.1415). Obviously, this can happen only once a century. I find it amazing that the greatest scientific mind had a birth date so perfect. These are just two of the inspiring and pithy quotes attributed to him. Let’s be grateful for his birth, and remember to celebrate him every Pi Day.
Ever been confused about which is which? Is the yang black or white? What’s the extra dot mean? The Yin-Yang symbol such a elegant, graphic icon. It appeals to me as a balanced, symmetrical image simply encapsulating tons of meaning. So much of what we are learning and experiencing comes from this philosophy, so it’s well worth the four minutes of your time to check this out. The link takes you to a short TED lesson
Maybe I don’t look this old yet? I still feel strong, but I know I have seen a shocking number of years and now have the luxury of hindsight. The best gift your meditation practice might give to you is the wisdom from this woman. The stuff of life you are chasing is insignificant; instead what matters is the good person you are growing and sharing with others. Be willing to take the risks that frighten you the most and know what you do, say, feel, and think matters. Be willing to be unique. Be willing to open your heart.
The true saint goes in and out amongst the people and eats and sleeps with them and buys and sells in the market and marries and takes part in social intercourse, and never forgets God for a single moment. – Abu Sa’id ibn Abi l-Tkayr
If you feel free only when you meditate, you’re not really free. Freedom does not come from turning your back on your responsibilities. The game is to be in the world but not of it. Even when you find yourself feeling spaced out, disoriented, or untogether, you can make an extra effort to meet the needs of the moment, whether it’s the baby’s diapers that need changing or your income tax that is due. Don’t make meditation a cop-out from life. –Ram Dass
Our path also stresses walking the “middle way”. We do not renounce the world but instead find ways to be of service as we live in the world. If you think about it, it might be easier to wear robes that announce you as a spiritual person and live away from the world of paychecks and traffic. We stay grounded and hold our spiritual cultivation in a silent, unseen way. No one needs to know where the help came from or how it arrived, but we provide others with that healing force as we go through life.
Year of the Wood Goat (Sheep/Ram)
Good news! The Year of the Sheep is just what the doctor ordered. It’s time to assume a more relaxed pace, take care of number one, and even pamper yourself a bit! Three things you need to know about the Sheep. One, it’s a member of the kindest and gentlest group of signs in Chinese Astrology. Two, it’s sensitive and emotional. Three, it’s a lover of beauty and the arts. Now, three things you need to know about Wood. It’s a gentle element … to a degree, especially when it comes to caring. Compromise is also a Wood characteristic, as is creativity — Wood certainly appreciates the arts. Finally, consider the roots of a tree as they are anchored in and connected to the earth. Family and community are crucial this year. For you personally this year, it’s about the things money can’t buy: love, friends, family. Doing good, beauty, creativity. All those intangible things that make life worth living. Put all those feelings to good use by showering love and appreciation upon others. Recognize all the beauty in your world. You don’t necessarily have to sign up for an art appreciation course, but it’s easy to visit a museum or gallery. Create some beauty yourself — even if it’s just some simple home decorating. Have a spectacular year ahead! — astrology.com
Happy New Year!– again. Tomorrow, February 19 is the first day of the Chinese New Year. It’s a new moon. Try to find time to meditate on this day as it is a strong day for cultivation. It seems we can all look forward to a less tumultuous, more relaxed year to come. As always, make the best of what you have and what you are facing.
The mind has been accumulating thoughts and desires for ages—through the different bodies in which you have taken birth. All these emotions are buried deep within. What you see or experience on the surface of the mind is only a small portion of the hidden layers dormant within. When you try to make the mind still through meditation, these thoughts will slowly come to the surface. It is like trying to clean a floor that has been lying unwashed for a long time. Now, when we begin the process, the more we wash, the more dirt comes to the surface because the floor has been collecting dirt for years.
“Likewise the mind—previously, we never paid any attention to the various thoughts that streamed through our mind. Like the dirty floor, the mind has been gathering thoughts, desires and emotions for a very long time. We are only aware of the superficial ones. However, beneath the surface, there are countless layers of thoughts and emotions. Just as more dirt comes to the surface in the process of cleaning the floor, the more thoughts become evident as our meditation gets deeper. Keep cleaning and they will disappear.
In fact, it is good if they show up. Because once you see them and recognize them, it is easier to remove them. Don’t lose patience. Be persistent and keep performing your spiritual practices. In due course, you will gain the strength to surpass them.” –Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi)
If you aren’t aware of Amma, look up this famous Indian saint. She is best known as the hugging saint because she will hug tens of thousands of devotees in a day. I was amazed to see this passage from her because it so closely echoes exactly how we see our own meditation practice working as a healing process for us. The more dirt gets cleaned, the deeper and more solid your meditation will become. Everyone who stays dedicated to the process will find that– each one in their own time and in their own way.
Have you discovered this thing called ‘Doesn’t Matter’? If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. After so many years of life, after spending much effort looking for what does matter, I can honestly say that I believe very little of the “stuff” of life matters at all. What does matter is the only thing you will take with you when you leave: how much you grew your self spiritually. Paying attention to the practices that increase your awareness does matter. Constantly coming back to your truest self so that you can act from your heart does matter. Take pleasure and find beauty in the stuff of life to remind yourself of those other forces at work, and then know that it “Doesn’t Matter”.
We talk about this idea constantly in our groups. We think of this concept as universal and an age-old knowledge, and still, yet, I am startled by the idea that Gandhi spoke of it. We can all imagine the ways that he witnessed those miraculous results. Can you notice the flow within you, or can you notice the ways you resist it? Let me know your latest moment of amazement of the forces at work in your life that could only be described as divinely orchestrated.
Look at that wry smile and the twinkle in his eye. Can’t you imagine him delivering this zinger while maintaining that constant chuckle? Whenever you think it’s something someone did or said “causing” your shortcoming, stop yourself quick. Come back to yourself, get honest, and find that place within yourself that needs attention. The more quickly you can bring that awareness internally within yourself, the easier it becomes to let go of any worry about others. Work on yourself– forget about fixing anyone else.
We all become attached to what is familiar. Even the familiar that is unstable, or perhaps destructive, is still what’s known to us. When life is shifting it can feel as if the very ground beneath us is moving like an earthquake. It’s hard to get balanced and hard to get ready for what’s coming. New and different isn’t comfortable because it’s unknown. This advice from Rumi reminds you to welcome the flip side you’re changing to, even as it feels strange. If you have set out on a path of discovery, only to find life getting upended, then be reassured that improvements are coming with the unknown.
Let’s start the new year with a reminder that all spiritual paths lead to the same destination. Finding the one that speaks to your heart is the first step to making a life long connection. If you can, stay with what works. For people who dabble in many teachings, they might only be shown what that path can offer on the surface. Making a deeper commitment to show up for learning regularly allows the depths of that path to be revealed.
The same is true with our path. There is a reason you come to meditate with the group and in a space dedicated for that purpose. That energy can’t be available at home. It’s a reinforcement for your practice and a renewed commitment to your self. Plus I love to see you and feel honored to encourage you as grow.
I think this is an appropriate message for Christmas Eve. This is a wonderful time of year to reconnect with your spirituality. Our Teacher has always emphasized that our most important task is to be a good person. Sounds so simple, but not easy. It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person. Learn self-knowledge and keep love as the center of your being– and have a wonderful holiday season!
I think you may know all this advice, or certainly have heard it all before. It’s nice to see these all together. Take it in now, so you won’t be saying “I wish I knew this sooner”. As we approach a new year, see how many you can put in practice in your life. I particularly recommend the one about liking your flaws and admitting your mistakes because the truth will set you free.
Most people seek out their spiritual practice for help when life gets rough. They have found solace there before and want some help there again, just like comfort food. It’s ironic but the best time to dedicate yourself to meditation and spirituality is when life is going smoothly. Good times are when you can strengthen yourself and solidify your meditation to be helpful in those times when you need it. Trying to catch up in the midst of turmoil is so much harder– these are times when some people have a tough time sitting. Just remember that you don’t have to have problems for life to improve. Your spiritual practice of meditation can give you comfort at all times.
If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another. If you wish to know that you are safe, cause another to know that they are safe. If you wish to better understand seemingly incomprehensible things, help another to better understand. If you wish to heal your own sadness or anger, seek to heal the sadness or anger of another. ~ Dalai Lama
In this season of giving, this is a sweet reminder. Going beyond your small selves to extend what you can to others brings you to a better place within yourself. Reaching out to heal others provides the best healing for what you need. Not just in this season, but throughout the year, look for ways to provide peace for another.
