Sunday, January 31, 2010

What a gift

Oh, what a gift indeed:

Imagine how our lives might be if everyone had even a bit more of the Wisdom that comes from seeing clearly. Suppose people everywhere, simultaneously, stopped what they were doing and paid attention for only as long as it took to recognize their shared humanity. Surely the heartbreak of the world's pain, visible to all, would convert everyone to kindness. What a gift that would be.

-- Sylvia Boorstein

It is truly grief-producing that we do not see this more frequently, more consistently, more joyfully.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A profound teaching

Here is an excellent meditation saying:

Just think of the trees: they let the birds perch and fly, with no intention to call them when they come and no longing for their return when they fly away. If people's hearts can be like the trees, they will not be off the Way.

-- unknown

If we learn to cultivate this approach, we will eliminate much, much suffering from our lives.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Enlightenment and change

I have probably posted this before but I came across it again today and it definitely bears repeating:

Everybody wants to get enlightened but nobody wants to change. This is the simple, daunting truth that has been staring back at me from the eyes of countless seekers over the years. "I really want to get enlightened," they insist. "But are YOU ready to CHANGE now?" I ask. "What?" is the inevitable response—surprised and even slightly stunned. And I repeat, "Are YOU ready to CHANGE now?" What follows is always a strange and surreal moment of ambiguity, confusion, and backpedaling. "But I thought you wanted to get enlightened... "

-- Andrew Cohen

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging

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Slowing down

We rarely think of the actual advantages of needing to slow down as we get older:

When I found I no longer had the stamina to work long hours clearing the fallen limbs in the woods around my house, I began to bring a lawn chair and a thermos with me. I still work in the woods, but stop frequently to sit and have a cup of tea. I’ve identified birds I didn’t know lived here and evidence that a bobcat shares the property. Since I’ve slowed down some, I see things I never saw before and find that quiet solitude is not lonely but nurturing, allowing my heart to open to the signs and lessons of nature that surround me.

- Sallirae Henderson

I also really like how she says the solitdue is not lonely but nuturing. That is my experience as well.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The saddest poverty

A greater poverty than that caused by lack of money is the poverty of unawareness. Men and women go about the world unaware of the beauty, the goodness, and the glories in it. Their souls are poor. It is better to have a poor pocketbook than to suffer from a poor soul.

-- Jerry Fleishman

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More about impermanence

This can be a very consoling observation if we but let it:

We do not succeed in changing things according to our desire, but gradually our desire changes. The situation that we hoped to change because it was intolerable becomes unimportant. We have not managed to surmount the obstacle, as we were absolutely determined to do, but life has taken us round it, led us past it, and then if we turn round to gaze at the remote past, we can barely catch sight of it, so imperceptible has it become.

-- Marcel Proust

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

About well-being

I get an email from the Prairie Home Companion folks every now and then. Today, Garrison Keillor answered a question from a listener who asked, "How do you define well-being? What do you do to achieve it?" Here is part of his response.
...my sense of well-being comes from waking up each day with work to do. It was different when I was in college: the work was imposed by teachers and so much of it seemed irrelevant, make-work, a lot of pointless exercises. What you hope for in life is a sense of a calling, a vocation, which simply means that one goes to one's work gratefully, not out of fear or habit but with a whole heart. It's the whole-heartedness that makes for well-being.
I do, indeed, like the emphasis on whole-heartedness. Yes, that lets us know we're in the right work. It is also an important quality to bring to our meditative practice. In fact, our meditative practice can give us the tools and the skills to bring whole-heartedness to almost any work we may happen to be doing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Important life skills

This morning I came across a page entitled "100 Skills Everyone Should Master". I was particularly happy to notice that the following were included:
- Relax/Meditate
- Apologize
- Improve your mood
- Be alone comfortably
- Flexibility/equanimity in the face of the unexpected
- Know what makes you happy
- Acquire or shed a habit

The above, of course, are the ones that are helped significantly by meditative practice. But you might like to click through and read the others. They're all worth thinking about and cultivating.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging

Deep connectedness

Our western culture missed this - has missed it for centuries:

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.

