Sunday, December 31, 2006

Peace on earth

Well, we have come to the end of another year. I offer for your contemplation today the lyrics to a U2 song - Peace on Earth - and a video if you'd like to hear it:
Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I'm sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be peace on Earth

Where I grew up there weren't many trees
Where there was we'd tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you
And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you

And it's already gone too far
Who said that if you go in hard
You won't get hurt?

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
No whos or whys
No one cries like a mother cries
For peace on Earth
She never got to say goodbye
To see the color in his eyes
Now he's in the dirt
Peace on Earth

They're reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth and Ann and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
Jesus sing a song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth
This peace on Earth

Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

May we move beyond the grief and the cynicism and the despair and do our part in making it so. Never forget that peace begins within. Our meditative practice is foundational to peace. Let us enter the New Year with renewed commitment.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


I found an equanimity exercise that is really very powerful. Take a look:

Visualise in front of you three persons: at the left a good friend, in the middle a stranger, to the right an enemy or someone you cannot stand.

- Concentrate on the friend in front and examine your feelings towards him or her.
- Now concentrate on the stranger and examine your feelings towards him or her.
- Now concentrate on the enemy and examine your feelings towards him or her.
- Return to the stranger and realise that this person can easily become your friend or enemy in the future.
- Next, look at the friend and realise that this person may become your enemy in the future when cheating or hurting you.
- Now, look at the enemy and realise that this person may become your friend in the future when helping you.
- Again look at your friend and try to strongly feel love and appreciation.
- Now look at the stranger and try to hold this feeling towards this person.
- Again look at your friend and try to strongly feel love and appreciation.
- Now try to hold this feeling while looking at the enemy; is it really impossible to feel some love and compassion for this person?
- Try to realise that all three, friend, stranger and enemy are completely equal in trying to become happy and trying to avoid suffering.

It is a very effective exercise to realize that a friend may one day be an enemy and an enemy may one day be a friend. I have certainly experienced both.

I have found it most helpful to remember that my enemies are motivated by the same wish that I have - that is, the wish to be happy. It helps me to have compassion on them to realize that they want what I want and so we at least have that in common.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Taming the mind

Are you willing to tame your mind? That's really what it's all about - the meditative tradition, that is. Here's something I just found on the subject:

Religion does not mean just precepts, a temple, monastery, or other external signs, for these as well as hearing and thinking are subsidiary factors in taming the mind. When the mind becomes the practices, one is a practitioner of religion, and when the mind does not become the practices one is not.

--His Holiness the Dalai Lama

External signs such as ritual, ceremonies and the like certainly help bring us to mindfulness but if we don't use those reminders as a means of working skillfully with our consciousness it is all to little or no avail. True religion is about transformation - whatever our belief system may be.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Meditation on jealousy

The last few days I've been looking for material on afflictive emotions. This week, for example, we talked about loneliness during the ongoing classes.

Today, I came across a meditation on jealousy that I think will really help those who suffer from this malady. It is constructed largely in the form of reflection questions:
- Think about a situation that makes me feel jealous.
- How does jealousy feel?
- Are there any thoughts that keep on repeating themselves in my mind? - What is the object I really want to have, that the other has no right to?
- Why do I have more right to this than the other?
- Does my jealousy help me in getting it?
- Is this object really that important in my life?
- Would I be really happy when I had it, and could I remain happy?
- Why is it so difficult to feel happy that this other person has it?
- When I rejoice in the good fortune of the other, both of us will be happy!
- Try to really give the object to the other, and feel happy about your generosity!
I really like that next to the last point. This is, of course, the Divine Abode* called sympathetic joy - the ability to rejoice in the good fortune or success of another. It strikes me that this is the central antidote for jealousy.

Just because you're not eaten up with jealousy doesn't mean you don't have it. Look for subtle signs that you might be experiencing it even unconsciously. Perhaps a way to get started is to examine all the ways you could practice sympathetic joy but, for some reason, don't.

We will increase our level of happiness immeasurably if we learn to let go of all the jealousy hidden in our innermost experience.

* The four Divine Abodes are: compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity. They are sometimes called the four sublime states.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

A good night's sleep

Here's how:

If we have a good heart, we experience much happiness and relaxation. We have no reason to feel angry or jealous and we have a very happy mind. When we speak, sweet words come out. Even our face is happy and smiling. At night we go to bed with a happy mind and have a very comfortable sleep, without any worries.