It seems appropriate to look to our Native Americans for wisdom on this holiday. I love a day for gratitude. For many, that overwhelming sense of gratitude is the first harbinger that you are changing internally, and that vision, strength and peace are growing within you. Nurture gratitude in your life this weekend. Find inspiration in this wisdom from those who loved this land before our ancestors knew its abundance.
Let this be you. As you grow in your spiritual cultivation, you become more aware. It’s important that you know you are changing, but it’s not important for others to see it. In fact, it may be best if they do underestimate you. Once you know you have the ability to know, think and notice, then you can be confident you will have what you need when it’s appropriate. Until then, be the person others underestimate.
Another amazing quote from Meher Baba via Ram Dass, two revered spiritual teachers– make their acquaintance.
As we learn in our group meditations, energy speaks with energy. Our personal energies can work with someone else in ways our minds wouldn’t imagine. The energy communication is much wiser and more potent. Those energies can be called “L O V E”, and we can spread our goodness wherever we go in life and to whomever we touch. Just hold sweetness, openness, and compassion in your heart and then notice as transformation unfolds.
“Furthermore, we have not even to risk the journey alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” ―Joseph Campbell
You may not have realized when you began that commitment to your self to sit quietly and grow internally, that you unleashed a journey that Joseph Campbell best describes as the hero’s journey. The story has been told and retold throughout history as it has always resonated with humanity.
Your story has all the classic elements but is unique to you. At some point, as you journey forth, you will encounter those moments that require bravery beyond what you feel you are capable to face. That’s when I get excited for you– you feel only darkness, but if you can summon the courage you are about to access parts of yourself left behind, truths you have kept hidden, and emerge strong and whole.
“It is said that the Buddha once gave a sermon without saying a word: he merely held up a flower to his listeners. This was the famous “Flower Sermon,” a sermon in the language of patterns, the silent language of flowers.” -Gyorgy Doczi
How amazing that there is a golden section, a proportion, that dominates much of our natural world, as well as our sensibility of beauty and harmony. I am constantly taken aback by this tangible evidence of the relatedness of all things. The commonality of these proportions is evidence of the truths that can be available to us in all forms of life. Personally, these ideas continue to touch me– is there really some higher order to the random and chaotic?
Had thoughts lately? If you get frustrated occasionally by persistent thoughts, you are not alone.
You can go to the ashram, sit in your dhoti (or maybe your underwear), get into position, but if your thoughts follow you then it only looks good on the outside. I wish this photo had the thoughts over the head of the holy looking man and the amateur looking westerner was in the zone. I think that would more realistically express that everyone, at every stage, can be plagued with thoughts. Just keep going. Just keep coming back and starting again to connect and surrender. Deep meditation is available to everyone, so just stay with your practice.
I know many of you are beginning to discern which people in your life are beneficial and supportive and which ones drag you down. It’s good to simplify and leave behind some of the complications, but it’s also good to appreciate the learning.
When you come to meditation group sessions, you are learning from others in the room, whether you can see what worked well or whether you can see pitfalls and difficulties.
There is learning available from everyone. If you can be open to realizing a truth from anyone, you will be surprised where it appears.
As I understand it, this full blood red moon eclipse is worldwide. As you read this, it may have just happened, but it signals a strong influence on the planet in general. There will also be a solar eclipse coming up on October 23. Getting to have these two events so closely packed together is neither a good or a bad omen, but it can be a supercharged time of energy shifts. It is a good time to focus attention on your self: what needs attention? what might be ready to crack open? what is showing itself to you at this moment? No need to create anything new in your life, but instead just follow where insights may lead you.
Learn the art of taking your stand on the Truth within. When you live in this Truth, the result is the fusion of the mind and the heart and the end of all fears and sorrow. It is not a dry attainment of mere power or intellectual knowledge. A love which is illuminated by the intuitive wisdom of the spirit will bless your life with ever-renewing fulfillment and never-ending sweetness. – Meher Baba, Life at its Best
This is the essence of our spiritual practice. Very little more for me to add. I stress this in our meditation sessions each week. Even if you have heard this for years, don’t be deceived by such a sweet, simple message– it is powerful beyond your imagination. Trust the process of learning to see with your heart, and awaken to the truth that is yours.
No one gets through life without being challenged. It’s the best way to grow and change. In general, storms do pass, even as you worry this will never end. In the midst of a storm, it’s understandable that you are only looking to get through it. If you can bring the perspective of learning to the experience, you may sometimes find some peace even as the storm rages. Afterwards, it’s critical to look back to take in all that you learned– make yourself aware of how you are stronger, more compassionate, more willing, more whatever. Even in moments of stress and worry, I try to give thanks– and then to also give thanks when things are going smoothly. Opportunities to grow are everywhere, all the time. If you pay attention to what you are gaining, you may calm some of the windiest storms.
So often we hear in Buddhism about the idea that the only constant in life is change. My adaptation of that is that if you don’t like this, just wait a minute. Don’t get used to the same old in life, whether you like your situation or not– things change, best to get used to that. From Darwin we learned that only the strong survive, and now it turns out the strongest are the ones who are most adaptable. If challenges arrive, be willing to morph and embrace a new you as it emerges. I see people around me who have gotten stuck as they have aged. Rigidity sets in. No one expects that to happen to them, but has it already happened to you? Take a look, maybe you could begin to update your self.
We can learn so much from nature. All life holds some form of energy, ours no more special, just different. Cultivating our sensitivity to what surrounds us in nature elevates our spirit and teaches us to appreciate our own evolving energies. An amazing group of meditators came together this past weekend in the mountains for a wondrous experience of exploring this aspect of our learning. Hopefully, such a time away to go deeper can inspire your practice. I hope these people can take away more understanding of what they sense around them and how to expand their awareness. Take time to enjoy nature wherever and whenever you can. Tell me if you’d like to join in the fun of the next weekend retreat.
“Constantly I think of the Universe as one living creature, embracing one being and one soul; how all is absorbed into the one consciousness of this living creature; how it encompasses all things with a single purpose, and how all things work together to cause all that comes to pass, with their wonderful web and texture. ~ Marcus Aurelius, (121 AD – 180 AD) ~ Roman emperor, author of Meditations
How beautiful a sentiment from early in the last millennium. What we discover today for our own increasing awareness has been known and spoken throughout the ages. It can feel as if today mankind is facing such overwhelming challenges, but the challenges facing each human being have been common forever. This can be a reminder that you, individually, matter to the whole, so take care of the self that you have dominion over even as you awaken to the magnitude of the whole universe.
Such a simple cartoon, and yet it feels personal to me. As I have gotten to a place where I can now have a backward looking perspective, I see that I chose that big ole carrot still waiting to be picked. When we first set out in life to achieve our goals we are looking to make something big happen. We chase after that bigger job, bigger salary, more beautiful partner, more recognition, whatever we have decided that the world, and our own ego, will judge us by and deem us successful. But the true success is the one you achieve over your self. Chances are success is happiness– and that takes having a greater understanding of your internal growth. Others may not see it, but you will know the rewards.
Thich Nhat Hanh is famous for teaching this practice all over the world. My daughter once sat next to him as he performed a mindful tea ceremony at his monastery in southern France, Plum Village- an experience she will always treasure. Sitting in meditation is where you start when you are looking to change, to grow, and to understand. Watching your every thought, deed, and action is how you advance your cultivation and how you purify your energies. Even on days or in moments when you don’t meditate, you can still be aware of all that you are and to all that surrounds you. It matters. I promise.
What does it mean to live a spiritual life? I hope you can take inspiration in this story of the Forest Man. I can’t imagine a better example of patience, dedication, and compassion shown over the course of a man’s life. He is no guru, he wears no robes, nor does he heal the sick, but he has spent his life since the 1970’s working to save his little corner of northwest India, by planting a forest larger than Central Park on his own, tree by tree. How many among us can stay so steadfast that we have the willingness to see small steps take time to grow into bigger results? – “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” Lao Tzu. This link will take you to a short film. Take the 15 minutes to see the story of this simple man whose life is truly spiritual in his connection to nature and his commitment to what he believes: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/07/forest-man/
How many symptoms do you experience? I can say that most of you can point to more than a few, depending on how long you have traveled this path. Cultivation happens as a continuum, so some of these will come, and then seem elusive. Don’t worry (it’s #7)– just keep making that commitment to stay with your practice to rededicate yourself constantly. It’s nice to see this as a list, if only to make concrete those benefits we hope and imagine are possible. Others have walked this way before…
If I’m not appreciated, that’s your problem that you don’t appreciate me. Unless I need your love, then it’s my problem. So my needs are what are giving you the power over me.
