Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Sitting still

This is the last day of April which is National Poetry Month so I want to bring you one more poem. This is about the value of learning to sit still and to face what we fear:


I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

— Wendell Berry in A Timbered Choir

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Knowing yourself

It's so important to know yourself. Here is a poem about knowing and valuing oneself that I first came across years ago and it impressed me very much. Then I just stumbled upon it again today:

Love after Love

The time will come when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Good News

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? Here's a poem by one of the great meditation masters of our day:

The Good News

They don't publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday cat blogging

Photo by Juan or Misty Diaz

Teaching meditation to children

I found an article today in an Australian newspaper entitled "Meditation brings spirit of calm to school life". Here's part of what it says:

CHILDREN as young as five should be taught the ancient spiritual practice of meditation alongside religious doctrine, the leader of its modern Christian revival says.

Meditation is one way to tap into children's innate sense of the divine and could lay the spiritual foundations for an enduring religious life that outlasts parent-organised Sunday worship, says Father Laurence Freeman.

For the past 20 years the World Movement for Christian Meditation, of which Father Freeman is founder, has been bringing the contemplative experience out of the monasteries into the wider community. Father Freeman calls his ecumenical movement a monastery without walls, and its growth has been particularly strong among Christians in Australia, where there are now more than 335 meditation groups, said to be the largest number per capita in the world.

Now this visiting British Benedictine monk wants to introduce it to children, who, he says, are particularly receptive to meditative practices....

Ernie Christie, the deputy director of Townsville's Catholic Education Office, said meditation was taught as prayer three times a week from kindergarten to year 12. Sessions are accompanied by gentle music and a candle.

"It's a skilled discipline, and the earlier we get them the more they see it is a natural part of their being. Anecdotally, the feedback has been nothing but positive. The kids are calmer, more open to doing school work, and in secondary school they are asking to do meditation sessions prior to exam time.

"The teachers are saying kids are not as aggressive after meditation. There has not been one negative comment from any of our parents across all our 31 schools, and that's remarkable."

I have a lot of respect for Laurence Freeman's work. And I'm glad to know he is now working with young children.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


In ongoing class we have been talking about the importance of listening. Here's something that caught my attention today:

To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.

-- Mark Nepo

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging


Widening our circle of compassion

Carolyn Loomis sent me the following today:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

--Albert Einstein

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The present moment

From The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts:
[O]ur experience is altogether momentary. From one point of view, each moment is so elusive and so brief that we cannot even think about it before it has gone. From another point of view, this moment is always here, since we know no other moment than the present moment. It is always dying, always becoming past more rapidly than imagination can conceive. Yet at the same time it is always being born, always new, emerging just as rapidly from that complete unknown we call the future. Thinking about it almost makes you breathless.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Shakespeare on compassion

Today is Shakespeare's birthday. It is also the anniversary of the day on which he died. Compassion, as you know, is the foundational principle of meditative practice. This is actually what Shakespeare meant by the word, "mercy". Take a look at this passage from Measure for Measure:
No ceremony that to great ones 'longs,
Not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword,
The marshal's truncheon, nor the judge's robe,
Become them with one half so good a grace
As mercy does.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day

It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.

-- Rachel Carson

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Day late cat blogging!

Lucy and Sally
Photo by Doug Brown

The value of close attention

It's so easy to go through the day on automatic pilot without paying real attention to what we experience and encounter. Here's a reminder not to do that:

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

--Henry Miller

Thursday, April 19, 2007


The following passage is from a book that has influenced me hugely over the years:
If we imagine that our mind is like the blue sky, and that across it pass thoughts as clouds, we can get a feel for that part of it which is other than our thoughts. The sky is always present; it contains the clouds and yet is not contained by them. So with our awareness. It is present and encompasses all our thoughts, feelings, and sensations; yet it is not the same as them. To recognize and acknowledge this awareness, with its spacious, peaceful quality, is to find a very useful resource within. We see that we need not identify with each thought just because it happens to occur. We can remain quiet and choose which thought we wish to attend to. And we can remain aware behind all these thoughts, in a state that offers an entirely new level of openness and insight.
From: How Can I Help; Stories and Reflections on Service by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Here's an observation by Jim Dreaver from an interview he gave for Allspirit:
People get distracted by the world. Making money, or just surviving, or succeeding in some career or project, or finding the right relationship, becomes all important, and enlightenment, awakening, takes second place. You can never find it that way. It has to be the central focus. Then, as Nisargadatta says, it is easy, or relatively so. After all, we always, usually, come upon that which we most want.

The good news is you can still have worldly success, the right relationship or whatever (I am totally a proponent of both), but you have to get your priorities in the right order. Then everything happens. It is just like Jesus taught, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and everything else shall be given to you." The "kingdom" is a metaphor for liberation, true inner freedom. One of my goals as a teacher and writer is to make the message so compelling and inspiring that people say "Yes, I want this. I want to be free. I want inner freedom to be the central focus of my life."
Put your liberation first and everything follows. That's the way it works --- truly!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo art by Cynthia Burgess


Here's something we really need to remember:

Remember, we are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we're so deeply interconnected with one another. Working on our own consciousness is the most important thing that we are doing at any moment, and being love is the supreme creative act.

~Ram Dass

This is why regular meditation is so very important. It trains us to consistently and continually work on our own consciousness.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The free concert

I got this beautiful email from my old friend, Walter Calahan, this morning. I share it with you:
Beautiful morning.

Rain is steady but not too cold. The stream is full but hasn't flooded its banks yet.

The deep gray of the sky makes the spring greens really pop.

For me what makes this a beautiful morning are the birds.

Since it's not super cold, and the rain isn't pouring, all the birds in the area out and about singing their songs.

