Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday meditative picture blogging

Courage and goodness

I was fourteen years old when I first read The Diary of Anne Frank. And I remember vividly the moment I read the following passage because it struck me as being truly the ultimate in courage:
That's the difficulty in these times: ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered. It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
I still think that to believe in human goodness is an act of great courage because there is so much about human behavior that would make cynics of us all. Meditation, when you think about it, is predicated on this faith. Meditation is finally about learning to see and access our true nature. If that true nature were not good, that is the last thing we would want to do!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More about happiness

Today I read a review of a book called Choosing Happiness: Life & Soul Essentials by Stephanie Dowrick. Here's something she writes:
Whatever our background, culture or race, what rewards us most powerfully and consistently are the most deceptively simple abilities of all: the ability to be kind, to live enthusiastically and creatively, to appreciate and understand experiences different from our own, and to sustain a sense of inner stability and trust even in unwelcome and difficult situations.
And here's something else:
Take care of your spiritual needs. Make time for what's uplifting, connecting, inspiring. Compassion must translate into action. Don't just wish for love; be more loving. Don't just wish for happiness; live with greater joy.
It is, of course, difficult to choose happiness when we're faced with some serious problem or challenge. I've learned over the years to appreciate the degrees involved. Sure, if I'm dealing with a serious problem then I'm probably not going to feel as happy as I do when I'm truly care free. But I don't have to let myself become as miserable as I could be in that difficult situation! And that's no small accomplishment.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The importance of self-acceptance

Trying to change ourselves doesn’t work in the long run because we’re resisting our own energy. Self-improvement can have temporary results, but lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion...

It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves as we are that meditation becomes a transformative process. When we relate with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception, we finally let go of harmful patterns.

--Pema Chödrön

This does not mean that we don't change. Meditation will effect powerful change if we persevere and truly let go. It means, rather, that we don't require change of ourselves as a condition for self-acceptance. The acceptance must come first. Then there's enough spaciousness within to make room for change.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

(Photo in public domain)

Why meditate?

Today I found a nice little article called "How to Start Meditating: 10 Important Tips."

There's nothing in it that regular readers will not have encountered before but it's an encouraging read and I really like the way it starts:
Why meditate? On one level, meditation is a tool. It can help combat stress, fosters physical health, helps with chronic pain, can make you sleep better, feel happier, be more peaceful, as well as be present. But on a deeper level, meditation is a doorway into the unknown. It can help us get a sense of the mystery of who we are.
Sadly, some people really don't want to know who they are. I think that's tragic. The beauty of meditation is that, in addition to giving us self-knowledge, it also gives us the tools not to be overwhelmed by that awareness.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The power of visualization

I've used the following illustration many times in Session 4 of the Foundations class during which we discuss and practice visualization:
Another supportive series of tests were conducted by the University of Chicago. These and many similar tests show how our subconscious computer actually creates the reality for which it is programmed. Three test groups of subjects took part in a mental programming experiment based upon shooting a basketball. All the participating students were tested as to their individual basket-shooting ability and the results were tabulated.

Group one was told, “Don’t play any basketball for a month. In fact, just forget about basketball for the entire month.” Group Two was told, “You are each to practice shooting baskets for one full hour a day, everyday, for the month.” Group Three was told, “You are to spend one hour a day imagining you are successfully shooting baskets. Do this each day for the month. Fantasize yourself at being successful shooting baskets. See every detail of your accomplishments in your mind.”

One month later, the three groups were again tested as to their basket-shooting ability. The Group One participants, who hadn’t played basketball for a month, tested exactly the same as they did the first time. Group Two, who had been practicing a full hour every day for a month, demonstrated a 24-percent improvement in their basket-shooting ability. Group Three, who had only imagined that they were successfully shooting baskets for an hour each day, tested 23 percent improved in their actual basket-shooting ability—only one percentage point less than the group that had actually been practicing.
I was taught "mental practicing" when I was a music student. This stuff actually works!

(I found it here, by the way.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

True friendship

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face us with the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.

-- Henri Nouwen

Monday, June 23, 2008

I want to recommend a really terrific article on the importance of true empathy and how to cultivate it. Unfortunately, there's not really a good way to excerpt this article so I'm going to ask you to go read the whole thing. (It's not very long!) It's on the CNN website and is called "Empathy deficit disorder -- do you suffer from it?"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Follow your dream

When you stop having dreams and ideals - well, you might as well stop altogether.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What it really means to bless

John O'Donohue died much too soon earlier this year at age 53. I admired him very much.

Our longing for the eternal kindles our imagination to bless. Regardless of how we configure the eternal, the human heart continues to dream of a state of wholeness, that place where everything comes together, where loss will be made good, where blindness will transform into vision, where damage will be made whole, where the clenched question will open in the house of surprise, where the travails of life's journey will enjoy a homecoming. To invoke a blessing is to call some of that wholeness upon a person now.

-- John O'Donohue

Friday, June 20, 2008


If we train ourselves to remember this, we will benefit hugely:

As Beatrice said to Dante, "We have reached the point at which everywhere is here and every when is now."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Happiness and gratitude

A friend of mine sent me a list of happiness factors today that were very interesting. Here's one of them:
Someone did a study of Olympic athletes, and they found out that people who won a bronze medal were happier than people who won a silver medal. That's because athletes who won the silver medal focused on how they missed the gold medal, but people who won the bronze were grateful because they knew how close they had come to receiving no medal at all. There is a link between gratitude and happiness, which is why some people suggest keeping a gratitude journal. This little book is where you list the things that we are thankful for every day.
I know this is true because back when I was in the music business I was amazed that I was actually earning my living as a musician at all and I therefore felt very successful. I had friends, however, who were at about the same level as I was but who were unhappy with themselves because they did not have a world class career. I remember really taking note of that and instructing myself not to forget it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Hank Weaver

Happiness and courage

This is so very true. And yet it is common for people to resist this fiercely:

The journey to happiness involves finding the courage to go down into ourselves and take responsibility for what's there: all of it.