If somebody is a problem for you, it’s not that they should change, it’s that you need to change. If they’re a problem for themselves that’s their karma, if they’re causing you trouble that’s your problem on yourself. –Ram Dass
Accept others where they are, and just who they are. You can hope they will grow, but never expect it– only focus on your own growth.
We make a commitment to a spiritual journey so we can grow to be fully content with who we are. Once there, we emanate a presence into life that is unafraid to love and extend fully to others. Thus harmony is achieved because we accept the other person and have no need to change or prove anything. Look at your relationships– how can you bring better harmony and peace to all your relationships?
Been down the rabbit hole lately? Thinking of a trip to Oz? Seems odd, but once you understand that this “reality” is but a tiny part of consciousness, then all sorts of magic may appear. Albert Einstein said, “Man must be able to develop a higher form of thought if he’s ever going to be able to use his energy with wisdom.” Meditation is one path to connect to that higher version of your self. This path of meditation will bring the benefits of heightened sensitivity and an understanding of how reality is only relative. Until you experience this magic, it just sounds like verbiage. Make a commitment each day to meditate and be patient because in time, you’ll definitely see some weird shit.
This is an important quote to me personally. There was a time, a long time, on my own journey when I heard this phrase internally for months on end, and reoccurring again months later. This may be my own personal mantra.
We often talk about learning to love yourself, truly unconditionally and with compassion. The opening of the heart is a powerful process and the most important part of your spiritual journey. An open heart has open access to the divine. Let your heart crack open with love. Loving others brings us closer to God and closer to loving our self. If you know this feeling of love that is sacred, remember that it is a beautiful power you can bring to each day and each breath.
It is much easier to continue on in life with the familiar. Even as it is painful and uncomfortable, it is known. If you are someone who is embarking on that journey of the self — improvement, discovery, awakening — just remember how brave you are. Jumping out in the unknown is scary and takes real courage. Chances are there is no visible net to catch you, and yet you jump anyway. Having the courage to live in trust and faith is the magic of transformation. Continue to be brave each day as you embrace all that is y o u.
“The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyranny of the dull mind forever threatens — but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end it’s love alone that really matters.” -Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume)
Isn’t it amazing?– those moments when we can pull back the veil and cast our light on the illusions of this world that seem to hold us to our limits. What we call “awake” is an understanding that reality can be different, what we see can be other than what seems to be, and that there is much more to this situation that we ever thought possible. Bring a new awareness to the challenges in life: be open to love and always speak the truth.
This is long, but well worth taking the time. It’s a great description of how life works to teach us perfect lessons in every breath:
The universe is made up of experiences that are designed to burn out our reactivity, which is our attachment, our clinging, to pain, to pleasure, to fear, to all of it. And as long as there are places where we’re vulnerable, the universe will find ways to confront us with them. That’s the way the dance is designed. In truth, there are millions and millions of stimuli that we are not even noticing, that go by, in every plane of existence, all the time. The reason we don’t notice or react to them is because we have no attachment to them. They don’t stir our desire system. Our desires affect our perception.
Each of us is living in our own universe, created out of our projected attachments. That’s what we mean when we say, “You create your own universe.” We are creating that universe because of our attachments, which can also be avoidances and fears. As we develop spiritually and see how it all is, more and more we keep consuming and neutralizing our own reactivity. Each time we see ourselves reacting we’re saying, “Right, and this situation too, and this one too, and that also, and that also, and that also.” Gradually the attachments start to lose their pull and to fall away.
We get so that we’re perfectly willing to do whatever we do – and to do it perfectly and without attachment. It’s like Mahatma Gandhi gets put in jail and they give him a lice-infested uniform and tell him to clean the latrines, and it’s a whole mess. And he walks up to the head of the guards and he says, in total truth, “Thank you.” He’s not putting them on or up-leveling them. He’s saying, “There’s a teaching here, and I’m getting it; thank you.” What’s bizarre is that we get to the point where somebody lays a heavy trip on us and we get caught, and then we see through our caughtness and we say, “Thank you.” We may not say it aloud because it’s too cute. But we feel, Thank you. People come up and are violent or angry or write nasty letters or whatever they do to express their frustration or anger or competition, and all I can say is thanks.
– Ram Dass, Excerpt from Grist for the Mill: Awakening to Oneness
Wisdom from Bill Nye the Science Guy, a favorite at our house. Please remember that we learn from others. It’s partly why the group meditation sessions are an important part of your practice, but wherever you go in life, “everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t”.
I have always imagined that spirit disguises enlightened beings as the “street sweeper” and so I try never to judge by appearances, by education or by station in life. How many times have you heard real wisdom from the cashier or the random encounter with someone unexpected? Treat each day as if you are new to life: be open, stay fresh and young, and be eager to learn. Trust that the truth you need to hear will be spoken and hope that you are open enough to recognize it as it comes.
How beautiful a reminder from Kahlil Gibran. The stuff of humans is constantly in flux, but human nature remains the same. Throughout history there are different distractions, different demands, and different story lines. The basic nature of the human spirit is unchanging, and so the ideal of truth, beauty, and love remains a goal towards which we strive. Today’s kings and emperors who demand our attention are the fast paced worlds of technology and shifting values. Never forget your true essence which seeks the meaning of life in a spiritual connection.
Some of this may be a repeat but this message is so vital that I can see coming back to it over and over. The end of this quote is most significant. You do good for others, you try your best each day, and you give what it is you have to give– all without ever knowing if it was received or if it benefited anyone. The main reason you cultivate the self to be strong and openhearted is to be able to be of assistance to others. You are the one benefiting in each act of extending to others in unconditional compassion and love. This is your gift to give and this is the measure of your worth. Strive to be the person who has the wisdom and generosity of spirit to help– that is the best version of you.
This made me laugh because I have learned from many incidents that whatever control device I try, there is nothing I control.
Many of us depend on control to keep us in that comfort zone and for some of us the comfort zone is small, and maybe getting smaller. Try to believe that you can handle whatever situation may arise, crisis or spontaneous adventure. You can grow that belief in your own abilities by growing the self in meditation. Turns out, control over the self is the only real control there is and it really looks more like an ability to harmonize and flow.
This is a page from the book Be Here Now by Ram Dass, who first became famous as Richard Alpert. Together with Timothy Leary, they brought LSD and other psychedelics to our collective attention. I recently acquired a new copy of this 1971 book– my original copy had been poured over and pawed through until it was falling apart. I suspect Ram Dass gets credit as a first spiritual teacher for me. Connecting with his writings again has made me realize I am still learning from him.
I love this page. We do know that there is “right” timing for everything. You will find yourself able to commit to your spiritual cultivation when the timing is right; and even as you do so, the timing of your opening and the timing of your transitions also happen as you are ready. Your responsibility is to maintain your practice, continually committing to your self, and staying with what you know benefits you. After that, you can only trust, trust and then trust again. I hope this message will encourage you to have patience and perseverance. Your own timing is perfect for your soul.
“Much more difficult and much more wonderful [than being wealthy and famous] is to be a bodhisattva. Not someone that many people know about and talk about but someone who has the almost magical power of spreading happiness and confidence wherever he goes. What a vision for your life, for your family, to be a light for those around you! To think of everything you do, every action, every social role, every task, as being just a cover for, an excuse for, your real aspiration, to be a bodhisattva, spreading goodness wherever you go. This requires no luck (even if everything goes wrong in your life, you can do it), no special skills, no need to meet special people and get special breaks. We can all do this. This is the aspiration we should all cultivate for training the mind.”
~ Norman Fischer’s book Training in Compassion
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master; If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two imposters just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools; If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -- Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son! -- Rudyard Kipling
Sometimes it's so good to see the old wisdom again, as it still resonates today-- just ignore that last bit about being a man and remember this applies to all.
We all know we are still a work in progress, even a hard work in progress, but nothing can bring joy to others better than an easy laugh and a big smile. Nothing can bring ease to your troubles better than a good laugh and a quick wit. Lightheartedness can really feel like a light heart. Even if your heart is heavy, it helps to get up and out of that weight with a happy day. Just remember that it also helps those around you that you see all day– there will be plenty of time to work on that self later, but you may find that the joy and laughter have brought some healing in the meantime.
There are many teachers and paths that tell you “never let anyone steal your peace”. Peace of mind is your responsibility.
There isn’t anything anyone else does that can disturb you unless you allow that disturbance and/or unless you carry inside that anger or weak spot to that particular issue.
What bothers you in others is likely to be the very thing that bothers you in yourself. When you are irritated by some little quirk, or bossiness, or manipulation, take a breath and look within. Aren’t you also often doing the same thing?
