The moon is walking, the moon is dancing
The moon is walking, the moon is dancing
Come and see, Come and see
The moon is walking around
Come and see, Come and see
--Ladysmith Black Mombassa
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Advice to Myself
Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.
It's by Louise Erdrich, from Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Meditation can take many forms, including the art of deep breathing. It's a great way to relieve stress.You can also try this with a book on your stomach. Make the book go up and down and you know you're breathing correctly.
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers these steps to deep breathing, which helps your body get plenty of oxygen:
* Lie on your back on a flat surface.
* Rest one hand on your stomach above your belly button, and the other hand on your chest.
* Breathe in slowly and deeply, making your stomach rise a bit. Hold for a second.
* Slowly exhale, so that your stomach goes back down.
* Repeat several times.
Monday, May 28, 2007
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
-- Isaiah 2:4
Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.
-- Matthew 26:52
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Each time you open a door, take a few mindful breaths.Those are very good suggestions. I recommend that you look for other possible prompts throughout your day that will help you center and focus.
When the phone rings, pause for a moment to let it ring. Listen to it. Relax before you pick it up.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I agree. And I credit Carson herself with stimulating that sense of wonder in me that has lasted throughout my life.
If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.
Friday, May 25, 2007
It's from a book called Simple Abundance.
You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life.
UPDATE: I recommend this article called A Conversation with Sarah Ban Breathnach.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I think that is truly beautiful.
When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.
-- Chief Aupumut, Mohican (1725)
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The worst slavery: always wanting your own way.How very true. Remember: preference is not necessarily a problem. Attachment to preference is the problem.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Here are a couple of samples:
Equanimity meditation: May I accept things as they are. May I be open and balanced. May I find equanimity and peace.It's a beneficial prayer and a beneficial practice. I encourage you to try both.
A good meditation can be as simple as doing something you love with mindful awareness.
Monday, May 21, 2007
On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying, and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.
Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange fragrance in the south wind.
That vague sweetness made my heart ache with longing and it seemed to me that it was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.
I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and that this perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Saturday, May 19, 2007
The other big factor that seems to intimidate people about meditation is they believe that they must learn to stop all thoughts to have a completely clear mind. This is a myth! I enjoyed Rinpoche’s explanation that we can no more stop the brain from thinking than we can stop the heart from beating. By nature, the brain thinks. Let me say this again… meditation is NOT about stopping your thoughts! Know that you will have thoughts while you meditate. Rather than getting upset or thinking that you have failed, simply bring your awareness back to the present moment. The key to meditating is being aware of your thoughts and gently bringing your awareness back to the present moment. Rather than getting carried away by the random flow of thoughts, you want to become the observer of those thoughts while you stay present in the moment. Eventually, with practice you can learn to rest your mind in the gaps between thoughts.This is good stuff. Couldn't have said it better myself!
Bottom line tips: start meditating for a minute or two each day... even the busiest among us can manage to find that time. Remember that having thoughts while you meditate is normal! Simply bring your mind gently back to the present moment.
Friday, May 18, 2007
So for me, the great imperative in my life is continually returning to a state of being rather than doing. Which is an act and a process I'm broadly calling meditation."In order for it to work, you have to do it." How true. And, yes, this "dream of life" is both unspeakably horrible and indescribably beautiful. And it is love that enables us to endure the reality of both.
My approach is strictly pragmatic: if it works, it's good. You don't have to believe in anything; if you meditate, your mind becomes stronger, more still and clear, as surely as push-ups and sit-ups strengthen the body. And just like physical exercise, in order for it to work, you have to do it.
But the most important meditation, perhaps even the point of all of the other forms of meditation I mention: learning to love, both oneself and others; learning to listen, to both oneself and others; learning to see and hear and taste and smell and fully feel this vivid dream of life, this horror show and shadow play of the world, this vast terrifying beauty, which is passing through our meditating mind at this very moment.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
You know, a person can do this - spread and aura of goodness and peace - in any walk of life. I often have people come to talk to me who are struggling to decided what they should "do" - that is, what kind of job they should take or what kind of volunteer work they should engage. They are often surprised when I insist that it really doesn't matter. What matters in any endeavor is not what we do but the way we do it. We can work to alleviate suffering and promote happiness wherever we are and in whatever we're doing.
To be able to spread an aura of goodness and peace should be the motive of life.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
For today's life form blogging I'm bringing you another resident of Noah's Lost Ark that I blogged about yesterday. Here's Rama's story:
Amur Leopards are extremely rare and highly endangered. Taken from a failing breeding facility. Rama, throughout his life has suffered some very serious injuries at the hands of mankind. Trauma most likely inflicted by severe beatings has destroyed his right eye and caused broken bones in his tail and face resulting in blindness to his right eye. He was also malnourished and endures the pain of a botched declawing. Now he has a large enclosure and can climb trees and play like a leopard should.
