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

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Living free

From the book, All Else is Bondage; Non-Volitional Living :

Let us live gladly! Quite certainly we are free to do it. Perhaps it is our only freedom, but ours it is, and it is only phenomenally a freedom. 'Living free' is being 'as one is'. Can we not do it now? Indeed can we not-do-it? It is not even a 'doing': it is beyond doing and not-doing. It is being as-we-are. This is the only 'practice'.

- Wei Wu Wei

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Don't give up!

This is from The Ladder of Divine Ascent:

When the soul betrays itself and loses the blessed and longed-for fervor, let it carefully investigate the reason for losing it. And let it arm itself with all its longing and zeal against whatever caused this. For the former fervor can return only through the same door through which it was lost.

-- St. John Climacus

So, if you've completely stopped meditating or just lost your confidence in meditating, find out why. "Liberate yourself by examining and investigating." Then start over. Remember, you can start your day over at any time. And you can begin again at any time with regard to your meditative practice.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Look at that sweet face!
It's Smokey, of course.
Photo by Bill Miller

Why we meditate

Cindy Reynolds brought me a wonderful article from the Journal of the American Psychological Association called "The Meeting of Meditative Disciplines and Western Psychology" by Roger Walsh and Shauna L. Shapiro. I used the article as a springboard for the ongoing classes this week and we got a lot of good mileage out of it. I was particularly struck (as were several others) by two definitions - one of meditation and the other of equanimity. I thought I'd share those here:
The term meditation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration.
Equanimity: the ability to experience provocative stimuli nondefensively and with minimal psychological disturbance.
Both of these definitions point to why meditation helps so much with alleviating suffering. Often we suffer due to a deficit in self-regulation. That's when afflictive emotions go haywire. And wouldn't it be nice to be able to be provoked without our defenses kicking in and detroying our peace? That's what regular meditation can help us with.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Meditation and alertness

Today's New York Times reports on one of the benefits of meditation in an article entitled "Performance: Researchers Test Meditation’s Impact on Alertness". Here's part of what it says:
Meditation is often credited with helping people feel more focused and energetic, but are the benefits measurable?

A new study suggests that they are. When researchers tested the alertness of volunteers, they found that the practice proved more effective than naps, exercise or caffeine. The results were presented at a recent conference of the Society for Neuroscience.
Do click through and read the whole article if you'd like to see how the study was designed. Interestingly, they did not use experienced meditators for the study. They took non-meditators and taught them how to meditate in two short sessions. So you don't have to have been meditating for years to get the benefit of increased alertness.

I found the last sentence of the article amusing:
They said they did not know if caffeine and meditation combined would be even better.
Ha! I definitely vote for both!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Why meditate?

Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.

-- Hans Margolius

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Blogger troubles

This is just to let you know that the Blogger program has been acting up over the past couple of days. I was only able to post the entry below because I had earlier saved it as a draft and, as it was, it took me trying all day to get it to publish. If this publishes it will be because it's ordinary text only without any links, pictures or blockquotes. I'll be up and running again as soon as Blogger is! In the meantime, keep meditating!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Why we need to study

Joseph Campbell makes an important point in an interview with Bill Moyers:
One of our problems today is that we are not well acquainted with the literature of the spirit. We're interested in the news of the day and the problems of the hour. It used to be that the university campus was a kind of hermetically sealed-off area where the news of the day did not impinge upon your attention to the inner life and to the magnificent human heritage we have in our A great tradition--Plato, Confucius, the Buddha, Goethe, and others who speak of the eternal values that have to do with the centering of our lives. When you get to be older, and the concerns of the day have all been attended to, and you turn to the inner life--well, if you don't know where it is or what it is, you'll be sorry.

Greek and Latin and biblical literature used to be part of everyone's education. Now, when these were dropped, a whole tradition of Occidental mythological information was lost. It used to be that these stories were in the minds of people. When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what's happening to you. With the loss of that, we've really lost something because we don't have a comparable literature to take its place. These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage, and if you don't know what the guide-signs are along the way, you have to work it out yourself. But once this subject catches you, there is such a feeling, from one or another of these traditions, of information of a deep, rich, life-vivifying sort that you don't want to give it up.
I count myself as very lucky indeed to have received a liberal education. Even so, it's important for me to keep reading, to keep learning, to keep being open to the stories of other cultures. All of us can benefit from making such a commitment to ourselves.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Sandy's cat
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

The benefits of discipline

Bill Miller sent me the following poem today. I think you can see the connection with meditative practice:

Samurai Song

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

-- Robert Pinsky

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Letting go of rigidity

My word, this woman is sensible! I want to share with you another excerpt from Living Meditation, Living Insight by Dr. Thynn Thynn. This whole book is written in question/answer form and Dr. Thynn's answer to the following question gives me enormous respect for her:
Q: I have tried being mindful of the moment. But it is strenuous and I get all tangled up.