No other person can make us suffer more than we will suffer by our own harshness to ourselves. We will punish our selves more than anyone else.
All of this to remind you that your meditation practice and spiritual growth is designed to build internal strength and mental focus. Keep practicing because it does matter.
* You can only achieve fulfillment when you achieve emptiness. *
* You can only hear the answers you seek by silencing the mind. *
* You can only become rich by knowing you already have enough. *
* You can only reach paradise by recognizing it is already within you. *
-words from Dr Wayne Dyer’s Video Interview –
Amazing how much truth there is in paradox. This is the language of spirit–learn it. Your own internal voice speaks in metaphor and paradox, which can even be unique to you. What may often seem contradictory or confusing contains the real guidance that you need. Take the time to listen, but then take the time to learn the meanings hidden in those essential truths.
A very wise man, once, knew that nature can teach us about being human– not Lao Tzu but Albert Einstein. This past weekend, a group of amazing people joined me for a weekend retreat in nature. The elements of nature can be quiet and unassuming, but learning to sense those simple surroundings can hone our human awareness. “We had joy we had fun we had seasons in the sun”, except we also had rain and laughter and plenty of unusual experiences. I hope each one who came took home something of value for themselves. It would be enough to have found a new appreciation for taking the time to retreat for spiritual growth and for the fun to be shared with others on this path.
Is it too soon for another monk story? Is it ever too soon for another monk story?:
A Tao master and two of his young disciples were on a walk and came to a fast moving stream.
“How shall we cross?”, asked the students.
“When I was your age”, said the master, “I took a running start and jumped to the other side.”
The students looked at each other perplexed but decided to try. The first boy ran as fast as he could and leaped but came up well short of the other side and fell into the cold water. The second boy also tried but he too could not reach the other side and fell into the water. After they got out of the water they said,
“How is it master, that you could jump so far and get across?”
The master replied, “Yes, I could do it. Of course when I was your age, the stream was much narrower.” The master then proceeded to walk across some rocks in the stream to reach the other side.
Things change, thus strategies must change. What worked yesterday may not be the right approach for today. The Tao flows one way and then another. Always be ready to adjust to the shifting tides.
To meditate is to learn how to stop —
to stop being carried away by our regrets about the past, our anger or despair in the present,
or our worries about the future.
By practicing the art of stopping,
we can enter the present moment
and be nourished by the beauty and wonder of life in and around us:
the smell of flowers,
the warmth of sunshine,
the color of the sky.
To practice mindfulness
is to begin to realize that we have a choice —
to stop and rest or run, to be angry or happy.
Once we choose to stop,
everything will be okay.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh–
I don’t think I need to add to these two things. I know it can be more challenging than just saying these words, but you can hold onto these ideas as you stay the course on your journey. Just keep practicing…
I know this sounds like a platitude. Seems like each of you already know this, at least the idea of it. Truly, it is a very advanced and difficult practice to live. You have heard so much encouragement for growing internal strength, building belief and trust in who you are and what you are about. It is important to truly know your self so you can discern what to embrace and what to discard. After all that, you will no longer need those definitions of who you are in the world, and you will only need to live with the essence that has become you. I don’t know anyone who willingly lets go of what they are or what they have. It’s often a heart wrenching and soul searching process which leaves you with nothing. Nothing really does feel like nothing. Once you experience that, now you can be anything or everything. Think of it this way: if you are only the person you think you are, you are small indeed. When/if you can be open to anything and everything, then you can be immense. Strange, isn’t it?
The rains were coming and the waters were rising. The authorities came by in their jeep to help all the neighbors evacuate, but this man wanted to stay saying God would protect him. The waters kept coming in, so he went up to the second floor. Again, they came in their boat to help him, but again he refused to leave saying God would protect him. More water, and so he went up onto the roof. Soon the helicopter came to lift him out, but he turned them away saying his faith was unshaken and God would protect him. Finally, the waters overtook the whole house and he drowned. As he appeared before God, he asked God what happened, “I believed you would save me but I drowned?” God replied, “Who do you think sent the jeep, the boat, and the helicopter?”
Faith and belief are beautiful and powerful forces, but don’t forget to be practical. We live within the laws of physics and society, so make sure you are realistic about what you are facing and what you are wanting. Sometimes you sit and wish for it to fall into your lap and then wonder why things in your life aren’t coming together. Start with the basics- the things you can do- and see where you can go from there. We can pray we will be safe in a car crash, but we wear seat belts. Do your part first and then you can have faith that it will turn out well.
This is for the many of you who know that life can be rough. Coming through darkness forges a light within that can be shared with others. This is an essential fact of life. We will all know defeat, suffering, or loss at some point. No one escapes these difficulties.
These are opportunities to gain understanding of those aspects of yourself that you’ve tried to avoid. Take heart and keep going– the insights and healing you gain will not only allow you to help when you see this process in others but will also serve as an example of hope to those around you.
You all know this quote from Rabbi Hillel. I hesitate to use it because it is a book title by Primo Levi and song lyrics also. I suppose it wouldn’t be so often used if it didn’t have such powerful resonance for all humankind. Consider it today without the political reference, and instead think of the message for one’s self.
If you do not make your self a priority, no one else will. If you do not do it now, then when will you start? Do you let others’ desires come before your own; or perhaps you overextend to please and fix others?
The only reason we cultivate ourselves spiritually is to become strong enough to be of service to others; thus, “if I am only for myself, what am I?” But before you can reach out, you have to be strong enough internally that you don’t lose who you are and what you are in the midst of chaos and turmoil. Know the difference of when you are to stand up for your own self and when you are able to reach out to help others.
Remember that both good and evil always exist within us and around us. Focus on the good and it grows, but the same is true if you focus on the bad. Pull yourself out of those moments of dejection, despair, or just plain sadness by focusing on your gratitude and happiness– wherever you can find it in any small corner of your life. As you grow stronger within your self– and you are all growing stronger– it becomes easier to hold onto those good thoughts and feelings or to come back to them quickly.
This is just a reminder of what you all know. Sometimes we just have to be reminded.
He who is attached to things will suffer much.
He who saves will suffer heavy loss.
A contented man is never disappointed.
He who knows when to stop does not find himself in trouble.
He will stay forever safe.
☆Gia Fu-Feng and Jane English
It’s kind of odd that I have not yet shared any passages from the Tao Te Ching. They are wonderfully simple, often going directly the heart of some truth. However, I have to confess that too often I find them preachy in that they state the obvious without acknowledging how hard that very simple idea can be to live. Let me know what you think, but I find this excerpt a good expression of acceptance. Whenever you really desire, you open that opportunity for disappointment– let it go, guys, just accept where you are, what you have, and how it all unfolds.
2014 is a Universal Year 7, Year of the Wood Horse:
The Wood Horse is likely to test your life structures and draw your attention to any gap that exists between the vast fertile fields of your creative imagination and the life you’re living.
The 2014 Wood Horse Year will light up your passion (including its obstacles, which the Horse takes as hurdles on a track), and put you through your paces to test the structural limits of your dreams and realities. Where dream meets reality here and now, as well as further down the track, that’s what a Green Horse sets its sights on.
The Horse is a fiery creature, headstrong and yet sensitive, ultra-relational, yet ultra-free, and this year tests you to learn how both sides of you can feed rather than destroy each other. Where personal freedom enhances relationship you’ll be given a horse’s go-ahead to speed down the track. Where personal freedom conflicts with relationship you’ve got some buckling down and cleaning up to do.
In 2014 we’re being taken for quite a ride by the Green Horse’s need to stretch far and wide into the fullest life territory you can rightfully claim as your own. This means issues of boundaries, borders and broad expanses will come up repeatedly, to challenge your ability to run free as well as settle down. How do borders and boundaries combine with freedom and dreams? That’s what we must explore in the coming year. Like humans the Horse is a contradictory animal, and must learn to steer a course that is seldom straight and narrow, but more often runs on paradox. Until you gain inner spiritual strength from wrestling with this paradox, you’re likely to remain driven by false riders who dig their spurs into your ribs and take you places you don’t really need to go.
The gates of your 2014 gallop will get thrown open to passion, desire, mischief , contradiction and rebellion, as you wrestle with freedom versus passion, bridling at the irony of yourself and others. The test at hand in this 7 Year is to draw you into challenges than can teach you if your rebelliousness has deeper motivation and service in it, rather than just acting out to gain attention. (Mark Borax, Soul Level Astrology)
As you know, I love these monk stories. I think they can touch us deeply as metaphor. I have a bunch, and here is another one:
Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By nightfall on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out. The first monk said, “Oh, no! The candle is out.” The second monk said, “Aren’t we not suppose to talk?” The third monk said, “Why must you two break the silence?” The fourth monk laughed and said, “Ha! I’m the only one who didn’t speak.
