Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tame that restless mind!

I have a wonderful story to share with you today. It's the "Thought for the Day" from the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and Nilgiri Press. Take a look:
There is a Hindu story comparing the mind to the trunk of an elephant – restless, inquisitive, always straying. In our villages in India, elephants are sometimes taken in religious processions through the streets to the temple. The streets are crooked and narrow, lined on either side with fruit and vegetable stalls. Along comes the elephant with his restless trunk, and in one sinuous motion, he grabs a whole bunch of bananas. He opens his cavernous mouth, and tosses the bananas in – stalk and all. From the next stall he picks up a coconut and tosses it in after the bananas. No threats or promises can make this restless trunk settle down. But the wise elephant trainer will give that trunk a short bamboo stick to hold. Then the elephant will walk along proudly, holding the bamboo stick in front like a drum major with a baton. He doesn’t steal bananas and coconuts now, because his trunk has something to hold onto.

The mind works in the same way. We can keep it from straying into all kinds of situations if we just give it the mantram.
You know, any meditation support will work to tame the elephant's trunk - not just a mantra. Simply bringing the mind back over and over to the present moment is a powerful way of taming the restless mind. It is also the most reliable way to happiness I know. Add to that both compassion and lovingkindness and you have a prescription for bliss!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

photo by Paul Rogers


I want to bring you another excerpt from Choosing Civility that I mentioned on Wednesday. The "rule" discussed is "Keep It Down (and Rediscover Silence)". Here's the passage:
In an age when background noise are virtually constant, we are slowly becoming inured to noise. At the same time, many of us are ready to reacquaint ourselves with silence. We are beginning to realize that silence is not a void waiting to be filled, just as an immaculate church wall is not there to be defaced with spray paint. Silence is not necessarily the sign of a failure to communicate. Instead, it can be the refreshing result of a choice. We often surround ourselves with chatter and sundry sounds because we don't want to be alone with our thoughts. While noise takes us away from ourselves, through silence we build bridges to our own souls. Ultimately, the challenge to all of us on the threshold of the new century (which threatens to be a noisy one) is to treat silence as an endangered precious resource. There is an urgent need for advocates of silence. There is an urgent need for gatherers of tranquility.
Learning to meditate is one way to reacquaint oneself with silence. Many people are uncomfortable with silence because they don't know what to "do" with it; they don't know how to manage their thoughts. A commitment to meditation makes silence very welcome indeed.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Stress reduction

Here's an excerpt from an article entitled "How 5 Minutes of Meditation a Day Can Save Your Life":
How to meditate to reduce stress

This is so easy you will wonder why you haven’t been doing it all your life.

First start by slowly turning your mind inwards so that instead of focussing on the external appearances of sight, smell, etc. you are looking at your thoughts. Become aware of them. How do they move? Where do they come from? Where do they go?

Do not try to change the thought. Do not judge “bad” thoughts and do not reward “good” thoughts. Just be aware of them. After some time you will be able to watch your thoughts quite easily without becoming distracted or frustrated.

Meditating in this way will allow you to be able to recognize thoughts when they first arise. This is a powerful tool in reducing stress as you realize that it is just a thought, not solid. By simply recognizing our thoughts we reduce their power and thus can reduce the effects they have on our life.
A very important point made here is not to judge thoughts as either "good" or "bad". Just let them go and return to the meditation support which might be breath or sound or a mantra. Or it could be simply watching your thoughts.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

"I could be wrong!"

Today in ongoing class we talked about the book Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni. The book's subtitle is, "The twenty-five rules of considerate conduct." Many people, sadly, have not been taught such rules during their upbringing and so would definitely benefit from a book like this. All of us would do well to review the basic pinciples of considerate behavior. The "rule" that we looked at in class today was this one: "Be Agreeable."