FACT: There are less than 50 Amur Leopards left in the wild!
There is no doubt in my mind that Noah's Lost Ark is alleviating suffering and promoting happiness!
Luminous is this mind,
Brightly shining, but it is
Colored by the attachments
That visit it.
This unlearned people do not
And so do not cultivate the
Luminous is this mind,
And it is free of the
Attachments that visit it.
This the noble follower
Of the way really understands;
So for them there is
Cultivation of the mind.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Tonka arrived with Hawk and Pumpkin. All were kept in tiny, filthy cages. Tonka was severely malnourished and the big cats' bodies were caked with their own feces. They had urine burns all over them from lying in their own waste. Lethargic and weak from not eating, Tonka couldn't even hold his head up the first time we saw him. Our vet says he only weighed 200 pounds upon arrival. Closer to 350 or more is normal!
Stories about abused animals are almost more than I can bear. I urgently encourage you to explore the Noah's Lost Ark website for there you will find many more such stories. Because of the organization's dedicated work, these animals enjoy a happy ending after all.
I have already sent in a donation by snail mail but you can also contribute on line. Here's the link:
And here's their contact information:
Noah's Lost Ark, Inc.
Please, please send them a donation - even if only a little bit. Small donations really add up. I know! That's how St. John's Center survives.
Father Freeman, a Benedictine monk of the Olivetan Congregation, told participants: "Happiness is what we are created for. God created us to know and serve him and to be happy." But this happiness "cannot be taught or produced," he said. It "just happens."Meditation is not dependent on any particular belief system. On the contrary; it is compatible with all belief systems.
He introduced Christian meditation as one way to attain true happiness. This kind of contemplative prayer, or prayer of the heart, calls one to silence, stillness and simplicity through the repeated mental recitation of a sacred word or mantra, he explained.
The monk, who has popularized Christian meditation around the world, recommended reciting Maranatha, which means "come Lord" in Aramaic. Scholars believe this language was Jesus' mother tongue.
"Meditation is all about letting go and 'letting God,'" he said. This can lead one to a deeper experience of God and true self-knowledge, which he described as "the foundation of happiness." Father Freeman led the group in three meditation exercises -- one done while walking and the other two while sitting. He recommended that practitioners meditate 20-30 minutes twice a day.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Sunday, May 13, 2007
This is the mantra of compassion in Tibetan: Om mani padme hum...
It is translated, "Oh hail, the jewel in the lotus."
Remember that the lotus is the symbol of enlightenment and of spiritual practice. The lotus is a beautiful, pure blossom that floats on top of the water. But it has a stalk that goes down to roots that are in the mud and slime. This is to symbolize the totality of the human being. We are not to divide ourselves or reject the part we don't like, that we think is unworthy. Rather, we are to see that the troublesome parts of ourselves - the mud and the slime, if you like - are actually the soil of our spiritual practice. Nothing is wasted.
And the most important part of the lotus - the jewel, as it were - is compassion. Compassion for ourselves, compassion for others.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Every e-mail I receive from my friend and colleague Donald Rothberg starts with a blessing. "May this message find you in health and happiness" is a typical beginning, or "May this day, your first at home after this last long period of teaching, be one of ease and rest." Sometimes it is a generic blessing; often it is a particular wish. Then he continues with the business of the e-mail: "About that meeting tomorrow..."What a wonderful practice! Suppose we just brought mindfulness to our use of e-mail. And a wish. Just to say silently or out loud, "May you be happy" when we both open and send mail would truly transform our time at the computer.
I first noticed Donald's style convention about a year ago, not long after he'd told me about his other e-mail practice. "As I sit at my computer answering my mail," he said, "I pause before I open each one. I take a breath, and make the intention, 'May I open this e-mail and respond for the benefit of myself and for all beings.' Then I read the message and respond." I haven't taken up that practice yet, but I think of it often, especially at those times when I realize I've done too much e-mailing too fast.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Anything that requires "continual attention" will be supported by meditative practice.
Love is more than just a feeling: it's a process requiring continual attention. Loving well takes laughter, loyalty, and wanting more to be able to say, "I understand" than to hear, "You're right."
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
We saw this rabbit "working" in a shop in Eurika Springs. When you made a purchase the woman would put the receipt in the rabbit's mouth and it would turn around and hand it to you. What's not to love about a town where there are cats in the shops and rabbits working the register?
You know, it really bewilders me why people give up on meditation after they learn about it. The pay-off is so great!
PHILADELPHIA -- Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say that practicing even small doses of daily meditation may improve focus and performance.
Meditation, according to Penn neuroscientist Amishi Jha and Michael Baime, director of Penn's Stress Management Program, is an active and effortful process that literally changes the way the brain works. Their study is the first to examine how meditation may modify the three subcomponents of attention, including the ability to prioritize and manage tasks and goals, the ability to voluntarily focus on specific information and the ability to stay alert to the environment.
