Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Hallow's Eve

Tonight, beloved, the veil between the worlds is very thin. This is the night to remember our blessed dead, to realize that their lives have "changed, not ended" and that they remain a part of our awareness and experience if we welcome them and give them hospitality in our hearts.

Whatever our belief system, we can perform a ritual of thanksgiving for their contribution to who and what we are. And, if this is in keeping with our convictions, we can do prayers and meditations for their benefit as they continue to grow and develop in the next life.

So let us remember, let us give thanks, and let us celebrate!
May all beings be happy.

Wednesday life form blogging

Rusty, RIP
Photo by Sally Lloyd

The importance of compassion and loving kindness

I stopped by a coffee shop this morning and picked up a little advertizing sheet that I often read called "Coffee News". In it there was this "quotable quote":

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

-- Leo Buscaglia

I agree. Let's all look for opportunities today to practice these acts of caring.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Meditation and self-esteem

Meditation gives us the tools to observe with accuracy what is going on in our minds. Being able to do that is essential if we want to change our self-talk. Why would we want to do that? Well, Dr. Neil Clark Warren explains in a little article entitled "Building Your Self Esteem From Scratch":
Can you imagine having an internal recorder that could actually replay what you say when no one else is listening? What if you could replay the conversations you have had with yourself over the last several hours? What kinds of phrases would you hear?

The fact is, most of the time we have little conscious awareness of our own internal dialogue, and yet this self-talk has a huge impact on how you feel about yourself. With a little practice, you can tune into this information and use it to bolster your self-image.

If your self talk is highly negative, it is virtually guaranteed that your self-esteem will be weak. In fact, it has been my experience that people cannot have a profound sense of their own significance until they develop self-talk that promotes their value as a person.

Once you've become more aware of your self-talk, you'll be able to moderate your inner conversation. You'll be able to take a kinder tone and recognize your intrinsic value.
It's important not to scold ourselves for that negative voice if it's there. Scolding is just one more message of negativity! Instead, speak to yourself with compassion. Just say, "Of course, I've been using a negative tone with myself. I learned to do that many years ago when I didn't have as much insight and awareness as I do now. But now it's not necessary." Then change to an affirming tone and message. Be consistent with this and your self-esteem will show marked improvement.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

From a card sent to me by Br. Jim Phillips

Be calmer and happier!

I just found a little bitty article called "The Benefits of Meditation" about some brain scan research done on meditators. Here's the conclusion:
The brain waves of meditators show why they're healthier. Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex—brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. In other words, they were calmer and happier than before.

Who doesn't want to be calmer and happier? Hey, don't give up on your meditation!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Disturbed by joy

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

from Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The flow of life

Wisdom shows me I'm Nothing,
Love shows me I'm Everything,
and between the two my life flows.

-- Nisargadatta

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Rumba Girl
Photo by Paul Rogers

Entertaining old pain

Pain needs to be processed, of course. And healthy grieving is necessary as a way to recover from profound loss. But to rehearse the painful events over and over so that it goes on for years - to wallow in the pain - is unhealthy and unskillful. It keeps us from ever moving forward:

Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?

--Mary Manin Morrissey

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Peripheral neuropathy and meditation

Here we have another benefit of meditation:
Peripheral neuropathy, the most common form of neuropathy, usually affects the legs and feet. The sensory nerves are affected by atrophy and loss of the longer peripheral nerve axons. Symptoms begin in the toes and move up. Typically, the disease affects both legs.

Patients with diabetic neuropathy may experience a wide range of pain and discomfort, from a mild annoyance that lasts only seconds or minutes to extreme pain that lasts for hours or days. Sometimes, mild analgesics can help relieve the pain-but not always. That's when your patient can benefit from nonpharmacologic techniques, such as guided imagery, meditation, and progressive relaxation therapy.
Whatever the technique, many patients who use meditation achieve a level of relaxation and pain relief similar to that achieved with drugs.
Once more, I offer these medical findings as material for motivation. Anything that gets us meditating - and keeps us meditating - is worth knowing about!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The remedy that works

Recognizing our own true nature (and, of course, that of others) is so important:

If we can reach the understanding of what we actually are, there is no better remedy for eliminating all suffering. This is the heart of all spiritual practices.

