Sunday, December 31, 2006

Peace on earth

Well, we have come to the end of another year. I offer for your contemplation today the lyrics to a U2 song - Peace on Earth - and a video if you'd like to hear it:
Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I'm sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be peace on Earth

Where I grew up there weren't many trees
Where there was we'd tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you
And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you

And it's already gone too far
Who said that if you go in hard
You won't get hurt?

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
No whos or whys
No one cries like a mother cries
For peace on Earth
She never got to say goodbye
To see the color in his eyes
Now he's in the dirt
Peace on Earth

They're reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth and Ann and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
Jesus sing a song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth
This peace on Earth

Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

May we move beyond the grief and the cynicism and the despair and do our part in making it so. Never forget that peace begins within. Our meditative practice is foundational to peace. Let us enter the New Year with renewed commitment.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


I found an equanimity exercise that is really very powerful. Take a look:

Visualise in front of you three persons: at the left a good friend, in the middle a stranger, to the right an enemy or someone you cannot stand.

- Concentrate on the friend in front and examine your feelings towards him or her.
- Now concentrate on the stranger and examine your feelings towards him or her.
- Now concentrate on the enemy and examine your feelings towards him or her.
- Return to the stranger and realise that this person can easily become your friend or enemy in the future.
- Next, look at the friend and realise that this person may become your enemy in the future when cheating or hurting you.
- Now, look at the enemy and realise that this person may become your friend in the future when helping you.
- Again look at your friend and try to strongly feel love and appreciation.
- Now look at the stranger and try to hold this feeling towards this person.
- Again look at your friend and try to strongly feel love and appreciation.
- Now try to hold this feeling while looking at the enemy; is it really impossible to feel some love and compassion for this person?
- Try to realise that all three, friend, stranger and enemy are completely equal in trying to become happy and trying to avoid suffering.

It is a very effective exercise to realize that a friend may one day be an enemy and an enemy may one day be a friend. I have certainly experienced both.

I have found it most helpful to remember that my enemies are motivated by the same wish that I have - that is, the wish to be happy. It helps me to have compassion on them to realize that they want what I want and so we at least have that in common.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Taming the mind

Are you willing to tame your mind? That's really what it's all about - the meditative tradition, that is. Here's something I just found on the subject:

Religion does not mean just precepts, a temple, monastery, or other external signs, for these as well as hearing and thinking are subsidiary factors in taming the mind. When the mind becomes the practices, one is a practitioner of religion, and when the mind does not become the practices one is not.

--His Holiness the Dalai Lama

External signs such as ritual, ceremonies and the like certainly help bring us to mindfulness but if we don't use those reminders as a means of working skillfully with our consciousness it is all to little or no avail. True religion is about transformation - whatever our belief system may be.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Meditation on jealousy

The last few days I've been looking for material on afflictive emotions. This week, for example, we talked about loneliness during the ongoing classes.

Today, I came across a meditation on jealousy that I think will really help those who suffer from this malady. It is constructed largely in the form of reflection questions:
- Think about a situation that makes me feel jealous.
- How does jealousy feel?
- Are there any thoughts that keep on repeating themselves in my mind? - What is the object I really want to have, that the other has no right to?
- Why do I have more right to this than the other?
- Does my jealousy help me in getting it?
- Is this object really that important in my life?
- Would I be really happy when I had it, and could I remain happy?
- Why is it so difficult to feel happy that this other person has it?
- When I rejoice in the good fortune of the other, both of us will be happy!
- Try to really give the object to the other, and feel happy about your generosity!
I really like that next to the last point. This is, of course, the Divine Abode* called sympathetic joy - the ability to rejoice in the good fortune or success of another. It strikes me that this is the central antidote for jealousy.

Just because you're not eaten up with jealousy doesn't mean you don't have it. Look for subtle signs that you might be experiencing it even unconsciously. Perhaps a way to get started is to examine all the ways you could practice sympathetic joy but, for some reason, don't.

We will increase our level of happiness immeasurably if we learn to let go of all the jealousy hidden in our innermost experience.

* The four Divine Abodes are: compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity. They are sometimes called the four sublime states.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

A good night's sleep

Here's how:

If we have a good heart, we experience much happiness and relaxation. We have no reason to feel angry or jealous and we have a very happy mind. When we speak, sweet words come out. Even our face is happy and smiling. At night we go to bed with a happy mind and have a very comfortable sleep, without any worries.

Otherwise, if we live our life with a very selfish, ungenerous mind, we think about nothing else except me, me, me: "When will I be happy? When will I be free from these problems?" If our attitude is like this, jealousy and anger arise easily, strongly and repeatedly, so we experience much unhappiness in our life, many ups-and-downs. During the day we have a cold heart and at night we even go to bed with a cold heart and unhappy mind.

-- Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The right kind of surrender

From Meditations for People in Crisis:

When it seems humanly impossible to do more in a difficult situation, surrender yourself to the inner silence and thereafter wait for a sign of obvious guidance or for a renewal of inner strength.

-- Paul Brunton

The paradox of surrender is that in letting go we become stronger. The way this works is that our ego gets out of the way and lets our deep wisdom nature come forth. Never be afraid to surrender to the inner silence. This is where our "spiritual friend" resides - however we understand that reality.

Remember the "root prayer":
I pray for your blessing, great and completely worthy spiritual friend. I pray that you will cause love, compassion and pefect charity* to arise in my mind.
("Perfect charity" is my translation of bodhicitta - a Sanscrit word that literally means "awakened heart-mind" and refers to the most profound kind of compassion possible.)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Just so you'll know

I came across an article today that explained these Christmas customs:
1. Christmas Greenery Ancient Egyptians used palm branches, while northern cultures preferred evergreens, to brighten the home during the winter. Continuing a custom that dates back to the 16th century, German immigrants were the first Americans to purchase and decorate Christmas trees, typically in the pine family.

2. Old Saint Nick Today's "jolly old elf," Santa Claus, is based on a real saint who lived in Turkey in the 4th century. Saint Nicholas was renowned for his generosity and love of children. According to historical sources, he would drop coins down the chimney to preserve his anonymity and the dignity of his recipients.

3. Gift Giving Once frowned upon as a pagan custom dating back to the Romans, gift giving is an integral part of our Christmas tradition. Santa's alias, "Kriss Kringle," means Christ child in German, and referred to a medieval legend that the infant Jesus distributed presents.

4. Mistletoe Kissing Remember the following Norse fable the next time you sneak a smooch under the mistletoe: Frigga, goddess of love and beauty, wanted to make the world safe for her son, Balder. Everything on earth promised to do him no harm except the one plant Frigga overlooked, mistletoe. Loki, an evil spirit, made an arrow from the mistletoe's wood and killed Balder. Frigga's tears became the plant's white berries and revived her son. In her gratitude, Frigga promised to kiss anyone who passed under the mistletoe, just as we do today.

