Sunday, January 30, 2011

So, so funny!

You may wonder why I put this on a meditation blog. In my humble opinion, it beautifully illustrates both ego grasping and attachment to outcome. See if you can identify the two places I literally laughed out loud. Have fun!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A remedy for discouragement

I like this. A lot:

Don't let life discourage you; everyone who got where they are had to begin where they were.

-- Richard L. Evans

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday cat blogging!


The practice of loving-kindness



The metta, or loving-kindness, meditation that I first learned goes like this:

May I be happy.
May I be well.
May everything be well in my life.

Then, that is extended:

May you be happy.
May you be well.
May everything be well in your life.

or

May he/she be happy
May he/she be well
May everything be well in his/her life.

Finally we open the circle to all beings everywhere:

May all beings be happy
May all beings be well.
May everything be well in their lives.

I must say, I do like the first focus on safety in the video above. This is especially supportive for anyone who has experienced trauma. (And, when you think about it, that's most of us.)
~~~

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A place for candle meditation

I may have shared this before but, if so, it's been a long time.

Over on the very wonderful Gratefulness.org site, there's a series of pages where you can light a candle for whatever intention you wish. You can find that right here:

Light a Candle

You don't just click on a candle and that's it. The site guides you through a whole meditation that's very centering and soothing. At the very end you can stay and gaze upon your candle for as long as you wish. The candle actually flickers and provides a wonderful support for meditation.

I've been doing this every morning lately. It's a wonderful practice.
~~~

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday life form blogging

Oh, that ego

Gosh. This really describes our basic predicament very well indeed:

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 things that 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

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Meditative Picture Blogging

How appreciation works

The author of the passage below was a groundbreaking counselor and teacher of counselors. His influence has reached beyond his own field as his principles have also advanced the effectiveness of educators, pastors and spiritual directors. This really captures his whole approach to people and his craft:

One of the most satisfying experiences I know is fully to appreciate an individual in the same way I appreciate a sunset. When I look at a sunset...I don't find myself saying, 'Soften the orange a litle more on the right hand corner, and put a bit more purple along the base, and use a little more pink in the cloud color...' I don't try to control a sunset. I watch it with awe as it unfolds.

- Carl Rogers

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday art blogging

~
Artist: Paul C├ęzanne

The here and now

I just found a very fine article on meditation in the UK newspaper the Guardian. It has the very mundane title, "How to meditate: An introduction". Here are some bits I really appreciate:
The aim is simple: to pay attention – be "mindful". Typically, a teacher will ask you to sit upright, in an alert position. Then, they will encourage you to focus on something straightforward, like the in- and out-flow of breath. The aim is to nurture a curiosity about these sensations – not to explain them, but to know them.
...
Mindfulness, then, is not about ecstatic states, as if the marks of success are oceanic experiences or yogic flying. It's mostly pretty humdrum. Moreover, it is not a fast track to blissful happiness. It can, in fact, be quite unsettling, as works with painful experiences, to understand them better and thereby get to the root of problems.
...
Then, it's about knowing yourself better, something recognised as a crucial part of living well across a wide range of traditions. It's striking that today we often don't take the time to do so. Hence, perhaps, many of the ills of the western world.
I do recommend that you click through and read the whole article (which is quite short). The page also has links to a number of other resources for meditative practice.
~~~

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday cat blogging!

About choices and dreams

Sometimes I think that making peace with those circumstances about which we never had a choice can actually help us - empower us, really - to exercise those choices we do have:
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

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow Announcement!

Hello, dear participants of St. John's Center.

Foundations class tonight (Thursday evening) is cancelled due to hazardous driving conditions. We will all discuss next week how to make up that time!

Everyone stay safe and I'll see you next week.
Blessings to all,
Ellie

The role of advice

Today, I stumbled upon an opinion piece in the New York Times entitled "What’s the Best Advice You Ever Got?" in which readers were encouraged to leave comments answering that question. I'm having a wonderful time reading the various offerings - and there are many. I certainly don't agree with all of them by any means. But exploring what different people consider to be good advice is a really interesting exercise in reflecting on my own values.

Do click through and give it a try. It's fun!

Needless to say, here's my favorite one so far:

Learn to meditate. Take a course, hire a teacher, whatever. Just learn to meditate.

Meditate.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday life form blogging

Contentment

I really like this one:

True contentment depends not upon what we have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander.

-- Charles Caleb Colton

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Meditative Picture Blogging

Martin Luther King Memorial, Uppsala, Sweden

About getting into arguments

Ha. Just read it. Think about it:
I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and stay clear of me at parties. Often as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me.
-- Dave Barry
Now let's put Barry's observation together with the fundamental meditative principles of compassion, loving-kindness and equanimity.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday art blogging

~
Artist: Otto Scholderer

This works wonderfully:


I learned progressive muscle relaxation many years ago - when I was in my 20s, actually. And I learned then that it is easier if you have someone guide you through it. I recommend bookmarking this little video and then using it to relax and recenter when you're wound up or anxious.
~~~