Otherwise, if we live our life with a very selfish, ungenerous mind, we think about nothing else except me, me, me: "When will I be happy? When will I be free from these problems?" If our attitude is like this, jealousy and anger arise easily, strongly and repeatedly, so we experience much unhappiness in our life, many ups-and-downs. During the day we have a cold heart and at night we even go to bed with a cold heart and unhappy mind.

-- Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The right kind of surrender

From Meditations for People in Crisis:

When it seems humanly impossible to do more in a difficult situation, surrender yourself to the inner silence and thereafter wait for a sign of obvious guidance or for a renewal of inner strength.

-- Paul Brunton

The paradox of surrender is that in letting go we become stronger. The way this works is that our ego gets out of the way and lets our deep wisdom nature come forth. Never be afraid to surrender to the inner silence. This is where our "spiritual friend" resides - however we understand that reality.

Remember the "root prayer":
I pray for your blessing, great and completely worthy spiritual friend. I pray that you will cause love, compassion and pefect charity* to arise in my mind.
("Perfect charity" is my translation of bodhicitta - a Sanscrit word that literally means "awakened heart-mind" and refers to the most profound kind of compassion possible.)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Just so you'll know

I came across an article today that explained these Christmas customs:
1. Christmas Greenery Ancient Egyptians used palm branches, while northern cultures preferred evergreens, to brighten the home during the winter. Continuing a custom that dates back to the 16th century, German immigrants were the first Americans to purchase and decorate Christmas trees, typically in the pine family.

2. Old Saint Nick Today's "jolly old elf," Santa Claus, is based on a real saint who lived in Turkey in the 4th century. Saint Nicholas was renowned for his generosity and love of children. According to historical sources, he would drop coins down the chimney to preserve his anonymity and the dignity of his recipients.

3. Gift Giving Once frowned upon as a pagan custom dating back to the Romans, gift giving is an integral part of our Christmas tradition. Santa's alias, "Kriss Kringle," means Christ child in German, and referred to a medieval legend that the infant Jesus distributed presents.

4. Mistletoe Kissing Remember the following Norse fable the next time you sneak a smooch under the mistletoe: Frigga, goddess of love and beauty, wanted to make the world safe for her son, Balder. Everything on earth promised to do him no harm except the one plant Frigga overlooked, mistletoe. Loki, an evil spirit, made an arrow from the mistletoe's wood and killed Balder. Frigga's tears became the plant's white berries and revived her son. In her gratitude, Frigga promised to kiss anyone who passed under the mistletoe, just as we do today.

5. Candy Canes The striped confections we now love to crunch were once straight white sticks of sugar candy. In the 1600s, in Cologne, Germany, traditional folktales reveal that the candies were bent at the end to remind children of a shepherd's crook and to keep them quiet in church.
I would love to give each of you a wonderful candy cane right now. Not to keep you quiet :-) but for celebration! I hope your day is going well.

Lengthening of light

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Merry Christmas everyone! We are past the Winter Solstice so the days are starting to get longer again. Here's a meditation by Susan Kramer (who has a regular on line meditation column) about the growing light:
During lengthening days of light
May our actions be lighthearted
Upon right and noble impulses.

During quiet hours beyond dusk, before dawn
May we take time to think over events from the day
Plan for good in the morrow.

In light of day
May we extend our personal borders
Caring and sharing expansively.

So the world glows bright from our presence
May we blaze as beacons of harmony
Lighting the path ahead.

To nurture efforts toward lasting peace
May we with act with kindness toward all
Embracing our family and friends wholeheartedly
Ever gracing our world-wide family lightheartedly.
May the day be lovely for you. If you are with family or friends, may that coming together be peaceful and joyful. If you are alone, may you truly know that you are with the world-wide family this day and always.

Christmas blessings to all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve prayer blogging

Christmas Meditation:

Let us join our hearts and minds together in the spirit of meditation and prayer.

May these moments of quiet lead us to the heart of the season, which is peace.

May we breathe deeply of peace in this quiet place, relax into its warmth, know we are safe here, and let us open our hearts to the evening's story.

Like the wandering couple, may we find that our greatest trials issue forth from our greatest joys.

Like the harried innkeeper, may we find ways to be of help to others.

Like the lumbering beasts, may we be silent witnesses to the unfathomable glory of life.

