Thursday, January 31, 2008

Countering the culture of affluence

Here's an interesting observation and suggestion I found on the Spirituality and Practice website:
The economics of affluence demands that things that were special for us last year must now be taken for granted.

David Steindl-Rast in The Music of Silence

To Practice This Thought: Act counter to the culture of affluence. Be grateful for something you've had a long, long time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


You want to know something that's fun? Doing an image search on mandalas and exploring all the amazing images out there.

Then, with all that inspiration, you can create your own. It's a very soothing and energizing spiritual practice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Free" meditation

When I'm stuck waiting I use that time to meditate and I call if "free meditation"! Here's an article that encourages people to do just that:
Did you know the average American spends 42-60 minutes a day waiting? We wait for doctor's appointments or meetings. We wait on hold on the telephone and for computer programs to download. We wait in line at grocery stores and banks and we wait in traffic.

The Don't Wait - Meditate(TM) pledge invites people to convert waiting time into meditating time. If each and every one of us did this one, SIMPLE thing we would all have a regular meditation practice and experience the beneficial results!

People from all across the globe (U.S., Canada, England, Iran, Australia, Ethiopia, China, Bangladesh, Jamaica, India, France, Germany, Egypt and more ...) have signed the Don't Wait - Meditate(TM) pledge and agreed to convert their waiting time into meditating time. And holistic centers across the U.S. are even coming on board by converting their waiting rooms into meditating rooms!
You can read more about it right here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess


Fr. Clyde Glandon sent me the following:

When we look deeply into ourselves, we see both flowers and garbage. Each of us has anger, hatred, depression, racial discrimination, and many other kinds of garbage in us, but there is no need for us to be afraid. In the way that a gardener knows how to transform compost into flowers, we can learn the art of transforming anger, depression, and racial discrimination into love and understanding. This is the work of meditation.

-- Thich Nhat Hanh from Touching Peace

Sunday, January 27, 2008

True happiness

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.

-- Chinese proverb

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Being a complete person

There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.

Rumer Godden in A House with Four Rooms

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Compassion and unconditional love

If we make our goal to live a life of compassion and unconditional love, then the world will indeed become a garden where all kinds of flowers can bloom and grow.

-- Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Careful watching

This is a very intriguing thought:

To stay in one place and watch the seasons come and go is tantamount to constant travel; one is traveling with the earth.

- Marguerite Yourcenar

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Jeannie Dibble

Generous joy

Here's a simple quote about something known as mudita - or sympathetic joy.

One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others.

-- Archibald Rutledge

It is the opposite of schadenfreude which is pleasure over the misfortune of others - a great evil, indeed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday meditative picture blogging

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

The path of compassion

Sometimes we are so accustomed to living in the house of intolerance and blame that we no longer even question it. We believe that, because we carry ancient traditions of resistance and impatience within ourselves, they will be with us until we die. The path of compassion asks us to overturn our habits, beliefs, opinions, and prejudices, to understand that our hearts can be transformed in every moment we are willing to be still, receptive and aware.

--Christina Feldman

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.

Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.

Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Meditation and the nature of cats

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

I've just found a new meditation blog that you might like to explore. It's called Sayuri. I found this wonderful passage in the archives:

...I was living in a little hut, about six feet by seven feet. It had a canvas flap instead of a door. I was sitting on my bed meditating, and a cat wandered in and plopped down on my lap. I took the cat and tossed it out the door. Ten seconds later it was back in my lap. We got into a sort of dance, this cat and I. I would toss it out, and it would come back. I tossed it out because I was trying to meditate, to get enlightened. But the cat kept returning. I was getting more and more irritated, more and more annoyed with the persistence of the cat. Finally, after about a half-hour of this coming in and tossing out, I had to surrender. There was nothing else to do. There was no way to block off the door. I sat there, the cat came back in, and it got on my lap. But I did not do anything. I just let go. Thirty seconds later the cat got up and walked out. So you see, our teachers come in many forms.

