Monday, March 30, 2009

Home free

Oh my. Take a look at this:
Everything matters: how we vote, how we tie our shoelaces, how we respond to the faintest whisper of a thought. And nothing matters, because (look!) it's already gone. When we understand this, we're home free.
It's from Stephen Mitchell's new translation of the works of Lao-tzu's disciple Chuang-tzu and Confucius's grandson Tzu-Ssu. It's called The Second Book of the Tao.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Harmony and resonance

A lifetime may not be long enough to attune ourselves fully to the harmony of the universe. But just to become aware that we can resonate with it -- that alone can be like waking up from a dream.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

Something about dreams and choice

It's hard to put into words how the passage I'm sharing with you today affected me when I read it. I have viewed reality this way for a very long time - decades, really. But I have never before seen it expressed so well:

All men and women are born, live, suffer and die; what distinguishes us one from another is our dreams, whether they be dreams about worldly or unworldly things, and what we do to make them come about... We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.

-- Joseph Epstein

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging

"Leisure is a form of silence, not noiselessness. It is the silence of contemplation such as occurs when we let our minds rest on a rosebud, a child at play, a Divine mystery, or a waterfall."

I remember loving Bishop Sheen's television programs when I was a kid. He was really a lovely person.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Letting go of delusion

We often talk about "peeling off the layers" as part of the process of doing inner work. Here's something Meister Eckhart said about just that:

A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or a bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.

Remember that "Oh human being, know yourself!" has long been consdered the most significant utterance of the ancient Oracle of Delphi.

This is the work, dear people. This is the work.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Life's hazards

The following insight is hard to take on board, I know. But notice that Charlotte Beck is careful to state that it takes years of meditative practice to see life this way:

Life itself is hazardous. . . . There are sharp rocks everywhere. What changes from years of practice is coming to know something you didn't know before: that there are no sharp rocks — the road is covered with diamonds.

— Charlotte Joko Beck in Nothing Special

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blogging delay

Dear Readers,

My computer is in the shop at the moment and so there will be a slight delay in posting. (Not sure how long that will be but I just didn't want anyone to worry.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

This is Smokey, the wonderful pit bull whose human is my dear friend, Bill Miller.

I've posted a number of Bill's photos year over the past couple of years. You might like to visit Bill's blog: Tulsa Gentleman

My kind of dog

Did I ever share this with you? Most of you know that I have a new dog, Bernice. She was spayed yesterday and is recovering well.

Choosing A Dog

"It's love," they say. You touch
the right one and a whole half of the universe
wakes up, a new half.

Some people never find
that half, or they neglect it or trade it
for money or success and it dies.

The faces of big dogs tell, over the years,
that size is a burden: you enjoy it for awhile
but then maintenance gets to you.

When I get old I think I'll keep, not a little
dog, but a serious dog,
for the casual, drop-in criminal —

My kind of dog, unimpressed by
dress or manner, just knowing
what's really there by the smell.

Your good dogs, some things that they hear
they don't really want you to know —
it's too grim or ethereal.

And sometimes when they look in the fire
they see time going on and someone alone,
but they don't say anything.

~ William Stafford

Well, Bernice is neither small nor serious. Maybe I'm just not quite old enough yet! :-)

All I know is that having a dog greatly supports my mental health. I also can take pleasure in knowing that, by adopting a rescue, I have given happiness and security to another sentient being on this wonderful earth that is full of both beauty and cruelty.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Erin Go Bragh!

Here are some wonderful Irish toasts that I wish for all of you!

May you get all your wishes but one.
So you always have something to strive for.
May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
May your neighbors respect you,
Troubles neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And Heaven accept you.
May the best day of your past
be the worst day of your future.
May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door.
Here's a wonderful brief bio of St. Patrick. Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging

The edge of mystery

I've told you before, I think, about the marquee outside the Nazarene Church down on the corner from my house. Seems to me that they've outdone themselves with this message:
We all live on the edge of mystery --
But most choose to ignore it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That's what poetry does.

-- Allen Ginsberg

And so does meditation. For my money, I'll take both! :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Pi Day!!!

Just for those who may have forgotten over the years: Pi is what you get when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter. When you try to represent it in decimal form, it goes on forever --- that is, it never ends or repeats. (It starts off with 3.14 --- March 14. Get it?)

How is this pertinent to meditation? Well, it gives us an appreciation for the complexity of reality and that helps us take a more spacious approach to how we view the world. And, heck. It's just fun! (And fascinating.)