A: For goodness sakes, staying with the moment is only a figure of speech. It is not a commandment to be followed rigidly. This is not a proficiency test. You must understand this from the outset; otherwise you will be tied up in knots trying too hard every second of the day.

If you become too involved with staying in the moment, you lose the art of living -- of free flowing.

You must realize that staying with the moment is just a means to break the mind's old habits. Usually the mind flitters between thoughts and feelings about the past, present and future. Staying with the moment is just a way to train the mind to cease flitting.

It is not important that you be with the moment every single moment of the day. What is important is that you learn to get out of the constant mental run-around and to be more focused and grounded.

Once you break the habit of the roaming mind, you will find you are more centered and more with the present moment.
Sometimes people are more concerned with "getting it right" than they are with accepting what is. When we accept what is, we accept that we're not going to get it right all the time. This is just common sense! So let go of perfectionism and don't get rigid or legalistic about any of the instructions about working with the mind. Remember, it's the spirit, not the letter, of the law that gives life.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Smokey the Wonder Dog
Photo by Bill Miller

Design your own seal

Well, this is fun. I found a site that can generate seals like the one above. You can choose your own central symbol as well as the text font, the colors and the border. You can then put them on your site or email them to friends or order stickers in the same design. Check it out!

Apache blessing

May the sun bring you new energy by day,
may the moon softly restore you by night,
may the rain wash away your worries,
may the breeze blow new strength into your being.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Acquiring peace of mind

It's really not enough to set aside a specific time for daily meditation if we're then going to forget about meditative principles for the rest of our day. Dr. Thynn Thynn speaks to this in her book Living Meditation, Living Insight:
[I]f meditation is to help you acquire peace of mind as you function in your life, then it must be a dynamic activity, part and parcel of your daily experience. Meditation is here and now, moment-to-moment, amid the ups and downs of life, amid conflicts, disappointments and heartaches -- amid success and stress. If you want to understand and resolve anger, desires, attachments and all the myriad emotions and conflicts, need you go somewhere else to find the solution? If your house was on fire, you wouldn't go somewhere else to put out the fire, would you?

If you really want to understand your mind, you must watch it while it is angry, while it desires, while it is in conflict. You must pay attention to the mind as the one-thousand-and-one thoughts and emotions rise and fall. The moment you pay attention to your emotions, you will find that they lose their strength and eventually die out. However, when you are inattentive, you find that these emotions go on and on.
As one of my own meditation teachers used to say, "It's all material!" It really is.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Susan Miller

This photo was taken in the Russian Orthodox Bishop's house in Sitka, which was the capital of Russian Alaska. The house has been restored and services are held there weekly. Bill and Susan Miller visited Sitka while on a cruise earlier this year.

Observer consciousness and feelings

Feelings and emotions are the occasion for suffering only when we lose mindfulness about them. It's amazing how simply observing a feeling can keep it from taking us hostage. This principle is discussed by Nyanaponika Mahathera in an articla called "Contemplation of Feelings":
Mindfulness should be maintained throughout the short duration of a specific feeling, down to its cessation. If the vanishing point of feelings is repeatedly seen with increasing clarity, it will become much easier to forestall the emotions, thoughts and volitions which normally follow them so rapidly and so often become habitually associated with them. Pleasant feeling is habitually linked with enjoyment and desire; unpleasant feeling with aversion; neutral feeling with boredom and confusion, and also serving as a background for wrong views. But when bare attention is directed towards the arising and vanishing of feelings, these polluting additives will be held at bay. If they do arise, they will be immediately recognized as soon as they appear, and that recognition may often be sufficient to stop them from growing stronger by unopposed continuance.