5. Candy Canes The striped confections we now love to crunch were once straight white sticks of sugar candy. In the 1600s, in Cologne, Germany, traditional folktales reveal that the candies were bent at the end to remind children of a shepherd's crook and to keep them quiet in church.
I would love to give each of you a wonderful candy cane right now. Not to keep you quiet :-) but for celebration! I hope your day is going well.

Lengthening of light

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Merry Christmas everyone! We are past the Winter Solstice so the days are starting to get longer again. Here's a meditation by Susan Kramer (who has a regular on line meditation column) about the growing light:
During lengthening days of light
May our actions be lighthearted
Upon right and noble impulses.

During quiet hours beyond dusk, before dawn
May we take time to think over events from the day
Plan for good in the morrow.

In light of day
May we extend our personal borders
Caring and sharing expansively.

So the world glows bright from our presence
May we blaze as beacons of harmony
Lighting the path ahead.

To nurture efforts toward lasting peace
May we with act with kindness toward all
Embracing our family and friends wholeheartedly
Ever gracing our world-wide family lightheartedly.
May the day be lovely for you. If you are with family or friends, may that coming together be peaceful and joyful. If you are alone, may you truly know that you are with the world-wide family this day and always.

Christmas blessings to all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve prayer blogging

Christmas Meditation:

Let us join our hearts and minds together in the spirit of meditation and prayer.

May these moments of quiet lead us to the heart of the season, which is peace.

May we breathe deeply of peace in this quiet place, relax into its warmth, know we are safe here, and let us open our hearts to the evening's story.

Like the wandering couple, may we find that our greatest trials issue forth from our greatest joys.

Like the harried innkeeper, may we find ways to be of help to others.

Like the lumbering beasts, may we be silent witnesses to the unfathomable glory of life.

Like the shepherds on the hill, may we know that we need never be afraid.

Like the journeying wise, may we always have the courage to follow our stars.

Like the angels, may we cry peace to a troubled world.

Holy one, to these prayers for our own transformation we add our prayers for all of those who suffer and grieve this evening. May they find comfort.

And we add our prayers for all those involved in war; may they be safe.

And may this season of peace and goodwill nudge our world towards its ideals, for then will Christmas truly dawn.

--Christine Robinson

Meditation in the morning

I agree with this. Even if you believe you can't spend any time formally meditating first thing in the morning, pause. Just pause:

Something precious is lost if we rush headlong into the details of life without pausing for a moment to pay homage to the mystery of life and the gift of another day.

-- Kent Nerburn

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Attitude matters

Our attitude toward our distractions in meditation actually matters. It's important not to be harsh with ourselves or disappointed. Here's an excerpt from a little article entitled "Meditation: Getting Started" from Psychology Today. It's on using the breath as a support:
Let your awareness permeate your entire body as you breathe, noting any sensations that arise. Now settle your respiration in its natural flow. Observe the entire course of each in- and out-breath, noting whether it is long or short, deep or shallow, slow or fast. Don't impose any rhythm on your breathing. Let the body breathe as if you were fast asleep, but with your mind vigilant.

Thoughts are bound to arise involuntarily, and your attention may also be pulled away by noises and other stimuli from your environment. When you note that you have become distracted, instead of tightening up and forcing your attention back to the breath, simply let go of these thoughts and distractions. Don't get upset. Just be happy that you've noticed the distraction, and gently return to the breath.
I like the instruction to be happy that we've noticed the distraction. You know, it's possible to go a long time without noticing. So it's progress to notice! It's so important to be gentle with ourselves. This will help the mind settle and become tranquil.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

About gratitude

How true:

A life of gratitude accepts the bad with the good. Genuine gratitude is not a zero sum game in which thankfulness increases the more fortunate you are and decreases the more adversity you experience.

-- Dan Clendenin

This is beautiful

I will love the light for it shows me the way,
yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.

-- Og Mandino

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

Tonight is the Winter Solstice - 7:22 p.m. EST to be exact. Here's a little information about the Solstice:

Solstice derives from an ancient Latin word meaning "stop," or "to stand still." According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, it refers to one of two points when the sun is furthest from the celestial equator.
To the ancients, it appeared as if the Sun and Moon stopped in their flight across the sky—this is the longest night of the year and was a time of both anticipation and rejoicing at the Sun's rebirth out of the Goddess.

The Sun's representation as the male divinity, or celestial ruler, predates Christianity. As with other rituals and celebrations, the Church felt that by assimilating this holiday into the Christian beliefs, it would help convert those who still followed the Olde Way.

The Winter Solstice marks a crucial part of the natural cycle. In a real sense, the sun begins anew its journey toward longer days, times of new growth and renewal of the world once again. In a spiritual sense, it is a reminder that in order for a new path to begin, the old one must end and that spring will come again.
This is the night to begin burning your Yule log if you're lucky enough to have a fireplace:

The term Yule stems from the Anglo-Saxon "yula" or "wheel" of the year. In ancient pagan ritual, the Yule Log was lit on the eve of Winter Solstice and burned for twelve hours. Later, the Log was replaced by the Yule Tree, but instead of being burned, it was adorned with burning candles.
Or, just remember the day as you turn on your Christmas tree lights tonight!

Meditation and body heat

Has it ever come to your attention that advanced meditators can generate amazing body heat? It thought you'd like to read an article about it. It's called "Meditation changes temperatures:
Mind controls body in extreme experiments"
and I thought it was really fascinating. Here's an excerpt:

In a monastery in northern India, thinly clad Tibetan monks sat quietly in a room where the temperature was a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a yoga technique known as g Tum-mo, they entered a state of deep meditation. Other monks soaked 3-by-6-foot sheets in cold water (49 degrees) and placed them over the meditators' shoulders. For untrained people, such frigid wrappings would produce uncontrolled shivering.

If body temperatures continue to drop under these conditions, death can result. But it was not long before steam began rising from the sheets. As a result of body heat produced by the monks during meditation, the sheets dried in about an hour.

Attendants removed the sheets, then covered the meditators with a second chilled, wet wrapping. Each monk was required to dry three sheets over a period of several hours.

Why would anyone do this? Herbert Benson, who has been studying g Tum-mo for 20 years, answers that "Buddhists feel the reality we live in is not the ultimate one. There's another reality we can tap into that's unaffected by our emotions, by our everyday world. Buddhists believe this state of mind can be achieved by doing good for others and by meditation. The heat they generate during the process is just a by-product of g Tum-mo meditation."

