Sunday, September 30, 2007

Compassion into action

Just believing in compassion doesn't get us very far:

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

- Martin Luther King Jr

Saturday, September 29, 2007

St. Michael, the Archangel

Today is Michaelmas - or the Feast Day of St. Michael and All Angels.
Michael the Archangel is the patron of the following:
Artists; bakers; bankers; battle; boatmen; cemeteries; coopers; endangered children; dying; Emergency Medical Technicians; fencing; grocers; hatmakers; holy death; knights; mariners; mountaineers; paramedics; paratroopers; police officers; radiologists; sailors; the sick; security forces; soldiers; against storms at sea; swordsmiths; those in need of protection.
Do you fall into any of these categories? You can call on St. Michael or look to him for protection.

And remember, the word "angel" simply means messenger. Maybe it would do us all some good to reflect with gratitude on the various angels who have turned up in our lives over the years.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Leroy under the desk
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Why perseverence matters

I've known for some time that there are studies demonstrating the effectiveness of meditation in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Only today have I learned some important details about how that works:

With an average age of 54, most of the patients were female, white, married, college-educated, middle-class, and all were free of either psychiatric illness or alcohol or drug addiction.

During the trial, all the patients continued to be treated by their regular doctor and to take whatever medication they'd been taking before the study began.

At the start of the study, and two and six months later, all the patients completed questionnaires to assess depressive symptoms and psychological distress. Also, blood measures of inflammation were taken and an assessment of tender and swollen joints was done to evaluate current RA status.

By the two-month mark, both the meditation and the non-meditation groups had shown equal levels of improvement in terms of depression and emotional symptoms.

But by six months, there was a "significant" difference in perceived psychological distress between the two groups -- those practicing mediation reported a 35 percent reduction in psychological distress.

It's so important not to throw in the towel too early! We westerners are so addicted to instant gratification. We need patience from the get-go and a willingness to persevere until the benefits of meditation have time to kick in.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Our lives are our stories

The ways in which we apply what we believe to be spiritual truths, the ways in which we integrate them into our ordinary lives, speak more loudly than our actual words:

Our lives are our stories. Ultimately it is the state of our total being that affects the world. I was impressed by a comment made by someone who was part of a party invited to dialogue with the Dalai Lama. While this person was certainly interested in what His Holiness had to say, he admitted that he mainly wanted to see how the Dalai Lama tied his shoes. That’s what eventually affects us most of all, isn’t it? Not the eloquence of words, nor books and concepts, but the way the truth is being lived in the world.

-- Gloria Karpinski in Barefoot on Holy Ground

Let's all pay attention to how we "tie our shoes!"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Giving AND receiving

This is so true:

The happy heart gives away the best. To know how to receive is also a most important gift, which cultivates generosity in others and keeps strong the cycle of life.

-- Dhyani Ywahoo in Voices of Our Ancestors

When we refuse to accept a gift or a service graciously, we are devaluing the generosity of others. And that is not a loving or compassionate thing to do at all!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The gift of presence

Another one from Spirituality and Practice:

There is a Jewish tradition that a single visit to someone's sickbed takes away one sixtieth of their illness. The ancient sages understood that just being in the presence of another human being can lift a person up.

— Naomi Levy in To Begin Again

Ah, yes, I know this to be true!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Surgery recovery

Well, as will not surprise you, meditation helps. Take a look at this excerpt from an article entitled "Doctors ignorant of natural therapies":
"Studies have shown that patients who received antioxidants, meditation, music therapy and stress management before surgery had less complications and went home earlier," Dr Braun said. "It's simple - if we have evidence-based complementary medicines and we are truly practising evidence-based medicine, then we need to use complementary medicines."
Well, all I can say is that maybe the complications I had would have been even worse than they were if I were not a meditator! :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2007


This year the autumnal equinox was today at 9:51 Universal Time:

The Autumnal Equinox signals the end of the summer months and the beginning of winter. At this time of year, days have been shortening since the Summer Solstice some three months earlier, and the Equinox is the point where nights reach the same length as days. After this point, the Sun will shine lower and lower on the horizon until the Winter Solstice in about three months' time.
Summer is over, folks!

No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face;

-- John Donne

Oh, this is really, really good

The following is a "Spiritual Practice of the Day" found on the Spirituality and Practice website:

I once saw a cartoon depicting two Buddhist monks seated side by side in a meditation hall. An older monk was muttering something to a younger monk out of the corner of his mouth. The young monk looked dumbfounded. The caption read: "Nothing happens next. This is it."

— Clark Strand in The Wooden Bowl

To Practice This Thought: Be present right now. Don't think about what's going to happen next.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Are you taking care of yourself?

This is important:

Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.

— Jennifer Louden in The Woman's Comfort Book

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

Another wonderful Rumi quote!

Rumi understands mystical love and ecstacy!

Hear from the heart wordless mysteries!
Understand what cannot be understood!
In humanity's stone-dark heart there burns a fire
That burns all veils to their root and foundation.
When the veils are burned away, the heart will understand completely...