--Joseph Goldstein

When I was studying meditation in Cape Town, the resident monk shared his life with two cats who had the run of the meditation hall. I learned early on not to react when either of them wanted to sit in my lap or rub up against me. No human can win a contest with a cat who's determined!! And, of course, now I have three of my own. Cats love meditation energy, by the way.

Thoughts that arise are just like cats. If we try to get rid of them, they persist. If we accept them without judgment, they may stick around for a while but eventually they will just wander on off.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

He's got a RIGHT to sing the blues!

Oh my! I found this wonderful quote on and I absolutely love it:

I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.

-- Duke Ellington

The meditative tradition teaches us that nothing is wasted and that includes any feelings that we may have. This observation about pouting is one really good example!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

All you really need to know

Very clear, very succinct:

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.

- Eckhart Tolle

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wednesday life form blogging

Photo by Jeannie Dibble

Slogans to live by

Here are two slogans that have come my way recently:
"Be yourself. Because everyone else is already taken!"

"You can't run and hide when the problem's inside."
I think you can see how these are connected.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cultivating a sense of unity


Probably one of the most important principles that I have learned from the 12-Step approach to spirituality is the discipline of looking for similarities rather than differences when I encounter other people. Instead of saying, "How is my story different from this person's story?" we are taught to say, "How is my story like this person's story?" It is a powerful spiritual practice. It is a way of cultivating empathy and also of learning from everyone we meet.

The Spirituality and Practice website recommends the following exercise:

Use the phrase "just like me" to signify your unity with others. Whenever you find yourself making an assessment of another person, whether you are saying something critical or something complimentary, right after you think or say it, add the statement "just like me." For example, "My partner is so stubborn, just like me." "My friend is so generous with her time, just like me." "She holds too many grudges, just like me." "He is so creative, just like me."
What an effective way of training ourselves to let go of judgment!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday meditative picture blogging

This is the Cat's Eye Nebula as seen by the Hubble Telescope.
Marilyn Bedford sent me the picture.

An enlightened airline

My goodness. Look at what I just found:
Flyers onboard Virgin Atlantic flights can now take advantage of a new inflight meditation facility.

As a result of the popularity of its inflight audio meditation service, the carrier has now launched an offering that utilises audio and visual effects to provide a 30-minute meditation experience for passengers.

The Total Relaxation facility could help to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system as a result of minimising anxiety and stress, the airline said.

"Long-haul flights can be challenging for some travellers, especially if sleep proves difficult," commented Richard Latham of, the provider of the service, adding: "By watching the Total Relaxation movie, passengers enter a state of pure bliss."

Virgin Atlantic's overall
inflight entertainment offering includes the use of individual seatback screens showing films and television programmes and providing a range of music options, as well as the Skymap service, which shows passengers exactly where the plane is and provides facts about the flight.
Mind you, the kind of meditation I recommend is not about blissing out. Still, this airline is trying to promote the spiritual well-being of passengers and I think it's a wonderful idea.

As an aside, the most enjoyable flight I ever took across the pond was on Virgin Atlantic. The flight attendants gave the impression that they themselves were just having a marvelous time and could not imagine wanting to be anywhere else.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

About mantra

Mantras are simple phrases that keep our heart, will, and mind attuned to that which is life-giving and eternal. They can be quietly spoken out loud during prayer time or repeated internally. Once they become established in our awareness, they can even become a steady background rhythm to all we do. They give us clarity, and they also allow for a quality of questioning that awakens dormant depths in us.

-- Patricia Carlson

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Reflection music

If you're all wound up, this will help you settle.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A place for meditation

One of the most important meditation principles is that of creating conditions conducive to practice. Here's some advice from the Meditation Society of Australia:
It is best to create a permanent meditation place. Your meditation place may be anything from a quiet room in the house, a table or a corner of your study desk, to even the shade of your favourite tree in the backyard. It doesn't matter where it is, just as long as you are able to find peace of mind there and access it regularly.