Here's an excerpt from that chapter:
At any given moment, on any issue, there is the possibility that YOU might be wrong and someone else might be right. Keep that possibility in mind. Then, if you realize that you are wrong, find the strength to acknowledge it openly. Do so graciously, without harboring resentment toward the person who happens to be right. The same awareness and openness apply to not knowing. We are not omniscient and nobody expects us to be. So, reconcile yourself with not knowing and admit that fact to your interlocutors. Training yourself to consider that you might be wrong and to admit that you don't know will mark a crucial point in your relationships. Accepting those limitations about yourself will make you much more accepting of others. You will listen to learn rather than to react and you will be less likely to attack, to be dismissive, to doubt good intentions, and to be dogmatic.
I'm impressed with the list of benefits in that last sentence. That's quite a payoff from the willingness to acknowledge that we can be wrong or that we simply might not know something.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Full attention

Here's a reflection on complete attention from the Blue Mountain Center:
By giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose. Simple, yet essential to the practice of love! Being one-pointed means we can give the person we are with our complete attention, even if she is contradicting our opinion on tax reform or explaining the peculiarities of French grammar. Once we can do this, boredom disappears from our relationships. People are not boring; we get bored because our attention wanders. When we can give someone our full attention, our attitude says clearly, “You matter to me. You have my respect.”
I like the point that people are not boring. It's true that if we make a commitment not to be bored, we will discover what is interesting about everybody!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo art by Cynthia Burgess

Attachment to results

Here's a passage from the Bhagavad Gita called to my attention by Misty Diaz:
Those whose consciousness is unified abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peace. But those whose desires are fragmented, who are selfishly attached to the results of their work, are bound in everything they do.
This is a very important principle for those who work in the helping professions. Discouragement can easily set in when a social worker tries to help people change and they don't change or a teacher tries to help students learn and they don't learn. That doesn't mean the work isn't valuable. It means the work must be done for its own sake and not for the outcome. Working for a specific outcome all the time is definitely a prescription for burn-out.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A meditation on love

This is from a book by Miguel Ruiz entitled Prayers: A Communion with our Creator:
Today, imagine all the love flowing from your heart to all the people who need your love. Join your heart with my heart, and together let’s offer our love to the world. By putting our hearts together and sending our love to all of humanity, the moment will come when their hearts will react to that love. They will express their love also, the same way that we are expressing our love.
I'm struck with the emphasis on sending love to those who need our love. They may not want it, they may not know they need it. Doesn't matter. We need to cultivate the willingness to give love to those who need it whether we particularly like the idea or not.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Don't try to become happy by avoiding difficulty:

If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load that is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined more firmly together. So, if therapists wish to foster their patients' mental health, they should not be afraid to increase that load through a reorientation toward the meaning of one's life.

-- Victor Frankl

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Prayer and interconnectedness

Today I found a rather long-ish excerpt of a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called The Energy of Prayer. This book had not come to my attention before and I'm eager to read it. You can click through and read the whole excerpt if you like. Or here's a shorter sample:
The prayer of a spiritual practitioner is very deep. The spiritual practitioner understands that our health, our success, and even our relationships with our loved ones, are not the most important things. The most important matter for a practitioner is to be able to break through the veil of the material plane in order to enter the ultimate dimension and see the interconnection between us and all other phenomena in the world around us.
If there is a change in the individual consciousness, then a change in the collective consciousness will also take place. When there is a change in the collective consciousness, then the situation of the individual can change; the situation of our loved one who is the object of our prayer can change.
I've long believed that prayer "works" because of our interconnectedness.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thursday life form blogging

Photo by Ian Britton
(used with permission)

About play

We explored the meditative aspects of play during ongoing classes this week. Here is a quotation I found that I really like. It's from a book by Margaret Guenther called Toward Holy Ground:
Play exists for its own sake. Play is for the moment; it is not hurried, even when the pace is fast and timing seems important. When we play, we also celebrate holy uselessness. Like the calf frolicking in the meadow, we need no pretense or excuses. Work is productive; play, in its disinterestedness and self-forgetting, can be fruitful.
I really like the expression "holy uselessness". There is a sacredness to completely letting go that we experience when we stop trying so hard to be "useful" and just allow ourselves to play.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Meditation definition

Here's a definition of meditation that I really like:
Meditation is the observance of what’s going on both internally and externally --without necessarily reacting to it.
I found it in a blog posting entitled "Meditation and Yoga".