Ancient Love will unfold ever-fresh forms
In the heart of the Spirit, in the core of the heart.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Practicing gratitude

We need many reminders:

Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art....It is a privilege to be alive in this time when we can choose to take part in the self-healing of our world.

-- Joanna Macy

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Preparing for death

The Meditation Society of Australia has this for its daily meditation today:

The best way to prepare for death is to spend every day of life as though it were the last. Think of the end of worldly honor, wealth and pleasure and ask yourself: And then? And then?

-- St. Philip Romolo Neri

It's the old "you can't take it with you" observation. A good one to remember!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Bill Miller

Getting to know your own mind

I want to show you an excerpt from an article called Mindfulness and Meditation in the Modern World:
As a moment of silence is filled with thoughts of distraction, desire for noise, company, or movement, you begin to discover how your mind works. The hum of a clock elicits a cycle of thoughts and feelings of movement, again you begin to understand how your mind works. Over time and practice, you may gain patience, first a tolerance, then an embrace of a deeper understanding of your self and your relationship to the world. The repetitive pattern of 'discovery' can arise in everything you do, and you may discover that introspection and reflection have created a space between experience and your reactions to them, a space in which you can choose your response. Practicing over and over while sitting, while walking, or doing daily activities are part of learning to be more mindful. Everyday objects can replace the breath in practice. For example, you can eat mindfully, observing the texture, smell, and taste of each bite of food, giving it your full attention. In this way, mindfulness can be integrated into daily life, when talking, walking, listening, or relating to others, the planet, or yourself.

Perhaps mindfulness, meditation, and other mind-body practices (such as yoga and tai chi) are increasing in popularity in the West because they let us experience internal investigation, without it being so verbal in nature. They provide us with an awareness of the chatter within and around us, they provide us with a gift of listening, they provide us with great insight into our very nature. It is a misperception to think that meditation means silencing the mind, silencing thoughts or feelings; it is a process of learning about the mind, full of the complexity it holds.
Mindfulness meditation is about really getting to know yourself. It's not about "making the mind go blank" or any such nonsense. It's about seeing what's really there and getting acquainted with our habitual reactions. Only then can we make different choices than we have habitually done and thereby improve our lives.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Whatever words or sounds you use

Eloquently expressed:

Everybody prays whether [you think] of it as praying or not. The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else's joy. Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to yourself but to something even more familiar than yourself and even more strange than the world.

-- Frederick Buechner

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Gratitude and acceptance

Today I have been particularly mindful of my gratitude for the excellent care I received while I was in the hosplital. I am especially grateful for Rebecca, my day-shift nurse while I was in the Intensive Care Unit. I have also prayed in a focused way for patience today because my recovery is turning out to be slower and more painful than I had bargained for. And so the following quote is particularly appropriate:

Gratitude is the intention to count-your-blessings every day, every minute, while avoiding, whenever possible, the belief that you need or deserve different circumstances.

— Timothy Miller in How To Want What You Have

May we all let go of our attachment for preferences and truly accept things as they are without judgment, without complaint.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Some research on kindness

Time Magazine has a series of short articles called "20 Ways to Get and Stay Happy". Here's one called "Do Something Nice for Someone Else":
Hold a door open for someone at the bank, give someone directions if they look lost or make a point to compliment three people on your way to work. Small or big, directed at friends or strangers, random acts of kindness make the person performing the kind act happier when they're grouped together, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, an experimental psychologist at UC Riverside. Doing a considerate thing for another person five times in one day made the doer happier than if they had spread out those five acts over one week. Lyubomirsky explains that because we all perform acts of kindness naturally, it seems to please us more when we're more conscious of it. There are social rewards, too, when people respond positively.
Interesting that people are happier when those acts of kindness are grouped together. Let's all form a conscious intention to try it!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Ellie Finlay

The purpose of meditation

In a way, meditation is its own purpose, really. But if we could say there is a specific purpose to meditation beyond itself, that purpose would be happiness:
We tend to seek happiness outside ourselves – where we are, what we possess, who we are with - but meditation helps us to realise that real, lasting happiness is an experience which flows from within and exists independently of our outer circumstances. As our meditation evolves, we become increasingly happier.
I found the above passage in a little article called "The gifts of meditation".

Thursday, September 13, 2007


It is so easy to take things for granted - indeed to take our own existence for granted. What would happen if we set our intention to appreciate the wonder of it all on a regular basis?

At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spirited life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder.

G. K. Chesterton in Chaucer

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cultivating real health

Today I found an article about alternative medicine that mentions meditation. It's called The Real Alternative Medicine and it's by Karen Kisslinger. Here's what she says is the real deal:

*Kale and other greens of the mustard family (this does not include spinach, chard and beets)
*Whole grains, used whole, possibly sprouted, not as flour except occasionally
*Natural Light
*Cooperation and Inclusiveness
*Clean Air and Water
*Moderate Exercise
*Gardening or otherwise growing things
*Good Sleep
*Prudent Avoidance of Toxic Purchases..
And here's what she specifically says about meditation and patience:
Meditation done regularly has many positive health benefits. The brain is proving to be more plastic and changeable than was once widely believed. Practicing meditation can really change our experience of everything for the positive. You DO have time because if you relax and meditate, you'll have more energy more consistently...and more time to work with. That's good medicine... Real Alternative #12.