Like the shepherds on the hill, may we know that we need never be afraid.

Like the journeying wise, may we always have the courage to follow our stars.

Like the angels, may we cry peace to a troubled world.

Holy one, to these prayers for our own transformation we add our prayers for all of those who suffer and grieve this evening. May they find comfort.

And we add our prayers for all those involved in war; may they be safe.

And may this season of peace and goodwill nudge our world towards its ideals, for then will Christmas truly dawn.

--Christine Robinson

Meditation in the morning

I agree with this. Even if you believe you can't spend any time formally meditating first thing in the morning, pause. Just pause:

Something precious is lost if we rush headlong into the details of life without pausing for a moment to pay homage to the mystery of life and the gift of another day.

-- Kent Nerburn

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Attitude matters

Our attitude toward our distractions in meditation actually matters. It's important not to be harsh with ourselves or disappointed. Here's an excerpt from a little article entitled "Meditation: Getting Started" from Psychology Today. It's on using the breath as a support:
Let your awareness permeate your entire body as you breathe, noting any sensations that arise. Now settle your respiration in its natural flow. Observe the entire course of each in- and out-breath, noting whether it is long or short, deep or shallow, slow or fast. Don't impose any rhythm on your breathing. Let the body breathe as if you were fast asleep, but with your mind vigilant.

Thoughts are bound to arise involuntarily, and your attention may also be pulled away by noises and other stimuli from your environment. When you note that you have become distracted, instead of tightening up and forcing your attention back to the breath, simply let go of these thoughts and distractions. Don't get upset. Just be happy that you've noticed the distraction, and gently return to the breath.
I like the instruction to be happy that we've noticed the distraction. You know, it's possible to go a long time without noticing. So it's progress to notice! It's so important to be gentle with ourselves. This will help the mind settle and become tranquil.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

About gratitude

How true:

A life of gratitude accepts the bad with the good. Genuine gratitude is not a zero sum game in which thankfulness increases the more fortunate you are and decreases the more adversity you experience.

-- Dan Clendenin

This is beautiful

I will love the light for it shows me the way,
yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.

-- Og Mandino

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

Tonight is the Winter Solstice - 7:22 p.m. EST to be exact. Here's a little information about the Solstice:

Solstice derives from an ancient Latin word meaning "stop," or "to stand still." According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, it refers to one of two points when the sun is furthest from the celestial equator.
To the ancients, it appeared as if the Sun and Moon stopped in their flight across the sky—this is the longest night of the year and was a time of both anticipation and rejoicing at the Sun's rebirth out of the Goddess.

The Sun's representation as the male divinity, or celestial ruler, predates Christianity. As with other rituals and celebrations, the Church felt that by assimilating this holiday into the Christian beliefs, it would help convert those who still followed the Olde Way.

The Winter Solstice marks a crucial part of the natural cycle. In a real sense, the sun begins anew its journey toward longer days, times of new growth and renewal of the world once again. In a spiritual sense, it is a reminder that in order for a new path to begin, the old one must end and that spring will come again.
This is the night to begin burning your Yule log if you're lucky enough to have a fireplace:

The term Yule stems from the Anglo-Saxon "yula" or "wheel" of the year. In ancient pagan ritual, the Yule Log was lit on the eve of Winter Solstice and burned for twelve hours. Later, the Log was replaced by the Yule Tree, but instead of being burned, it was adorned with burning candles.
Or, just remember the day as you turn on your Christmas tree lights tonight!

Meditation and body heat

Has it ever come to your attention that advanced meditators can generate amazing body heat? It thought you'd like to read an article about it. It's called "Meditation changes temperatures:
Mind controls body in extreme experiments"
and I thought it was really fascinating. Here's an excerpt:

In a monastery in northern India, thinly clad Tibetan monks sat quietly in a room where the temperature was a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a yoga technique known as g Tum-mo, they entered a state of deep meditation. Other monks soaked 3-by-6-foot sheets in cold water (49 degrees) and placed them over the meditators' shoulders. For untrained people, such frigid wrappings would produce uncontrolled shivering.

If body temperatures continue to drop under these conditions, death can result. But it was not long before steam began rising from the sheets. As a result of body heat produced by the monks during meditation, the sheets dried in about an hour.

Attendants removed the sheets, then covered the meditators with a second chilled, wet wrapping. Each monk was required to dry three sheets over a period of several hours.

