Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Something to ponder

I often regret that I have spoken; never that I have been silent.

--Publilius Syrus

Choosing Joy

Here's another lovely little meditation by Henri Nouwen:
Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.

What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.
I think the key to choosing joy is the reality of impermanence. Both pleasure and pain are impermanent. People cheat themselves of joy by forgetting that pain is impermanent and by believing that pleasure shouldn't be impermanent. When we let go of our judgments about pain and pleasure, then joy is able to arise naturally in our experience.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

In the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis
Photo by Bill Miller


Linda Cole regularly sends me "meditations" (in this usage: brief, reflective essays) from the writings of Henri Nouwen. Here's one on forgiveness that I thought was particularly good:
Forgiving does not mean forgetting. When we forgive a person, the memory of the wound might stay with us for a long time, even through out our lives. Sometimes we carry the memory in our bodies as a visible sign. But forgiveness changes the way we remember. It converts the curse into a blessing. When we forgive our parents for their divorce, our children for their lack of attention, our friends for their unfaithfulness in crisis, our doctors for their ill advice, we no longer have to experience ourselves as the victims of events we had no control over.

Forgiveness allows us to claim our own power and not let these events destroy us; it enables them to become events that deepen the wisdom of our hearts. Forgiveness indeed heals memories.
I really like the point that, through forgiveness, we are no longer victims. I also think that an important point is the empowering aspect of forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard but it is truly worth cultivating. It can mean the difference between a liberated life and one that is marked by bitterness. I'll take the liberation any day!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Patience and equanimity

A hard reality for many people to accept is that there are no guarantees. No matter how perfectly you organize your life, difficulties will still arise - some minor and some devastating. To believe that "it shouldn't be this way" is a prescription for suffering and unhappiness:

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.

-- Carl Jung

Here's where the practices of compassion and lovingkindness become so important. Regardless of our situation - whether it is an easy time or a dark time - we can make the sincere wish or prayer for ourselves and others to be free from suffering and to know happiness. This practice in and of itself will help alleviate our own suffering during difficult times.

Brain Changes

I want to bring you a passage from a posting entitled "Meditation teaches the brain new tricks" from a blog I just discovered called Church of the Churchless. It's about the plasticity of the brain and how meditation changes the brain for the better:
After putting the Buddhist monks through their meditation paces in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, neuroscientist Richard Davidson considers this to be a viable hypothesis: “That we can think of emotions, moods and states such as compassion as trainable mental skills.”

So the brain is turning out to be
a lot more flexible than was previously believed. It’s interesting that meditation, which usually involves focusing or concentrating awareness, leads to more looseness in the psyche.

Maybe reducing the amount of useless cognitive crap that floats around the brain in the form of meandering thoughts and unrestrained emotions frees up space for more positive relations with reality.

Whatever, it’s clear that meditation can lead to changes in how our consciousness functions, opening up possibilities for fresh insights and new understandings. It’s healthy to shake up the branches of our brain’s neuronal tree. Fruits never before tasted may drop onto our plate of awareness.
As you've heard me say before, whatever helps motivate us to practice is all to the good.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Here's an excerpt from an article entitled "Living the moment, regardless of religious stripe":

[A] component [of the meditative tradition] that has gelled with me... [is] the concept of now.

Think about it for a moment. We always hear people telling us to "live in the now" or some other worn out knee-jerk comment. But, how many of us really do? When you're driving to work, are you really paying attention to the road or letting your instincts turn your wheels? Late at night, as I drive on the dark, wooded street leading to my house, I find myself jerking back into the present, scared to death that I was mentally a million miles away. If a deer happened to scurry across my path while my head was out to lunch, he wouldn't stand a chance.

Meditation has, for me, begun to teach me the simple, yet amazingly difficult concept of being in the present moment. It focuses on breathing, on this breath, the one you're breathing as you read this sentence, not the one you might have breathed a minute or an hour ago. Those breaths are over — why give them a second thought?
Living in the now is, without a doubt, the way to peace and happiness. Meditation will teach you how.