Okay. For those of you whose eyes glaze over at anything mathematical but who like words, I give you a poem in honor of the day:


The admirable number pi:
three point one four one.
All the following digits are also initial,
five nine two because it never ends.
It can't be comprehended six five three five at a glance,
eight nine by calculation,
seven nine or imagination,
not even three two three eight by wit, that is, by comparison
four six to anything else
two six four three in the world.
The longest snake on earth calls it quits at about forty feet.
Likewise, snakes of myth and legend, though they may hold out a bit longer.
The pageant of digits comprising the number pi
doesn't stop at the page's edge.
It goes on across the table, through the air,
over a wall, a leaf, a bird's nest, clouds, straight into the sky,
through all the bottomless, bloated heavens.
Oh how brief - a mouse tail, a pigtail - is the tail of a comet!
How feeble the star's ray, bent by bumping up against space!
While here we have two three fifteen three hundred nineteen
my phone number your shirt size the year
nineteen hundred and seventy-three the sixth floor
the number of inhabitants sixty-five cents
hip measurement two fingers a charade, a code,
in which we find hail to thee, blithe spirit, bird thou never wert
alongside ladies and gentlemen, no cause for alarm,
as well as heaven and earth shall pass away,
but not the number pi, oh no, nothing doing,
it keeps right on with its rather remarkable five,
its uncommonly fine eight,
its far from final seven,
nudging, always nudging a sluggish eternity
to continue.

Love it! Just love it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Attachment, perspective, impermanence

I'm not sure where I found this but I really like it. It's an intriguing exercise:

Just think how happy you would be if you lost everything you have right now, and then got it back again.

-- Frances Rodman

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

Some good advice on happiness

This makes so much sense. And yet people do wait:

So stop waiting until you finish school,
until you go back to school,
until you lose ten pounds,
until you gain ten pounds,
until you have kids,
until your kids leave the house,
until you start work,
until you retire,
until you get married,
until you get divorced,
until Friday night,
until Sunday morning,
until you get a new car or home,
until your car or home is paid off,
until spring, until summer, until fall, until winter,
until you are off welfare,
until the first or fifteenth,
until your song comes on,
until you've had a drink,
until you've sobered up,
until you die,
until you are born again
to decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy...

~ Author Unknown

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Radical reframing

Here's a lovely little story about letting go of attachments:

On the day of their marriage, Yvonne and her husband were given a rare and gorgeous antique Hopi vase. After the ceremony someone carried the vase on a tray with too many other things, and dropped it. The bowl broke into many pieces.

"A perfect moment," she smiled. "The bowl was only whole for the ceremony."

Sue Bender in Everyday Sacred

Monday, March 09, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging


This is very thought provoking, really:

When I hear somebody sigh, "Life is hard," I am always tempted to ask, "Compared to what?"

~Sydney Harris

Sunday, March 08, 2009

It's today

You know, I think there's a mindfulness lesson in here someplace. Also, there's a real connection to the classic meditation teachings on the mind poisons:

Men who treat women as helpless and charming playthings deserve women who treat men as delightful and generous bank accounts.

-- anonymous

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Unwanted guests

I've come across several versions of this story over the years. It's one I particularly like!
A young man named Nasreddin planted a flower garden, but when the flowers came up so did a great crop of dandelions among them. Wishing to eliminate the unwanted guests, Nasreddin consulted with gardeners near and far, but none of their solutions worked.

Finally, Nasreddin traveled to the palace of the sheik to seek the wisdom of the royal gardener himself. But alas, Nasreddin had already tried all the methods the kind old man recommended to him for eradicating such troublesome weeds.

Silently they sat together for a good long time. At last, the royal gardener looked at Nasreddin and said, "Well, then, the only thing I can suggest is that you learn to love them."

Saturday cat blogging!

Friday, March 06, 2009

War, misery, beauty, goodness

I first read Anne Frank's diary when I was fourteen years old and it had an enormous impact on me. I'm offering these quotations today because they seem to go with the Karen Armstrong video I've posted below - especially the very last one:

I don't believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.
I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.
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.

- Anne Frank

Amazing words on compassion

Dear Readers,

My friend David in Montreal sent me the video posted below. As most of you know, I keep three blogs. One is on meditation (the one you're currently reading) and I strive to keep this one deliberately non-sectarian. Another is political and I maintain it as a private citizen. The third was initially intended for the spouses of Episcopal clergy in the Diocese of Oklahoma; it is about spiritual growth and reflection and draws mainly from the mystical and contemplative teachings of Christianity. I have had a hard time deciding where to post the Armstrong speech and so I'm using it on all three blogs.

It's a little over twenty minutes long but I'm sure you'll agree that it is well worth your time. And I think you will also see why it is appropriate for all three blogs:

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Something about risk

For your edification:

And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

- Anaïs Nin

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

The Patience of Ordinary Things

The ordinary can bring us to amazing awareness if we will let it:

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

-- Pat Schneider

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The real milestones

Needless to say, I love the central metaphor used here. And, of course, I agree:

Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.

-- Susan B. Anthony

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Blog recommendation

I became really interested in skulls and in art depicting skulls many years ago when I first learned that it was traditional for medieval monks and nuns to keep skulls in their cells as a focus for meditating on impermance and mortality. Well, I just found a marvelous blog called Skull-A-Day. Some of the skulls pictures are wonderfully creative. Here's a sample:

The person who created the blog made a skull a day for whole year and then started posting submissions from readers.

Go on over there and enjoy. The work is really quite fascinating.