If feelings are seen blowing up and bursting like bubbles, their linkage with craving and aversion will be weakened more and more until it is finally broken. As attachments to likes and dislikes are reduced by this practice, an inner space will open up for the growth of the finer emotions and virtues: for loving-kindness and compassion, for contentment, patience and forbearance.
The image of feelings expanding and then bursting like bubbles is a reminder of their impermanence. Remembering impermanence will help us practice distress tolerance when we experience painful feelings and then wait patiently for them to dissolve.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday prayer blogging

Bahai' Prayer for Peace:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be fair in your judgement, and guarded in your speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Seeing your mental process

Here's a little discussion about the impermance of thoughts and how not to give feelings unnecessary energy. It's by Dr. Thynn Thynn from her book, Living Meditation, Living Insight.
Thoughts and emotions by themselves are just momentary and possess no life of their own. By clinging to them, you prolong their stay.

Only when your mind is free from clinging and rejecting can it see anger as anger, desire as desire. As soon as you "see," your mental process is fully preoccupied with "seeing," and in that split second anger dies a natural death... This awareness brings new insight into life, new clarity and new spontaneity in action.

So, you see, meditation need not be separate from life and its daily ups and downs. If you are to experience peace in this everyday world, you need to watch, understand and deal with your anger, desire and ignorance as they occur. Only when you cease to be involved with your emotions can the peaceful nature of your mind emerge. This peace-nature enables you to live every moment of your life completely. With this newfound understanding and awareness, you can live as a complete individual with greater sensitivity. You will come to view life with new and fresh perceptions. Strangely enough, what you saw as problems before are problems no more.
I am impressed with the point that the emotions are momentary and have no life of their own. In other words, they derive life from the energy we give them. We actually can choose to withhold energy from difficult feelings and then they will dissolve on their own. It may take a while but if we let go of our attachment to instant gratification we will be able to wait without undue distress.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

The remedy for ill will

I often encounter resistance to the idea of wishing our enemies well. People will often justify the wish for their enemies to suffer. H. Gunaratana speaks to this in his book Mindfulness in Plain English:
For all practical purposes, if all of your enemies are well, happy and peaceful, they would not be your enemies. If they are free from problems, pain, suffering, affliction, neurosis, psychosis, paranoia, fear, tension, anxiety, etc., they would not be your enemies. Your practical solution to your enemies is to help them to overcome their problems, so you can live in peace and happiness. In fact, if you can, you should fill the minds of all your enemies with loving-kindness and make all of them realize the true meaning of peace, so you can live in peace and happiness. The more they are in neurosis, psychosis, fear, tension, anxiety, etc., the more trouble, pain and suffering they can bring to the world. If you could convert a vicious and wicked person into a holy and saintly individual, you would perform a miracle. Let us cultivate adequate wisdom and loving- kindness within ourselves to convert evil minds to saintly minds.
So it is actually to everybody's benefit if our enemies are happy, peaceful and full of well-being. Remember, we want them to be truly happy - that is, full of compassion for self and others. If they are full of compassion, they will stop harming others. And, of course, wishing our enemies well is the remedy for the resentment that infects us. We will be happier and more peaceful if the resentment is dissolved.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Seeeing ourselves without illusion

It is not uncommon for people to believe that if they make certain changes in themselves that they can then accept themselves. It actually works the other way around: If we accept ourselves as we are, then we are able to make changes. But we can't accept ourselves as we are until we know ourselves as we are. This principle is addressed by H. Gunaratana in his book Mindfulness In Plain English:
You can't make radical changes in the pattern of your life until you begin to see yourself exactly as you are now. As soon as you do that, changes flow naturally. You don't have to force or struggle or obey rules dictated to you by some authority. You just change. It is automatic. But arriving at the initial insight is quite a task. You've got to see who you are and how you are, without illusion, judgement or resistance of any kind. You've got to see your own place in society and your function as a social being. You've got to see your duties and obligations to your fellow human beings, and above all, your responsibility to yourself as an individual living with other individuals. And you've got to see all of that clearly and as a unit, a single gestalt of interrelationship. It sounds complex, but it often occurs in a single instant. Mental culture through meditation is without rival in helping you achieve this sort of understanding and serene happiness.
Meditation is intended to purify the mind. It cleanses the thought process of what can be called psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred and jealousy, things that keep you snarled up in emotional bondage. It brings the mind to a state of tranquility and awareness, a state of concentration and insight.
When people come to talk to me about making wanted changes in their lives, I encounter a lot of resistance to the idea that they need to see who they are without judgment. But that really is the way forward. Our judgments distort what we see and keep us stuck. When we accept without judgment we no longer have to expend a huge amount of energy not seeing who we are because it hurts so much to see. And that energy then can be used for making the changes we really want to make.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Maximus the colt

Marsha Gulick sent me this picture of two of her Gypsy Cob horses. You can see more on her website, Gypsy Dreams.