Herbert Benson, of course, is the doctor who wrote the now classic book The Relaxation Response that I recommend for everybody. It teaches a secular and scientific approach to meditation.

Perhaps none of us will get so advanced that we can melt snow but we probably can get to the state where we discover our hands getting warmer and we can definitely experience "the relaxation response" - a state that is the opposite of stress.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Two on meaning

Here's an observation on the subject of meaning:

Meaning does not come to us in finished form, ready-made; it must be found, created, received, constructed. We grow our way toward it.

Ann Bedlord Ulanov

And another:

Insights from myth, dreams, and intuitions, from glimpses of an invisible reality, and from perennial human wisdom provide us with hints and guesses about the meaning of life and what we are here for. Prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action are the means through which we grow and find meaning.

Jean Shinoda Bolen

I was privileged to hear Ann Belford Ulanov speak at Virginia Theological Seminary some years ago. She is a riveting speaker and comes across as utterly authentic. I do recommend her works and Jean Shinoda Bolen's as well. (Click through on Ann Ulanov's name for a PBS interview with her on the subject of 9-11.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Letting life unfold

Ah! This is dedicated to everyone who is attached to a fantasy about the way things "should" be:

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

-- Joseph Campbell

How very true. Let go of control and, instead, be willing for life to unfold. It does anyway whether we're willing or not. It's just that our willingness brings us peace and alleviates our suffering. And isn't that, finally, what we all want?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Seed pod in snow
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Be your own mother

Here's an excerpt from a talk by Sister Ayya Khema:
...[W]e [need to] learn to love ourselves in a wholesome way. "Just as a mother at the risk of life, loves and protects her child..." Become your own mother! If we want to have a relationship with ourselves that is realistic and conducive to growth, then we need to become our own mother. A sensible mother can distinguish between that which is useful for her child and that which is detrimental. But she doesn't stop loving the child when it misbehaves. This may be the most important aspect to look at in ourselves. Everyone, at one time or another, misbehaves in thought or speech or action. Most frequently in thought, fairly frequently in speech and not so often in action. So what do we do with that? What does a mother do? She tells the child not to do it again, loves the child as much as she's always loved it and just gets on with the job of bringing up her child. Maybe we can start to bring up ourselves.
Become a healthy mother to yourself - not a dysfunctional one. Become the kind of mother who has the healthy development of her child at heart. It's amazingly effective, this bringing up of oneself!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday prayer blogging

Four Elements Medicine Wheel

O Great Spirit of the North,
Invisible Spirit of the Air,
And of the fresh, cool winds,
O vast and boundless
Grandfather Sky,
Your living breath animates all life.
Yours is the power of clarity and strength,
Power to hear the inner sounds,
To sweep out the old patterns,
And to bring change and challenge,
The ecstasy of movement and the dance.
We pray that we may be aligned with you,
So that your power may flow through us,
And be expressed by us,
For the good of this planet,
And all living beings upon it.

O Great Spirit of the West,
Spirit of the Great Waters,
Of rain, rivers, lakes and springs.
O Grandmother Ocean
Deep matrix, womb of all life.
Power to dissolve boundaries,
To release holdings,
Power to taste and to feel,
To cleanse and to heal,
Great blissful darkness of peace.
We pray that we may be aligned with you,
So that your powers may flow through us,
And be expressed by us,
For the good of this planet,
And all living beings upon it.

O Great Spirit of the East,
Radiance of the rising Sun,
Spirit of new beginnings,
O Grandfather Fire,
Great nuclear fire -- of the Sun.
Power of life-energy, vital spark,
Power to see far, and to
Imagine with boldness.
Power to purify our senses,
Our hearts and our minds.
We pray that we may be aligned with you,
So that your powers may flow through us,
And be expressed by us,
For the good of this planet Earth,
And all living beings upon it.

O Great Spirit of the South,
Protector of the fruitful land,
And of all green and growing things,
The noble trees and grasses,
Grandmother Earth,
Soul of Nature.
Great power of the receptive,
Of nurturance and endurance,
Power to grow and bring forth
Flowers of the field,
Fruits of the garden.
We pray that we may be aligned with you,
So that your powers may flow through us,
And be expressed by us,
For the good of this planet Earth,
And all living beings upon it.

- - Ralph Metzner

We are not separate

And here's an observation that reminds us:

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.

--Garrison Keillor

Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Good" and "bad" meditations

For years I have pleaded with meditation students not to judge their meditations. The only thing to be concerned about is whether or not we are bringing the mind back to the support or object. Here's a passage from a talk by Achan Sobin Namto that makes this point:
Some meditators make the mistake of feeling happy when a period of sitting is nice and quiet and they don't have wandering mind. They think, 'Wow, now I'm a good, successful meditator. I don't mind that I came here. I'm getting a lot of benefit." But the next sitting isn't the same. Maybe their minds wander a lot and they think, "Oh, this is terrible. Maybe meditation cannot help me." They are disappointed and sad. Maybe they lose confidence and energy. That's wrong view. They don't understand that everything is impermanent. Even if the sitting is good this time, it has to end; and when good ends, bad occurs. The end of good is bad. When the next sitting is bad, why worry? Bad has to have an end. Maybe the next sitting will be good. Even if it isn't, that's ok. It cannot be bad the whole day, right? You have to have good sometimes, have to have quiet or calmness sometimes. But when the mind is calm or peaceful, don't attach, because it cannot last too long, cannot last all day. Sometimes practice will be bad. So do not worry about good or bad.
I think a lot of meditators give up because they think they have "bad" meditations. Please don't! You'll be depriving yourself of wonderful benefits if you do. Have compassion on yourself if your mind wanders and just bring it back very gently. And most of all, remember impermanence.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Isn't Cynthia an incredible photographer? I just love this picture!


Here's a beautiful little essay by Pema Chödrön on generosity:

According to the teachings, there are three types of generosity, three ways of helping others by giving of ourselves.

The first kind of generosity is the giving of material things, such as food and shelter.

The second is "giving the gift of fearlessness." We help those who are afraid. If someone is scared of the dark, we give them a flashlight; if they're going through a fearful time, we comfort them; if they're having night terrors, we sleep next to them. This may sound easy, but it takes time and effort and care.

The third kind of generosity drives away the darkness of ignorance. This is "the gift of dharma [the teachings]" and is considered the most profound. Although no one can eliminate our ignorance but ourselves, nevertheless, through example and through teachings, we can inspire and support one another.

The inconceivable wish to help all sentient beings always begins with oneself. Our own experience is the only thing we have to share.

