Monday, December 31, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging


Ponder for a few minutes

Oh my. Isn't this wonderful?
Perhaps it would be a good idea, fantastic as it sounds, to muffle every telephone and halt all activity for an hour some day to give people a chance to ponder for a few moments on what it is all about, why they are living, and what they really want.
James Truslow Adams in the nineteenth century quoted in The Time Is Now by Daniel S. Wolk

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Spiritually literate resolutions

"Living In The Present Moment"

These are from Spirituality and Practice. Take a look:

1. I will live in the present moment. I will not obsess about the past or worry about the future.

2. I will cultivate the art of making
connections. I will pay attention to how my life is intimately related to all life on the planet.

3. I will be thankful for all the blessings in my life. I will spell out my days with a grammar of
There are seven more where these came from!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Let go of those expectations!

Yes, of course, we need a certain degree of predictability in life in order to function. For example, when we drop something, we expect it to fall and not float upward. When we stop at a red light, we expect it to turn green eventually. It's important, however, not to assume that our wellbeing depends upon our expectations being fulfilled:

The position that I take - partly as a result of living in Asia - is where you stop living according to your expectations and you become available to experience things as they are.

-- Martha Beck

The way things are is the way things are --- regardless of whether we accept that or not. The choice we have is over how much we suffer. And the most effective way to alleviate our own suffering is through acceptance.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Not knowing

Someone named Mark McDermott has a blog that is mostly about meditation. Here's something he said recently:
Embracing "Not Knowing" has changed my experience of life. Not knowing what will happen next - easy in some cases, damn difficult in others. Not knowing how I will feel. Not knowing what another person is feeling, why they are doing something the way they are, why they are even wearing the darn shirt they have one, let alone what lies deep in their emotional well.
This is about letting life unfold rather than trying to engineer the process. Once again (with feeling!) this does not mean we are to go passive or take no action about the world's wrongs. It means knowing we can be okay even when we can't change what we wish we could change. It means knowing we will have the inner resources to deal with whatever happens even when what happens is something we will not like or is something that is truly devastating.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


"Apples and Sun"
Artist: Kit Hoefer

Shortly after I awoke this morning, I read the news of Bhutto's assassination and the evils of the world were very real to me. And so it was uplifting to find this:
The sun is new again, all day.
— Heraclitus quoted in Fragments: The Collected Wisdom of Heraclitus translated by Brooks Haxton

I remember studying Heraclitus when I was a young philosophy student many years ago. He is one of the pre-Socratics and I was fascinated by their thought because they were engaged in solving the problem of the basic "element" of reality - the elements, of course, being the classical ones of earth, air, fire and water.

Heraclitus believed that all things had their basis in fire - that is, that all things are in a state of flux or impermanence. He believed that all things are one (and spring from the eternal Logos) and also in the reliability of transformation. He was also known as "the weeping philosopher" because he grieved so over the state of the world. I find his thought to be very encouraging and consoling.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

An echo of one's spirit

A Cheerful Temper

It was last year (or maybe the year before) that I gave myself a copy of Small Graces by Kent Nerburn for Christmas. Here's an excerpt that I just stumbled upon today:

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.
This is really valuable to ponder as we start saying good-bye to the old year and welcoming the new.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas expectations

I could not find a name attached to this quote but I found it on a website called Life Research Universal:

I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas day. We try to crowd into it the long-overdue deeds of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.
I like that. Maybe we could all have the aspiration of observing Christmas day after day. When you think of it, the freshness and humility of "beginner's mind" is about letting the Child be born in us over and over. And that Child is ever Holy.

Peace be with you all, this joyous day and throughout the New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

True enjoyment

Fr. Clyde Glandon sent me this:

There are things that are available to us twenty-four hours a day. It depends on us to enjoy them. The fresh air is available to us twenty-four hours a day. The question is whether we have the time and awareness to enjoy it. We cannot blame the fresh air for not being there. We have to look and see whether we take the opportunity and the time to be aware of the fresh air, and to enjoy it. One of the conditions that helps us be free to enjoy what is there is our mindfulness. If our mindfulness is not there, then nothing will be there. We will not be aware of the beautiful sunshine, the fresh air, the stars, the moon, the people, the animals, and the trees.

-- Thich Nhat Hanh from Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter Solstice

The solstice was at 12:08 this morning Central Time.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Coming back to ourselves

It saddens me when I hear of people who think that meditation is demonic. A meditation student recently told me about such an encounter. I was very proud of her when she told me that she replied by saying that meditation is about bringing clarity to the mind. Exactly!

Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

So meditation is certainly not about inaction. It is, rather, about skillful action.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thursday life form blogging

Meditation and depression

Here's an article I found this morning called Meditation may be effective depression-fighter:
Meditating could be a simple solution to treating depression.

Brain scans show significant changes in brain waves after just a few weeks of meditation.

