Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blue moon

Today is the blue moon - that is the second full moon within a calendar month. It's rare, of course. Here's a chant sent to me by Clyde Glandon:

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


This is dedicated to all you perfectionists out there who can't just let go and let be. Paul Rogers sent me this wonderful poem the other day. It was on Garrison Keillor's Writers' Almanac on NPR:

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

Deep breathing

Here's a relaxation and centering exercise that is very refreshing:
Meditation can take many forms, including the art of deep breathing. It's a great way to relieve stress.

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.
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.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day reflection

Let us ponder these scriptures this Memorial Day and dedicate ourselves to their fulfillment:

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

Using prompts throughout the day

I've had much success over the years in using environmental prompts to bring me to mindfulness. Back when I was training myself to say the Jesus Prayer (a form of mantra meditation) I reminded myself to say it whenever I looked at a clock or my watch. Another prompt was fastening my seatbelt. Still another was sudden noises - such as a school bell or a siren. Prompts are recommended in the little book a told you about a few days ago - Self-Meditation by Barbara Ann Kipfer. Here are two examples:
Each time you open a door, take a few mindful breaths.
When the phone rings, pause for a moment to let it ring. Listen to it. Relax before you pick it up.
Those are very good suggestions. I recommend that you look for other possible prompts throughout your day that will help you center and focus.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


When I was a child, I was given an illustrated copy of Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us. I was in for an amazing adventure. And I have admired and respected Carson ever since. Here's something she said that I just found today:

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.

-- Rachel Carson

I agree. And I credit Carson herself with stimulating that sense of wonder in me that has lasted throughout my life.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday cat blogging!


Do you want to change your life?

Try this:

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.

-- Sarah Ban Breathnach

It's from a book called Simple Abundance.

UPDATE: I recommend this article called A Conversation with Sarah Ban Breathnach.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A beautiful attitude toward death

Frank Ford send me an email today with a whole list of quotations and this was one of them:

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)

I think that is truly beautiful.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The worst slavery

There's a Nazarene Church on the corner of the street where I now live and I have to pass it every day going to and from the Center. They have a marquee out front on which they post announcements as well as various sayings and slogans. I see I'm going to get a spiritual work out with some of them! The last few days this has been posted:
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

Equanimity and awareness

Today I bought a new little book called Self-Meditation and it's subtitled 3,299 mantras, tips, quotes, and koans for peace and serenity. It's by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

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.
A good meditation can be as simple as doing something you love with mindful awareness.
It's a beneficial prayer and a beneficial practice. I encourage you to try both.

Cynthia Burgess's work

Someone has left several messages wanting more information about Cynthia's gorgeous work. If you send me your email (you can find my email address on my profile), I will put you in touch with Cynthia. She does sell her work so that's available for those who are interested.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo art by Cynthia Burgess

The blossom within

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.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Same as Gold

I heard this on NPR driving home from church today:
The Same as Gold
Now that I
That grief
Emotionally speaking
Is the same
As gold
I do not despair
That we are
All of us
Born to grieve.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Manifesting the truth

Thomas Merton

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

Meditation tips

Yesterday, I found a little review of a book called The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. The writer gives us this advice for our meditation:
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.

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.
This is good stuff. Couldn't have said it better myself!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

A life imperative

Today I found a blog in which the author responds to the question, "What is the greatest imperative of your life?" I'm going to give you several excerpts from this person's little essay:
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.
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.
"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.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The "motive of life"

I found this today and I really like it:

To be able to spread an aura of goodness and peace should be the motive of life.

-- Paramahansa Yogananda

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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Rama - Amur Leopard

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

Luminous is this mind,
Brightly shining, but it is
Colored by the attachments
That visit it.
This unlearned people do not
Really understand,
And so do not cultivate the
Luminous is this mind,
Brightly shining,
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.

- Anguttara Nikaya

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A compassion opportunity

TONKA - Bengal Tiger

Those of you who also visit Child of Illusion may have already read about a wonderful organization called Noah's Lost Ark which gives a permanent haven to unwanted and abused exotic animals. On that blog, I told you the story of Hawk, the African lion. Now I want to tell you about Tonka, a Bengal Tiger:
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!
But Tonka is now thriving as you can tell by the picture above.

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.
Telephone: 330-584-7835
Postal address: 8424 Bedell Rd., Berlin Center, Oh 44401
Electronic mail:

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.

Christian meditation

Maybe you've heard of Father Laurence Freeman. He's one of the big names in the Christian meditation movement. This morning I found an article about a retreat he conducted called "Christian meditation retreat leaves some young people wanting more". Here's part of what it says:
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."

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.
Meditation is not dependent on any particular belief system. On the contrary; it is compatible with all belief systems.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo art by Cynthia Burgess


is the moment between everyone
is the best friend you have in the world
that moment in time
will help you to survive

--Lara Fabian

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Artist: Tashi Mannox

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

Transforming e-mail

This morning I picked up the May issue of Shambhala Sun and found a short article by Sylvia Boorstein entitled "You've Got Mail". Here's how it gets started:
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..."

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.
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.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Love and the role of attention

Here's an observation I just found:

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."

--Molleen Matsumura

Anything that requires "continual attention" will be supported by meditative practice.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Now here's a thought:

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

--Lin Yutang

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Paul Rogers sent me this marvelous picture with the following:

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?

Meditation and attention

Meditation really does help people concentrate and pay attention. Take a look:

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.

You know, it really bewilders me why people give up on meditation after they learn about it. The pay-off is so great!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The importance of little things

One of the most important things my meditation teachers taught me is that it's all material. Everything in life - no matter how seemingly trivial - is an occasion for practice. So I really liked this quotation when I found it this morning:

Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.

--Frank A. Clark

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Begin with your own mind

First there must be order and harmony within your own mind. Then this order will spread to your family, then to the community, and finally to your entire kingdom. Only then can you have peace and harmony.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Fault finding

I just came across a wonderful article entitled Speaking of the Faults of Others by Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron. Here's part of what it says:
"I vow not to talk about the faults of others." In the Zen tradition, this is one of the bodhisattva vows.
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.
Fault finding is very, very common and very poisonous. Let's all try to discipline ourselves not to do it.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Gabe Horn

True success

I found this on the Spiritual Literacy Blog:
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


It will do us all well to remember this:

It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

-- Mohandas Gandhi

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

True happiness

Last night in ongoing class we were talking during the discussion time about the difference between gratification and happiness. Then today I found the following:

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

Very true.

Both ordinary and profound

I found a little blog entry today called "Meditation and Intimacy". Here's the part I really liked:
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.

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.
We experience a deep appreciation of the ordinary when we're practiced meditators. It's quite wonderful.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

About anger

Lyman Abbott: "Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry."

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.

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.
Do click through and read the rest of the article for the remaining steps.