-Kalu Rinpoche, Luminous Mind

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The tyranny of the idealized self

It's a repeat. But worth repeating! It's from John Welwood's really marvelous book, Toward a Psychology of Awakening:

The continual activity of grasping onto an ego identity is essentially narcissistic, for it keeps us occupied with propping up an image of ourselves. Even Freud recognized the narcissism inherent in the ego when he wrote, "The development of the ego consists in a departure from primal narcissism and results in a vigorous attempt to recover it." So if we truly want to move beyond narcissistic self-involvement, we must work on overcoming our identification with whatever we imagine ourselves to be - any image of ourselves as something solid, separate, or defined. The less involved we are with images of who we are, the more we will be able to recognize our deep bond with all sentient beings, as different expressions of the mystery that also pervades our inmost nature.
Our true, deep nature is so much richer, so much more free than our ego can ever be! But if our objective is constantly that of propping up the ego, we will never access that inmost part of our reality.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Learning to pause

Now here's an idea! It's from an article entitled "Relaxation at work":
Imagine an executive who moves his telephone to the far side of his office. It takes an extra five seconds to answer every call. Must be an unproductive fellow, right?

Not according to Jonathan Foust, who teaches meditation at the World Bank and other Washington, D.C., venues.

Foust encourages his pupils to pause during the rush of daily life, to return to the calm place they find in meditation. With a renewed focus, they can actually be more productive -- better at prioritizing work and managing distractions.

When the executive rises from his chair to get the phone, he steals a sliver of time to clear his mind.

"When you slow down, what is most important will come to the surface," said Foust, warning that this takes time to master. "These practices are like swimming upstream because you're encountering not only your own conditioning, but the culture. This culture does not want to slow down."

Millions of Americans are swimming alongside Foust's students, seeking a respite from the breakneck pace of modern life. Meditation groups have sprung up in law offices, insurance companies and other workplaces, without the stereotypical trappings of incense and crystals.

Employers find that meditation classes not only boost productivity, they save money by reducing employees' stress levels.

In Pittsburgh, health insurer Highmark Inc. offers a group relaxation class and provides Intranet access to an audio routine called "de-stress at your desk."

"Stress can have a long-term impact on the health of your employees, productivity and the bottom line," said Lisa Scholar, Highmark's manager of employee preventive health.

At the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine, every staff meeting begins with a group meditation.

"It's a lot different than the transcendental meditation that we hippies grew up with," said Tanya Edwards, the center's director. The goal is "to try to put yourself in a quasi-meditative state all the time."
Yes, indeed. I perpetually am confronted with people who think that meditation means "zoning out". Far from it. It means connecting utterly with this very moment in a state of relaxed alertness.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Some pretty good advice

Greet everyone you meet with a warm smile.
No matter how busy you are, don't rush enounters with co-workers, family and friends.
Speak softly. Listen attentively.
Act as if every conversation you have is the most important thing on your mind today.
Look your children and your partner in the eyes when they talk to you.
Stroke the cat, caress the dog.
Lavish love on every living being you meet.
See how different you feel at the end of the day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's really okay to let go

Paradoxically, we achieve true wholeness only by embracing our fragility and sometimes, our brokenness. Wholeness is a natural radiance of Love, and Love demands that we allow the destruction of our old self for the sake of the new.

-- Jalaja Bonheim

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday cat blogging!


A quiet revolution

This morning I came across an interesting little article called "Meditation is a Quiet Revolution".