In modern times, developing patience may be one of the most important practices of alternative medicine. It gives depth to all activities, slows us down and helps us be more present, makes us respect ourselves and others more, and goes beneath the surface and appearance of everything. Real Alternative #13
Fortunately, I love kale! Sadly, I don't prepare it nearly often enough. I think I'll make an effort to buy it more often!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Being still

I really like the understanding of "being still" as meaning that there's no compulsiveness:

A thoroughly good relationship with ourselves results in being still, which doesn't mean we don't run and jump and dance about. It means there's no compulsiveness. We don't overwork, overeat, oversmoke, overseduce. In short, we begin to stop causing harm.

— Pema Chödrön in When Things Fall Apart

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Letting go of results

Interestingly, this is one of the central messages of the Bhagavad Gita:

Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.

-- Thomas Merton

Sunday, September 09, 2007


As one can see when the eyes are open, so one can understand when the heart is open.

-- Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Bowl of Saki

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Practicing peace

I found this on the website Spirituality and Practice:
Christian peace activist John Dear met the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and came to know him personally while Dear was serving as director of the Fellowship for Reconciliation. He shares a touching personal anecdote about his own hyper-seriousness and then says of Nhat Hanh: "I wish I could be more like him, because in his peace, I find Christ and learn more about Christ. I also wish that more Catholic priests, nuns, Jesuits and activists could practice peace as seriously as he does." Dear closes with an account of a morning walking meditation led by Nhat Hanh and the monks. Two elks stood just 20 yards away and watched the silent procession go by, seeming to savor the intimations of peace coming from thousand-or-so participants.
Just for today, let's all practice peace. Perhaps you can say with Thich Nhat Hanh, "Present moment, wonderful moment!" as a mantra. Or simply affirm in a deep place within that it is not necessary to be in conflict.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Mr. Q
Photo by Sally Lloyd

A poem by Rumi

This is a poem by Rumi I just found. I love it for the first line alone:
Be with those who help your being.
Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath
comes cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.

Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

Yes, be with those who help your being. And, while you're at it, be someone who helps the "being" of others. This is a wonderful way to live.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thursday prayer blogging

May I be at peace,
May my heart remain open,
May I awaken to the light of my own true nature,
May I be healed,
May I be a source of healing for all beings.

May you be at peace,
May your heart remain open,
May you awaken to the light of your own true nature,
May you be healed,
May you be a source of healing for all beings.

May there be peace on earth,
May the hearts of all people be open to themselves and to each other,
May all people awaken to the light of their own true natures,
May all creation be blessed and be a blessing to all that is.

--Joan Borysenko, from Pocketful of Miracles

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Choosing one's words

It's been a while since I've shared a Henri Nouwen meditation with you. This morning, Linda Cole sent me the following:
Words are very important. When we say to someone: "You arean ugly, useless, despicable person," we might have ruined the possibility for a relationship with that person for life. Words can continue to do harm for many years.

It is so important to choose our words wisely. When we are boiling with anger and eager to throw bitter words at our opponents, it is better to remain silent. Words spoken in rage will make reconciliation very hard. Choosing life and not death, blessings and not curses often starts by choosing to remain silent or choosing carefully the words that open the way to healing.
This is a very important message. I know I have failed in following these principles more times than I'm happy remembering. If we all learned simply to keep silent in tense situations, we would be less likely to speak in ways that harm others.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tuesday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess
This is one of my favorites of Cynthia's pictures!

The gift of vulnerability

Clyde Glandon sent me this quote from the works of Pema Chödrön some time ago. I like it a lot - have experienced what Ani Pema is talking about. "Groundlessness" is what happens when we let go - whether we like it or not! It is that recognition that guarantees are an illusion. And, yes, it is a place of great potential.
This is where tenderness comes in. When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut door sand feel resentful or we can touch on that throbbing quality. There is definitely something tender and throbbing about groundlessness.
-- Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

Monday, September 03, 2007

Happiness and suffering

Okay. We all know this, really. Doesn't hurt to keep saying it again, though!
Happiness and suffering come from your own mind, not from outside. Your own mind is the cause of happiness; your own mind is the cause of suffering. To obtain happiness and pacify suffering, you have to work within your own mind.
-Lama Zopa Rinpoche, The Door To Satisfaction

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sheer devotion

I lost myself. Forgot myself.
I lay my face against the Beloved’s face.
Everything fell away and I left myself behind,
Abandoning my cares
Among the lilies, forgotten.

-- St. John of the Cross

Saturday, September 01, 2007

inherent goodness

You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge. But it can only emerge if something fundamental changes in your state of consciousness.

--From A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

If this is repeat, forgive me. I just came across it and can't remember whether I've already blogged it or not!

I really like it a lot. We could all do well to ponder it!

I just just now looked up Eckhart Tolle to give you a link and found this gem:
To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift you can offer to the universe.
Another motivation to be faithful to our meditative practice.