Ideally on a little table, place a cloth and other inspirational objects - such as a leaf from an amazing forest, a beautiful crystal, a crucifix or other sacred object, or a picture of a spiritual figure. If you cannot have a permanent meditation place, it is just as effective to create this space anew with every meditation. Just have the components (e.g. cloth, inspirational object, candle, incense) in a bundle, ready to go. Put simply, this place is an entrance to your heart - think of it as a shrine to your soul. Whatever inspires you spiritually is perfect.

I'm fortunate enough to have a small room in my house dedicated to meditation. But just a little corner will do. Of course, if you live in a city with a meditation center you can always go there to practice. The important thing is to find or create a place. Then make use of it!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

More on seeing clearly through mindfulness

Pink Tulip

I have picked flowers where I found them -- Have picked up sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood where there were sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood that I like. When I found the beautiful white bones in the desert I picked them up and took them home too.

I have used these things to say what is to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.

-- Georgia O'Keeffe

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Mindfulness makes this possible


This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

- Billy Collins

Do you see how profoundly meditative the experience of the poet is? What he describes is all about accepting things just as they are without judgment and with great appreciation. It is about noticing exactly what is in the now.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Meditation and work productivity

Today I came across an article about how some companies are encouraging employees to meditate. It's called "Meditation in the workplace". Here's part of what it says:

Contrary to popular opinion, mind training is about far more than simply sitting crossed-legged on a cushion. There are numerous techniques that can be used in a very direct and practical way for raising awareness and the quality of communication at work. A well-structured programme of mind training will always include the three key elements of vision, insight and action.

Vision relates to the way in which we view the world around us. Essentially this is our attitude to life, to work and our perception of others. Clearly, when addressed successfully, this has dramatic implications for the workplace.

Insight relates to the practice of meditation itself and the wisdom generated through such practice. This allows us to work with increased clarity in any given situation and to respond in a skilful and compassionate way.

Action relates very specifically to the way in which we implement and integrate our refined vision and new-found wisdom into our everyday work. It is four years since Business Week first heralded the arrival of meditation in the workplace. Early pioneers included Apple, Yahoo! and Google, along with more traditional organisations such as Deutsche Bank and McKinsey. Needless to say, many organisations have since followed suit.

This growing trend is perhaps not surprising given the extensive scientific research published by the likes of the National Institute of Health and Harvard Medical School. The findings consistently demonstrate a decrease in the production of chemicals associated with stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. At the same time they show an increased ability to relax, heightened levels of concentration and the alleviation of the many aches and pains that plague employees everywhere.
Individuals who meditate tend to experience higher levels of sustained happiness and wellbeing in their lives. The result of this is an increased level of job satisfaction, improved morale and a greater willingness to contribute and communicate with fellow employees.

It's really all about happiness. And I want to make it clear that I mean true happiness - not superficial gratification of desires. There is a difference, you know.

Monday, January 07, 2008



Sometimes what really matters is not what we do but how we do it:

The way in which we go to the grocery store may tell us everything about the way in which we live a life.

Rachel Naomi Remen

Why not experiment with observing our approach to very ordinary things? We will learn a lot about ourselves that way.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A wonderful take on failure

Be Yourself

Perfectionism is so very pernicious. It causes more suffering, I think, than any other personality attribute I can think of. Everyone knows, really, that nobody is perfect. And yet the perfectionist essentially says, "Unless I am perfect, I cannot be okay." And so, that person lives in perpetual discontent which often spirals down into true mistery. Take a look at another attitude:

At least if you're failing, you know you're alive; you're participating, engaged, learning, and therefore contributing to evolution. The Japanese have a phrase for this — they call it "the nobility of failure," implying, "Look at all the great things at which this person failed. She was really alive."