In the Penn study, subjects were split into two categories. Those new to meditation, or "mindfulness training," took part in an eight-week course that included up to 30 minutes of daily meditation. The second group was more experienced with meditation and attended an intensive full-time, one-month retreat.
Researchers found that even for those new to the practice, meditation enhanced performance and the ability to focus attention. Performance-based measures of cognitive function demonstrated improvements in a matter of weeks.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Saturday, May 05, 2007
"I vow not to talk about the faults of others." In the Zen tradition, this is one of the bodhisattva vows.Fault finding is very, very common and very poisonous. Let's all try to discipline ourselves not to do it.
What are the results of speaking of others' faults? First, we become known as a busybody. Others won't want to confide in us because they're afraid we'll tell others, adding our own judgments to make them look bad. I am cautious of people who chronically complain about others. I figure that if they speak that way about one person, they will probably speak that way about me, given the right conditions. In other words, I don't trust people who continuously criticize others.
Second, we have to deal with the person whose mistakes we publicized when they find out what we said, which, by the time they hear it, has been amplified in intensity. That person may tell others our faults in order to retaliate, not an exceptionally mature action, but one in keeping with our own actions.
Third, some people get stirred up when they hear about others' faults. For example, if one person at an office or factory talks behind the back of another, everyone in the work place may get angry and gang up on the person who has been criticized. This can set off backbiting throughout the workplace and cause factions to form. Is this conducive for a harmonious work environment? Hardly.
Fourth, are we happy when our mind picks faults in others? Hardly. When we focus on negativities or mistakes, our own mind isn't very happy. Thoughts such as, "Sue has a hot temper. Joe bungled the job. Liz is incompetent. Sam is unreliable," aren't conducive for our own mental happiness.
Fifth, by speaking badly of others, we create the cause for others to speak badly of us. This may occur in this life if the person we have criticized puts us down, or it may happen in future lives when we find ourselves unjustly blamed or scapegoated. When we are the recipients of others' harsh speech, we need to recall that this is a result of our own actions: we created the cause; now the result comes. We put negativity in the universe and in our own mindstream; now it is coming back to us. There's no sense being angry and blaming anyone else if we were the ones who created the principal cause of our problem.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest who died in 1987 but left behind a rich and deep spiritual legacy in his many writings. In this essay published on a website devoted to his work, he talks about the happiness that is available to us if we only let go of our many illusions. The secret of awakening is that we can experience joy right now. De Mello redefines success. Rather than being about popularity and achievements, success means having no dependence on what others think or say about us. This peace comes from within, doing what we were meant to do without calculation of approval or disapproval, flattery or criticism. So drop your reliance upon these things and step into the light and freedom of true happiness which is "our natural state."I really like the point that success means having no dependence on what others think or say about us. That is SO, SO important.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
-- Helen Keller
It is so easy to sit down in meditation and to secretly hope that something extraordinary will happen, that through the practice of meditation, somehow our ordinary experience will become something much more exciting, something ‘mystical’ perhaps. And this leads to overlooking the very simple, very ordinary experiences that are going on: the rise and fall of the chest as we are breathing, the fluttering of thought and desire, the itch in our left armpit, the cool breeze coming through the window, the sound of traffic in the distance.We experience a deep appreciation of the ordinary when we're practiced meditators. It's quite wonderful.
However, when we start to take account of these ordinary experiences, then they take on a new light. Take the breath, for example: whilst, at first glance, the breath seems a simple, mechanical process (in-out, in-out, in-out), the more we attune ourselves to the endlessly subtle processes involved in breathing, the more complex and profound they appear to be. It is an ordinary kind of profundity, not the kind of pseudo-profundity that comes from adding some Great Truth or other onto experience, but it is a kind of profundity nonetheless.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
The Wildmind website has published a really wonderful article about anger. Here's an excerpt:
So how can we teach children — and ourselves — to experience anger in a healthy way? Here are seven steps to a healthier relationship with anger.Do click through and read the rest of the article for the remaining steps.
First, we can learn to accept that anger is a normal, healthy, and potentially creative form of energy. Too often we’ve been taught, as Abbott suggests, that anger is something to be avoided and believe that we’ve failed when anger has stirred. When we try to confine our anger it’s inclined to burst out uncontrollably, or to gnaw us away from the inside, as resentment. When we accept our anger we can relate to it in a more healthy way.
Second, breathe! Create a sense of space between you and your emotions by breathing deeply into the belly. Connecting with the body helps stop our emotions spiraling out of control, keeps them in perspective, and helps us to calm down so that we don’t do or say anything rash. If you’re angry when you receive an email, don’t reply at once but wait until you’ve had time to quiet your mind and reflect more calmly.
Third, we can appreciate that our anger is our anger. Other people don’t make us angry. Our anger is not their fault. Our anger, rather, is our response to our interpretation of our experience. We need to own our anger and to see that it’s something we’ve given rise to, ourselves.