-- Richard Rohr

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Simply watching

Cynthia Burgess sent me the meditation from which I took this excerpt:

Just by taking a few moments each day to watch the bird activity that goes on in our backyards through our windows can bring a sense of calm and well-being to our lives. Watching and being with the birds that we share our garden space with us allows us to experience greater feelings of relaxation and gratitude for the diversity that is always present around us. Simply watching, without judgment or expectations, heightens our awareness of the beauty of nature... Doing this with our family members will in turn introduce a meditative practice that can easily be shared and appreciated by all, as well as create deeper bonds with each other through the joy of experiencing the healing power of nature.

Looking through our windows and placing a feeder and bird bath in our gardens to attract the birds is a way to call forth beauty into our lives. As we consciously connect with our outer world—even when the weather inhibits us from physically being in it—we see that the splendor we view outside of our windows is simply a reflection of what lies within us.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday meditative picture blogging


I know this is true. There are countless examples.

The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.

- Leo Buscaglia

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Yearning for awakening

In spiritual life there is no room for compromise. Awakening is not negotiable; we cannot bargain to hold on to things that please us while relinquishing things that do not matter to us. A lukewarm yearning for awakening is not enough to sustain us through the difficulties involved in letting go. It is important to understand that anything that can be lost was never truly ours, anything that we deeply cling to only imprisons us.

-- Jack Kornfield

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The way things are

Oh, I really like this. It is so very, very true:

There is really nothing you must be. And there is nothing you must do. There is really nothing you must have. And there is nothing you must know. There is really nothing you must become. However it helps to understand that fire burns, and when it rains the earth gets wet... "Whatever, there are consequences. Nobody is exempt," said the Master.

-- Robert Fulghum

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

This is my favorite picture of Leroy. I haven't posted it for a long time now and it seemed like a good time for a repeat!

Some real wisdom!

Here's a great quote:

"If you're going through hell, keep going."

-- Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, June 12, 2008

True non-resistance

Our culture is based on competition. If something is in our way we are socialized to believe we must enter into a contest with whatever that something is. Here's another approach:

'Embracing' is the key to the understanding of how to balance polarities. The waters of a brook do not accuse the rock of being in its path. The water does not say: 'Rock, I hate you, do not stand in my way or I wash you away.' The water says: 'Hi there, Rock, I grant you the right to be there, but I desire to create my energies elsewhere' -- and now the water giggles around the rock. We can learn from the water. It does not fear or hate the rock, it does not resist it either. In this sense the act of embracing should be understood.

-- Peter Erbe

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Something important about observation

"The Music Lesson"

Here's a wonderful quote:

I don’t paint things. I only paint the difference between things.

–Henri Matisse

When I lived in the Greater Washington, D.C. area I used to love to spend time in the National Gallery of Art. There is a Matisse cutout collection there and it was always one of my favorite exhibits to visit.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A little break

Hi, folks. I just need a little break from blogging. I'll be back soon!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

Simon the Mysterious!

Birth and new life

If you want to work on visualization as a meditative practice, you cannot do much better than to spend time with the poetry of Mary Oliver. Her ability to evoke an image with words is simply unsurpassed:

A Meeting

She steps into the dark swamp
where the long wait ends.

The secret slippery package
drops to the weeds.

She leans her long neck and tongues it
between breaths slack with exhaustion

and after a while it rises and becomes a creature
like her, but much smaller.

So now there are two. And they walk together
like a dream under the trees.

In early June, at the edge of a field
thick with pink and yellow flowers

I meet them.
I can only stare.

She is the most beautiful woman
I have ever seen.

Her child leaps among the flowers,
the blue of the sky falls over me

like silk, the flowers burn, and I want
to live my life all over again, to begin again,

to be utterly

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Margaret and Ruth Principle

I found this on Steve Roesler's blog:
The story [is told] of two ladies who lived in a convalescent center. Each had suffered an incapacitating stroke. Margaret's stroke restricted the use of her left side, while Ruth struggled with the use of her right side. Both of these women were accomplished pianists. Both had given up the hope of ever playing again.

The director of the center decided that there was a solution. So he sat them down side-by-side at a piano and gave them solo pieces to play together. They did.

The result: beautiful music, new friendship, and a sense of hope.
You know, we are socialized to consider complete independence as the ultimate good in our western culture - particularly in the United States. But is that realy such a great good after all?

It is not necessary to go it alone.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Time for another teaching from the marquee of the Nazarene church down the street:
Examine yourself for the faults you find irritating in others.

It's been said, "If you spot it, you got it." Hey, at least on an unconscious level or potentially.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

About thought

So it's worth pondering that this whole system, which we are calling 'thought', works as a system of reflexes. The question is: can you become aware of the reflex character of thought--that it is a reflex, that it is a whole system of reflexes which is constantly capable of being modified, added to, changed? And we could say that as long as the reflexes are free to change then there must be some kind of intelligence or perception, something a bit beyond the reflex, which would be able to see whether it's coherent or not. But when it gets conditioned too strongly it may resist that perception; it may not allow it.

-- David Bohm

Meditation is the process that slowly dissolves the kind of resitance that Bohm is talking about. It is the most powerful method going for increasing our perception of coherence and non-conherence.