(I found this through a link on an email sent out by DharmaCrafts.)

This is a time of year when there are many demands on our generosity. Of course, there is great pleasure in giving material gifts. But let's also think about giving fearlessness and finding opportunities to pass on the wisdom we have received from the meditative tradition.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

About peace

Here is a description of peace found on the Spirituality and Practice website:
Peace is built on the foundations of other spiritual practices: connections, compassion, justice, unity. It is a goal of all spiritual people. Peace is an inner state of well-being and calm. It is also an outer project of promoting nonviolence, conflict resolution, and cooperation in the world. The root of the Hebrew word for peace, "shalom," means "whole" and points to this twofold meaning: peace within oneself and peace between people.

Practice peace by refusing to participate in violence either directly or indirectly. Try to stay composed no matter how agitated the people around you become. Meet conflict with equanimity. Disarm yourself — lower your guard — as a first step in disarming the world.
I like the emphasis on both the inner and outer aspects of peace. I also like the point made that peace is built on other spiritual practices. We can't cultivate peace in isolation. Remember the slogan: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." That certainly applies to peace.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The importance of ethics

Why selfishness as a life philosophy doesn't work:

It is in everybody's interest to seek those [actions] that lead to happiness and avoid those which lead to suffering. And because our interests are inextricably linked, we are compelled to accept ethics as the indispensable interface between my desire to be happy and yours.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

We are connected. We are so connected. That which affects one eventually affects all. We need only look to our poor damaged environment to know that. So let us commit ourselves to promoting happiness and alleviating suffering wherever and whenever we can. In the end, we too will benefit.

Wednesday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Compassion and self-healing

Here's a story I used in ongoing meditation class this week. It's from a book entitled Heal Thy Self and it's by Saki Santorelli.
Twenty years ago I met a man from Montana who watched the news on television and read the newspapers because he said that doing so awakened his heart of compassion. Although not particularly interested in the news itself, he found these two forms of media rich sources for cultivating his growing sense of care for and connection to people, animals, landmasses, oceans, forests, and countries all over the planet. He went on to say that he would sit down in his living room, watch or read about some atrocity occurring in some part of the world, and feel his pain, his impulse to turn away, and, in turn, his sense of connection with all of these beings.
Isn't it interesting that a story about cultivating compassion for others - and, in fact, actually feeling their pain - is included in a book about healing ourselves? When we cultivate compassion for others in a healthy way (not in a guilt-laden, compulsive way) we actually feel better - not worse.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

About thoughts

Where do our thoughts come from? Where do they go when we finish thinking them? Here's a little poem that plays with such questions:

A thought went up my mind to-day
That I have had before,
But did not finish,--some way back,
I could not fix the year,

Nor where it went, nor why it came
The second time to me,
Nor definitely what it was,
Have I the art to say.

But somewhere in my soul, I know
I've met the thing before;
It just reminded me--'t was all--
And came my way no more.

-- Emily Dickinson

Some years ago, I kept a dream catcher in the meditation hall. I used to joke with meditation students that their thoughts got trapped by the dream catcher and that late at night I took it and shook it outside to clear it of all the thoughts that had accumulated!

The important thing to remember about thoughts is not to identify with them. A thought is something I have - not something I am. Remember that and just let thoughts arise and dissolve as they will. Do not try to control them, do not become attached to them. Just notice them, accept them without judgment, let them go, and then bring the mind back to the present moment. This is the way to freedom.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Seek Wisdom

This is an excerpt from a longer poem you can find here:

In the stillness of night Wisdom came and stood by my bed. She gazed upon me like a tender mother and wiped away my tears, and said : "I have heard the cry of your spirit and I am come to comfort it. Open your heart to me and I shall fill it with light. Ask of me and I shall show you the way of truth."

-- Kahlil Gibran

Wisdom is not a thing. Wisdom is a person with whom we have a relationship. If we call her, she will come.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday prayer blogging

Prayer for the Home

May the house wherein I dwell be blessed;
May good thoughts here possess me;
May my path of life be straight and true;
My dreams as here I lie be joyous;
All above, below, about me
May the house I love be hallowed.

(Source: Omaha)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Make space for beauty

Photo by Bill Miller

I found a blog today called Markham's Behavioral Health. This is a sample:
I heard a Filipino psychiatrist one time ask a patient during a mental status exam, "What does it mean, 'If you have two loafs of bread, trade one for a flower'?" The patient, being somewhat concrete replied, "You will be hungry". Jesus said, "Man does not live on bread alone" (Matthew 4:4), and yet we forget that beauty should be a part of our lives. Beauty nourishes our spirit and makes our lives worth living.
Of the three classical philosophical questions - What is true? What is good? What is beautiful? - the question about beauty has always been the one most important to me. If that question has taken a back seat in your life, try giving it a little more attention. I don't think you'll regret it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

A Simple Practice

I think I've posted this before but, if I have, it's been quite a long time. What I want to share with you is a practice the Dalai Lama recommends. It's quite beautiful:
1. Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of each day remembering we all want the same things (to be happy and be loved) and we are all connected to one another.

2. Spend 5 minutes - breathing in - cherishing yourself and, breathing out - cherishing others. If you think about people you have difficulty cherishing, extend your cherishing to them anyway.

3. During the day extend that attitude to everyone you meet. Practice cherishing the simplest person (clerks, attendants, etc.) as well as the "important" people in your life; cherish the people you love and the people you dislike.

4. Continue this practice no matter what happens or what anyone does to you.

These thoughts are very simple, inspiring and helpful. The practice of cherishing can be taken very deep if done wordlessly, allowing yourself to feel the love and appreciation that already exists in your heart.
I happened to find a handout with this exercise on it as I was cleaning house today. I'm really glad I did.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Benefits of meditation

I know I've shared with you before about the studies that show how meditation helps people with ADHD but I was really struck with the article I want to pass on today. It's called "Study: Meditation May Help People With ADHD" and here's part of what it says:
Feeling frazzled? Distracted? Stressed Out?

NBC4's Dr. Bruce Hensel reported that for people with Attention Deficit Disorder those feelings are multiplied.
Distractions are even worse for people who are actually diagnosed with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder - a neurobehavioral condition, who already have difficulty in focusing, organizing, and regulating their moods.
Research is now showing some promising results on an age-old practice: meditation.
Once a week, for eight weeks, the study subjects trained in different forms of meditation.

The exercises are very much to pay attention to how you're paying attention, catching yourself when you're distracted, and bringing yourself back to the present moment.

In cognitive tests taken at the end of the study, the participants got better at staying focused, even when different things were competing for their attention.

Many of them also felt less anxious and depressed by the end of the study.