-- Thomas Merton

An understanding of interdependence doesn't come automatically to most of us. Therefore, we need to remind ourselves of this truth often.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday meditative picture blogging

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In observance of today

I'm so glad Dr. King mentioned animals as well as people here:

Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

The meditative process gives us tools other than just looking away when we see another sentient being suffering. In fact, that is one of the most important reasons, to my mind, for cultivating such tools.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Perseverence

There's huge encouragement in this short teaching:

When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it - but all that had gone before.

-- Jacob Riis

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

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The great value in being wrong

Just take a look at this. Isn't it elegant?

We should never be ashamed to own we have been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that we are wiser today than we were yesterday.

-- Jonathan Swift

Interesting way of looking at it, no?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Donate for the people of Haiti

Dear readers:
I am posting the following appeal on all three blogs (for obvious reasons).

If you would like to make a donation to help the people of Haiti right now and you want to be sure that it is used appropriately, may I recommend Episcopal Relief and Development. Don't worry; they don't proselytize. This organization (which used to be called The Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief) has a long track record of excellent and focused work during disasters and other situations of great need. It is very easy to donate on their website and you can earmark your contribution specifically to help the people of Haiti.

Unlike organizations (such as the Red Cross) who are specifically focused on the emergency itself, ERD sticks around after the immediate disaster needs and helps the people rebuild.

Even if you can spare only $5 or $10, please do. As executive director of a non-profit organization myself, I am very aware of how small amounts add up. Your contribution will help!
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging

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The moment

Oh, what a critical difference one preposition makes:

There is only the moment. The now. Only what you are experiencing at this second is real. This does not mean you live for the moment. It means you live in the moment.

-- Leo Buscaglia

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More about acceptance

I really like the very last sentence here:

Some people confuse acceptance with apathy but there's all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish what can and cannot be helped; acceptance makes the distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.

- Arthur Gordon

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday art blogging

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Artist: Eduard Tomek

Something about values and perspective

We can all do well to remember this one:

We don't need more money, we don't need greater success or fame, we don't need the perfect body or even the perfect mate. Right now, at this very moment, we have a mind, which is all the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness.

- The Dalai Lama

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday cat blogging!

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What about balance?

Many people who talk to me bemoan the fact that they are not able to maintain balance in their lives. And so, as valuable as balance can be, I often observe that the desire for balance often puts one more stressor on people and, thus, backfires. Over the years, I've been recommending that folks aspire to a rhythm in their lives instead. Nevertheless, balance has its strong points. Here's a wonderful quotation that brings all these facets into perspective:

Life is often messy, uncertain, and unpredictable. Sometimes it's a string of troubles that seem to never end. That's normal. Ups and downs are normal. Being ill on occasion is normal. Feeling peaceful and happy are normal. Occasional low-energy days are normal. According to Chinese medicine, it is accepted as natural that we fluctuate from being in balance to being out of balance. Peace of mind comes from not attaching a great deal of significance to either state. We simply note our moods and physical states and gently move toward balance as best we can, accepting it all as part of the flow of life.

-- Charlotte Davis Kasl

So, the real key is acceptance, isn't it?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cultivating self acceptance

Many people are convinced that their lives will finally be okay when they find Mr. or Miss "Right". Here's the thing: if your life is not okay now, finding a companion to share it with will not magically make it better:

It is rewarding to find someone you like, but it is essential to like yourself. It is quickening to recognize that someone is a good and decent human being, but it is indispensable to view yourself as acceptable. It is a delight to discover people who are worthy of respect and admiration and love, but it is vital to believe yourself deserving of these things.

For you cannot live in someone else. You cannot find yourself in someone else. You cannot be given a life by someone else. Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose.

To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.

