Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Paul Rogers

Paul says the following:

Bugs caught either meditating or trying to make food appear in his bowl with magical spell

A great and glorious mystery

What would happen if we made a point, every single day, to remember this?
And the mystery is this - the more you go beyond yourself, the more you will become your true self; the more you lose yourself in loving and serving others, the more you will find yourself; the more you keep company with those who suffer, the more you will be healed.
-- The Bishop of London (in his address this morning for the 10th Anniversary Memorial Service for Diana, Princess of Wales.

Don't rely just on inspiration

I'm lying in bed now propped up against some pillows with my computer on my lap listening to Brahms (The 3rd Symphony to be precise) who said this:
Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.
It strikes me that there is a certain craftsmanship to meditation and that cultivating not only gives us greater benefits than not but that we also end up more motivation because of the sheer joy involved.

Many years ago, I went through a period in which my life seemed utterly shattered and I just didn't know how I would go on. Brahms saved me, really. I have never been able to hear (or perform) Brahms without spontaneously praying. So listening to this music today is a sweet and beautiful act of gratitude.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Some flowers that came yesterday

All the flowers and cards and emails and other messages that have been sent to me have caused me much joy. And to those who have simply quietly held me in your thought and prayers, you have brought me much joy as well. Thank you all so very much!

When "bad" things happen

I found this today while looking for something about the benefits, the redemptive aspects, of illness. I like this one:

Whenever evil befalls us, we ought to ask ourselves, after the first suffering, how we can turn it into good. So shall we take occasion, from one bitter root, to raise perhaps many flowers.

-- Leigh Hunt (1784 - 1859) English author & editor

I can happily say that many flowers are springing from the difficulties of the past week or so!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Finally home and on the mend

Clyde Glandon sent me the following quotes that I think are marvelous:
*The good road and the road of difficulties you have made me cross; and where they cross the place is holy.
--Black Elk

*We are all indelibly, unspeakably one.
-- Jonathan Daniels (Episcopal seminarian, murdered in Selma, Alabama, 1965)

*Our true self is made up of non-self elements.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Readers,

I know many of you have been worried about me. I'm sorry I wasn't able to let you know that I've been hospitalized for the past week. I went in Wednesday evening and had an emergency appendectomy on Thursday. That surgery went fine. It was the aftermath that was the problem. They couldn't get me to breathe on my own and my lungs filled with fluid so I had to be on life support for three days. Then when I finally could breathe, I was very, very weak. As I write I've just been home a couple of hours.

It has been an illuminating experience. I realize, once more and with great clarity, that we are not in control. I have a renewed appreciation of impermanence and, most of all, I am filled with gratitude - both for my life and the willingness to die, for the incredibly wonderful care I have received, for the good thoughts and prayers of so many who were concerned about me, for those who visited or wrote. Prayer and meditation have been my life line, of course. Mainly I prayed for everyone who is also suffering and I meditated on the transitoriness of life. You really appreciate transitoriness when you're completely helpless!

As soon as I feel better I'll be up and running again on the blogs.

Blessings to all,

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Now I adore my life"

Here's a poem worth pondering:

Once More, the Round

What's greater, Pebble or Pond?
What can be known? The Unknown.
My true self runs toward a Hill
More! O More! visible.

Now I adore my life
With the Bird, the abiding Leaf,
With the Fish, the questing Snail,
And the Eye altering All;
And I dance with William Blake
For love, for Love's sake;

And everything comes to One,
As we dance on, dance on, dance on.

~Theodore Roethke

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Serving one's vision

Carolyn Loomis sent me this today:

When I dare to be powerful -- to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

-- Audre Lorde

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Two from Gandhi

Oh, I like both of these:

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

--M.K. Gandhi

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Suffering and impermanence

Here's a very thoughtful reflection on suffering (or pain) and growth:

Suffering, I was beginning to think, was essential to a good life, and as inextricable from such a life as bliss. It's a great enhancer. It might last a minute, or a month, but eventually it subsides, and when it does, something else takes its place, and maybe that thing is a greater space. For happiness. Each time I encountered suffering, I believe that I grew, and further defined my capacities--not just my physical ones, but my interior ones as well, for contentment, friendship, or any other human experience.

-- Lance Armstong

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sheer beauty

Today as I was driving home for lunch I heard the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on the radio. I have loved it since I was a teenager. Here is a very nice performance by a youth orchestra:

Listen to it as a meditation. That is, listen just to listen - not to analyze or evaluate or to assign meaning. Just let the music be itself. You will be all the richer for it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Harriet on top of the hall tree
Photo by Ellie Finlay

There's something to be said for this!