Thursday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess


One of the great meditative principles is that of impermanence. And impermanence means change. It's understandable to resist change; fear of the unknown is normal. And yet, we need to cultivate an appreciation for change because it will happen anyway. Look at what Alan Cohen has to say about it:
It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.
And here's something Benjamin Franklin said:
When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.
The reality of change is very encouraging when we want to change. Impermanence means that change is possible, that we're not stuck. And that's good news!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Art of Amazement

I want to tell you about a book that just came to my attention. It's called The Art of Amazement (isn't that a wonderful title?) and it's about meditation from a Jewish point of view. Here's a description:

Have you ever stopped to look at a breathtaking sunset and felt tremendous joy, calmness, or even timelessness? Has your entire body ever responded to something with awe? The Art of Amazement helps us to identify the source of that wonder, and to cultivate it and experience it daily - even hourly and minute by minute.

Rabbi Seinfeld's powerful book outlines the ancient Jewish spiritual arts in clear terms for any spiritual seeker. The art of amazement is practical and accessible to anyone, and does not demand a radical lifestyle change. Each chapter in the book offers a lesson paired with exercises to help make small changes in routine to ultimately achieve a larger shift in perspective.

Judaism is a profound and complex spirituality. Now The Art of Amazement brings this wisdom within reach of us all, and we can learn how to take joy and pleasure in even the smallest of everyday occurrences.

About the Author: Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld received a B.A. in Classics and an M.A. in anthropology. He lived and studied in yeshivas with some of the most renowned Jewish mystics of our times. Currently he conducts Art of Amazement seminars around the world, and lives with his family in Baltimore, where he is working toward a Ph.D. in ancient Jewish texts.

Here's what one reader says:
I'm not exaggerating - there's something about this book that speaks to me more than others in the genre. I've read a lot of books on "spirituality", "meditation", "Jewish meditation", "Kabbalah", and so on, and this is the first one that really inspired me to become a better person. The reason may be Rabbi Seinfeld's philosophical clarity - the way he explains the philosophical way to understand "God" (which he calls "The Infinite"), really works for me. He then brilliantly spplies this framework to a number of basic Jewish customs. For the first time, I feel like I understand what the rabbi was always trying to do in Temple, but I think even he didn't understand. It's like the fog has lifted and I see not only Judaism but my whole life dfferently now.
I haven't read this book but I think I'd like to. I think I'd learn a lot.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The value of meditation

I found an article today called "The value of meditation" and here's an excerpt:
Every time you glimpse freedom, your level of awareness heightens by just a little, and when repeated over and over again the light of consciousness starts to gain more and more momentum. It will be difficult at first, but once your level of awareness reaches a certain tipping point, characterized mainly by your outlook having become predominantly positive, your practice will become easy, playful, and almost effortless.

At times you will experience giant leaps forward, for example after having just gone through a great deal of suffering, but most of the time it is a matter of patiently repeating your practice and heightening your level of consciousness in small steps. And this, as I see it, is the true practical value of meditation, because even if you only have 15 minutes of peaceful introspection in a day otherwise filled with noise and activity, your awareness will gradually become higher and higher as you go along.

Just 15 minutes a day will make all the difference. Of course, what is necessary is that we don't give up.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess


I came across a very interesting article on the CNN website entitled "Daydreaming is brain's default setting, study finds". Here's part of what it says:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Daydreaming seems to be the default setting of the human mind and certain brain regions are devoted to it, U.S. researchers reported Friday.

When people are given a specific task to do, they focus on that task but then other brain regions get busy during down time, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"There is this network of regions that always seems to be active when you don't give people something to do," psychologist Malia Mason of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital said in a telephone interview.

When Mason asked people what was happening during this down time, the answer was clear.

"It's daydreaming," she said. "But I find that the vast majority of time, people aren't having fanciful thoughts. People are thinking about what they have to do later today."

Her team has chosen to call it stimulus-independent thought or mind wandering.