Contemplation tree

The above Tree of Contemplative Practices is one I found on the Contemplative Mind in Society website that Elizabeth Thompson told me about and is used with permission. You can click through and see a larger, easy to read version.

Here's some advice on centering practice from the site:
Common Centering Methods:

* Count numbers, such as counting down from 10 to dissipate anger
* Repeat a word or phrase, such as a prayer or affirmation
* Smile and relaxing your body
* Go for a walk; get out into a different environment
* Stretch
* Close your eyes and breathe deeply
* Concentrate on breathing, such as breathing out for a count of 8 and in for a count of 4
* Count your breaths
* Doodle or write
* Carry or place near yourself a visual reminder to stay centered, such as a quote or image
* Use sound to bring yourself back to your center. Periodically ring a bell, chime, or other gentle reminder.

Persistence is an important aspect of centering practice. Purposefully centering yourself many times throughout the day, even when you are not feeling particularly emotional or in need of centering, will help to deepen your practice.

I agree with the concluding paragraph above about persistence. The regular practice of centering enables us to do it in "emergency" situations. But don't wait for the emergency to learn how!

My favorite centering method, when it's possible to do it, is to go outside and take off my shoes and stand barefoot on the ground so that I have the sense of connecting with the earth. This is particularly effective whenever I'm agitated or frazzled. I just send all that excess energy through my feet and into the earth where it is absorbed and neutralized. Even if it's impossible to go outside for this, I can do it my office and send the agitation through the floor and into the earth. It's a very centering and soothing practice.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


When I lived in South Africa I learned a principle that is very powerful and is actually antithetical to the belief in "rugged individualism" so prized in the U.S. That principle is ubuntu - an untranslatable word that has to do with connectedness being fundamental to our humanity. Here's what Desmond Tutu has to say about it:
Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. it speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.” It is not “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.
The meditative tradition teaches us to cultivate compassion and lovingkindness. Both support a commitment to ubuntu and flow from it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

An investment in celebration

Photo by Ellie Finlay

This is from Alan Cohen's article, "Everything I Need to Know about Meditation I Learned from my Jewish Mother":
One of the reasons we love to be around children, pets, and spirited elders is that they are delightfully free of tyrannical intellect. They are not at the mercy of belief systems that tell us we should be other than they are. They are not trying to think their way through life; they are having too much fun to have to figure it out. That’s why Ben Williams noted, "There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face." Imagine that life is a big puppy trying to lick your face; the only reason you don’t enjoy it more is that your mind is elsewhere. To get your mind realigned, invite it to think in harmony with Spirit, which is always affirmative and has a greater investment in celebration than complaint.
I want to recommend a website I visit everyday. It's called The Daily Puppy and it features a different puppy every day - usually with more than one picture. I get an enormous sense of refreshment and delight from each posting. No matter what horrible news has been reported that day, I know that I can (in a cyber sort of way!) let a puppy "lick my face" and remind me that life is beautiful.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Today's prayer

May I be happy, well and peaceful.
May my parents, grandparents and ancestors be happy, well and peaceful.
May my brothers and sisters, my spouse and children, my grandchildren
and all future generations be happy, well and peaceful.
May all my friends and all my enemies be happy.
May all human beings sharing the earth be happy.
May all forms of life, plants, animals, birds, fish and insects be happy.
May all sentient beings in the universe be happy.
May we all be free from suffering and pain.
May we all be free from attachment of greed, anger and ignorance.
May we all attain perfect peace and happiness of Enlightenment through
Buddha's Wisdom and Compassion.

-- Loving-kindness meditation, Reverend T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki
(photo by Cynthia Burgess)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A splendid torch

Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

-- George Bernard Shaw

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Silence and listening

In the silence of listening, you can know yourself in everyone, the unseen singing softly to itself and to you.

-- Rachel Naomi Remen

For a racing mind

I was cleaning out my inbox and came across something Cynthia sent me. I have no idea where it's from but it lookes interesting to me. (UPDATE: Turns out she told me in a separate email. The link is here.)
Here are some good techniques to use if your mind races:

Relax your body completely.
Take in 4 deep breaths, repeating “4” to yourself as you exhale.
Then take 3 deep breaths, repeating “3 when you exhale.
Now take 2 deep breaths, repeating “2” when you exhale.
Finally, take 1 deep breath, repeating “1” as you exhale.