Here are a couple of excerpts:
Meditation as a “quiet revolution” is an oxymoron, of course. Meditation is generally a private, quiet practice for the individual. Its acceptance has changed dramatically over the last several years, although it is still not universally accepted. As with most revolutions, often an underground is established before, during, and after the outward manifestations of the revolution. In the North American culture (which is the culture I know), more and more individuals are speaking and writing about their meditation practice.
No matter where, individuals must make a choice to meditate and practice it regularly in order to benefit fully. Full benefits come with regular practice over a period of time. Meditating only when stressed may certainly be beneficial in the immediate situation, but the long-term benefits include well-being, health, a stronger immune system, longevity, clarity of thought, balance. Regardless of the chosen method, the benefits of regular meditation, over time, are as varied as the individuals who meditate. It is quite common for long-time meditators to acknowledge they benefit physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
So don't give up. Keep on meditating and revolutionize your life!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Silence Must Be Heard

by Enigma:

Look into the other's eyes, many frustrations.
Read between the lines, no words just vibrations.

Don't ignore hidden desires.
Pay attention, you're playing with fire.

Silence must be heard.
Noise should be observed.
The time has come to learn, that silence...

Silence must be heard,
or diamonds will burn.
Friendly cards will turn.
Cause silence, has the right to be heard.

People talk too much, for what they have to say.
Words without a meaning, they are fading away.

Silence must be heard.
Noise should be observed.
The time has come to learn, that silence...

Silence must be heard,
or diamonds will burn.
Friendly cards will turn.
Cause silence, has the right to be heard.

Silence must be heard.

Silence must be heard.
Noise should be observed.

Silence must be heard.

Silence must be heard.
Noise should be observed.

Silence must be heard.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Lovingkindness prayer

I found this in the DharmaCrafts catalog:
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
These are wonderful things to wish for anyone. Try it for individuals and substitute the person's name for "all beings". But, of course, the traditional teaching is always to start with yourself:
May I be peaceful.
May I be happy.
May I be safe.
May I awaken to the light of my true nature.
May I be free.
It's amazing how wishing those things for ourselves helps us wish them for others!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Short but very powerful

Oh my, look at this:

It's not them, it's you.
It's not there, it's here.
It's not then, it's now.

~ Author Unknown ~

Monday, October 15, 2007

Happiness and peace of mind

You might like to take a look at a little article called simply "The Physical and Mental Benefits of Daily Meditation". Here's one paragraph:
Is there anybody who does not, in some way, seek after happiness? Meditation takes us to the source of happiness, which is to be found in our own peace of mind. If we have no peace of mind and are constantly attacked by negative thoughts, happiness will remain elusive, no matter how successful we are on an outer plane. It is perhaps hard to imagine that happiness can occur from the simple act of being. However, if we can meditate with a still mind, we will discover an unexpected source of happiness within our own self. Meditation shows us that happiness is not dependent on outer circumstances, but on our inner attitude.
Really, our inner attitude is the only thing we can always choose. Everything else is subject to the ordinary (and sometimes not so ordinary) vicissitudes of life.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The path of loveliness

I think you can see why I think these two sayings go together:

Ananda said: "Friendship with what is lovely, association with what is lovely, intimacy with what is lovely--that is half of the holy life."

The Buddha responded: "Don't say that, Ananda. It's the whole not the half of the holy life. One so blessed with what is lovely will develop a right way of being, a thinking that no longer grasps at what is untrue, an aim that is concerned and ready, a contemplation that is unattached and free. Association with what is lovely is the whole of the holy life."
- From The Buddha Speaks, edited by Anne Bancroft

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
- St. Paul (Philippians 4:8)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Don't forget about beads

Rosaries are used as a meditative practice in many spiritual traditions:

Use a rosary of meditation beads if you practice a school of meditation that involves the repetition of a mantra. Advance one bead per repetition of your mantra, and continue in reverse when you reach the point you started from if you want to keep going.
Beads not only help us count our prayers or mantras; they also give us something to do with our hands. Personally, I find the use of a rosary (or mala) helps minimize distractions. Here are some sources:

Anglican and Lutheran rosaries

Buddhist malas

Baha'i prayer beads

Orthodox prayer ropes

Goddess rosaries

Catholic rosaries

Worry beads

Finger rosaries (I love these!)

Islamic prayer beads

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

A big fear about meditation

Many people resist meditation because they're afraid of what might "come up". Well, stuff is supposed to come up:

Spiritual progress is like detoxification. Things have to come up in order to be released. Once we have asked to be healed, then our unhealed places are forced to the surface.