Why would anyone do this? Herbert Benson, who has been studying g Tum-mo for 20 years, answers that "Buddhists feel the reality we live in is not the ultimate one. There's another reality we can tap into that's unaffected by our emotions, by our everyday world. Buddhists believe this state of mind can be achieved by doing good for others and by meditation. The heat they generate during the process is just a by-product of g Tum-mo meditation."

Herbert Benson, of course, is the doctor who wrote the now classic book The Relaxation Response that I recommend for everybody. It teaches a secular and scientific approach to meditation.

Perhaps none of us will get so advanced that we can melt snow but we probably can get to the state where we discover our hands getting warmer and we can definitely experience "the relaxation response" - a state that is the opposite of stress.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Two on meaning

Here's an observation on the subject of meaning:

Meaning does not come to us in finished form, ready-made; it must be found, created, received, constructed. We grow our way toward it.

Ann Bedlord Ulanov

And another:

Insights from myth, dreams, and intuitions, from glimpses of an invisible reality, and from perennial human wisdom provide us with hints and guesses about the meaning of life and what we are here for. Prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action are the means through which we grow and find meaning.

Jean Shinoda Bolen

I was privileged to hear Ann Belford Ulanov speak at Virginia Theological Seminary some years ago. She is a riveting speaker and comes across as utterly authentic. I do recommend her works and Jean Shinoda Bolen's as well. (Click through on Ann Ulanov's name for a PBS interview with her on the subject of 9-11.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Letting life unfold

Ah! This is dedicated to everyone who is attached to a fantasy about the way things "should" be:

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

-- Joseph Campbell

How very true. Let go of control and, instead, be willing for life to unfold. It does anyway whether we're willing or not. It's just that our willingness brings us peace and alleviates our suffering. And isn't that, finally, what we all want?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Seed pod in snow
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Be your own mother

Here's an excerpt from a talk by Sister Ayya Khema:
...[W]e [need to] learn to love ourselves in a wholesome way. "Just as a mother at the risk of life, loves and protects her child..." Become your own mother! If we want to have a relationship with ourselves that is realistic and conducive to growth, then we need to become our own mother. A sensible mother can distinguish between that which is useful for her child and that which is detrimental. But she doesn't stop loving the child when it misbehaves. This may be the most important aspect to look at in ourselves. Everyone, at one time or another, misbehaves in thought or speech or action. Most frequently in thought, fairly frequently in speech and not so often in action. So what do we do with that? What does a mother do? She tells the child not to do it again, loves the child as much as she's always loved it and just gets on with the job of bringing up her child. Maybe we can start to bring up ourselves.
Become a healthy mother to yourself - not a dysfunctional one. Become the kind of mother who has the healthy development of her child at heart. It's amazingly effective, this bringing up of oneself!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday prayer blogging

Four Elements Medicine Wheel

O Great Spirit of the North,
Invisible Spirit of the Air,
And of the fresh, cool winds,
O vast and boundless
Grandfather Sky,
Your living breath animates all life.
Yours is the power of clarity and strength,
Power to hear the inner sounds,
To sweep out the old patterns,
And to bring change and challenge,
The ecstasy of movement and the dance.
We pray that we may be aligned with you,
So that your power may flow through us,
And be expressed by us,
For the good of this planet,
And all living beings upon it.

O Great Spirit of the West,
Spirit of the Great Waters,
Of rain, rivers, lakes and springs.
O Grandmother Ocean
Deep matrix, womb of all life.
Power to dissolve boundaries,
To release holdings,
Power to taste and to feel,
To cleanse and to heal,
Great blissful darkness of peace.
We pray that we may be aligned with you,
So that your powers may flow through us,
And be expressed by us,
For the good of this planet,
And all living beings upon it.

O Great Spirit of the East,
Radiance of the rising Sun,
Spirit of new beginnings,
O Grandfather Fire,
Great nuclear fire -- of the Sun.
Power of life-energy, vital spark,
Power to see far, and to
Imagine with boldness.
Power to purify our senses,
Our hearts and our minds.
We pray that we may be aligned with you,
So that your powers may flow through us,
And be expressed by us,
For the good of this planet Earth,
And all living beings upon it.