Neurologists and psychologists have debated what goes on when people are not specifically thinking about or doing something, and there had been general agreement that the mind does not simply go blank.
So this is the mind left to its own devices. What really interested me is the possibility that there's no real reason for the mind to behave this way:
"Although the thoughts the mind produces when wandering are at times useful, such instances do not prove that the mind wanders because these thoughts are adaptive; on the contrary the mind may wander simply because it can," they concluded.
I've been known to assign daydreaming as a remedy to an obsession with controlling the mind. Some people make a project out of meditating and are very harsh with themselves when the mind wanders away from the meditative support so that they are tense throughout the meditation period. Such people need to ease up. If you are like this, just give yourself permission to daydream for a particular period of time until you become relaxed. This may take a week or two. Then slowly re-introduce the use of a meditative support. Bring the mind back to it in an easy and spacious way. Never scold yourself for daydreaming. Just gently bring the mind back to the support without forcing, without straining. Then your meditation period will truly be one in which you both rest and train the mind.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The Tibetans teach us that life is a bardo - an in between state. That is beautifully expressed here:
It began in mystery and it will end in mystery, but what a rare and beautiful country lies in between.

Meditation give us a deep appreciation for mystery as well as practical and reliable skills for exercising mindfulness in the in-between-ness.

Friday, January 19, 2007

On truth and wealth

Two thoughts here for your reflection:

We must be true inside, true to ourselves, before we can know a truth that is outside us. But we make ourselves true inside by manifesting the truth as we see it.

-- Thomas Merton

In this world, it is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Paul Rogers

This cat belongs to Paul's next door neighbor.

By the way, if any human companions of cats are looking at this, Sox should not have his collar on so loose. That's a good way for a cat to get accidentally choked or hanged.

You can see another picture of Sox on my other blog, Child of Illusion.

Oh, that ego!

One of the most tragic things I observe (and I observe it often) is the attempt to perfect the ego. Many people embark on that project thinking it will make them happy. But it never does because the ego is actually a tyrant and will never be satisfied if you put it in charge. The way to true happiness is to realize that the ego is not your true nature. Take a look at this marvelous quote:

There seem to two kinds of searchers: those who seek to make their ego something other than it is, i.e. holy, happy, unselfish (as though you could make a fish unfish), and those who understand that all such attempts are just gesticulation and play-acting, that there is only one thing that can be done, which is to disidentify themselves with the ego, by realising its unreality, and by becoming aware of their eternal identity with pure being.

- Fingers Pointing Toward the Moon by Wei Wu Wei

You can't get rid of the ego. It's part of how you get through life. But you can certainly know that it is not the real you. And you can refuse to let it be in charge. Letting go is the way - not building up. And humility is the key. Let it be okay that you're not great, you're not special, you're not perfect. And your true nature - which is beyond the ego and is luminous, beautiful and pure - will come shining forth.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

More on the benefits of meditation

Here's an article from the UK about the benefits of meditation. It's called "Meditation - fad, fiction or fact". An excerpt:
Meditation may appear to be something that only the rich, famous or religious can do, but a new wave of research demonstrates that there are real, tangible health benefits if practised regularly.

Medical research across the world is beginning to awaken to the possibility that regular practise of meditation; relaxation and visualisation techniques can help to reduce the stress hormones in our blood that influence our long-term health and well-being.
Lorraine Murray: "There is a gathering amount of evidence to suggest that the more we practice these techniques, our body responds by reducing the levels of Cortisol in our blood stream. It can be quite a self empowering step to learn these methods and many people find that it enables them to manage and accept change in their lives, often situations that are responsible for higher levels of stress."
In order to reap the benefits, we really need to meditate. Come to class if you can. Schedule a daiily sitting at home - if only for five minutes.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

So watch out for Sundays!

Today I want to direct you once more to a beautiful blog called Meditation Photography. Here's a paragraph from a reflection posted on January 15 by the blog's author, Suresh Gundappa:
How to be patient, how to wait for things. They have lost all capacity to be inactive. They don’t know how to go on a holiday. Even if they go on a holiday they are more active than ever. More people have heart attacks on Sunday in the West than on any other day, because it is a holiday. And people are too occupied. The whole working week they think they will rest when the holiday comes, and when the holiday comes, they have a thousand and one things to do. Not that they have to do them, that they are needed, no, not at all; but they cannot live in rest. They cannot just lie down on the lawn and be with the earth. They cannot just sit silently under a tree and do no-thing. No, they will start doing a thousand and one things around the house. They will fix this and unfix that, they will open their car engines and start doing things to it. They will do something. But they will remain active.
Our meditative practice will teach us - train us - how to be still, how to wait, how to do nothing. Not only that, eventually our practice will teach us the value of these things. It's contercultural to value stillness, patience, deep rest. All the more reason why we need to be intentional in cultivating them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The swinging door

