Saturday, January 31, 2009

The difference between identity and events

There's a lot of encouragement here:

Always know in your heart that you are far bigger than anything that can happen to you.

-- Dan Zadra

Friday, January 30, 2009

RIP Izzy Finlay (1995 -2009)

Today, my wonderful Anatolian Shepherd (who was part of my life for almost thirteen years) died peacefully in my arms. She had just been diagnosed with bone cancer.

I made the decision many years ago that I would not let her deteriorate or go through any unnecessary pain when there was no hope of her getting better. So there was no inner struggle or conflict about knowing what needed to be done.

She was happy to the end - still guarding the house with vigor.

Izzy had an astonishing talent for friendship, was fiercely maternal and powerfully confident in her role as a guard dog - a job she took very seriously. She adored babies of any species: cat babies, dog babies, human babies.... it didn't matter. If she encountered a baby all she wanted to do was be with it and protect it and take care of it.

I want to say right here that I am grateful beyond expression to all the wonderful doctors and other staff members of Woodland Central Animal Hospital who loved her too, praised her lavishly and gave her the very best of care from the moment she was brought in as a rescue until she breathed her last.

Finally, to those who have been so supportive of me today through emails, phone calls, prayers and presence, thank you. I feel surrounded by care and compassion and sympathy in the very best sense of that word.

I'm going to rest for a while now.

With love to you all,

More on kindness

Most of us aren't completely "here" yet. But it is definitely worth cultivating:

Kindness is an inner desire that makes us want to do good things even if we do not get anything in return. It is the joy of our life to do them. When we do good things from this inner desire, there is kindness in everything we think, say, want and do.

- Emmanuel Swedenborg

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Heart meditation

Cynthia Burgess alerted this to me earlier today. It's from Daily Om:
It is not easy to have an open heart in a world that offers us a full plate of experiences. This life gives us much joy, love, and light, but it also shows us a fair amount of pain, sadness, and suffering. When our hearts are open, we take everything into ourselves, and we are deeply affected by what we see. We do not hold ourselves separate from the pain of others. In addition, our own personal disappointments may begin to take their toll. We may feel small, alone, and overwhelmed. Most of us may feel like we are not up to the task of living with our hearts open, and we might begin to close down, little by little, so that we can get through our days without having to feel too much.

One thing that can help us turn this situation around is an awareness of the power of empathy. To open our hearts to another person’s suffering is a revolutionary act that has energetic implications. Many experiments with meditation have proven that we can reach far beyond the boundaries of our selves and heal others when our hearts are open. Heart meditations awaken this power and heal the person meditating as well as anyone who is the focus of the meditation.

You may want to experiment with this the next time you see or hear something painful. Instead of shuttering your emotions, resolve to hold your feelings in your heart. Tap into the divine energy of universal love that resides in your heart. This energy makes you powerful, for it is your protection that will transmute the pain of others. Breathe deeply, and let yourself feel the pain of the situation, knowing that your heart is big and strong enough to hold it. As you breathe, visualize healing light emanating from your heart and touching all that are suffering. You will heal your heart in the process.
Learning this process and practicing it will enable us not to become overwhelmed by the pain of others. Fear of being overwhelmed is really what makes most people close down their hearts, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

Cynthia shot this photograph through her back window today.


Artist: August Macke

Hello dear readers,

Yesterday I was admitted to hospital with some symptoms consistent with heart attack in women. Fortunately, it seems to have been a false alarm but they insisted on keeping me overnight for a variety of tests.

Just wanted to let you know what's going on. Don't worry. Nothing appears to be dire. But it is a little wake up call and I'll get to find out what my cardiac status really is.

I'll get back to blogging soon!

Love to you all,

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging


Learning from adversity

I first came across the following quotation when I was quite young - early twenties, I think. It inspired and encouraged me then and it still does today:

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and a willingness to remain vulnerable.

-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A "World of Good"

The following is something I also posted over on "Does Not Wisdom Call?" but I thought I would share it with folks here too:

Did you know that eBay now has a department called that is just loaded with Fair Trade and other socially and ecologically responsible opportunities for purchases?

I really recommend that you go over there and explore. It's fun!

The above carving is from Thailand, is 12 inches in diameter, and is only $52.35 with free shipping. (Click through on the artist's name if you're interested.)