--Marianne Williamson

Why would you prefer to have toxic stuff inside you that you don't even know about? Only if we know what's there can we do anything about it. Otherwise, it will rule our lives and we won't even understand why.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Earth, Teach Me

Earth teach me quiet ~
as the grasses are still with new light.

Earth teach me suffering ~
as old stones suffer with memory.

Earth teach me humility ~
as blossoms are humble with beginning.

Earth teach me caring ~
as mothers nurture their young.

Earth teach me courage ~
as the tree that stands alone.

Earth teach me limitation ~
as the ant that crawls on the ground.

Earth teach me freedom ~
as the eagle that soars in the sky.

Earth teach me acceptance ~
as the leaves that die each fall.

Earth teach me renewal ~
as the seed that rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself ~
as melted snow forgets its life.

Earth teach me to remember kindness ~
as dry fields weep with rain.

- An Ute Prayer

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Learning to shape your mind

I just found a wonderful little article on meditation called "Meditation on your feet" by Stephen Schettini. Here's how it gets started:
The most stubborn misconception conjured up by the word “meditation” is that it’s all about silence and concentration, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, peace and quiet help you look into your mind more clearly, but what are you looking for? The most common answer is balance. Under ideal conditions, mental silence and concentration help a lot, but the nine-to-five frenzy is still waiting out there for us, and it’s even harder to go back to once you get a taste for real downtime.

Beginners often come to meditation in search of control. They want the mind to obey, and its blithe refusal to do so comes as quite a shock. The thing to remember is that it’s not the mind that’s at fault — it’s the expectations. The mind isn’t some sort of command central, but a non-stop stream of consciousness. It will never politely obey your instructions. How many times have you commanded it to stop torturing you with guilt, to crave food less, or to make you think before you speak?

Although the mind isn’t compliant, it’s not hostile either. It can be cultivated like a plant or anything else that grows in familiar but unpredictable patterns. The idea is to gradually nudge your mental patterns into the shape you want. The big question is, what shape?

To answer that question we first have to become familiar with the patterns that are already there, which is where mindfulness comes in. It also enables us to see how those patterns unfold, and what good or harm results. It helps us decide what to cultivate and what to restrain. This all takes time and the ability to turn your mind inwards.
What to cultivate, what to restrain. Important discernments! And meditation will definitely help.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Your life, your duty

Jan posted the following poem at Yearning for God:

Wake up. Day calls you
to your life: your duty.
And to live, nothing more.
Root it out of the glum
night and the darkness
that covered your body
for which light waited
on tiptoe in the dawn.
Stand up, affirm the straight
simple will to be
a pure slender virgin.
Test your body's metal.
Cold, heat? Your blood
will tell against the snow,
or behind the window.
The colour
in your cheeks will tell.
And look at people. Rest
doing no more than adding
your perfection to another
day. Your task
is to carry your life high,
and play with it, hurl it
like a voice to the clouds
so it may retrieve the light
already gone from us.
That is your fate: to live.
Do nothing.
Your work is you, nothing more.

~ Pedro Salinas ~
(My Voice Because of You, translated by Willis Barnstone)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

The most important of all voyages

How very true this is and how beautifully expressed:

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.

-- Thomas Merton

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Don't forget candles

I found another meditation blog today. It's called "Meditation is". A recent post talks about candles:
Meditation candles are very useful accessories in your meditation activities. If you have a separate meditation room, using candles while meditating can be an excellent idea.

Candles can help give you that great feeling of a little warmth and light in the room while you are meditating. Some specialized candles are perfume based and they will fill the room with a pleasing aroma producing a sense of relaxation and calm... Gazing at the tip of the flame of the candle constantly is also one form of meditation, which helps in increasing concentration.