Oh, that ego! Wouldn't it be nice if we could just let it go? Here's a passage that tells us how to train ourselves to do just that. It's from that wonderful classic, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind:

When we practice meditation our mind always follows our breathing. Inhale, the air comes into the inner world. Exhale, the air goes to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. We say "inner world" or "outer world," but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door.

The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door.

If you think, "I breathe," the "I" is extra. There is no you to say "I." What we call "I" is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all.

When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no "I," no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.

--Shunryu Suzuki

I found this on a very interesting blog called Business Zen.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The moral universe

From "Where do we go from here?" :

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I found this today quite by accident and was very moved by it:
Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world.
This is from The Secret Lives of Men and Women compiled by Frank Warren. It is a collection of contributions to the PostSecret project. According to its website, "PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard." What would happen if we all just assumed that everyone we meet has a heartbreaking secret and give each person the benefit of the doubt when we don't understand his or her behavior? Wouldn't it be wonderful if other people did that for us?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

More on gratitude

I found this on the Gratefulness website:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Melodie Beattie

It's really a good idea to make a gratitude list. Making one requires that we reflect about what we're grateful for. I know when I made mine I came up with of lots of things that I normally didn't think of to be grateful for. Try it. You'll enjoy it!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Friday prayer blogging

May the roots of suffering diminish.
May warfare, violence, neglect, indifference, and addictions also decrease.
May the wisdom and compassion of all beings increase, now and in the future.
May we clearly see all the barriers we erect between ourselves and others to be as insubstantial as our dreams.
May we appreciate the great perfection of all phenomena.
May we continue to open our hearts and minds, in order to work ceaselessly for the benefit of all beings.
May we go to the places that scare us.
May we lead the life of a warrior.
--from Pema Chödrön's "The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Types of meditation

I found an article today by Charles Hamel that goes into the health benefits of meditation and also several different types of meditation a person can do. Here are the types:
Types of Meditation

It is not my intention to confuse the beginner by giving them different types of meditation, but just to show that there is not just one way to meditate, therefore giving the beginner different options, because one way that is good for me, may not work for another person very well.

Breath Watching - Breath watching is just simply paying attention to your breath for a few minutes. When your mind starts to wander, just re-focus your mind on the breath.

Mantra Meditation - Some people find it easier to keep their mind from wandering by concentrating on a specific thing, or in this case a word or phrase. Pick a word or phrase that works for you. You can then repeat the mantra aloud or in your mind as you meditate.

Walking Meditation - Walking meditation gets the body involved. It can be done inside or outside. The idea is to pay attention to the movement of your legs and breathing and body as you walk. When your mind starts to wander, just bring it back to the legs and breathing. Other forms of walking meditation can be martial arts, or Tai Chi.

Mindfulness Meditation - Mindfulness meditation a practice Buddhists call vipassana which means insight meditation. This is a good meditation to perform in the forest or next to a bubbling stream. This meditation is the art of becoming deeply aware of what is here right now. You focus on what’s happening in and around you at this very moment, and become aware of all the thoughts and feelings that are taking your energy from moment to moment. The key is to watch without judging or analyzing.

Empty Mind Meditation - This is the act of emptying your mind of all thoughts, it involves just sitting quiet and letting the mind go silent on it’s own accord. This meditation can be difficult for the beginner, because any effort to remain silent seems to just cause more business in the mind.

Meditating on an Idea - Meditating on an idea is usually used to receive answers or insight into a certain subject or theme that you desire. It involves sitting quiet and focusing your attention on the subject that you have chosen to explore.