At the same time, focus your mind on a pleasant image. Imagine that you are a passive observer of something very relaxing where there is repetitive motion.

Example: relaxing on the beach, watching the waves go back and forth or just lying in the grass and watching as the clouds move by overhead.

Finally, now you want to cause your mind to go completely blank. As you are focusing on this repetitive movement, begin to envision a blank form. Just like you are standing on the edge of an abyss where there is no form and all is void.

Focus on the void and remain there as you continue to relax deeper and deeper. Hold this as long as you can.
My only disagreement with this is that we can't really make out minds go completely blank. We can, however, focus on something blank and give our minds permission to rest there. I think that's what the writer means.

The breathing exercise is excellent. Try it. I think you'll see that it works in situations of anxiety or agitation.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Still more on compassion

In his book, Who Speaks for God?: An Alternative To the Religious Right—A New Politics of Compassion, Community, and Civility, Jim Wallis has this to say about compassion:
Compassion has less to do with 'doing charity' than 'making connections.' The word compassion means literally 'to suffer with.' It means to put yourself in somebody else's shoes, try to understand their experience, or see the world through their eyes. That always changes our perspective. True compassion has less to do with sympathy than it does with empathy.

The call to compassion is not about somebody 'doing for' somebody else. Rather, its value is in the connection, the relationship, and the transaction in which everyone is changed. The Hebrew prophets say that we find our own good in seeking the common good. The prophet Isaiah says that when we feed the hungry, take in the homeless, and 'break the yoke' of oppression, then we find our own healing. He also says the act of compassion requires that you 'not hide yourself from your own flesh.' In other words, compassion means to recognize the kindred spirit we all share together. And the Bible insists that the best test of a nation's righteousness is how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable in its midst.
Once again, meditation helps us cultivate compassion because it teaches us reliable skills for managing our thoughts and emotions so that we're not overwhelmed. I really think the fear of being overwhelmed is what prevents a lot of people from opening their hearts.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Compassion and the news

Here's a good reason for keeping up with what's going on. It's from Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine 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.
Meditation helps us keep our heart open when our impulse is to turn away and tune things out. This is because through the meditative process we learn how to train our minds not to be overwhelmed. And it's the fear of being overwhelmed that causes us to to turn away in the first place.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Still more on attention

I found myself pondering the practice of attention again today and looking for some more material about it. I found this passage by artist and spiritual writer William Segal:
With sustained attention, one grasps relationships which usually are overlooked. So how to nurture an attention which penetrates into the heart of things? It's an interesting subject, to speculate that with attention. Whole new worlds reveal themselves. The Chinese and Japanese artists have understood for a long time the importance of being 'still,' of gathering their energies for a few moments before beginning.

Instead of a headlong rush, which is fine for a while, one has to step back. This stepping back is difficult, especially when one is on a roll. In painting, as in other pursuits, when all is going well one wants to keep going... That's fine, but sometimes a pause, stop, stepping back and looking brings the unexpected.
Concentration, attention is the key in any endeavor, whether building a brick wall, working with a computer program or painting a picture.
Can you stop rushing, be still and just pay attention? The meditation process trains us to do just that and reinforces our inner faith in its value.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Today's prayer

I found this today and I think it is quite beautiful:

Today my prayer consisted in simply going to my heart and re-membering all the folks I've stored there. It is not cold storage. It is a quite warm and tender place.
-- Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB
Tree Full of Angels

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Two quotes about transformation that help bolster aspiration:

The great metaphors from all spiritual traditions — grace, liberation, being born again, awakening from illusion — testify that it is possible to transcend the conditioning of my past and do a new thing.

Sam Keen

Ideally, we would rise to the occasion and transform the adversity into an opportunity for greater happeniness. We would use the adversity to deepen our own wisdom and compassion, and transform it into something we can embrace. We would chew it up, swallow, and digest it, and be closer to enlightenment as a result. That's the ideal, as the Tibetans say: transform adversity into spiritual growth.

B. Alan Wallace

Basically what these two passages say to me is that it's not necessary to stay stuck. Transformation is, indeed, possible. Believing that is, without a doubt, the first step.