O Great Spirit of the South,
Protector of the fruitful land,
And of all green and growing things,
The noble trees and grasses,
Grandmother Earth,
Soul of Nature.
Great power of the receptive,
Of nurturance and endurance,
Power to grow and bring forth
Flowers of the field,
Fruits of the garden.
We pray that we may be aligned with you,
So that your powers may flow through us,
And be expressed by us,
For the good of this planet Earth,
And all living beings upon it.

- - Ralph Metzner

We are not separate

And here's an observation that reminds us:

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.

--Garrison Keillor

Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Good" and "bad" meditations

For years I have pleaded with meditation students not to judge their meditations. The only thing to be concerned about is whether or not we are bringing the mind back to the support or object. Here's a passage from a talk by Achan Sobin Namto that makes this point:
Some meditators make the mistake of feeling happy when a period of sitting is nice and quiet and they don't have wandering mind. They think, 'Wow, now I'm a good, successful meditator. I don't mind that I came here. I'm getting a lot of benefit." But the next sitting isn't the same. Maybe their minds wander a lot and they think, "Oh, this is terrible. Maybe meditation cannot help me." They are disappointed and sad. Maybe they lose confidence and energy. That's wrong view. They don't understand that everything is impermanent. Even if the sitting is good this time, it has to end; and when good ends, bad occurs. The end of good is bad. When the next sitting is bad, why worry? Bad has to have an end. Maybe the next sitting will be good. Even if it isn't, that's ok. It cannot be bad the whole day, right? You have to have good sometimes, have to have quiet or calmness sometimes. But when the mind is calm or peaceful, don't attach, because it cannot last too long, cannot last all day. Sometimes practice will be bad. So do not worry about good or bad.
I think a lot of meditators give up because they think they have "bad" meditations. Please don't! You'll be depriving yourself of wonderful benefits if you do. Have compassion on yourself if your mind wanders and just bring it back very gently. And most of all, remember impermanence.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Isn't Cynthia an incredible photographer? I just love this picture!


Here's a beautiful little essay by Pema Chödrön on generosity:

According to the teachings, there are three types of generosity, three ways of helping others by giving of ourselves.

The first kind of generosity is the giving of material things, such as food and shelter.

The second is "giving the gift of fearlessness." We help those who are afraid. If someone is scared of the dark, we give them a flashlight; if they're going through a fearful time, we comfort them; if they're having night terrors, we sleep next to them. This may sound easy, but it takes time and effort and care.

The third kind of generosity drives away the darkness of ignorance. This is "the gift of dharma [the teachings]" and is considered the most profound. Although no one can eliminate our ignorance but ourselves, nevertheless, through example and through teachings, we can inspire and support one another.

The inconceivable wish to help all sentient beings always begins with oneself. Our own experience is the only thing we have to share.

(I found this through a link on an email sent out by DharmaCrafts.)

This is a time of year when there are many demands on our generosity. Of course, there is great pleasure in giving material gifts. But let's also think about giving fearlessness and finding opportunities to pass on the wisdom we have received from the meditative tradition.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

About peace

Here is a description of peace found on the Spirituality and Practice website:
Peace is built on the foundations of other spiritual practices: connections, compassion, justice, unity. It is a goal of all spiritual people. Peace is an inner state of well-being and calm. It is also an outer project of promoting nonviolence, conflict resolution, and cooperation in the world. The root of the Hebrew word for peace, "shalom," means "whole" and points to this twofold meaning: peace within oneself and peace between people.

Practice peace by refusing to participate in violence either directly or indirectly. Try to stay composed no matter how agitated the people around you become. Meet conflict with equanimity. Disarm yourself — lower your guard — as a first step in disarming the world.
I like the emphasis on both the inner and outer aspects of peace. I also like the point made that peace is built on other spiritual practices. We can't cultivate peace in isolation. Remember the slogan: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." That certainly applies to peace.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The importance of ethics

Why selfishness as a life philosophy doesn't work:

It is in everybody's interest to seek those [actions] that lead to happiness and avoid those which lead to suffering. And because our interests are inextricably linked, we are compelled to accept ethics as the indispensable interface between my desire to be happy and yours.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

We are connected. We are so connected. That which affects one eventually affects all. We need only look to our poor damaged environment to know that. So let us commit ourselves to promoting happiness and alleviating suffering wherever and whenever we can. In the end, we too will benefit.