"It felt like it was a reset on a computer, just like I turned down my whole program and turned it back on, and it was clean. It was a fresh place to start from, and then I can make decisions and do what I had to do," said Kensington [an ADHD patient].
I really like the illustraion of the reset on a computer. I feel that way too. My other image is that of scrubbing bubbles. My mind gets "washed". As an ADHD sufferer myself, I'm truly grateful for the meditative process.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Weaver Bloomfield

Holiday stress

I found an article this morning that ends with a list of tips for managing stress during the holidays:

_Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Make a list and prioritize important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.

_Remember the holiday season does not banish pre-existing feelings of sadness or loneliness.

_Look toward the future. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don't set yourself up in comparing today with the "good old days."

_Do something for someone else. Try volunteering to help others.

_Enjoy activities that are free, such as looking at holiday decorations, window-shopping without buying, making a snowman with children.

_Be aware excessive drinking will only increase feelings of depression.

_Save time for yourself. Recharge your batteries.

(SOURCE: Mental Health Association of Colorado)

Of course, I want to add:

_ Stay in the moment by bringing the mind back to whatever is immediately at hand.

_ Give yourself time for meditation. It is actually more restful than sleep.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The quest

People are looking for something and cannot seem to find it. They say they want more but cannot describe what that more is. This essentially is a spiritual quest.
— James W. Jones in In the Middle of this Road We Call Our Life

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Weaver Bloomfield

Real life

Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties.

-- Sara Ban Breathnach

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday prayer blogging

With every breath I take today,
I vow to be awake;

And every step I take,
I vow to take with a grateful heart--

So I may see with eyes of love
into the hearts of all I meet,

To ease their burden when I can
And touch them with a smile of peace.
Source: Blue Iris Sangha

Spiritual echos

Here's a very interesting passage from the book Small Graces by Kent Nerburn:
I try always to look upon the world and the people I meet as echoes of my spirit. I know that if I am speaking with deceit, deceit will be echoed back to me . . . Likewise, if I find that I am constantly cheerful, full of brightness and hope, or deeply contemplative in the presence of a particular person, I know I am in the presence of a gracious spirit, and I am echoing the gift that is being given to me. It is as if the lesson of the echo contains the secret to understanding the space between us all.
We can practice this thought by noticing what our echo says to the world, and what others echo back to us. Of course, it requires observer consciousness to be able to do this and we cultivate observer consciousness by meditating. We will only be able to notice our echo if we're able to notice our thoughts and to accept them without judgment.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The fathomless mystery

Today I picked up a little book off my shelves called 100 Ways to Keep Your Soul Alive by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. I want to share with you a passage that they quote from a book called Now and Then:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

-- Frederick Buechner

That is what we do when we cultivate mindfulness in the meditative tradition. We listen to our life. It's so easy to go through life not listening - as if we were on automatic pilot. Take a moment. Re-engage. And start again - with awareness this time.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess


Have you ever had somebody throw a wet blanket on something you were enthusiastic about? I'll bet you felt discouraged as a result. Here's an observation about the importance of encouragement:

One of the most beautiful gifts in the world is the gift of encouragement. When someone encourages you, that person helps you over a threshold you might otherwise never have crossed on your own.

— John O'Donohue in Eternal Echoes

Whenever I get frazzled because I have a lot on my plate, Cynthia will usually say, "Go, Super-nun!" It makes me a laugh and it helps me to feel encouraged at the same time.

Encouragement is a form of loving-kindness (one of "the Four Divine Abodes in the meditative tradition). It involves the sincere wish for others to be happy and to have deep well being. Look for opportunities to encourage others - and yourself as well.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Making yourself happier

Yes, it's possible. I just found a fascinating AP article entitled "Researchers seek routes to happier life". Here's a little bit of what it says:

NEW YORK - As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Caroline Adams Miller knows a few things about using mental exercises to achieve goals. But last year, one exercise she was asked to try took her by surprise.

Every night, she was to think of three good things that happened that day and analyze why they occurred. That was supposed to increase her overall happiness.

"I thought it was too simple to be effective," said Miller, 44, of Bethesda. Md. "I went to Harvard. I'm used to things being complicated."

Miller was assigned the task as homework in a master's degree program. But as a chronic worrier, she knew she could use the kind of boost the exercise was supposed to deliver.

She got it.

"The quality of my dreams has changed, I never have trouble falling asleep and I do feel happier," she said.

Results may vary, as they say in the weight-loss ads. But that exercise is one of several that have shown preliminary promise in recent research into how people can make themselves happier — not just for a day or two, but long-term. It's part of a larger body of work that challenges a long-standing skepticism about whether that's even possible.

Apparently, the research is indicating that it truly IS possible to make ourselves happier.

There are several other happiness exercises described in the article. Do click through and read the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How true it is!

You are destined to fly, but that cocoon has to go.

Nelle Morton

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The time it takes

Please don't despair if you find yourself having the same issues over and over. That is so normal. It's also normal for it to take a long time to get free:

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.

-- David Steindl-Rast

The meditative process works by the saturation method. We need to have the same principles explained to us over and over. We need to coach ourselves on the same techniques over and over. That, too, is normal. After a while, our ability to work with our material gets more and more skillful. And, as a consequence, we experience more and more freedom.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Thinking about gratitude

Just because the Thanksgiving holiday is now over, I hope we don't stop thinking about the importance of giving thanks. The website has a very thorough exercise about developing a gratitude list and then acting on it to share with others. Here's how it gets started:
We begin by waking up to the gifts around us. Although our webteam isn’t omniscient, we can pretty much say for certain that you’re in front of a computer. We also guess that you can read, which sets you apart from two billion people in the world who cannot. So already you can tally opportunities you have that not everyone can claim.

Look around at your surroundings, your own body included. What can you add to your list of blessings? You might mention such joys as comfortable clothing, good health, satisfying work, or a home to call your own. And what beyond your immediate surroundings: nourishing food, faithful friends, spiritual moorings? You may even discover less obvious blessings; for instance, a difficult relationship forces you to mature, or deep distress over violence spurs you to spread peace. On a sheet of paper or a word-processor at your fingertips, record a few of these gifts.
The exercise continues and directs us to other sites that can help us develop awareness. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Computer woes AGAIN

This time it was the dog. While I was in the shower, Izzy managed to pull my lap top off my desk and onto an open drawer. It now won't boot up at all. As I write, I'm waiting for my computer guru to phone. In the meantime, there will be light posting as I must use Cynthia's computer at the Center and I don't have round the clock access to that!