Experts say meditation helps patients get rid of anger, anxiety and just let everything go:

"You start to notice the little, itty-bitty thoughts that slowly build up," says Diane Grove, a meditation instructor. "If you let go of the thought and you come back to the sensations of the body, a lot of times you find out that things are okay."

Many who practice meditation say they're developing the mental muscle to keep negative moments from snowballing.
Of course, appropriate medical treatment is also important. I wouldn't want anyone who suffers from depression to stop taking his or her medication. But learning to meditate can help with the habitual unskillful ways depressed people typically work with the thoughts they have.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The importance of play

What would happen if we decided to reframe what we normally consider to be work as play?

The Amish call house-raisings a "frolic." It's a frolic because it's the time when an entire community gathers for neighborliness and assistance. When it comes to building houses, the Amish don't "work at it"; they "play at it."

Leonard Sweet in SoulTsunami

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuesday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

A reminder about compassion

Here's something that's so true and that we all need to remember:
If we all carry a little of the burden, it will be lightened. If we share in the suffering of the world, then some will not have to endure so heavy an affliction. It evens out.
Dorothy Day quoted in Dorothy Day: Selected Writings edited by Robert Ellsberg

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The point of reconciliation

Clyde Glandon sent me this. I so agree:

We have to try to discover the inner aspects of Truth and unite them in ourselves. I have to be a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Jain, a Parsee, a Sikh, a Muslim, and a Jew, as well as a Christian, if I am to know the Truth and to find the point of reconciliation in all religion.

--Bede Griffiths in Return to the Center

Saturday, December 15, 2007

This is so true

Please don't ever tire of your inner work:

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Meditation works!

Take a look at this excerpt from an article called "Practice, Practice, Practice":
For many years I was reflexively turned off by the notion of sitting silently for more than a minute or two, at most. I told myself--persuasively, it seems--that I was incapable of meditation. My mind, I was convinced, was too busy, and my patience too thin. Meditation might be good for others, I magnanimously conceded. But for me it was too, well... passive.

Then, a dozen years or so ago, I found myself in one of those deep and painful situations with which life has a way of confronting us at precisely the wrong (right!) time and, with the help of a couple of good friends and advisers, I decided to give meditation a try. The instructions were simple: just breathe, I was told, and keep bringing the attention gently back to the breath, no matter what thoughts and feelings may come up.

Miraculously, it worked. In the course of time, I found not only immense solace in the great silences of mediation, but also a fine way to train the mind. It became my practice, every day, to sit--at first for ten or fifteen minutes, then fifteen or twenty, then thirty or forty-five. And breathe. No more, no less. And watch the breath as it enters and leaves the body. That simple--and that hard!
It's really amazing that the writer was able to develop a practice during a crisis. That's really not the best time to learn. Better to develop a practice when things are more or less normal and then meditation is there for you when your life becomes really difficult.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Now this is funny!

Look what I just found:

I have heard it said that whining is anger coming out through a very small opening.

James Finley in The Contemplative Heart

Across the pond, the word for whining is "whinging". It means "to complain or protest, especially in an annoying or persistent manner." The avoidance of whining or whinging comes under the meditative principle known as restraint. I like to use the slogan, "not necessary." Even if I feel like complaining, it truly is not necessary!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The situation in Tulsa

Dear participants of St. John's Center,

I'm hoping that some of you will check here for news. As I write the Center has no power. Not only that, it is impossible to get in the building because the locks are electronically operated. So there will be no class tonight or tomorrow.

My appointment book is, I'm sorry to say, in my office as is all the information we have regarding phone numbers and other means of contacting Center participants. Also, Cynthia cannot get to her computer to update our website.

I do apologize for this but, of course, it is beyond my control.

I hope you all are well. Keep meditating!


Really seeing, really observing

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula)

I love the poetry of Wallace Stevens. Here's one about paying attention:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye
of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of
the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the
beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow
of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you
not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I
know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one
of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the
bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going
to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

This is what it looks like in Tulsa today.
Photo by Weaver Bloomfield

More about silence

It's so hard to be silent this time of year, I know. It's really worth it, however. And because of all the frantic busyness, we need silence during this season more than ever:

Silence will help you avoid engaging in the games of competition and illusion that regularly seduce us in the outside world. Silence also helps you avoid distraction. It helps focus the busy mind---the mind that always has to be doing something, thinking something, the mind that always has to be otherwise engaged lest it become introspective and allow the soul's voice to override its own. The silence I am describing is a silence that you use to contain the grace you receive when you enter the Castle of your soul. This quality of silence allows you to engage in discernment. You carry this silence within you, even when you are with others. It allows you to hold your center amid the chaos of your life; it keeps you clear so that you do not do or say things you will regret or make decisions out of fear.

-- Carolyn Myss

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The mind's "mighty powers"

There is a drowsy state, between sleeping and waking, when you dream more in five minutes with your eyes half open, and yourself half conscious of everything that is passing around you, than you would in five nights with your eyes fast closed, and your senses wrapt in perfect unconsciousness. At such time, a mortal knows just enough of what his mind is doing, to form some glimmering conception of its mighty powers, its bounding from earth and spurning time and space, when freed from the restraint of its corporeal associate.