Wednesday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Compassion and self-healing

Here's a story I used in ongoing meditation class this week. It's from a book entitled Heal Thy Self and it's by Saki Santorelli.
Twenty years ago I met a man from Montana who watched the news on television and read the newspapers because he said that doing so awakened his heart of compassion. Although not particularly interested in the news itself, he found these two forms of media rich sources for cultivating his growing sense of care for and connection to people, animals, landmasses, oceans, forests, and countries all over the planet. He went on to say that he would sit down in his living room, watch or read about some atrocity occurring in some part of the world, and feel his pain, his impulse to turn away, and, in turn, his sense of connection with all of these beings.
Isn't it interesting that a story about cultivating compassion for others - and, in fact, actually feeling their pain - is included in a book about healing ourselves? When we cultivate compassion for others in a healthy way (not in a guilt-laden, compulsive way) we actually feel better - not worse.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

About thoughts

Where do our thoughts come from? Where do they go when we finish thinking them? Here's a little poem that plays with such questions:

A thought went up my mind to-day
That I have had before,
But did not finish,--some way back,
I could not fix the year,

Nor where it went, nor why it came
The second time to me,
Nor definitely what it was,
Have I the art to say.

But somewhere in my soul, I know
I've met the thing before;
It just reminded me--'t was all--
And came my way no more.

-- Emily Dickinson

Some years ago, I kept a dream catcher in the meditation hall. I used to joke with meditation students that their thoughts got trapped by the dream catcher and that late at night I took it and shook it outside to clear it of all the thoughts that had accumulated!

The important thing to remember about thoughts is not to identify with them. A thought is something I have - not something I am. Remember that and just let thoughts arise and dissolve as they will. Do not try to control them, do not become attached to them. Just notice them, accept them without judgment, let them go, and then bring the mind back to the present moment. This is the way to freedom.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Seek Wisdom

This is an excerpt from a longer poem you can find here:

In the stillness of night Wisdom came and stood by my bed. She gazed upon me like a tender mother and wiped away my tears, and said : "I have heard the cry of your spirit and I am come to comfort it. Open your heart to me and I shall fill it with light. Ask of me and I shall show you the way of truth."

-- Kahlil Gibran

Wisdom is not a thing. Wisdom is a person with whom we have a relationship. If we call her, she will come.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday prayer blogging

Prayer for the Home

May the house wherein I dwell be blessed;
May good thoughts here possess me;
May my path of life be straight and true;
My dreams as here I lie be joyous;
All above, below, about me
May the house I love be hallowed.

(Source: Omaha)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Make space for beauty

Photo by Bill Miller

I found a blog today called Markham's Behavioral Health. This is a sample:
I heard a Filipino psychiatrist one time ask a patient during a mental status exam, "What does it mean, 'If you have two loafs of bread, trade one for a flower'?" The patient, being somewhat concrete replied, "You will be hungry". Jesus said, "Man does not live on bread alone" (Matthew 4:4), and yet we forget that beauty should be a part of our lives. Beauty nourishes our spirit and makes our lives worth living.
Of the three classical philosophical questions - What is true? What is good? What is beautiful? - the question about beauty has always been the one most important to me. If that question has taken a back seat in your life, try giving it a little more attention. I don't think you'll regret it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

A Simple Practice

I think I've posted this before but, if I have, it's been quite a long time. What I want to share with you is a practice the Dalai Lama recommends. It's quite beautiful:
1. Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of each day remembering we all want the same things (to be happy and be loved) and we are all connected to one another.

2. Spend 5 minutes - breathing in - cherishing yourself and, breathing out - cherishing others. If you think about people you have difficulty cherishing, extend your cherishing to them anyway.

3. During the day extend that attitude to everyone you meet. Practice cherishing the simplest person (clerks, attendants, etc.) as well as the "important" people in your life; cherish the people you love and the people you dislike.

4. Continue this practice no matter what happens or what anyone does to you.

These thoughts are very simple, inspiring and helpful. The practice of cherishing can be taken very deep if done wordlessly, allowing yourself to feel the love and appreciation that already exists in your heart.
I happened to find a handout with this exercise on it as I was cleaning house today. I'm really glad I did.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Benefits of meditation

I know I've shared with you before about the studies that show how meditation helps people with ADHD but I was really struck with the article I want to pass on today. It's called "Study: Meditation May Help People With ADHD" and here's part of what it says:
Feeling frazzled? Distracted? Stressed Out?