Now here's something else quite wonderful. If you access eBay through GoodShop and then type our name (St. John's Center for Spiritual Formation) in the charity line (be sure and hit "verify" if you haven't done this before), our Center receives a percentage of every purchase you make. There is a HUGE selection of other businesses you can access this way if you like to shop on line and that way you can help the Center without any cost to you whatsoever. You can also help the Center by using the GoodSearch search engine at least part of the time!

In these tough economic times, every little bit helps!

(Since registering with GoodSearch and GoodShop we have raised almost $1,000 through those organizations. You can read all about how they work right here.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An important question

It's a simple little poem. Not great verse. But a great realization:

The Real Good

"What is the real good?"
I ask in a musing mood.

"Order," said the law court;
"Knowledge," said the school;
"Truth," said the wise man;"
Pleasure," said the fool;
"Love," said the maiden;
"Beauty," said the page;
"Freedom," said the dreamer;
"Home," said the sage;
"Fame," said the soldier;
"Equity," said the seer.
Spake my heart fully sad:
"The answer is not here."

Then within my bosom,
Softly this I heard:
"Each heart holds the secret:
'Kindness' is the word."

- John Boyle O'Reilly

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

Stoat - British Wildlife Centre, Surrey, England

More on happiness

I can't remember if I've shared this one with you before or not but I really like it and think it is worth a repeat anyway!

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.

-- Denis Waitley

Today in class we talked a little bit about the pursuit of happiness not being merely a right but also a responsibility. Unhappy people tend to trigger unhappiness in others. Happy people are a delight to be around. So striving to be happy is not a selfish undertaking at all.

Of course, it must be remembered that we are talking about real happiness here - not mere gratification. And a lot of people confuse the two.

About the blog

Hello, Readers.

It is with considerable regret that I have decided to enable comment moderation on this blog for the time being.

While anyone is free to disagree with me or anyone else, I do believe that some ground rules are necessary - especially since this is a meditation blog.

Reasonable people of good will can and do disagree about most any issue a person could name. Thoughtful and compassionate people, however, do so politely, without profanity and without personal attacks. It is also important not to engage in "mind reading" -- that is, assuming what a person thinks and then attacking the person for it. All I'm asking for here is civility.

Blessings to all and thank you for understanding.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This day

This bus was in today's Inauguration Parade

Dear Readers,

Whatever your belief system may be, I hope we can all appreciate the ending of The Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction after Obama's inauguration today:

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around...
... when yellow will be mellow...
LOWERY: ... when the
red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.
Say Amen.
LOWERY: And Amen.
Oh, my. What a prayer! Amen, indeed!!!

And oh, Rosa Parks, now that you have gone to your reward, may you rest in peace and THANK YOU!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dr. King and meditative principles

A key component of what he is talking about here is the mind poison of delusion - that is, not being able to see things as they really are:

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was both a complex and a complicated man. He was not a saint - at least not in the way most people use that word. But he was a powerful leader and an extraordinary visionary and I am convinced that the very soul of this nation was rescued because of him.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inner peace

Today, Beliefnet has a series of affirmations about cultivating inner peace. Here's one of them:
Somewhere deep inside of us, there is a place that is quiet no matter what is going on. We can’t always reach this place, but it is there. In painful times or fearful times, it helps to know it is there and we can try to reach it. Sitting quietly, being with our breath, we can stop the chattering of our mind and find this place, even if it is only for a moment.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This is important about getting unstuck

Something from Dr Johnson I'd never come across before:

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must first be overcome.

-- Samuel Johnson

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Finding Truth

This is hard. And very, very true:

To a visitor who described himself as a seeker after Truth the Master said,

"If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else."

"I know. An overwhelming passion for it."

"No. An unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong."

-- Anthony de Mello

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

Even more about true seeing

The lesson which life constantly repeats is to 'look under your feet.' You are always nearer to the divineand the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars. Every place is the center of the world.

-- John Burroughs

I love the notion that every place is the center of the world. I think it is very true.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More on clear seeing

We work so hard to anticipate the next event or to analyze the most recent one that we forget this:

It’s not foresight or hindsight we need. We need sight, plain and simple. We need to see what is right in front of us.