-- Charles Dickens (from Oliver Twist)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Working with children

I found this on the Meditation Society of Australia website:
When teaching children, we must never forget that we are all children in the spiritual life. There is no age, just souls traveling together. You would know to never patronize a child, they are just as likely to be far more advanced than yourself spiritually and almost certainly have more receptivity. Undoubtedly childhood is the most precious time of all for us spiritually, for it is the natural time of openness, spontaneity and joy, in short, a time when the soul is still naturally present.

See every soul as your brother or sister, a spiritual companion that we each will learn lessons from, love and laugh with. Many great masters have taught that the best cohort is a child of heart and mind. Remember that Jesus spoke a truth that all philosophies agree with when he said that we must become as children to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Take your responsibility as parent or guardian or spiritual elder, very, very seriously for it is a sacred, sacred trust that a child naturally offers you. On many levels, that trust must be extremely deeply respected. The worst crime that we can commit is a spiritual crime against a child.
I really agree with the instruction about never patronizing a child. Everyone is more likely to respond positively to respect than to condescension.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Meditation and addictions

Today a medical person asked me about using meditation as part of a treatment plan for people suffering from addictions. What, in fact, could a person expect from meditation instruction? I found myself answering with the following:
1. New strategies for dealing with cravings
2. Increased distress tolerance
3. Increased self-awareness and acceptance
4. New strategies for pain management
Typically, people in the throes of addiction have a compulsion to change the way they feel. Meditation helps us realize that all feelings are impermanent by their nature. The cultivation of compassion is also fundamental to the meditative process and that includes compassion for oneself. Such compassion makes it less likely that we will beat up on ourselves and then try to feel better by indulging in an addictive substance or behavior.

Recovery is possible. Meditation can help.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Smokey and friend
(The sweetest dog you'll ever meet!)
Photo by Bill Miller

Plato and the cave

I stumbled across a reference to the Allegory of the Cave today and decided it woul be a good idea to call that to your attention. Here's a summary:
In the beginning of the Allegory of the Cave, Plato represents man’s condition as being “chained in a cave,” with only a fire behind him. He perceives the world by watching the shadows on the wall. He sits in darkness with the false light of the fire and does not realize that this existence is wrong or lacking. It merely is his existence — he knows no other nor offers any complaint.

Plato next imagines in the Allegory of the Cave what would occur if the chained man were suddenly released from his bondage and let out into the world. Plato describes how some people would immediately be frightened and want to return to the cave and the familiar dark existence. Others would look at the sun and finally see the world as it truly is.

They would know their previous existence was farce, a shadow of truth, and they would come to understand that their lives had been one of deception. A few would embrace the sun, and the true life and have a far better understanding of “truth.” They would also want to return to the cave to free the others in bondage, and would be puzzled by people still in the cave who would not believe the now “enlightened” truth bearer. Many would refuse to acknowledge any truth beyond their current existence in the cave.
You can read a translation of the original right here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The importance of insight

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 in Close to the Bone

Monday, December 03, 2007

Compassion as an "evolutionary imperative"

I just read a review of a book entitled Field Notes on the Compassionate Life: A Search for the Soul of Kindness by Marc Ian Barasch.

The review ends this way:

Compassion is not an easy practice since the ego and its enticements resist unlocking the heart. Barasch cites a poll that shows most people in the world favor this spiritual virtue as the one that can solve many of our global problems. He concludes: "A society based on universal compassion is not just our only hope; it is an evolutionary imperative." This highly readable book is an impressive achievement.
I do think we are in serious trouble as a species if we don't develop universal compassion. There are too many of us and our weapons of destruction are too powerful for us to be content with a society based on hostility and competition.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Advent Sunday

Yesterday my copy of Contemplative Outreach News came in the mail. In it was an article by Thomas Keating with this stunning paragraph:
Be effortlessly aware of the Ground of Being from which all things arise at each nanosecond of time and which might be described as ever-present Awareness keeping silent watch. It is non-judgmental, simple, penetrating all reality; the backdrop, background, and source of everything, and the eternal Now beneath the apparent movement of time.
Later he says this:
Ever-present Awareness does not do anything. It just is and sustains all that exists, letting all things follow their innate nature and fulfill their created purpose.
Most people are so busy doing this time of year. So let's all try to keep Advent for the next few weeks by remembering to meditate regularly - whatever our religious affiliation or belief system may be. Because if we don't actively elect to take time out for silence and reflection, the craziness of the dominant culture during this season will overtake us. Advent is about letting go and waiting and watching. The meditative teachings help us to do just that.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What happens if we shut down?

Oh my, this is so true:

What's encouraging about meditation is that even if we shut down, we can no longer shut down in ignorance. We see very clearly that we're closing off. That in itself begins to illuminate the darkness of ignorance.

-- Pema Chödrön