NBC4's Dr. Bruce Hensel reported that for people with Attention Deficit Disorder those feelings are multiplied.
Distractions are even worse for people who are actually diagnosed with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder - a neurobehavioral condition, who already have difficulty in focusing, organizing, and regulating their moods.
Research is now showing some promising results on an age-old practice: meditation.
Once a week, for eight weeks, the study subjects trained in different forms of meditation.

The exercises are very much to pay attention to how you're paying attention, catching yourself when you're distracted, and bringing yourself back to the present moment.

In cognitive tests taken at the end of the study, the participants got better at staying focused, even when different things were competing for their attention.

Many of them also felt less anxious and depressed by the end of the study.

"It felt like it was a reset on a computer, just like I turned down my whole program and turned it back on, and it was clean. It was a fresh place to start from, and then I can make decisions and do what I had to do," said Kensington [an ADHD patient].
I really like the illustraion of the reset on a computer. I feel that way too. My other image is that of scrubbing bubbles. My mind gets "washed". As an ADHD sufferer myself, I'm truly grateful for the meditative process.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Weaver Bloomfield

Holiday stress

I found an article this morning that ends with a list of tips for managing stress during the holidays:

_Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Make a list and prioritize important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.

_Remember the holiday season does not banish pre-existing feelings of sadness or loneliness.

_Look toward the future. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don't set yourself up in comparing today with the "good old days."

_Do something for someone else. Try volunteering to help others.

_Enjoy activities that are free, such as looking at holiday decorations, window-shopping without buying, making a snowman with children.

_Be aware excessive drinking will only increase feelings of depression.

_Save time for yourself. Recharge your batteries.

(SOURCE: Mental Health Association of Colorado)

Of course, I want to add:

_ Stay in the moment by bringing the mind back to whatever is immediately at hand.

_ Give yourself time for meditation. It is actually more restful than sleep.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The quest

People are looking for something and cannot seem to find it. They say they want more but cannot describe what that more is. This essentially is a spiritual quest.
— James W. Jones in In the Middle of this Road We Call Our Life

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Weaver Bloomfield

Real life

Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties.

-- Sara Ban Breathnach

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday prayer blogging

With every breath I take today,
I vow to be awake;

And every step I take,
I vow to take with a grateful heart--

So I may see with eyes of love
into the hearts of all I meet,

To ease their burden when I can
And touch them with a smile of peace.
Source: Blue Iris Sangha

Spiritual echos

Here's a very interesting passage from the book Small Graces by Kent Nerburn:
I try always to look upon the world and the people I meet as echoes of my spirit. I know that if I am speaking with deceit, deceit will be echoed back to me . . . Likewise, if I find that I am constantly cheerful, full of brightness and hope, or deeply contemplative in the presence of a particular person, I know I am in the presence of a gracious spirit, and I am echoing the gift that is being given to me. It is as if the lesson of the echo contains the secret to understanding the space between us all.
We can practice this thought by noticing what our echo says to the world, and what others echo back to us. Of course, it requires observer consciousness to be able to do this and we cultivate observer consciousness by meditating. We will only be able to notice our echo if we're able to notice our thoughts and to accept them without judgment.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The fathomless mystery

Today I picked up a little book off my shelves called 100 Ways to Keep Your Soul Alive by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. I want to share with you a passage that they quote from a book called Now and Then:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

-- Frederick Buechner

That is what we do when we cultivate mindfulness in the meditative tradition. We listen to our life. It's so easy to go through life not listening - as if we were on automatic pilot. Take a moment. Re-engage. And start again - with awareness this time.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess


Have you ever had somebody throw a wet blanket on something you were enthusiastic about? I'll bet you felt discouraged as a result. Here's an observation about the importance of encouragement:

One of the most beautiful gifts in the world is the gift of encouragement. When someone encourages you, that person helps you over a threshold you might otherwise never have crossed on your own.

— John O'Donohue in Eternal Echoes

Whenever I get frazzled because I have a lot on my plate, Cynthia will usually say, "Go, Super-nun!" It makes me a laugh and it helps me to feel encouraged at the same time.

Encouragement is a form of loving-kindness (one of "the Four Divine Abodes in the meditative tradition). It involves the sincere wish for others to be happy and to have deep well being. Look for opportunities to encourage others - and yourself as well.