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday cat blogging!

~

Pain and the mind

A series of articles is gettings started today over on CNN in a section known as The Chart. Today's article is called Mind-body: How mental, physical pain are linked and it's by Dr. Charles Raison. Here's a bit of what he says:
...[W]hen it comes to health and well-being, it turns out that much of what science has discovered validates many ancient spiritual beliefs. I’ve been fortunate in my career to “cash in” on this fact by exploring how ancient meditative practices can be brought to bear to heal mind and body in the modern world. Working with inspirational figures like His Holiness the Dalai Lama has given me a profound sense of gratitude that we don’t have to throw our rational brains out the window when it comes to exploring how the life of the spirit can be used to better our lives.

Each of these posts will be structured around research that provide exciting new perspectives on mind-body issues.
And here's something on Dr. Raison's bio page:
He says that many people don't understand that the way they structure their thoughts, their relationships, and their physical conditioning will - over time - either promote well-being or contribute greatly to sickness and depression.
And, of course, we learn the kinds of skills by which we are able to structure our thoughts through meditative practice.

As you've heard me say many times: this stuff really works!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why clinging is a problem

The following paragraph is from a little article called "The wisdom of surrender" that I found over on the Wildmind website:
Clinging, or holding on, is simply the attempt to stay with those things that we think are sources of happiness. Ultimately this is fruitless because everything changes. If I see a new relationship or a material object as sources of happiness, I’ll suffer when that relationship or material object change — as they inevitably will. It’s not that I can’t enjoy these things: in fact I’ll enjoy them more if I don’t cling to them, because I won’t be surprised and disappointed when they change.
It also helps to remember that what we are inclined to think is a source happiness probably isn't.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Noticing

This evening, in the ongoing meditation class, we talked about practicing reverence in terms of both respect and amazement. We saw how this can be prompted by things and experiences which, at first glance, may seem very ordinary and that we, therefore, tend to overlook. Here's something else about that:

If the things of this world neither delight nor threaten us they are often dismissed, ignored, or simply missed. The tree outside our window, made familiar by time, no longer appears to offer anything to attract our attention. We fail to notice the texture of its leaves, its changing colors, its growing and aging, the way the sun reflects on its leaves. We believe we need something more stimulating and exciting for it to be worthy of our attention. In learning to stay in the present, we discover that it is the power of our attention that makes all things worthy.

-- Christina Feldman

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday meditative picture blogging

~

One way of looking at how meditation helps

I found the following in the archives of a website called Meditation and Spiritual Growth:
For example, when we are walking on the beach and enjoying the sun we can take a stick and drag it through the sand. That creates a line or furrow. The harder we press the deeper the channel we create. That line remains in the sand and will stay there until the wind or surf eventually covers it back up. Now take that same stick and swipe it through water. You will notice that it also creates a line, with emanating ripples, but that will not last long. The impression in the water quickly disappears. Now take that same stick and swipe it through air. That also creates a line, we can feel the resulting wind, but that disappears even faster.