Each monk broke the silence for a different reason, each of which is a common stumbling block to meditation. The first monk became distracted by one element of the world (the candle) and so lost sight of the rest. The second monk was more worried about rules than the meditation itself. The third monk let his anger at the first two rule him. And the final monk was lost in his ego.
Which one of these monks are you? or maybe a few of them? Since our meditation is directly connected to our lives, watch for this as you go about your day.
What’s normal, really? Do you want to be normal or do you fear being normal? Either way, there is no such thing. Even though you are bombarded in the media about being a unique individual, it’s amazing how many people still want to fit in, be accepted, or even to be admired. Watch how many ways you go along to get along, or just alter it a bit to please. No one has a normal life, or a life easier than yours– embrace your own quirkiness, your own special qualities, and your own perfect challenges.
I wonder if it really takes space travel to get this perspective? Perhaps enough years of spiritual cultivation can transform that small, ego view of self to a more expanded, more elevated view of life. No matter the time in history, no matter the technology, humanity remains the same everywhere on earth. Human kindness and human problems don’t change whether you are riding in a spaceship, sitting in a subway, or walking across the desert. Rising above your self can help to see the commonality of all, erasing our differences so that we can be more compassionate to everyone.
Let’s raise a toast to a new beginning and a fresh start! I know many of you like to start the year with good intentions and resolutions. I prefer to simply renew my commitment to myself and my connection, this day the same as the one before. With such a willingness to show up and surrender, life will amaze me constantly.
Congratulations to me for completing a full year of making a blog post every week. What a surprise to me since I never set this as a goal. Now that I start another year, I will try not to repeat myself; however, you realize that the message is always the same and variations are limited. You can always let me know how I’m doing…
As another holiday treat I will share some more wisdom from our Teacher, Wong Loh Sin See. This was first recorded in 1989—
My dear friend, Elizabeth Lynch, is a long time student of the Teacher. For years she faithfully took fully transcribed notes of every class she attended, both in Atlanta and at the Wonderland retreats. These are not short reminder notes for herself, but detailed, verbatim records of all his words, as well as descriptions of our exercises and formations. She has volumes of these records. She recently sent me a passage from the past and has allowed me to share it with you as a holiday gift.
We must have faith and belief in order to connect there (Heaven). We must have faith and belief in ourselves in order to connect here (Earth). Feeling reverence for ourselves in meditation is really touching the best side of ourselves. By believing in yourself you are giving spirit the credence to grow. By believing in the greater energy (God) it gives ourselves a stronger connection, where we receive a lot of assistance. The more we believe in God the more we will be cared for and guided. It encompasses the self and the spirit in us. If we go forward with a lot of expectation, we can be disappointed. But if we go forward in no expectation… there can be peace.
I feel I can hear the words spoken as if I am there. These ideas are the same ones we still talk about over and over again. Nothing new, but profound nonetheless. And a real treat– Happy New Year!
Today and next week, I will share some wisdom from our Teacher, Wong Loh Sin See, that was first recorded in 1989— as a special holiday treat.
My dear friend, Elizabeth Lynch, is a long time student of the Teacher. For years she faithfully took fully transcribed notes of every class she attended, both in Atlanta and at the Wonderland retreats. These are not short reminder notes for herself, but detailed, verbatim records of all his words, as well as descriptions of our exercises and formations. She has volumes of these records. She recently sent me a passage from the past and has allowed me to share it with you as a holiday gift.
Acceptance by you creates the release. Without this, this coming to peace by you, you cannot release or change. You change and you effect the change in the other person. A person’s love for you will change as you change. Do not worry about the other person. You are creating their reaction. Patience; it will change by your acceptance. Healing takes time. It is easy to inflict wounds. Healing takes time. Healing is something we constantly do. Acceptance allows letting go. The more that is surfacing and the more acceptance, the more letting go. Have the patience to keep doing this.
I’ve never included a video in these blog posts, so you can give me feedback on this experiment.
It takes ten minutes to watch– but honestly, it’s really worth it. I know 10 minutes! Please just take those few minutes and count it as your meditation today.
At 3:45 there is a little girl with some priceless wisdom, and starting at 4:50 a man with true perspective on life shares what he has learned. Wisdom we all “know” is astounding when spoken from someone who clearly has learned to live by this knowledge. In addition, I was struck by the film maker for his commitment to a life-long endeavor that has paid dividends he couldn’t possibly have imaged.
(thanks to my friend, Judith Augustine, for bringing me this)
This is for the many of you who are making changes. So many of you are opening and growing in amazing ways. Even if the changes are subtle, they have an effect. You can feel a bit strange as you adjust to this new way of being. Take note of the details as you interact with others, as you approach the same old with a slightly different attitude, or as your awareness of your surroundings grows. You are just more and better. You have more of your self available to you, so take flight with those new wings!
This Thanksgiving week is a good moment to contemplate gratitude. I love this sentiment. When all is well and life is good, it is easy to be grateful– and of course, we should remember our good fortune. When gratitude sweeps through your whole body in a wave takes you over and makes you weep, you know that happiness is building and growing. In honor of all that has blessed us, let’s take this week to thoughtfully send our happy grateful hearts to those who are truly struggling.
I can say I do the part about waking up to a heartfelt “thank you”– not sure I make the best use of each day, not sure I would know even if I did.
I need to express this sentiment today because we are laying to rest my cousin’s 28 year old son. Our heartbreak is immense, as the love for him is far reaching. It’s never easy to lose someone you love, but there is extra pain and poignancy when the life is just starting out.
Life is so precious, so fragile, and so fleeting. You know this. You are trying to live in a consciously aware state to be full and present for those you love. I have been stopped in my tracks with a harsh reminder, and I want to take this moment to remind you as well.
Think about a spiritual practice in three different ways:
1) Meditation as a contemplative practice. This includes prayer and sitting quietly with your thoughts. Science has shown many medical benefits from this, and most people include this in some form in their life.
2) Meditation as a tool to understand the Self. This includes those of you who want to learn more about energy, your own and surrounding you. With this approach, meditation becomes more than just contemplation; instead you quiet your thoughts and connect to a deeper place within.
3) Meditation as a commitment for life. With this more committed approach, life becomes a spiritual path. Awareness grows such that all of life can be viewed with a deeper understanding.
With all that in mind, here is another monk and a man story (courtesy of my yoga teacher, Jason):
One day a man set out to find a Temple he had heard was amazing. He wasn’t sure where it was but people had told him it was really worth visiting. Not far on his journey he came to a crossroads where he saw a monk. He asked this monk if he knew of the Temple he was trying to find. The monk said that of course he knew where it was. It was hard to find so he suggested they walk there together. They walked for over an hour talking and getting to know one another. The man began to wonder if the monk knew where they were going and asked how much longer to the Temple. At that point the monk answered, “For you, it will be another three hours.” The man responded, bewildered, “Why didn’t you tell me it would take so long before we started?” And the monk replied, “Because I didn’t know who you were.”
All spiritual practices are beneficial. Like anything in life, you will reap what you sow, so if you put more of yourself into your practice you will be surprised to see how much more you can get out of it.
There are places in India where the woman of the house arises each morning and creates a new and different mandala on the dirt floor outside her door. This is one of three I saw in the small village of Nimaj, remote enough to have no electricity, no telephone and no running water except the shared village pump. It is the only one which is symmetrical.
Of course I love this because of the mandala, and I love seeing that these women do these freehand just as I do mine. But more importantly, I love the whole idea of creating a new expression for each new day with the dawn. It is a meditative practice with a visual creation of that moment and that day. Next day she wipes away yesterday’s and begins a new one. Don’t you think she has breakfast to prepare, children to ready for the day, and a husband to please? Instead, she takes this time to connect with the sunrise and connect with herself to draw out today’s beautiful design. It is a blessing on the house, a blessing to the family, and a blessing to her own soul.
Let’s learn from this.
Isn’t it amazing that all spiritual paths teach the same Golden Rule? It’s a beautiful reminder that an important part of being human is kindness to other humans. Respecting others is the same as honoring the life you were given. We can’t begin to heal ourselves and grown our own strength without gratitude for all life. The main reason, and the best reason, for cultivating your spiritual life is to grow strong enough to be able to help others. Keep up your meditation practice and keep practicing the golden rule– that can help make each day beautiful in a surprising way.