Bow meditation

I was taught to do prostrations both as a preparation for sitting meditation and as a meditation in its own right. We were not bowing down to any anything exterior. Rather we were lowering our ego in deference to our own fundamentally enlightened state - our truest nature, if you will. Here's a short piece I found today on bow meditation:
Bowing is one of the most humble and spiritual acts a human can perform. It is an action that simultaneously signifies acceptance and a deep understanding of and feeling toward its object.

Ilchi Lee calls bow meditation "sincerity meditation," because we awaken to the nature of sincerity in the process of bowing. This meditation involves motions through which we become one with the universe.

Choose the number of bows you wish to perform. Bow meditation is also a good meridian exercise. During the meditation, your lower back will be strengthened and your lower abdomen will become warm.
I was also taught that this is a good purification meditation. It's also good for shifting very deeply ingrained habitual tendencies.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The quiet that's already there

I found this in The Times of India. Very true:

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It's a way of entering into the quiet that's already there - buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.

--Deepak Chopra

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Our Lady

In honor of St. Mary the Virgin whose feast day is today.
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

The words of two great teachers

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.

--Thomas Merton

The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness.

--H.H. the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lost in a daisy

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Cynthia also sent me this:

"One can get just as much exultation in losing oneself in a little thing as in a big thing. It is nice to think how one can be recklessly lost in a daisy!"

-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

This has been making the rounds by email. I have received it from several people.

Some quotes on emptiness

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself...
- early Christian hymn quoted by St. Paul in Philippians

Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9%
Of everything you think
And everything you do
Is for yourself
And there isn't one.
- Wei Wu Wei
(Open Secret)

The good seems to us as a nothingness, since there is no thing that is good. But this nothingness is not unreal. Compared with it, everything in existence is unreal.
- Simone Weil

A spiritual seeker went to visit a monk to ask for advice. The monk received him and, after the two chatted for a bit, served tea. He poured the seeker's cup full and then kept on pouring, causing it to overflow. The visitor watched this and finally exclaimed, "It is too full. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," said the monk, "you also are too full. How can I teach you until you first empty your cup?"
- traditional monastic story

It's the nothing that makes us something; it's what we miss that hits the mark.
- 7-Up jingle

It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.
- St. Paul

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Your best self"

Here's a comment about meditation that comes from a blog called "Peace of Mind":
Meditation is more than than just a manner to experience better in the moment. It is a transformational nerve pathway to your best self. Transformation is not a inactive activity. Even a caterpillar may look on the outside to be resting in its cocoon, but, in fact, there are many alterations beneath the surface to go a beautiful butterfly.
There's more that goes on in meditation than what the uninitiated observer sees.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Here's a great meditation

Yes, I've done this one a lot. I definitely recommend it:
Many people claim they don’t have time to meditate or that they do not have the ability to specify a specific time every day to devote to meditation. If you are one of these people, I would invite you to have your pets BE your meditation.

For example, many times when I am sitting at my computer in my home/office, my cat Vinnie will come up to me and meow and want attention. He is a wonderful meditation timer. Now, I stop what I’m doing, if only for a minute or so, and sit on the floor with him and BE with him.

My petting of my cat becomes my meditation.

Pets live fully in the moment, and you can join them in the NOW if you choose too! So next time you think you don’t have time to meditate. Sit down with your pet and BE with your pet. Make that your meditation. You will gain so much from it, and of course your pet will too!
Very true.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

What makes us happy?

Rhonda Steiner sent me the following video. Take a look:

Psychologist Dan Gilbert challenges the idea that we'll be miserable if we don't get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel real, enduring happiness, he says, even when things don't go as planned. He calls this kind of happiness "synthetic happiness," and he says it's "every bit as real and enduring as the kind of happiness you stumble upon when you get exactly what you were aiming for."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Interrupting habitual tendency

Someone once said, "If you keep on doing what you're doing, you'll get more of what you've got." How true. Take a look at this excerpt from today's meditation on DailyOM:
Whether our intention is to change ourselves or some element of the world around us, we cannot simply wish for transformation or hope that our lives will be altered through circumstance. If our patterns of thought and behavior remain unchanged, our lives will continue to unfold much as they have previously. Patterns in which fruitless efforts prevail can be overcome with self examination and courage. It is our bravery that allows us to question the choices we have made thus far and to channel our effort into innovation. Asking questions and making small adjustments to your thought processes and behaviors will help you discover what works, so you can leave that which does not work behind you.
"Small adjustments" are the important words here. Don't try to make dramatic changes all at once. That can be overwhelming. Just make little changes and be sure to give yourself credit for each one. That will make it much more likely that you will be able to maintain the change you start out making.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Spirituality and children

The Spirituality and Practice website has a list of eight ways to nuture the spirituality of children. Here are three of them:
• Give thanks before you eat, not just for the food, but also for everything that contributed to your having this meal--the earth, the rain, the sun, the farmer, the store, the cook, even the cooking equipment. Gratitude is an essential spiritual practice.