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The meditation of play

An excerpt from Sark's New Creative Companion: Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit by Sark:

Ways to Play More Often

Forget what you look like 'in public.'
Wear comfy clothes and shoes that can kick a ball.
Keep toys nearby and books that lighten you up.
Watch movies that make your stomach ache with laughter.
Spend time with friends that know how to play.
Keep forgetting to get 'serious stuff' done.
Lie down on sidewalks in the sun with a friend who giggles.
Hire a marching band.
Walk sideways while singing to reggae music loudly.
Keep sidewalk chalk in your car or backpack.
Talk to strangers and ask, 'What kind of games do you like to play?'
Be willing to be thought of as silly or 'odd.'
Babysit and be reminded how to play.
Make play dates with your adult friends, invent new play-full activities
Laughing and saying
Yes to
Life and to
Playing more often!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

The Dalai Lama on kindness

From the Nobel lecture, December 11, 1989:

Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually. Peace, for example, starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us.

When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighboring communities, and so on. When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace. And there are ways in which we can consciously work to develop feelings of love and kindness. For some of us, the most effective way to do so is through religious practice. For others it may be non-religious practices. What is important is that we each make a sincere effort to take our responsibility for each other and for the natural environment we live in seriously.

-- The Dalai Lama

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Devotion takes many forms: the solemnity and joy of prayer; the ecstasy of song, poetry, or art; the intimate connection between individuals in marriage, family, or community. It involves opening the heart fully to the presence of love and beauty, which brings a compassionate and reverent awareness of the Divine in all things. Through the lens of devotion, every aspect of creation is seen as purposeful, and hence received in gratitude.
— LaVera C. Draisin quoted in Opening the Inner Gates edited by Edward Hoffman

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Awareness and appreciation

Did you appreciate this day? If not, stop and do so now:

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but 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

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Paul Rogers


I may have blogged this before but it's worth a repeat:

To be enlightened is simply to be absolutely, unconditionally intimate with this moment. No more. No less.

- Scott Morrison

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday life form blogging

Photo by Walter Calahan

Naomi takes to meditation

Now I wouldn't even know about this if I didn't watch Jay Leno most nights before going to sleep. But it seems supermodel Naomi Campbell lost her temper and threw her cell phone at her maid, injuring the poor woman. (Leno, you see, has cracked a lot of jokes about it.) Take a look:
Fiery supermodel Naomi Campbell is resorting to Yoga and meditation to get a hold on her fiery temper. The supermodel believes meditation and relaxation will help her to manage her angry outbursts.

"It's part of a recovery. I'm trying to stay at a peaceful place inside," she was quoted by the Dailymail,as saying. Next week Campbell will be sweeping floors at a New York car park building as punishment for throwing a mobile phone at her maid, leaving her head badly cut. She was fined $185 and sentenced to five days community service after admitting assault in January. She was also ordered to attend anger management classes, which she said had been a "great experience".
More and more, meditation is being recognized as the way to alleviate suffering and promote happiness. Be sure and practice. This stuff really works!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Two about love

We discussed love as a spiritual practice in ongoing class this week. Here's one passage we looked at:
Let us make a pledge that, if not all day or all night long, at least for a few moments every day, we will make an effort to experience love, love that is free from selfishness, free from desire, free from expectation, love that is complete freedom.

— Swami Chidvilasananda in Kindle My Heart

And here's another:

Let the good in me connect with the good in others, until all the world is transformed through the compelling power of love.

— Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in The Gentle Weapon

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Heart at Your Center

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

From Spirit Taking Form by Nancy Azara:

Imagine your heart at the center of yourself.
Take a picture of your heart there.
This picture can be your heart literally or a metaphorical reference to your heart.
Let this picture speak to you.
Let it tell you something about yourself.
Draw your heart.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Largeness of Heart

From Heart by Gail Godwin
The prime virtue in the Confucian system is jen. Jen is the combination of 'human being' and 'two.' It is best translated as 'human-heartedness.' In the sociable Confucian ethic, one cannot become a person by oneself. Jen simultaneously embraces humanity toward others and respect for yourself. If you are a person of jen, you have the capacity to measure the feelings of others by your own. In public and private life, this means you have a largeness of heart that seeks to affirm others as you yourself would wish to be affirmed.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday prayer blogging

From a prayer by Rev. Tom McCready:

Let our religion be as old as sleep
and as new as tomorrow's dawn,
and let our covenant be
the loving and joyful acceptance

of the natural world
in all its shapes and colours, in all its seasons;
and the loving and joyful acceptance
of all the shapes and colours of human desire:
of the heart in all its seasons.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Conditions conducive to practice