Ah well! I get to do some equanimity practice now, don't I?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Our task

Please remember that the teaching to accept our thoughts without judgment when we meditate does not mean we should renounce action when compassion demands it. Acceptance and approval are not the same thing at all. But we need to take action with the greatest degree of equanimity possible. And we need to be realistic about what we can actually do:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

-- Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I like the word "mend". It has a nurturing quality to it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Meditation timer

Do you have a problem with timing your meditation? I've got just the website for you! The site is called Audio Dharma and it serves as the archives of the dharma (teaching) talks given by a teacher named Gil Fronsdal as well as several guest speakers at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California.

The page with the bells offers meditation times between 15 minutes and one hour. You can also use the screen as a visual support if you wish as a constantly moving but very soothing visual is offered along with the sound of the gong.

You can also download the files of the bells and save them to your own computer.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday cat blogging!


Smiling for peace

Thich Nhat Hanh

In Thich Nhat Hanh's tradition, part of meditation posture is assuming the half-smile. Even though that is not taught in the Tibetan system in which I'm trained, I try to do it from time to time. It's amazing how it shifts one's attitude:

Smiling is very important. If we are not able to smile, then the world will not have peace. It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.

--Thich Nhat Hanh

I don't think he's suggesting that we not take action. Thich Nhat Hanh is a person of action himself. But he's saying it needs to start with oneself. We need to be the change we wish to see.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Cultivating gratitude

On this Thanksgiving Day it is appropriate to focus on the mind state of gratitude and how to cultivate it. I want to call your attention to an essay entitled To Give Is to Receive by Roger Walsh. Here's an excerpt:
Like other attitudes, gratitude can be cultivated. We don't have to wait for our fairy grandmother to shower us with gifts before feeling thankful. We can develop gratitude by reflecting on the gifts that are already ours. This reflection can be done for a minute, a day, or throughout a lifetime. Most people celebrate their birthday and holidays, but those who cultivate gratitude celebrate every day. We can be grateful because we are happy, but we can also be happy because we are grateful.

We tend to forget how very different the laws that govern the mind are from the laws that operate in the physical world. In the world, if we give a physical thing to another person, whether it be a toy or a diamond, we lose it. Yet in the mind, the opposite is true. Whatever we intend for another person we experience ourselves
, whatever we give we gain, whatever we offer flowers in our own mind.
I consider myself to be a truly happy person but, like anybody else, I can get frazzled and grumpy if I've got too much going on or if I'm experiencing events as frustrating. When that happens, all I have to do is remember gratitude - my own gratitude which is ongoing - and my feeling of deep happiness returns. Truly, there is no more powerful a practice for supporting our experience of profound well being.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Two on gratitude

Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow and so it is a good time to be focusing our awareness on gratitude. Here are two quotations worth pondering, I think:

Sanctity has to do with gratitude. To be a saint is to be fueled by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less.

— Ronald Rolheiser in The Holy Longing

Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted.

— David Steindl-Rast in The Music of Silence

As meditators, we do well to be grateful for our practice and for the circumstances that led us to ask for instruction in the first place. If we cultivate gratitude for meditation, we will practice more easily and we will definitely enjoy it more.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blogger troubles again

Hello, everyone.

I apologize for the lack of postings. Blogger has been down for the last 36 hours or so, I'm afraid, so I haven't been able to post.

I'll get caught up as soon as possible.

Bye for now.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Seeking happiness

This morning, Cynthia gave me a copy of an article called Mastering Your Own Mind by Katherine Ellison that's published by Psychology Today. It's about the benefits of meditation. Here's one observation that I've told you about before:
One recent study at Massachusetts General Hospital found that 40 minutes of daily meditation appears to thicken parts of the cerebral cortex involved in attention and sensory processing.
And here's an excerpt toward the end of the article:
Meditators find that when they stop taking their own emotional upheavals so seriously, the self drops away. They process the world more directly. Absorption, a state similar to what is known as "flow" increases. "People are hungry for this kind of authentic experience," observes [Jon] Kabat-Zinn.

Urging seekers of happiness to not only shake off egoism but to understand the amorphous nature of the ego itself remains an subversive idea in the West, even though some leading neuroscientists have come to the same conclusion. Wolf Singer, director of the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, for instance, describes the brain as lacking any decision-making "coherence center." It's like an orchestra without a conductor.

It's a tremendously hopeful possibility that brains can change for the better - specifically, become sharper, nicer, happier.
Remember, the universal motivation is the wish to be happy. It's what we all want. What Western researchers are now discovering is that we can, indeed, experience true happiness through meditative practice.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mindfulness and psychotherapy

I came across a blog today called "Health Psych: Current issues in clinical health psychology". I was particularly interested in a posting entitled simply "Mindfulness". Here's part of it:
There's increasing interest in the so-called "third wave" of development of cognitive-behavioural therapy. Just as behavioural therapy was expanded by the inclusion of cognitive approaches, there is a further movement towards the incorporation of mindfulness and other more spiritually-based approaches into cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Based on a combination of Eastern meditation and Western psychology, mindfulness based cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques are used in the context of both physical and psychological health problems.

Mindfulness involves developing the ability to pay deliberate attention to the experience of life from moment to moment. Using relaxation, an awareness of the breath and a gentle focus of attention, individuals learn to observe their thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations in a non-judgemental way.
The shrinks are discovering what meditation teachers have known for a long time and that is that experiencing emotions without judgment actually helps with emotional regulation. I'll tell you again, folks, what I've told you so many times before: This stuff really works!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It is important to recognize the power of our emotions--and to take responsibility for them by creating a light and positive atmosphere around ourselves. This attitude of joy that we create helps alleviate states of hopelessness, loneliness, and despair. Our relationships with others thus naturally improve, and little by little the whole of society becomes more positive and balanced.

- Tarthang Tulku

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ethel - in memoriam

Ethel Finlay (? - November 15, 2006)

I am so grateful for the words of sympathy sent to me by so many about both Edgar and Ethel. I thank you from my heart.


The Dalai Lama said the following:
Spirituality is like a medicine. To heal the illness, it is not sufficient to look at the medicine and talk about it: You have to ingest it.
Our illness is the attachments that cause our suffering and the mind poisons that overtake us. The medicine is meditating regularly, coming to class, and applying the meditative principles in our everyday life. Let's all ingest that wonderful medicine!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Our natural state

I went through a period of my life in which I immersed myself in the writings of Anthony de Mello - to my very great benefit! This is from a transcript of a talk he gave. Click through if you want to be really challenged. For now let's look at something he said about happiness:
Happiness is our natural state. Happiness is the natural state of little children, to whom the kingdom belongs until they have been polluted and contaminated by the stupidity of society and culture. To acquire happiness you don't have to do anything, because happiness cannot be acquired. Does anybody know why? Because we have it already. How can you acquire what you already have? Then why don't you experience it? Because you've got to drop something. You've got to drop illusions. You don't have to add anything in order to be happy; you've got to drop something. Life is easy, life is delightful. It's only hard on your illusions, your ambitions, your greed, your cravings.
Some years ago I listened to a series of tapes by Richard Rohr called "Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction" that made essentially the same point as de Mello. That inner change - the one from striving for addition to embracing subtraction - is one of the most important ones we'll ever make. Let go, let go, let go. This is truly the way to peace and well being. And there's no other way. Of that I am convinced.