This isn’t just true for material things. It is also true for the internal messages you have acquired in life that need to go because they no longer serve you well. As children, we pack our bags with life experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, and as adults it’s our job to unpack our bags. It takes work to dig through those past experiences to get to the heart of what motivates us. Even as we discover our places of hurt, anger or even trauma, we still want to hold on to what’s familiar. The familiar is more comfortable than the new and unknown, even if that new way of being might be beneficial. Try to recognize when it’s time to let go so there’s room for the new. Embrace your new self, lightened of the load of all those things you acquired along the way.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” –Gautama Buddha
This sounds so modern to me. I live by this. Please, please think carefully for yourself about anything that comes your way. Only you know the truth of the path you follow. Only you can decide on what you do, when you do it, and how you do it. To follow something because of the authority it came from is to give up your own personal power. Be willing to be responsible for actions taken because you believe in them; therefore, be careful, cautious, and thoughtful about all that you take in.
For all you lovers of astrology, numerology, the tarot, palm reading, or whatever you choose for divination, check out this tree personality test. Not sure why or how it works, but for my few test cases, it is uncanny. If you look at all the choices, you will see that many could apply to you, but if you compare to the one you did choose, it should be clearly more accurate.
Don’t think about it too long, just choose, see what hits you first, and find out what your choice says about your personality. The results . . .
1. You are a generous and moral (not to confuse with moralizing) person. You always work on self-improvement. You are very ambitious and have very high standards. People might think that communicating with you is difficult, but for you, it isn’t easy to be who you are. You work very hard but you are not in the least selfish. You work because you want to improve the world. You have a great capacity to love people until they hurt you. But even after they do. . . you keep loving. Very few people can appreciate everything you do as well as you deserve.
2. You are a fun, honest person. You are very responsible and like taking care of others. You believe in putting in an honest day’s work and accept many work-related responsibilities. You have a very good personality and people come to trust you easily. You are bright, witty and fast-thinking. You always have an interesting story to tell.
3.You are a smart and thoughtful person. You are a great thinker. Your thoughts and ideas are the most important. You like to think about your theories and views alone. You are an introvert. You get along with those who likes to think and learn. You spend a lot of time, thinking about morality. You are trying to do what is right, even if the majority of society does not agree with you.
4. You are perceptive and philosophical person. You are a unique, one soul of your kind. Next to you there’s no one even slightly similar to you. You are intuitive and a bit quirky. You are often misunderstood, and it hurts you. You need personal space. Your creativity needs to be developed, it requires respect of others. You are a person who clearly sees the light and dark sides of life. You are very emotional.
5. You are self-assured and in charge. You are very independent. Your guiding principle in life is ‘I’ll do it my way.’. You are very self-reliant and know how to stay strong for yourself and the people you Love. You know exactly what you want and are not afraid of pursuing your dreams. The only thing you demand from people is honesty. You are strong enough to accept the truth.
6. You are kind and sensitive. People relate to you very well. You have many friends and you love helping them. You have this warm and bright aura that makes people feel good when they are around you. Every day, you think about what you can do to improve yourself. You want to be interesting, insightful and unique. More than anybody else in the world, you need to love. You are even ready to love those who don’t love you back.
7. You are happy and unflappable. You are a very sensitive and understanding person. You are a great listener who know how to be non-judgmental. You believe that everybody has their own journey in life. You are open to new people and events. You are highly resistant to stress and rarely worry. Normally, you are very relaxed. You always manage to have a good time and never lose your way.
8. You are charming and energetic. You are a fun person who knows how to make people laugh. You live in a state of harmony with the universe. You are spontaneous and enthusiastic. You never say no to an adventure. Often, you end up surprising and even shocking people. But that’s just how you are. . . You always remain true to yourself. You have many interests and if something proves of interest to you, you will not rest until you acquire a profound knowledge of this area.
9. You are optimistic and lucky. You believe that life is a gift and you try to achieve as much as possible and put this gift to the best use possible. You are very proud of your achievements. You are ready to stick by the people you care about through thick and thin. You have a very healthy approach to life. The glass is (at least) half full for you. You use any opportunity to forgive, learn, and grow because you believe that life is too short to do otherwise.
This morning I pray for the spirit of love and forgiveness. Are my thoughts hurting or healing? Rehearsing the script of misunderstandings or hurts does not promote healing. It merely feeds the pain of regret or shame. Replace those dreary thoughts with a story of learning or gratitude.
Be open and strive for your thoughts, words, and deeds to come from your heart. Practice benevolence to yourself and others so that healing, gratitude and love can blossom.
(My husband, Dennis, sent me this prayer recently, no one credited. The image is from a design blog I follow, design-dautore.com)
In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
We saw this at Ayutthaya, Thailand– the Buddha head embraced by the tree roots. Seems to be in perfect balance with nature. And… to go with this image I love is a quote from the Buddha I think is appropriate. With those three things, life can be simple and purity within reach. (photo credit is me)
Two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, traveling on pilgrimage, came to a muddy river crossing. There they saw a lovely young woman dressed in her kimono and finery, obviously not knowing how to cross the river without ruining her clothes. Without further ado, Tanzan graciously picked her up, held her close to him, and carried her across the muddy river, placing her onto the dry ground. Then he and Ekido continued on their way. Hours later they found themselves at a lodging temple. And here Ekido could no longer restrain himself and gushed forth his complaints: “Surely, it is against the rules, what you did back there…. Touching a woman is simply not allowed…. How could you have done that? … And to have such close contact with her! … This is a violation of all monastic protocol…” Thus he went on with his verbiage. Tanzan listened patiently to the accusations. Finally, during a pause, he said, “Look, I set that girl down back at the crossing. Are you still carrying her?”
Many of you have heard this story. I tell it often, and I never mind hearing it again. What are you carrying? What you are judging in yourself and others that can be relaxed and let go? It’s all a heavy burden to carry, more weighty than carrying someone across the river. Let go for your own lightness and let go for others who will learn from their own experiences.
No one gets off without being challenged to grow and change in this lifetime. No one. Never look at another person’s life and think you would wish for that, or would be better off if only… You have no idea what others go through. What might be simple to you can be so difficult for another person, and the same in reverse. What you are faced with is uniquely designed for you, perfectly tailored to force you to seek to transform your shortcomings. First gain understanding of your own self and then compassion for the self and others can come. Use that compassion for helping others– each of us can use a little kindness each day, and hopefully it will be returned.
And… if something goes “right” in your life, yell “plot twist” and move on also. It’s all just a story line yet to be told– your story line. You can be pleased or devastated by the twists and turns in life, but try to enjoy each surprise. These plot twists are creations of your own doing, so start delving within to look for the source. As I get older, I have the luxury of a perspective looking back, and I find these twists and turns very poignant for myself and in observing others. The choices we make along the way really do eliminate other choices and set up new unforeseen opportunities. As we’re going forward we really don’t know the story as it is yet to unfold, but as we look back we can see how perfectly each step evolved from the last.
Just don’t get too attached to whatever develops because this too shall pass…
This is just about perfect– mostly because of the message, but also because both my kids really love Calvin and Hobbes.
I suspect I may be returning to the same message too often, but it’s such an important idea. Making your own changes often has the effect of helping others see a way to make changes for themselves.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. It is holy work to move past your fear. It doesn’t just help you. It helps the world.”
~ Marianne Williamson
Does this apply to you? Thanks to Lynn Wonders for bringing this quote to my attention. I don’t think I have anything to add. I believe this wholeheartedly just the way she expresses this. Each of us has such unlimited power that is needed to serve our own cultivation as well as others. It’s time to move past your fear…
Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it. — Bill Cosby
Don’t forget to laugh. Every day. Find the humor, find the irony, find the fun. When life looks toughest, look for the twist that can make you smile. The best moments in our meditation groups are when we all just have a big bellyaching, raucous laugh. It can make the rest of the day look a lot better. Don’t let a day go by without laughter.
Time for another story from the sages:
Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
So, we never know… best not to judge and decide the good or bad of things. We just keep going, doing our best, and sometimes it seems like a problem and sometimes it seems fortunate. Really, it’s all about the same– just something else we adjust to as we go.
I guess this statement someone put together could be a bit better, but I think it gets to an important idea. In fact, I think this could be the most valuable thing for people to learn, but maybe the hardest. The best help we can give to those we love is to allow them to take care of their own decisions, and their own growth and learning. Taking care of our own self is hard enough to master. Assume that those around you are able to take responsibility for their actions and choices. Treat them as if they are the fullest version of themselves, just as you would like to be yourself. To be involved in fixing, rearranging, or enabling others is to diminish the both of you. Anything that doesn’t come from unconditional love falls into the category of fear. Let go in order to give others the space to breathe; and follow that loving breath so it can overtake the fear.