It's really important to have a place to meditate where you won't be disturbed - a place dedicated to your spiritual practice:

For meditation to happen, calm and auspicious conditions have to be created. Before we have mastery over our minds, we need first to calm their environment. At the moment, our minds are like a candle flame: unstable, flickering, constantly changing, fanned by the violent winds of our thoughts and emotions. The flame will burn steadily only when we can calm the air aroundit; so we can only begin to glimpse and rest in the nature of mind when we have stilled the turbulence of our thoughts and emotions. On the other hand, once we have found a stability in our meditation, noises and disturbances of every kind will have far less impact.

- Sogyal Rinpoche

This is why it's a good idea to come to the meditation hall to practice. Remember, we have daily meditation here at the Center. Our schedule is on our website and you can click through to that right here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

A cat who lives with Misty and Juan Diaz

"Ditch the small self"

Here's an interesting observation about suffering from The End of Suffering: Fearless Living in Troubled Times by Russell Targ and J.J. Hurtak, Ph.D:
For the most part, our everyday suffering is not caused by tragic events of the heart, but rather by insults—real or imagined—to our ego story. Suffering is the response to these imagined attacks that interfere with what we want and what we feel we need. Fortunately, we can learn to let go of these conditioned responses and view suffering as a delusional idea. We can choose not to collect suffering memorabilia to paste into our scrapbooks. Since our personal story is only made up of ideas, we can learn to release these ego-insults and let them float away like helium balloons. Or, as Ken Wilber would say, if you don’t want to suffer, “ditch the small self.” We the authors would say, “Give up the story—the story of ME.”
It's interesting to view suffering as the result of the mind poison of delusion. But that makes sense. Remember, if we identify the attachment and then let go of it, suffering dissolves.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The well-trained mind

Here are a couple of sayings from the Dhammapada:
Hard it is to train the mind, which goes where it likes and does what it wants. But a trained mind brings health and happiness. The wise can direct their thoughts, subtle and elusive, wherever they choose: a trained mind brings health and happiness.

More than those who hate you, more than all your enemies, an untrained mind does greater harm. More than your mother, more than your father, more than all your family, a well-trained mind does greater good.
I found these on the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation website.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Meditation course introduction

Here's the introduction to a meditation course I found. It sums up what we're about:
More and more people are adding some kind of meditation to their daily routine, either as an effective antidote to stress or as a simple method of relaxation. Meditation enables you to create new attitudes and responses to life, giving you a clear spiritual understanding of yourself. Meditation is the process of re-discovering, enjoying and using the positive qualities already latent within you. Like any skill, meditation requires practice to achieve positive and satisfying results. By doing a little every day, it soon becomes a natural and easy habit.
This week in the ongoing classes we talked about the obstacles to meditation or to applying the meditative principles to life's challenges. One of those obstacles is forgetfulness. I find that reading statements like the one above helps me to remember why I meditate and helps keep me mindful. Regularly availing ourselves of reminders is all to the good.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tuesday meditation picture blogging

Photo by Bill Miller

What is meditation?

I found this definition on the Wildmind website:
A definition I like to use is, "Meditation is an activity involving the cultivation of mindfulness and the application of techniques to change ourselves in order that we become more fulfilled and more able to see things as they really are."

Meditation is about becoming more fulfilled, but also has the function of helping us to more clearly understand the nature of the world we live in. These two goals are really the same, since we can't be fulfilled if we have serious misunderstandings about life. In particular we have to learn what conditions (actions, thoughts, etc.) give rise to happiness and which to unhappiness.

Meditation gives us tools to quiet the mind so that we can become more aware of the mental processes that lead to greater fulfillment. It also offers us tools to change our mental states so that we become happier.
The whole purpose is to alleviate suffering and promote happiness. Keeping that in mind is the best motivation I know!