Even if you can’t have a separate meditation room, using candles while meditating can be very helpful. The light from the candles has a charm in it.
Also the very act of lighting the candles in the first place helps settle the mind and bring it to awareness. When we light a candle we are saying to ourselves, "Now it's time to meditate." Lighting the candle is a little mindfulness ritual.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

No fear of not surviving

I know I've made many decisions out of a fear of not surviving. I imagine we all have. So this is a challenging statement by an always bold spiritual teacher:

To find out what you love to do demands a great deal of intelligence; because, if you are afraid of not being able to earn a livelihood, or of not fitting into this rotten society, then you will never find out. But, if you are not frightened, if you refuse to be pushed into the groove of tradition by your parents, by your teachers, by the superficial demands of society, then there is a possibility of discovering what it is you really love to do. So, to discover, there must be no fear of not surviving.

- Krishnamurti

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

A very moving blog post

Today I stumbled upon a blog named "Inspirations and Creative Thought". I know I came across this site before but it's been several years. I'm glad to have found it again. Here's a post from June of 2005:
I'm a Muslim because I submit myself to the Lord of the world. also because I testify that "There is no god but One True God, and Mohammad is the last messenger of God."

I'm a Hindu because a hindu is a person who seeks the Truth. And God is the Eternal Truth, the Reality behind everything.

I'm a Christian because I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in his second coming as the messiah. Jesus is the Spirit from God (Isa ruhullah).

I'm a Jew because I believe in Moses as great Prophet of God who spoke to God (Musa kalimullah).

I'm a Buddhist because I seek enlightenment (Nirvana) of my soul. I pay my respect to Gautama Buddha who is one of the most brilliant personalities who walked on this earth.

I'm a Taoist who believe in Tao, the Ultimate Reality behind everything.

And I have no hesitation to say to all other religion that I belong to them as well. They are all my beloved brother and sisters as One God's creation. We belong to the same family. Our blood is the same, our feelings and emotions are same. We are all seeking the same goal only at different path. And all the atheists are my brothers and sisters as well. They also have a different path to seek the Knowledge.

We are all on a journey, knowingly or unknowingly we are trying to reach to the Ultimate goal.

Some will struggle more, some will less.

Some are on straight path, some are not.

But can we deny our aspirations to Love our Beloved God?

Can we condemn other just because they speak different language and have different culture?

Can we deny their faith just because they call the same God in different name, the same God who is beyond name and form ?
Needless to say, there were commenters to this post who claimed the writer could not be what he says he is.

But I undersand. And I would say the same things - although my reasons would be different from the ones this writer has proclaimed.

One of the reasons there is such conflict in the world is the widespread intolerance of paradox and ambiguity. Black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking is very immature and very dangerous indeed.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Make friends with your shadow side

I've been thinking a lot about the shadow side of human nature lately and how it can take over if we do not acknowledge it and find a way to give it skillful and legitimate expression. The poet William Blake understood this:
A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole.
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see,
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

No forcing

Here's an illustration by Steve Gillman I just found that I like very much:
Imagine a wonderful evening with new friends. You prepared dinner, bought a good bottle of wine, and cleaned the house. Now the guests are here, the conversation is great, and you are happy. Can you make this happen? Yes and no.

You can prepare in every way to make it a pleasant event, but in the end, the guests can decline your invitation, or not arrive, or show up late, right? You can’t force them to come, or if you try, you’ll ruin the atmosphere or even the friendship.

That is how meditation is, too. You do what is necessary to prepare for a good experience, but in the end, you can’t force it. Work and discipline help, just like cleaning up and chilling the wine are necessary to prepare for a good dinner party, but there is no forcing the result. When the experience is a good one, enjoy it, but if it doesn’t happen, just prepare again.

So when you want to invite inspiration into your meditation, or into your life, don’t try to push the guest through the door. When you are tempted to do so, turn back to your preparations, and concentrate on that. Just send out the invitations, prepare yourself, and relax.
So let's not judge our meditations or get attached to having a particular experience.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tuesday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess (I think!)

A good thought discipline

We would all do well to cultivate this approach to life:

For me, a lovely day is any day I wake up.

-- Bernie S. Siegel, Prescriptions for Living

Monday, October 01, 2007

This is so true

and so inspiring:

We people of the world need to find ways to get to know one another - for then we will recognize that our likenesses are so much greater than our differences, however great our differences may seem. Every cell, every human being, is of equal importance and has work to do in this world.

- Peace Pilgrim