The idea of being honest with yourself came up recently. The initial question was: how can meditation help you in moments of confusion? There are times when it seems the very ground beneath you is shifting. It can be hard even to settle into meditation, much less find the peace to gain insight. And yet, my experience has shown me that it is in these very moments that the most healing can occur, often through meditation. The situation which triggered this challenge in itself holds some clues and even keys to unraveling your history and your deepest core issues.
You have to be honest with yourself. If you sit to meditate but can’t get settled and keep thinking “I can’t sit”, “nothing is happening”, “I need to be doing other things”, this is a moment to stop and honestly feel exactly the depth of this discomfort. Ask yourself some questions, and be honest. Why am I unsettled? What is this feeling? But why? Then keep asking the questions that lie beneath those very answers. Chances are that the first explanation to arise isn’t the whole story. Pay close attention to the feeling of each thought, being honest about underlying meanings. Trust the process since it is being guided by your own inner self. Be willing to completely surrender. After all, you are only surrendering to your self.
Often we hide places of pain and trauma, even from ourselves. Honesty is the first step to finding the truth of who you are, uncovering the wonder of you can be. Never lie to yourself.
So glad F. Scott Fitzgerald said this. Someone cynical and irreverent is the right person to give this advice. Believe me when I say that you don’t want to get to a place where you look back and wonder what could have been. You are never too old and it’s never too late to try something new…
Keep life exciting by trying different ideas and adventurous experiences.
Entertaining A Seabird:
In ancient China, a disciple was talking with his teacher. “Master,” said the disciple, “It is said that all you really need to know in dealing with people is to simply always treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. What do you think?”
“Let me tell you about how the Marquis of Lu entertained the seabird,” the Master responded.
“One day a rare and beautiful seabird was blown far off course by a storm. It came to earth in the capital of Lu. The Marquis of Lu was delighted, and made the seabird his special guest. He had performers sing and dance for it day and night, and he presented it with fine roast meats and excellent wine. But the bird was terrified and confused, and it ate and drank nothing. After three days it died.”
“The Marquis of Lu entertained the seabird the way he liked to be entertained, not the way a seabird likes to be entertained.”
So the Golden Rule should really be to treat others in ways that honor the truth and essence of their being. Try doing the same for your self as well.
H O P E Helping Other People to Enlightenment Think about how powerful the force of hope is in our lives. Without hope there is nothing that matters. If we lose hope, we lose the ability to engage in life and thus, learn and grow. With hope, we get up each day and do our best. You may call hope “faith” or “belief”, but whatever the name, it’s vital for striving to do good, be better and grow wiser. Giving hope to someone who is discouraged or downtrodden is a gift beyond measure. Nurture the hope within your self and help other people to enlightenment.
The more I grow, the more I realize what I actually know grows less and less. I’ve heard that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Let go of the need for certainty and pray for clarity. I feel that as long as you stay true to your self, the road will appear and the way made clear. Make plans (God laughs) but be willing to be flexible and practical, adjusting to new realities. Sometimes a road will appear as a surprise and demand to be followed. Increasing your awareness of self through your meditation practice can grow the clarity that helps make choices simpler and easier to follow.
I don’t often love a list. I’m the original exception that proves the rule. I think this one is good enough. It’s purported to be handed down from Sanskrit, but who wrote it in Sanskrit isn’t known to me. Let me know what you think.
THE RULES FOR BEING HUMAN
1. YOU WILL RECEIVE A BODY
You may like it or not, but it will be yours for the entire duration.
2. YOU WILL LEARN LESSONS
You are enrolled in a full-time, informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.
3. THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, ONLY LESSONS
Growth is a process of trail and error, experimentation. The failed experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately works.
4. A LESSON IS REPEATED UNTIL IT IS LEARNED
A lesson will presented to you in various forms until you have learned it, then you can go on to the next lesson.
5. LEARNING LESSONS DOES NOT END
There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
6. ‘THERE’ IS NO BETTER THAN ‘HERE’
When your ‘there’ has become ‘here’, you will simply obtain another ‘there’ that will again look better than ‘here’.
7. OTHERS ARE MERELY MIRRORS OF YOU
You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
8. WHAT YOU MAKE OF YOUR LIFE IS UP TO YOU
You have all the tools and resources you need, what you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. THE ANSWERS LIE INSIDE YOU
The answers to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
Life is a school, where you learn how to remember what your soul already knows.
Always believe in yourself. Believe in your ability to be able to handle whatever may happen. A person who is afraid of the perils in the world is a limited person. Allow life to unfold as you trust your own strength to grow into every new adventure. Even if the branch is blown off, you can fly. Go ahead, start flying…
People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child-our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
One of my favorite sentiments. This message speaks to the importance of being grounded as well as being open to the magic of life. “Miracles” that strike people as awe inspiring are events designed to get your attention and open your awareness to what’s possible. When you already walk through life connected to spirit as well as grounded to your humanness, then all is amazing and yet normal at the same time. It sounds paradoxical, but being solidly grounded allows the greatest spiritual openness. So appreciate all the little everyday things, all day, every day and look out for the awesome everywhere…
In case you need a reminder, the Fibonacci series is a sequence where the next number is the sum of the previous two numbers. It’s found everywhere in nature– in seashells, the branching of trees, the flowering of artichokes, the unfurling of a fern, in everything from pineapples to pinecones. And now in a line of pigeons roosting on the roof line. The instinct to be aligned with nature and the natural flow of energies is so powerful for these pigeons. It can be true for us too. Follow your instinct and listen to your intuition. When you tap into the greater wisdom of these unseen forces of nature, you can be amazed.
Is this message saying that you are never free of your dark side? I prefer for it to help me remember that you just can’t have the yin in life without the yang. No light without dark. No soft without hard and no cold without hot. No quiet without noise, and on and on… If we only had the good in life we wouldn’t be learning very much. Often it’s the challenges that teach us to find and appreciate the blessings; thus, the difficulty becomes a blessing. An important way to learn what’s beneficial is to recognize what’s detrimental. We can commit to what’s helpful by refusing to engage in what’s harmful. Learning discernment is an important part of growing spiritually such that we learn to identify exactly how our impulses, reactions, and desires effect us. We know both good and bad but put our attention and energies toward the good.
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
This is the year we should all remind each other to pay attention to the details. Change is on the horizon for so many. Now is a good time to transform the essential beliefs you hold as truth about yourself, “truths” that often hold you back and keep you from being the person you aspire to. Because you have held these truths/myths about yourself for most of your life, you have to challenge your thoughts in order to identify and recognize what is false and unnecessary. Look closely at your thoughts, your words, your actions, your habits, and your character to find those underlying basic beliefs you are ready to transform.
Things from the past can’t be changed, but they can haunt you and leave many of you sad or depressed. These unhealed areas still hold power over many situations today. Take the time to understand your past in order to transform it.
Spinning your thoughts out to a future, which by definition can’t be predicted or controlled, can lead to anxiety. This is a lack of faith in your own ability to handle whatever may arise. You know you don’t control what arrives in life, you only control your attitude.
Life right here, today, this moment, is all you can handle. Be careful to face today without the issues from the past or the worry of the future. Without all the stuff behind you and all the stuff coming toward you, life can be much simpler. Simpler is always easier, allowing the inner self to relax and find peace.
Don’t let anyone tell you ever that you are supposed to stopping mourning and missing people you’ve lost. What a crock. Our beloved people are forever. … Leonard Cohen wrote that there are cracks in everything, and that’s how the light gets in. Stay cracked; don’t let people shame you into using caulking. – Anne Lamont
I put this in today for the many of us who have lost someone beloved to us. We don’t stop loving. It is natural that we go through a process of grieving, however long that may take. The stages of grief, brought to us by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, are denial, anger, bargaining, sadness or depression, and acceptance. Nowhere do you see forgetting. With acceptance you will find a place to hold this special person in your heart with gratitude, honor and love. It is indeed a wonderful day when someone speaks to me fondly about either my mother or my father. I remember them with gratitude, and it’s nice for me to know that others remember also. Be kind to yourself if you are grieving and remember that your goal isn’t to forget, but instead to remember with love.
It’s wonderful to see ourselves from another perspective. Even more important for us to try to see others from another perspective. Thinking of where others are coming from or why they are responding in a surprising way allows us to grow understanding and compassion. Misunderstandings or difficulties arise when people come from different places and can’t imagine what is motivating the other person. Stop for a minute, put your own emotional response on hold, and put yourself in the other person’s place. With a little respect for that perspective, it’s much easier to establish harmony. Everything can flow much easier when you show others respect and find the middle ground. Try it– there’s always a place to meet in the middle.
a wishbone, a back bone, and a funny bone.