There are other types of meditation also, but beginners seem to have the most luck trying the "Breath Watching" or the "Walking Meditation". Try the different types until you find the one that best suits you.
I recommend that you try each one of these. Contact me if you run into difficulty or have a question. And, of course, if you're in the Tulsa area the thing to do is to take the Foundations in Meditative Practice course here at the Center. You can check our website for information about upcoming classes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Ellie Finlay

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.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Peace and generosity

This is from a book called Voices of Our Ancestors:

Any human who feels that he or she is not "good enough" to cultivate peace and generosity is overlooking the wondrous gift of life. You live, therefore you are good enough.

-- Dhyani Ywahoo

If I am just a little more peaceful than I was yesterday, if I am just a little more generous than I was yesterday, I am on the path. It can be something very simple. It can be not giving in to self-pity. It can be taking just another minute on the phone to be pleasant. We don't have to stop a war or donate a fortune in order to practice peace and generosity. But perhaps our practice, small as it is, will shift the overall energy of the world so that the person who is in a position to stop a war or donate a fortune will be able to do so.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Inner peace

This is from An Interrupted Life:

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.

--Etty Hillesum

I would not begin to know how to do this were it not for meditation. It is through meditative practice that we are able to cultivate peace within.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It is One

They shot a man into the sky
The moon and stars became his bed
He saw the sun rise seven times
And when he came back down he said

It is one, it is one
One world spinning 'round the sun
Wherever it is you call home
Whatever country you come from
It is one, it is one, it is
one, it is one

They shot a man in Africa
At a time of rivalry and war
He had some dreams of a good life
But dreams aren't what they killed him for

Now people stand themselves next to the righteous
And they believe the things they say are true
They speak in terms of what divides us
To justify the violence they do

But it is one, it is one
One world spinning 'round the sun
Wherever it is you call home
Whatever country you come from
It is one, it is one, it is one, it is one
One -- the deep blue ocean
One -- the endless sky
One -- the purple mountains
One -- you and I

It's not a world of our own choosing
We don't decide where we are born
This life is a battleground between right and wrong
One way or other we are torn

And people stand themselves next to the righteous
And they believe the things they say are true
And speak in terms of what divides us
To justify the violence they do

But it is one, it is one
One world spinning 'round the sun
Wherever it is you call home
Whatever country you come from
It is one, it is one, it is one, it is one
It is one, it is one, it is one, it is one
One -- the deep blue ocean
One -- the endless sky
One -- the purple mountains
One -- you and I

-- Jackson Browne

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Living fully aware

What would happen if, just for a moment - one moment, in the face of the immensity of reality, we stopped protecting ourselves? Here's what it is like:

Ignorant before the heavens of my life,
I stand and gaze in wonder. Oh the vastness
of the stars. Their rising and descent. How still.
As if I didn't exist. Do I have any
share in this? Have I somehow dispensed with
their pure effect? Does my blood's ebb and flow
change with their changes? Let me put aside
every desire, every relationship
except this one, so that my heart grows used to
its farthest spaces. Better that it live
fully aware, in the terror of its stars, than
as if protected, soothed by what is near.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke

I'm not saying that we need to be vulnerable and exposed 100% of the time. Discernment is obviously needed in this regard. But to be open sometimes - when it's safe - and not to fear being overwhelmed, to let reality just be what it is, will bring us to a profound awareness. And, in the end, we will be grateful.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay


Cynthia sent me an article just now called "The Time You Find: Simplifying Your Schedule" . Here's an excerpt:

For many, life is a hodgepodge of never-ending commitments. Yet few of us can be truly healthy or happy without regular periods of downtime. While there is nothing inherently wrong with busyness, those of us who over-commit or over-extend ourselves potentially face exhaustion and burnout. When you feel overwhelmed by your commitments, examining your motivation for taking on so many obligations can help you understand why you feel compelled to do so much. You may discover that you are being driven by fear that no one else will do the job or guilt that you aren’t doing enough. To regain your equilibrium and clear the clutter from your calendar, simplify your life by establishing limits regarding what you will and will not do based on your personal priorities.
If simplifying your schedule seems prohibitively difficult and you still feel pressed to take on more, try imagining how each new commitment will impact your life before saying yes. When you consider the hassle associated with superfluous obligations, you may be surprised to see that your schedule is impeding your attempts to grow as an individual. Your willingness to pare down your agenda, no matter how gradual your progress, will empower you to retake active control of the life that defines you.
If you click through to the original article you will see a link for accessing comments on this posting. It's interesting to see different people's reactions to this recommendation and also to be able to leave your own comment if you like. Of course, if you want to leave a comment, I'd rather you do that here!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thursday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Valuing the small

Here is another passage from Small Graces by Ken Nerburn:
We must learn to value the small as well as the great.