- Caroline W. Casey

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The importance of cultivating gratitude

Grounded in Gratitude

Sometimes it can be fun to look up a meditative principle on Wikpedia and see what it has to say. I did that with the word "gratitude" today. Here's an excerpt from the entry:
Research has also suggested that feelings of gratitude may be beneficial to subjective emotional well-being (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). For example, Watkins and colleagues (Watkins et al., 2003) had participants test a number of different gratitude exercises, such as thinking about a living person for whom they were grateful, writing about someone for whom they were grateful, and writing a letter to deliver to someone for whom they were grateful. Participants in the control condition were asked to describe their living room. Participant who engaged in a gratitude exercise showed increases in their experiences of positive emotion immediately after the exercise, and this effect was strongest for participants who were asked to think about a person for whom they were grateful. Participants who had grateful personalities to begin with showed the greatest benefit from these gratitude exercises. In people who are grateful in general, life events have little influence on experienced gratitude (McCullough, Tsang & Emmons, 2004).

Although gratitude is something that anyone can experience, some people seem to feel grateful more often than others. People who tend to experience gratitude more frequently than do others also tend to be happier, more helpful and forgiving, and less depressed than their less grateful counterparts (Kashdan, Uswatte, & Julian, 2006; McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002; Watkins, Woodward, Stone, & Kolts, 2003)
You can click through to the article and take a look at the footnotes if you want to know how to check out the research for yourself!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

Simon Burgess
Photo by Jeannie Dibble

Two poets appreciate silence

How interesting to find these two quotes today. The first is by Rumi:
This is always how it is
when I finish a poem.

A great silence overcomes me,
and I wonder why I ever thought
to use language.
And the second is by Rainer Maria Rilke:
Things aren't so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered.
It is truly important to become comfortable with silence. Those who have an aversion to silence miss so much.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Is meditation boring?

Artist: Jamie Winter

I came across an article on meditation in which the writer makes this marvelous remark:

Another remark I’ve often come across is “Meditation is boring.” Do you really find your own company boring? Because that’s what meditation is: being with yourself...
In another part of the article he says:

Meditation does not just calm you, it also blunts that painful edge of being in a competitive environment. You do not regard another as a competitor whom you must defeat; you affectionately regard his or her high standards as those you too can achieve. If you meditate for just 20 minutes daily, you will find a new keenness in your taste; your sense of humour too will be stronger where you laugh more, and more joyously; and your physical exercise sessions will feel like fun-and-games sessions. Oh yes, please do continue your cycling, walking or any form of exercise as also your sensible eating ways.
Good stuff.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wednesday life form blogging

Izzy Finlay guarding the house

Thinking about the effects of our work

It will do us all good to remember the principle of "right livelihood". Here's a simple story from the Desert Fathers of early Christian monasticism:
An old man said: I never wanted work that was useful to me but loss to my brother. For I have this expectation, that what helps my brother is fruitful for me.

— Desert Father in Desert Wisdom translated by Yushi Nomura

To Practice This Thought: Make sure that no aspect of your work contributes to the exploitation of another being.
It is very difficult to practice this principle 100% because there is so much exploitation in the world and we are all intricately connected. But we can work toward the ideal of not contributing to the exploitation of others.

I found the above on the Spirituality and Practice site.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Beginner's mind

What better day than New Year's Day to remember the importance of "beginner's mind."

In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts there are few.

- Shunryu Suzuki

If we consider ourselves to be experts, well then, we already know. There is no spaciousness within for change, for transformation.

While New Year's Day is wonderfully symbolic of a fresh start, let us remember that we can start our year over on any day of any season. And we can remember to have "beginners mind" at any moment throughout each day. Right now! That's all we need to remember. Right now!

Here's something else Shunryu Suzuki said:
Strictly speaking, there are no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity.
That's very encouraging. Very consoling. We are all mixtures - have always been mixtures and will most certainly continue to be mixtures throughout this life. So let us not become discouraged about not reaching enlightenment yet. But we can make enlightened choices whenever we wish.