~ Gordon Atkinson (AKA Real Live Preacher)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging

Good words

You know, I really do appreciate the Nazarene Church on the corner of my street because the messages on their marquee are almost never sectarian or judgmental in any way. Here's what's up today:
Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.
Good words. Good words indeed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The secret of seeing

This is why we need to be so diligent in learning to let go of the ego. With the ego in charge and in the way it's impossible to sail in this way:

I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.

-- Annie Dillard

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Achieving complete happiness

I know this is very, very hard for most of us to take on board because we have been thoroughly socialized to believe otherwise --- but take a look at this and don't write it off without pondering it:

We don't need more money, we don't need greater success or fame, we don't need the perfect body or even the perfect mate. Right now, at this very moment, we have a mind, which is all the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness.

-- Dalai Lama

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday cat blogging!

Thoughtfulness and generosity

Here's a Gandhi story I had not come across before. It is quite thought-provoking, actually:
As Gandhi stepped aboard a train one day, one of his shoes slipped off and landed on the track. He was unable to retrieve it as the train was moving. To the amazement of his companions, Gandhi calmly took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first. Asked by a fellow passenger why he did so, Gandhi smiled. "The poor man who finds the shoes lying on the track," he replied, "will now have a pair he can use."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Good people

Here is a Yiddish folk tale that is full of wisdom:
An old man sat outside the walls of a great city. When travelers approached, they would ask the old man, "What kind of people live in this city?" The old man would answer, "What kind of people live in the place where you came from?" If the travelers answered, "Only bad people live in the place where we came from," the old man would reply, "Continue on; you will find only bad people here."

But if the travelers answered, "Good people live in the place where we came from," then the old man would say, "Enter, for here too, you will find only good people."
What do we tend to see in people? What do we look for? What do we expect?

They are important questions.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Wednesday life form blogging

The essential, indispensable, vital approach

There is a wonderful Tibetan slogan that says, "Of the two witnesses, hold to the principle one." It is basically saying that people-pleasing is not going to help us ultimately --- that it's critical to stick to our own values and work on fulfilling our own aspirations. The following speaks to this:

It is rewarding to find someone you like, but it is essential to like yourself. It is quickening to recognize that someone is a good and decent human being, but it is indispensable to view yourself as acceptable. It is a delight to discover people who are worthy of respect and admiration and love, but it is vital to believe yourself deserving of these things.

For you cannot live in someone else. You cannot find yourself in someone else. You cannot be given a life by someone else. Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose.

To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.

-- Jo Coudert

Monday, January 05, 2009

Monday meditative picture blogging

Spiritual disappointment

Oh, my. This is really, really, really good:

Said a disappointed visitor, "Why has my stay here yielded no fruit?"

"Could it be because you lacked the courage to shake the tree?" said the Master benignly.

-- Anthony de Mello

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Just listen to yourself.

The wonderful meditation teacher, Pema Chödrön, has often remarked that we need to pay attention to the interior "tone of voice" we use when talking to ourselves. It's very important to be gentle and not harsh.

Well, I noticed today as I was driving home that the Nazarene church on the corner of my street has this on the marquee:
Whispering soaks in;
yelling bounces off.
How true. How very true. (Love it!)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The suffering caused by perfectionism

Sometimes I find myself truly pleading with people to let go of perfectionism. And often they agree with me in a surface sort of way but it's clear that underneath they still secretly believe that they should do everything they can to be as perfect as they can. Then inevitably the day comes when that is exposed for what it is - the most pernicious form of narcissistic self-worship going. And the suffering that results is truly great.

I think the following paragraph is full of insight. In fact, you could stop after the first two sentences and it will do you a world of good!

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

--Anne Lamott

Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday cat blogging!

The effects of meditation on the mind

My goodness. This is very lofty:

Profound meditation in solitude and silence frequently exalts the mind above its natural tone, fires the imagination, produces the most refined and sublime conceptions. The soul then tastes the purest and most refined delight, and almost loses the idea of existence in the intellectual pleasure it receives. The mind on every motion darts through space into eternity; and raised, in its free enjoyment of its powers by its own enthusiasm, strengthens itself in the habitude of contemplating the noblest subjects, and of adopting the most heroic pursuits.

-- Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann

As far as I'm concerned, just exalting "the mind above its natural tone" is enough!!

Thursday, January 01, 2009


We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential.

--Ellen Goodman

This sounds like a pretty good plan to me!