The continued practice of meditation expands our awareness and lessens the imprint (like a stick through air rather than sand) of experience on the mind. That is why through sustained practice of daily meditation life challenges and problems seems to become more manageable. They make less of an impact and fall more softly upon the mind. They don’t seem as catastrophic, earth shattering, or as important as they once were. We begin to see things with more perspective and clarity.
It's a wonderful illustration, don't you think? You can find the entire post right here.
~~~

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sunday art blogging

~
Artist: Vladimir Ivanovich Ovchinnikov

Acceptance of this moment

Just think, for a moment, about the stress that inevitably arises from the kind of struggle being described here:

When you struggle against this moment, you're actually struggling against the entire universe. Instead, you can make the decision that today you will not struggle against the whole universe by struggling against this moment. This means that your acceptance of this moment is total and complete. You accept things as they are, not as you wish they were in this moment. This is important to understand. You can wish for things in the future to be different, but in this moment you have to accept things as they are.

-- Deepak Chopra

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Something about enlightenment

Demanding just doesn't work:

If we demand enlightenment, it hides. . . . All that we can do is make ourselves enlightenment-prone. We learn to treasure the possibility of awakening in all moments and circumstances. We learn to simplify and cultivate the receptivity of heart that can be touched by profound understanding. We learn to listen deeply and discover stillness amid the movement in our world.

-- Christina Feldman

I really like the idea of making ourselves "enlightenment-prone". It's a way of being proactive without triggering the likelihood of our getting all wound up about it.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Mindfulness for a still mind

This is lovely and inspiring, I think.

Try to be mindful, and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still.

-- Ajahn Chah

Monday, January 03, 2011

Monday meditative picture blogging

~

Struggling with a mirage

When you think about it carefully, attempting to do battle with that which is not real has to be defeating. Heres something about that:

If you can accept the flow of life and give in to it, you will be accepting what is real. Only when you accept what is real can you live with it in peace and happiness. The alternative is a struggle that will never end because it is a struggle with the unreal, with a mirage of life instead of life itself.

-- Deepak Chopra

Saturday, January 01, 2011

~

A resolution that's easy to keep!

Hello, everyone. I'm asking everyone who stops by this blog to read the following and help me out here:
~
A Very Easy Way to Help the Center
(with no cost to yourself)

I want to appeal to everyone who believes that St. John’s Center does good work here in Tulsa to check out GoodSearch (http://www.goodsearch.com/) along with its sister site, GoodShop (which you can access by clicking on the “Shop Now” button from the GoodSearch home page.)
~
GoodSearch is a search engine that gives 50% of its profits to the non-profit organization of a person’s choice. The Center is registered with them. The more you search, the more money we raise. It’s that simple!

All you do is go to the home page and fill in our entire name where it says “What charity do you goodsearch for?”

St. John’s Center for Spiritual Formation

Then click on the button that says “Verify”.

If you have cookies enabled, your computer will remember this.

The easiest way to use the search engine is to download its toolbar. Then you can easily click on it whenever you want to.

Even if you really love Google, we are asking our supporters to use GoodSearch at least part of the time – especially for really straightforward searches for which you don’t need a particularly powerful or sophisticated search engine. GoodSearch is powered by Yahoo so it’s a very good engine.

Also, GoodShop has a huge number of very fine and well known businesses listed if you like to order things on line. The Center will get an average of 3% per sale. (Many businesses offer much more than that.) The donations really add up!

We are a small non-profit organization and we operate on a shoestring. So we really need all the contributions we’re able to encourage.

If you have the toolbar already downloaded then whenever you do a search on an item you want to purchase, GoodShop participants will be highlighted in yellow on your search results. It’s so easy and it really helps us.

Thank you so much for reading this!

Every blessing to each one of you and Happy New Year!

Sr. Ellen E. Finlay
Executive Director
St. John’s Center for Spiritual Formation
~~~