I went out on the porch to get wood for the fireplace insert, and paused to listen. All the different songs blending and overlapping each other was like being in a concert. This is one of the best things of living here on the ranch 'cause I'm far from the human noise that so easily drowns out nature. All it takes is one car driving by to mask 90% of the singing. When in a more urban area, with the steady roar of human activity, 100% of what nature offers us is wiped out. No wonder people are angry all the time. They are missing the free concert to touch their soul.
I so agree, Walt. No wonder people are angry all the time.

Be creative. Find ways to escape the noise pollution. And be present to the natural beauty of the world.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

About attachment

Here is part of a poem by Vasant Lad:
Where there is attachment, there is no awareness.
Give complete attention to your attachment.
Apply your whole body, mind, and emotions to it.
A space will open
and that attachment will drop by itself
like a mature leaf drops to the ground.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Doug Brown


I've known for a long time that the Sanscrit word, "shanti" means peace. Today I found a more thorough explanation:
Let there be Peace.
Peace, beautiful Peace.
Peace within,
Peace without.
Peace in this world.
Peace for all beings.
Let us give this kind of peace to ourselves and to each other.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday life form blogging

World Class Sleeping Champion
Photo by Bill Miller


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

-- Philip K. Dick

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


For many years I have treasured a little card published by All Saints Convent that is inscribed with these words:
They drew a circle that shut me out;
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took them in.
And today I found something else about circles:

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let us abandon the false dualism of "in and out" thinking. When all is said and done, everything belongs. Yes, everything.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tuesday meditation picture blogging

Photo art by Cynthia Burgess

Learn to be responsive to change

Well, I didn't know he said this:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

-- Charles Darwin

It will do us all good to ponder this.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. In other words, if we're going to be more cheerful in the future, it's because of our aspiration and exertion to be cheerful in the present. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now.

-- Pema Chödrön

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The value of silence

This morning I came across a little article called "Transforming the world through silence". Here's an excerpt:
We live in an unhealthy society of noise. No matter where we turn in our daily lives, noise can be found in abundance. As a health-care worker, I fear that we often become immune to the noise around us, but it is taking its toll on our lives.

We now know from experts that the noise of our daily lives is harmful to our health and it is recognized as an environmental pollutant.

Silence, on the other hand, has many benefits, yet it seems rare and infrequent in our busy lives. Silence takes time, discipline and commitment.

We generally need to physically move to another place or space to be quiet and still for even a brief period of time.

Thomas Merton, the late Trappist monk and author, once said, "Silence is not a luxury, it is a necessity." It is unfortunate that we don't take daily advantage of solitude and silence.

Silence is much more than a noise-free environment. Silence is the foundation of balance and tranquility. It heals the heart, builds and sustains relationships and has the possibility of healing our broken and turbulent world.
Do what you can to give yourself the marvelous gift of silence. It will, indeed, transform you.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Sacred Activism Conference

Hello, folks. I want to remind you of the Sacred Activism Conference held in Tulsa next month. It's really a wonderful opportunity for us all. Lauren Artress, Robert Kennedy Jr., Carolyn Myss, Andrew Harvey and Michael Lerner among others will be speaking. I will be giving a meditation workshop, too! Please check out the following website and plan on attending!

A blessing for today

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.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thursday life form blogging

Photo by Hank Weaver

Meditation and the homeless

Do you think meditation is only for the affluent? Not so according to Rev. Rev. Jana Drakka. Take a look at part of an article called "Woman Offers Meditation To The Homeless":
San Francisco, USA -- If you are homeless in the Bay Area, there are a number of places you can turn to for shelter, clothing and food. But none is as unusual as a one-woman effort now underway in San Francisco. She's offering peace of mind.

The practice of meditation has been around for thousands of years. But what's happening in this room is unique. This is believed to be the first meditation project in the nation designed for those who are homeless or living on the edge.

Rev. Jana Drakka, Buddhist monk: "Our aim is to be at peace with whatever comes up."

You might think meditation is something only yuppies do, but one purpose of meditation is to reduce stress, and as anyone living on the streets will tell you, it's certainly stressful being homeless.
Steve Eastman believes meditation is helping him move forward despite being surrounded by poverty, violence, alcohol and drugs.

Steve Eastman, meditation client: "The more calm, the more centered, the more rational you are, the more likely it is that you can get some services or find some help."
Meditation is truly for everyone in every life circumstance.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Genuine love for another

Do you love someone only to find yourself trying to change that person? Take a look at this observation:

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

~Thomas Merton

It is very hard to be the one who is twisted to conform to another's image. And there is nothing more wonderful than to be loved for oneself.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo art by Cynthia Burgess

About affirmation

It's really important to affirm others:

Do not keep the alabaster box of your friendship sealed up until your friends are dead. Fill their lives with sweetness. Speak approving, cheering words while their ears can hear them, and while their hearts can be thrilled and made happier. The kind of things you mean to say when they are gone, say before they go.

~George W. Childs

What would happen if we decided to fill people's lives with sweetness? There would be so much more happiness in the world, wouldn't there?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Come to the end of words

Here's a passage from Staying Put by Scott Russell Sanders that I found very moving:
Nothing less than the undivided universe can be our true home. Yet how can one speak or even think about the whole of things? Language is of only modest help. Every sentence is a wispy net, capturing a few flecks of meaning. The sun shines without vocabulary. The salmon has no name for the urge that drives it upstream. The newborn groping for the nipple knows hunger long before it knows a single word. Even with an entire dictionary in one's head, one eventually comes to the end of words. Then what? Then drink deep like the baby, swim like the salmon, burn like any brief star.
Here we see an exaltation of silence. And that is a good thing.