• When watching television or a video, choose a favorite or interesting character and “step into the story” to see how you would act in his or her place. This exercise uses
imagination and supports compassion for others and hospitality toward the media.

• Experiment with
silence by lying on the ground for 15 minutes without saying anything. Pay attention to what you are thinking about. Then notice the reports of your senses of sight and smell. This is the practice of wonder.
I think the third practice I've listed here - the one about silence - is the most important. Children are bombarded with noise pollution most of their day. I'm so grateful for the large periods of silence that I experienced as a child. I'm sure that at least partly accounts for why I have continued to have an interest in the spiritual life.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

5 meditation mistakes

I found an article this morning called "Top 5 Mistakes in Establishing a Daily Meditation Practice". Here they are:
1. Procrastinate Starting Your Daily Meditation Practice
2. Don’t Prepare Your Meditation Environment
3. Don’t Set a Definite Time for Your Daily Meditation
4. Think Meditation is Too Hard & Give-up
5. Look for Immediate Results

Each one of these mistakes is explained in the article so click through to read more.

Then the writer closes with the following:
So today, setup your environment, decide on a time, don’t worry about success or failure and JUST BEGIN YOUR DAILY MEDITATION PRACTICE. There is nothing in life more important that this.
Remember the Nike slogan: Just do it!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by my friend, Walter Calahan

A whole world of meaning

Clyde Glandon sent me this excerpt from the writings of Thomas Merton:
The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, or rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside. What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!

Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.
"...a whole world of meaning." Isn't that wonderful? If we can tear ourselves away from our radios and televisions and iPods, this kind of deep listening will be possible.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mindfulness and stress

Take a look at a little article called "Mindfulness program reduces stress" . Here's part of what it says:
William Mies of Arnold has a new way to reduce stress and it doesn't involve screaming or banging pots and pans.

Called mindfulness-based stress reduction, the program uses breathing, yoga and meditation to help participants learn to handle stress.
During the meetings, Mr. Mies encourages group members to discuss things that triggers stress in their lives. Often, the sessions get personal with participants revealing painful memories.

"Many people think they can get rid of the pain and suffering by getting out of it; you have to go through it," Mr. Mies said. "The way to joy and freedom is to go through it.

"Stress is not what happens to you; stress is the way we deal with what happens to us."
Meditation teaches us how to deal skillfully with what happens to us. Not instantly, of course. It takes time and practice. But the benefits are real.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Meditative reading

Here's a wonderful piece by one of my favorite poets, Wallace Stevens:

The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess


What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

-- Albert Pine

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ditch these myths

This afternoon I decided to clean off the coffee table in my office and I found a photocopy someone had given me of a Family Circle article on meditation. I thought I'd type out the content of one of the sidebars for you:
Ditch these myths:

Meditaion is religious. It can be part of some people's faith practice, but you don't have to buld an altar, dress in robes, burn incense or light candles to meditate.

You must sit in a special position. Although many people like to sit cross-legged or on a cushion with their knees lower than their hips, there's no need to if it's uncomfortable.

You have to make your mind blank. The human brain is always spewing out thoughts. But when you meditate you don't follow them or grab onto them; you clamly let them drift in, then out again.

You need a mantra. While some people choose to repeat a single syllable, word or phrase to themselves, it's just as effective to focus on your breath. [And I would add that other supports such as sound or a visualization can be used as well.]

You go into a trance. On the contrary, you become more focused and aware.
Don't be misled by inaccurate information about meditation!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo from the Free Gallery at exZOOberance


I found a little article today entitled "2 Minute Meditations". Here's a sample:
1. Go to the nearest window and look up at the sky. Simply gaze at the vastness of the heavens above us. No matter how far the eye gazes, the sky is still there. Visualize the task you have at hand held up against this immense sky. Realize how small it really is in comparison, and take a moment to reorganize your perspective.

2. Keep a photograph of your loved ones on your desk, in your wallet, or clipped to your sunvisor of your car. When caught in a situation where you feel you are about to lose your temper with another person, take a minute to glance at that photograph. Imagine the words you are about to say being said to someone you love dearly. Remember that no matter how rude or unintelligent the person you are dealing with may seem to you, they, too, have people who love them. Try to treat them as you would have those you love be treated.

3. If you do not have a photograph when you feel yourself losing your cool, take a moment to remember the last time you had a REALLY bad day - and how you treated others on that day. It is a basic psychological principle that we tend to attribute angry words we say based on our feelings at the time (which are always changing), but we tend to judge other's anger or foolishness as a basic trait of their character. Remember that every one of us is human, and that the person you are dealing with may be having a day that is even worse than yours. Instead of making it worse, try to make their day better by treating them with civility and respect. Chances are, doing this will make your day improve as well.
There are two more suggestions for brief meditations that will help us center during the day. Do click through and read the whole article!