This time it's Ethel

Ethel Finlay (? - November 15, 2006)

It is with great sadness that I tell you that Ethel was hit by a car last night and died almost instantly.

She had been depressed with the loss of Edgar and was not eating. I can only surmise that she was not at her best and therefore momentarily lost her usual street smarts.

I'm still in a state of shock. It's hard to believe that I lost them both in the span of six days.

But I'm glad they are together now. Somehow I can't imagine Ethel being happy without Edgar. Now she has joined him.

Even though she would rarely let me touch her, I loved her very much.

Good-bye, dear Ethel. May you rest in peace.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


This week in the ongoing classes we discussed the importance of enthusiasm with regard to our meditative practice. We looked at three approaches to enthusiasm: the enthusiasm we practice for our own sake, the enthusiasm we practice with regard to others, and the enthusiasm in others from which we benefit. Practicing enthusiasm is one of the most effective ways we can offer support and encouragement. Today I want to offer a quotation specifically about encouragement:

There are people whose presence is encouraging. One of the most beautiful gifts in the world is the gift of encouragement. When someone encourages you, that person helps you over a threshold you might otherwise never have crossed on your own.

— John O'Donohue in Eternal Echoes

John O'Donohue is an Irish philosopher and spiritual teacher who also wrote a wonderful book called Anam Cara (that's Gaelic for "soul friend"). Any of O'Donohue's writings or tapes are well worth your attention.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tuesday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Weaver Bloomfield

Our task

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

-- Jalaluddin Rumi

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Bill Miller

Trying to fix the ego

One of my big challenges is to persuade people to let go of the effort to fix themselves. Here's a wonderful quote from Fingers Pointing Toward the Moon by Wei Wu Wei that speaks to this:
There seem to two kinds of searchers: those who seek to make their ego something other than it is, i.e. holy, happy, unselfish (as though you could make a fish unfish), and those who understand that all such attempts are just gesticulation and play-acting, that there is only one thing that can be done, which is to disidentify themselves with the ego, by realising its unreality, and by becoming aware of their eternal identity with pure being.
The kind of spirituality that liberates is one of subtraction - not addition. It's one of letting go, not adding on.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Shrine for Edgar

Well, I've started a little shrine for Edgar. The little stone sleeping cat was given to me just yesterday as a memorial for such a fine, fine kitty. I will be adding some flowers and a photograph soon.

Know thyself

As I mentioned over on Child of Illusion, I came across a very interesting blog yesterday called Markham's Behavioral Health. The postings offer a mixture of mental health, public health, social work, education, politics and spirituality topics. Here's something the blog owner had to say about knowing oneself:
We all have our light side and our shadow side. It is best if we become aware of and manage constructively both our talents and abilities and virtues as well as our weaknesses, our deficits, and our sins. It is the witness in us that gives us the ability to observe ourselves: our physical bodies, our personalities, our values, our spirits so that we can attain wisdom. Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Are we living examined lives?

Knowing ourselves we can use different parts of ourselves at different times depending on our purposes and our goals. The idea is not repress and deny parts of ourselves, or to exalt and brag in an egotistical way about parts of ourselves, but to keep all the parts of ourselves in balance. It is in our self knowledge that we are enabled to do this.
I recommend that you go over and take a look. I particularly enjoyed browsing in the archives.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Saturday meditative picture blogging

Photo by C. Robin Janning

Do visit Robin's blog, Gramercy Digital Diary. Her work is amazing. And you can always reach it from Meditation Matters because it's on my blog roll.

True prayer

Found on the site:

Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness.

-- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rest in peace

Edgar Finlay (? - November 9, 2006)

Ethel and Edgar

Dear friends, it is my sad duty to tell you that Edgar had to be put down last night. The circumstances are too complicated and painful for me to go into right now but be aware that he was FIV positive (feline AIDS) and that that was part of it.

He had a very beautiful death. He purred right up to the end when he died with his old head on the arm I was cradling him with. Needless to say, I am heartbroken.

Ethel will miss her life partner. Now she is all alone. Unlike Edgar, who was a real love muffin, Ethel is still quite wild and will rarely let me touch her - and then only for a second or two. I have tried to invite her in but she won't come. Perhaps when it gets cold and Edgar is not there for her to snuggle with, I will be able to coax her inside. We shall see.

I'm having Edgar cremated. Perhaps I will bury his ashes in the yard where he was so happy. Perhaps I'll come up with another plan. I'm not sure yet.

Do remember me in my grief and say a prayer or spare a thought for Edgar as he makes the great transition.

He was a good, good kitty.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A runaway horse

I found this on the Daily Zen website:

The working of the mind seems similar to being on a runaway horse at times. Restlessly moving from one emotion, idea, or construct to another. Meditation is like reining the horse in, drawing the awareness back inside. And with practice the Return happens more and more gracefully.

-- Elana, Monkess for Daily Zen

So true.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

She guards llamas at the Reynolds farm.

Experiencing unity

Here's an excerpt from a book by Clarice Bryan called Driving to Nirvana:
The first time it happened, I was driving on a two-lane highway near the Trinity Alps in a well-wooded area of Northern California. It was a rolling, gently curving road, and there was no other traffic in either direction. All at once, I became the car. I could feel my tires rotating on the pavement and a divine sense of union with the road. There was no conscious effort to turn the wheel or press on the accelerator, because I was the road as well as the car. I was the harmony of the car and the road. I was the melody of the universe. I was bursting with joy and a feeling of oneness. My body was totally aware of everything around me; the eucalyptus trees along the roadside, the manzanita bushes, with their dusty green leaves, the tiny cloud overhead, the clicketyclack of the tires, the purr of the engine, the smell of fresh air. My body was all these and so much more. My whole body smiled in this union as we floated along together through the forest and out into the sunshine. Words are totally inadequate to describe the unbelievable happiness I felt.
This is truly what it means to be in the moment. We can give ourselves permission to experience this unity any time, any place. Because it's always, always true. It's always, always the way things are!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Setting a good example

People will always follow a good example; be the one to set a good example, then it won't be long before the others follow... How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway... And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness!