Thanks to my yoga teacher, Jason Ewing, for this from a travel magazine.
Wishbone: Dream for good things in your life, hold a vision of yourself as your best self, and imagine how it can work.
- Backbone: Do the things you need to do to make it happen. Include in your life the activities and people who strengthen and help you. Move away from the activities and people who pull at you. Create a lifestyle to support you as that amazing version of yourself you wished for.
- Funnybone: Have fun doing it. Laugh with your friends. Enjoy the beautiful weather and the fun times. It can’t be that good if it isn’t fun. Be happy along the way.
A tale of learning from the saints. I love these stories:
A Hindu saint who was visiting river Ganges to take a bath found a group of family members on the banks shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples, smiled and asked, “Why do people shout in anger at each other?” The disciples thought for a while, and one of them said, “Because when we lose our calm, we shout.” “But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can just as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner,” asked the saint. Some disciples gave other answers but none satisfied everyone.
Finally the saint explained, “When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance. What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small…” The saint continued, “When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, but only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.” He looked at his disciples and said, “So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant. Do not say words that distance each other more or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.”
This is from the recent workshop with the Teacher:
We all know the five senses: sight, touch, taste, hearing and smelling. The world is known to us through these senses. Then there is a sixth sense. It has many names, but we can refer to it as intuition, insight, or just another way of knowing. What about the seventh sense? Is there one? What is it? Common Sense– aha!
To me, this is the most important sense. We use our common sense to put all the other senses to good use. Sometimes, we just call it being practical or grounded. We may take in lots of information through the stimuli of various senses, and those of you are very open to input can sometimes get overwhelmed or confused. Use common sense to sort out and simplify so you use only what you need and leave the rest. Don’t make it complicated.
New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. Lao Tzu
Today is the spring equinox and this week is the season of Easter and Passover. This year they all fall together, this season of new beginnings. We all know that when one door closes another one opens, but we forget to welcome those moments, especially if we are mourning the loss of something we were attached to. All things, all endeavors are new beginnings. Try to keep a beginner’s mind in all that you do, each and every time you do it. Bring wonder and awe to each moment, every action no matter how familiar and humdrum.
I have adapted a new version of something similar that came to me from my husband, Dennis (photo by doctorhawkphoto), from whom I have learned much about simplicity. When life feels overwhelming, looks like too much to take on, or beyond reason, remember to make molehills out of mountains. Be simple and be practical. It’s a practical, grounded life that can be simple.
“I have finally discovered what’s wrong with my brain: on the left side, there is nothing right, and on the right side, there is nothing left.”
I don’t have the origin of this quote, but I love it. Maybe this is why my brain didn’t provide me with the answers in my journey to discover my self. It is always good to use reasoning and common sense but overthinking can be a pitfall. Don’t we all know that mental spinning around a problem that just leaves us confused and agitated and still undecided of which way to turn?
Meditation that comes from the heart can connect us to the truth of ourselves. You can trust insights that arise from your own energy because you connect directly to a knowing that goes beyond anything your brain could figure out. Your ability to listen internally grows as your inner voice learns to speak with more authority. That’s a powerful combination and something that arises as a benefit to your meditation practice.
In the spirit of paying attention to the details, learn to listen carefully to your inner voice. You will find guidance, but more importantly, you can discover the truth of who you are.
There is no group meditation this week while there are workshops in my studio. As a thought for the week, I am sharing something wonderful I have seen a few times on facebook. Even if you have seen it, you can always be touched again by such wonderful sentiments. It’s long. I could divide it into parts, but I’ll give it to you in its entirety:
A Dog’s Purpose?
(from a 6-year-old) as told by Jackie Stewart on facebook
Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa , and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker ‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.” Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.
He said,”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued,
”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
Stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Never pretend to be something you’re not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
There comes a time in life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. So, love the people who treat you right. Think good thoughts for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is part of LIFE…Getting back up is LIVING…
When I first began to meditate, even before I knew it was meditation, I had no goals. It just felt good, and I found myself sitting with my self just because it happened in quiet moments. I allowed the time for those good feelings to take over and grow. Once I knew that was “meditation” and it was something with benefits, I wanted to quiet the chatter in my brain. I don’t mean chatter during meditation. I mean chatter constantly during the day, weighing this side and that side of an interaction, an event that occurred, or just whatever troubled me. It was a lot and it meant I didn’t sleep well. I just kind of thought meditation might help but didn’t know if it really would.
Meditation can help make changes but it takes time. It’s important to be patient and be amazed at the smallest differences. Changes within ourselves can be subtle, and often our only measure comes after the fact. Sometimes you see a different reaction to a similar event. Sometimes you realize you can’t remember the last time you had that unwanted feeling or behavior. I can encourage your practice and help you see changes, but know that it’s the practice that you put in which makes the difference. Please be excited by your growth and also be patient– remain committed for the long haul.
I can say that once again I have no goals. I meditate without thinking of why; it’s just a good thing in my life. I can accept that changes occur without me having to know what happened or how it happened. My mind and being are quiet now, but I have yet to remove the worry completely. As our Teacher says, “The work is never ending. It lasts a lifetime.” and I say, “ As long as we draw breath, we have the opportunity to change.”
Pretty simple, pretty basic, but funny because we do know how hard it is to live this simple, basic truth. As you go through the day notice how often you are thinking of what’s coming or what’s just passed. How often are you thinking about someone else’s life and comparing your problems or strengths? Staying present in the Here/Now also means staying present in your Here/Now. Pay attention to the details: what motivates you, what your reactions are, what got your attention, what insights or intuitions you let slip away. There is much information about your self in the details. Stay present, each moment, and you won’t miss these important clues…. Let me know the insights or details you just noticed.
Sunday, the Chinese New Year, is the beginning of the Year of the Black Water Snake. This year is in a water cycle, and the color related to water is black. Information for people born in the year of the Snake is slightly different than what is predicted for the year in general. I have heard this will be a year for change, but let me show you what the Chinese astrologers have to say online (gotohoroscope.com):
“This 2013 year of Snake is meant for steady progress and attention to detail. Focus and discipline will be necessary for you to achieve what you set out to create. The snake is a studious creature. Preferring quiet predictability to ruckus and mayhem. During the 2013 Snake year be prepared to feel like you are on shaky ground. Not quite settled. Out of the blue realizations create major change. It makes for super tense times. But also creates movement and growth. Deep transformation and healing are often represented by the Snake. Slowly we begin to see the reasons for things, we understand the root cause of some dysfunction. Just like the snake, slowly we shed our skin. We become shiny and new as we acknowledge and release the past.
Be extra careful with your work this 2013 year of the black Snake. Signing documents of any kind requires very thorough attention. 2013 horoscope predict it is a good year to begin important detail work. Research and investigation are supported. The Snake has sneaky energy that can be to your advantage. Look for the holes in the loop. Create a safe space to work. The Snake likes protection, needs to feel safe and secure to utilize its special analytical skills. This is the year to make headway in slow and methodical ways. Things will definitely be accomplished as you focus forward.
There is no need to put yourself out there. Consider this 2013 year to focus within. You won’t be drawn to social situations as you are more interested in serious progress not superficial chit chat. Allow yourself withdrawal as it is necessary to self reflect and ponder situations.
Expect a true release of past blockages this 2013 year. Slow and steady wins the race in 2013 year of Snake.”
Yeah! This is the perfect time to meditate and delve deeply into your personal process. Change is in the air–
Just last week our son, Aaron, left for a major adventure. He’s off to the wilds of Patagonia in Chile for three months. During this time he’ll have no communication– no cell, no email, no internet, nada– but more importantly, he will be challenging himself physically, mentally, and spiritually while climbing on the high altitude glaciers, packing in the remote mountains, and sea kayaking in the Pacific Ocean. It’s a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) semester program, and he left ready to embrace whatever he could learn.
Not so many of us ever have an opportunity to face our selves so directly. I hope you can name a time in your life when you looked squarely at something apparently insurmountable, and came through it stronger and wiser. You may not have chosen that experience, but chances are you look back now at that time as pivotal and life changing. It is a common truism that the greatest learning often arises from the most difficult hardships.
Meditation can offer the same journey of self discovery. Surrendering and connecting to our inner self can open a process of facing our demons and shortcomings to gain understanding and compassion. Your own regular meditation practice can become your most important healing tool.