Monday, March 05, 2007

A word on gratitude

This is by Edward Hays from The Great Escape Manual :
It is important not only to be grateful to others but also to be grateful for others. We need to cultivate a gratitude for others' giftedness in the same way that we appreciate a beautiful sunset or a smile from a loved one. Others always seem to have been given gifts in life that we desire, and so it's easy to be envious. Riding sidesaddle with envy is a dangerous practice: I would be happy if I had what he or she possesses. By contrast, giving thanks constantly and in all circumstances liberates us from envy.
This is similar to the practice called "sympathetic joy" - the ability to be joyful over another person's success or good fortune. When we are intentional about such a practice, it truly is uplifting and is a powerful antidote to dissatisfaction with our own circumstances.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Love and accept yourself

This is from The Perfection through Perceived Imperfection by Kidest Mengistu.
When it comes to our own selves, we know so little of Love. We have an easy time looking into the eyes of another and uttering the words “I love you,” and yet feel embarrassed if someone were to suggest to us that we should do the same to the self-image we see in the mirror. Could you look in the mirror and tell yourself “I love you”? Most people feel awkward doing this. In fact, we’re more comfortable focusing more on what we think are our imperfections than we do on anything we might even slightly like about ourselves. “Oh my how that freckle grows and shows that I am not as beautiful as the world thinks I should be.” This surface level obsession is our biggest distraction from seeing past our physicality and into our inner beauty. Your inner beauty is your natural beauty, everything else falls away.

Have you ever looked at a giant maple tree and commented on how slanted it’s looking today? Have you ever looked at the brilliance of a sunset and thought it could do with a little more orange? How about the fluttering of a butterfly, did you think it could fly a little faster? We never seem to criticize the natural beauty in these things outside of us. So why do we notice so many “imperfections” in our selves?
I really recommend that you train yourself to look in the mirror and say, "I love you." And really think about that second paragraph above - how it doesn't occur to us to look for imperfections in the natural world so why do we do that to ourselves?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

We really do have a choice

From Creating True Peace: Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community, and the World by Thich Nhat Hanh:

True peace is always possible. Yet it requires strength and practice, particularly in times of great difficulty. To some, peace and nonviolence are synonymous with passivity and weakness. In truth, practicing peace and nonviolence is far from passive. To practice peace, to make peace alive in us, is to actively cultivate understanding, love, and compassion, even in the face of misperception and conflict. Practicing peace, especially in times of war, requires courage.

All of us can practice nonviolence. We begin by recognizing that, in the depths of our consciousness, we have both the seeds of compassion and the seeds of violence. We become aware that our mind is like a garden that contains all kinds of seeds: seeds of understanding, seeds of forgiveness, seeds of mindfulness, and also seeds of ignorance, fear, and hatred. We realize that, at any given moment, we can behave with either violence or compassion, depending on the strength of these seeds within us.

Our skill in choosing nonviolence depends on which seeds we cultivate. I can't stop the seeds of ignorance, fear and hatred from being in my mind but I can certainly choose not to feed and water them.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by eggruber (used with permission)

The good life

Today I came across an excerpt from the book entitled What Do You Really Want for Your Children? by Wayne Dyer. Take a look at something he says:
In my experience, when asking parents this leading question, and giving them time to consider the importance of such a profound question, the answers tend toward the ones you will find in the following list.

I want my children to be happy, and free from hang-ups in life.

I want them to know how to enjoy life and appreciate every day as a miracle.

I want them to feel successful and significant as people regardless of what they do.

I want them to have positive feelings about themselves and about life.

I want them to grow up knowing how to avoid having the inevitable problems defeat them in any way.

I want them to avoid being depressed and miserable.

I want them to avoid growing up to be neurotic.

I want them to have a strong sense of inner peace that will sustain them through difficult times.

I want them to value the now: to take pleasure in life's journey, avoiding over emphasis on a destination.

I want them to know that they are the designers of their lives, that they have the power to choose and change their lives.

I want them to be sensitive and responsible to, and have a reverence for, nature and humanity.

I want them to find and explore their potential and feel satisfied and challenged with a purpose in life.

I want them to feel loved and loving.

I want them to find the opportunities that are hidden in life's inevitable painful experiences.

I want them to be on friendly terms with health - physically and mentally.
What would happen if we made the commitment to want these things for ourselves as well as for our children? Wouldn't our lives be happier and wouldn't we be more successful in promoting the happiness of those around us?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sit and keep silence

This is one of my favorite quotations about the value of learning to be still:

You do not even have to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

-- Franz Kafka