-- Anne Frank

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Are you attached to security?

It's natural to want security, of course. But can we ever really have it? Is it all it's cracked up to be anyway? I want to share with you some observations about security and insecurity that I found on a wonderful blog called "Meditation Photography".* Here's an excerpt:
What exactly is insecurity? It means tomorrow is not going to repeat today. It means tomorrow you may not even be alive. It means that one has to live each moment as if it is the last moment. A life of security will be simply boring. It will be like seeing the same movie again and again and again — knowing every detail of what is going to happen. You can enjoy a movie only once. If you are an idiot, then it is another matter….

Insecurity is the very fabric of life. If you don’t understand insecurity, you can never understand life. Seasons will change; climates will change; the fall will come, the spring will come. Everything will go on changing, nothing can be taken for granted; this is insecurity. You want everything to be certain, permanent. But have you ever thought what will be the outcome of it if everything is permanent? You eat the same food every day, you say the same things every day, you listen to the same things every day. And there is no death even to demolish this tragic living — you are living in a nightmare.

Insecurity keeps people fresh, alive, adventurous — knowing that things can be changed. Even without their changing them, they are going to be changed. So there is great scope for change, for transformation.
Of course, I normally make the same point about impermanence. I like this person's observation that the desire for security is really a desire for permanence and that if things are permanent, no change is possible. So impermanence - and, by extension, insecurity - is actually our friend.

* I do recommend that you take a look at the Meditation Photography blog from time to time. The pictures are absolutely stunning.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The most important thing

Etty Hillesum

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.

-- Etty Hillesum

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday flower blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

What happens when you meditate?

Many people wonder just how it is that meditation has the effect it does. Today I came across a little article entitled "Meditation – An Amazing Stress Reduction Technique That is Easy to Do". Here's an excerpt that explains how meditation works to reduce stress:
One of the pioneers of serious meditation research was Harvard's Dr. Herbert Benson, whose 1968 book The Relaxation Response showed that meditation had a measurable affect on stress, slowing breathing and heartbeat and lessening the body's natural fight-or-flight response. Meditation will allow you to relax your body and focus your thoughts, thus focusing your mind and allowing you to let go of the day's troubles. It allows your body to refresh its resources, which is good for your immune system, your blood pressure and your mental outlook.

When you meditate, your heart rate and breathing slow down, your blood pressure normalizes, and you use oxygen more efficiently. Your adrenal glands produce less cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline and you produce good, healing. Your mind clears, allowing you harper thought and greater creativity. Meditation has proved beneficial for people trying to give up smoking, drinking and drugs.
Everything that helps motivate us is all to the good. And I do recommend Benson's The Relaxation Response, by the way. It's now a classic.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Peace and happiness

One of my favorite books by the prolific Thich Nhat Hanh is entitled Peace Is Every Step. Here's a passage from the introduction:

Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don't have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. We don't have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy.

We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.

Suppose circumstances are not to your liking. Does that mean you have to be unhappy? Not if you take Thich Nhat Hanh's advice. Things can be very bad indeed and we can still focus on the moment and know real happiness and inner peace.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Meditation CD

Here's some information I found that might be of interest to you:

The website offers a meditation bell CD. This CD is supposedly going to take the place of the clock, and yet can offer you so much more than time. If you wish to meditate, relax, or simply rest, for a few minutes to an hour, this CD will be perfect for you. You will be made to know that it is the end of your meditation or relaxation time by the calming tones of a 17th century Himalayan meditation bell. This CD is a tool for a guided meditation itself. Playing it from the start will take you to the meditation process where the mind is free from any thought into a state of deep serenity.

The meditation bells will sound every fifteen minutes which serves as your signal to take stretch or change positions. You don’t have to look at the clock and time yourself. The meditation bells will make three closing sounds to mean the end of the meditation session. This meditation bells CD is not only restricted to work for those who are doing meditation practices. This is also perfect for those who are doing yoga, or any kind of exercises. Aside from working as your clock or timer, the meditation bells will put you in the right mood.

The featured meditation bell sounds in this CD were also used in the past to guide the Tibetan monks during their meditation sessions. For a wide array of sounds of the different Tibetan meditation bells, one may visit and sample the unique tones online.

Of course we have our simple little homemade CD at the Center. One track has a bell every 5 minutes and the other track has a bell every 10 minutes. Let us know if you would like one and we'll get it to you for whatever donation you feel is appropriate.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Wonderful dog of Angela and Steve Kilcullen

Deep meditation

This is from an article called "Deep Meditation is the Road to Inner Peace":
Deep meditation practices give us insight into both the fundamental nature of our being. It allows us to experience emotions and thoughts with great clarity and balance. The mind is freed from conditioned patterns of self-centeredness, negativity and confusion, and the heart is opened to deeper wisdom and compassion. We begin to recognize and know each moment as practice for growth toward wholeness and harmony. We discover a place in ourselves which is already whole and always in harmony, and we learn to live from a clearer center and reach into the inner part of us that results to completeness and happiness.
I'm struck by the point that we can free ourselves from the patterns of self-centeredness, negativity and confusion. We do that by accepting our feelings without judgment and then letting go of our attachment to things being other than they are.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

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.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Bill Miller


This is from Meditation & Rituals For Conscious Living: A Reflective Meditation Process by Nancy J. Napier and Carolyn M. Tricomi:
Stillness is the ground of being from which all else emerges. It is within and behind every breath, every thought, every action. It is my starting point, my resting place, the home base to which I return again and again.
Sometimes it seems that our meditation is "not working" and the mind is just going haywire. Don't let it matter. Just be still. Simply keeping your commitment to yourself to sit still for the duration of your meditation period can be very powerful. As we still the body we allow the mind also to come to stillness. It might not do so in any given sitting. But it will over time.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Computer woes

Hi, friends. You're not going to believe what happened. Henry, one of my cats, was sitting on the keyboard of my computer when I got home from church today (that's what I get for not closing the laptop) and he obviously messed it up royally. It's totally frozen. Yes, I've re-booted. I've tried everything. I'm going to need to phone my computer guru in the morning and see what's what. Right now I'm at the computer in Cynthia's office but I won't be able to use that much so be patient. I'll get back to posting regularly when I have a reliable computer.

Ah, cats! Ya gotta love 'em.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Saturday flower blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

What do you have to do?

I rather like this:

What do you have to do?
Pack your bags,
Go to the station without them,
Catch the train,
And leave your self behind.

- from Open Secret by Wei Wu Wei

Friday, October 27, 2006