-- Jo Coudert

The absolutely best way I know to cultivate self-acceptance is meditative practice. That, you see, is what we do when we meditate. We accept our thoughts, our feelings, our mind state, our physical state, over and over and over again. There really is no better training.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Wednesday life form blogging

Regeneration

Whenever you find yourself resisting meditation, consider the following:

Silence has a regenerative power of its own. It is always sacred. It always returns you home.

-- Barbara De Angelis

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

How to avoid "miserable lines of thought"

All right, dear people. What is it that gets us in trouble regularly, repeatedly? Well, it's the ego, of course. Here's an image of how that works that may help us remember to let go or (better still) not to get involved in grasping in the first place:

The ego, as a collection of our past experiences, is continually offering miserable lines of thought. It’s as if there were a stream with little fish swimming by, and when we hook one of them there is a judgment. The ego is constantly judging everybody and everything. It has its constant little chit chat about thingsthat can happen in the future, things about the past, too, and these are the little fish that swim by. And what we learn to do — this is why it takes work — is to not reach out and grab a fish.

- Hugh Prather

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunday art blogging

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Artist: Boris Kustodiev
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Joy everywhere

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And joy is everywhere;
It is in the Earth's green covering of grass;
In the blue serenity of the Sky;
In the reckless exuberance of Spring;
In the severe abstinence of grey Winter;
In the Living flesh that animates our bodily frame;
In the perfect poise of the Human figure, noble and upright;
In Living;
In the exercise of all our powers;
In the acquisition of Knowledge;
In fighting evils...
Joy is there
Everywhere.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

For when you feel offended

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Someone sent me this in an email a long time ago. I'm afraid I don't know who wrote it but it's very, very good:

"Master, you must help me," said the visitor. "I am at my wit's end."

"What seems to be the problem?" The sage asked.

"I am having a hard time controlling my anger," the visitor said. "It's just the way people are. I see them criticizing others while totally unaware of their own faults. I do not wish to criticize them because I don't want to be like them, but it really upsets me."

"I see," said the sage. "Tell me something first: Aren't you the villager who narrowly escaped death last year?"

"Yes," the visitor nodded. "It was a terrible experience. I ventured too far into the forest and ran into a pack of hungry wolves."

"What did you do?"

"I climbed up a tree just in time before they converged on me. These wolves were big and I had no doubt they could tear me to pieces."

"So you were trapped?"

"Yes. I knew I wouldn't last long without water and food, so I waited for them to relax their guard. When I thought it was safe enough, I would jump down, make a mad dash for the next tree, and then climb up before they converged again."

"This sounds like quite an ordeal."

"Yes - altogether it lasted two days. I thought I would surely die. Luckily a group of hunters approached when I got close enough to the village. The wolves scattered and I was saved."

"I'm curious about one thing," said the sage. "During the experience, were you ever offended by the wolves?"

"What? Offended?"

"Yes. Did you feel offended, or insulted by the wolves?"

"Of course not, Master. That thought never crossed my mind."

"Why not? They wanted nothing more than to bite into you, did they not? They wanted to kill you, did they not?"

"Yes, but... that is what wolves do! They were just being themselves. It would be absurd for me to be take offense."

"Excellent! Now let's hang on to this thought while we examine your question. Criticizing others while being unaware of their own faults is something that many people do. You might even say that it is something we all do from time to time. In a sense, the ravenous wolves live in every one of us.

"When the wolves bare their fangs and close in on you, you should not just stand there. You should certainly protect yourself by getting away from them if at all possible. Similarly, when people lash out at you with venomous criticism, you should not accept it passively. You should certainly protect yourself by putting some distance between you and them if at all possible.

"The crucial point is that you can do so without feeling offended or insulted, because these people are simply being themselves. It is their nature to be critical and judgemental, so it would be absurd for us to take offense. It would be pointless for us to get angry."Next time the hungry wolves in human skin converge on you, remember: it's just the way people are - exactly as you said when you came in."

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