In the book of Micah, the prophet says, "And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

Confucius told his followers, "Bring peace to the old, have trust in your friends, and cherish the young."

Do we really need much more than this? To honor the dawn. To visit a garden. To talk to a friend. To contemplate a cloud. To cherish a meal. To bow our heads before the mystery of the day. Are these not enough?
I have come to love the word "enough" over the past few years. It's a word that goes with "acceptance" and "letting go" and "contentment" and "equanimity". Let's all ponder the principle of "enough" and let it be an inroad to being joyfully in the moment.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I bought three books from Amazon last week as a Christmas present to myself. They came today and I immediately opened Small Graces by Kent Nerburn. I blogged a quote from it not too long ago that I had found on line and was so struck with it that I wanted the whole book. Here's something I just found that is both beautiful and true:
We need to pay heed to the many silences in our lives. An empty room is alive with a different silence than a room where someone is hiding. The silence of a happy house echoes less darkly than the silence of a house of brooding anger.

The silence of a winter morning is sharper than the silence of a summer dawn. The silence of a mountain pass is larger than the silence of a forest glen.

These are not fantasies; they are subtle discriminations of the senses. Though all are the absence of sound, each silence has a character of its own.

No meditation better clears the mind than to listen to the shape of the silence that surrounds us. It focuses us on the thin line between what is there and what is not there. It opens our heart to the unseen, and reminds us that the world is larger than the events that fill our days.
It is hard to find silence in our world today, just as it is hard, if we're city dwellers, to experience a night dark enough to see the stars. Our culture judges darkness and silence as that which is to be avoided. Go ahead! Be counter-cultural and do what it takes to give yourself the experience of real silence. Listen to it; be present to it. Let it envelope and teach you and sustain you.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

We're in it together

I found myself pondering today what taking refuge in the community means. Cynthia and I were brainstorming ideas for encouraging people who've dropped out of the life of the Center to come back. I want so much to let them know that we're here to be a part of their support system. Then I came across this marvelous poem by Maya Angelou:


Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

The basic meditation principles of compassion and loving-kindness mean that we don't have to make it alone. We're here for each other. And that's what the Center is all about. It helps to meditate with others. It helps to interact - to share and to listen to each other's awarenesses and insights.

Just being together makes all the difference.

Monday, January 01, 2007

You know, I don't usually recommend making New Year's resolutions because they have an abysmal failure rate. But if you're going to make them, you need to be clear that this involves a real change of behavior and in your thinking as well. I recommend making only one resolution - or two at the most. Then your task is to shift habitual tendency. Susan Kramer, who has her own meditation column online, suggests the following:
Some helps for remembering a resolution:

1. I like to write it on a piece of paper and carry it in my pocket. Every time I put my hand in the pocket and touch that paper I am again reminded.
2. Post notes in visible locations.
3. Send yourself an email reminder.
4. Write it on your daily planner or calendar.
Then she recommends journaling about it at night:
Later, perhaps before retiring, spend a longer period in a more formal meditation: 5 minutes of even in and out breathing, moving on to several minutes reflecting on your progress toward meeting your goal.

Now, take your journal out and begin a new chapter to record your progress in keeping your resolution. In this way you can see how you are doing over a period of time and what the stumbling blocks are. And, if you fail, just write out a fresh resolve and keep going. Only quitters are losers.

Finish your meditation with an appreciation to yourself, for positive efforts in any area you have made that day!
It's important to re-define success if you really want to break a negative habit or adopt a positive one. Each time you practice the new behavior, call that success. Don't have the idea that success is doing it 100% for the whole year. You really set yourself up for failure that way. If you fail one day, then start over the next. Don't think that you've blown it and then give up.

May we all have a healthy, safe year in which we practice compassion and loving-kindness. Peace to all - both far and near.