Let go of your worries and be completely clear-hearted,
like the face of a mirror that contains no images. 
~ Rumi
 

I am on a path to somewhere and the only thing I know is that I am here, now. But the moment that passed a blink ago seems to still be here and so do the events of a few days ago. The future, which hasn’t even happened yet, is also here…which is a great mystery. It feels as if the two things that are not here now, are having more impact on my thought process and physical body than what IS here now.

This is the stuff for “inquiry” for certain. But wait……certain? Is there such a thing?

I recently had two very different experiences. One was so subtle and opening….a glimpse at the mirror that contains no images. A breath of time that was an eternity. A hint of knowing that not knowing is all there is.

The other experience was like being hit by a Mack truck and dragged along for a bit of time. I still ache, mentally and physically.

Both are over and done with, but still “here.” One I want to erase and the other I want to escape into.

This moment right now I’m looking into a mirror that feels cracked and the images seem distorted.  I see myself but I am contorted and fragmented.

In a minute I’ll turn off the computer and sit and be with this. Be present with only the moment. I’ll try to “let go of my worries and be completely clear-hearted.”

stewie sleep

Prayer of Care

December 27, 2013

Having some time off for the holidays is providing the opportunity to go deeper into my yoga and meditation. I am in my 50’s so the yoga is very gentle, but none-the-less, it does provide the opportunity for some soft and sweet moments of clarity and “perfection”. Perfection is in quotes because I don’t know if there is such a thing, and yet I want to connote a special experience that is pure.

Over the years of my life I have tried to learn about Zen and Buddhism in general. Practice was sporadic at best. Not a great deal of intention or commitment on my part. In my life now, the intention for meditating has increased and the commitment has become stronger. My style of meditation does not fall under a label or a school. I have gone a couple of times to a Center in the area that focuses on Meditative Inquiry. It is a very personal, non-scripted place. There are no “teachers”. there is no ritual. There is no transmission. All there is is Presence. Mindfulness. Now. Being.

This morning I listened to a meditation by Tara Brach.

At the end of one of her meditations she suggested offering a Prayer of Care. First to ourselves, then to the greater community, the world. Not unlike the Metta Loving Kindness meditation.

The idea resonated with something deep inside of me. The first, totally instantaneous thought for saying a Prayer of Care for myself was “openness”. Openness that includes being open to the moment, the sensations, thoughts and experiences of Now. To just be.

When Tara offered the opportunity to send out at Prayer of Care to the world, the words that came to mind were gentleness and kindness. Not very original, but genuine. I started getting caught up in the “words” themselves, and had to struggle a bit to let it go. Sometimes words are not complete in expressing the feeling, but they’re what we’ve got!

In the bigger picture, and taking the definition of the words at face value, I really liked the idea of a Prayer of Care.

Care: mend, repair, cherish, treasure, assist, help, look after, protect….

Prayer: appeal, request, adjuration…

Something about using the words ‘prayer’ and ‘care’ together clicked. Care. Caring. Isn’t that something we “should” always do and hold dear to our hearts? If we don’t care, what’s left?

So, I sent my Prayer for Care to myself and out into the world.

the_hand_of_buddha

(http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/04/welcome-all/the-hand-of-buddha/)

Grateful

December 26, 2013

From the Daily Good, dailygood.org

Always be…grateful.

 

http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=4460

 

Blessings.

 

It Will Pass

December 14, 2013

 
A student went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted,
or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”
“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher.
“My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!’
“It will pass,”
the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
 
 

I am not a student of Zen, but I find these short stories provocative.

We could and do put many things in a file subconsciously labeled “It will pass.” Often it may be more of a wish and hope than a fact. And we tend to carry the file around with us….never letting it go. We do not let it pass.

I teach young children and I often find myself offering snippets of advice to parents. A common thread is the joy or frustration a parent feels when their young child has “made a change in their routine.” No matter what, it is a cause for minor disruption as the family has to readjust their own schedules. Sometimes the family perceives the change as “good”, other times “difficult.”

I usually find myself offering, “Wait a bit, and it will change again.”

It will pass. Don’t hold on to it.

Our mind writes dramatic dialogue and gets stuck in one scene. The whole story is: as soon as the scene is over, it’s over. Now we are here. Just here.

It will change.

buddha dandelion

Just be here. Now.

Be with your meditation, your friend, your job, your life in the moment, for the moment. It is what it is right now. And it will pass.

 

Settling Into Yourself

October 26, 2013

You know the feeling: the way you feel when you sit down in your favorite chair. Or, the way you feel as your head rests on your pillow in bed and you pull the blankets up and close your eyes. Settled. Comfortable. Secure.

bed

What about settling into ourselves?

Today my yoga teacher said, “Settle into yourself.” I thought, “What a beautiful, tender thought,”  Then I thought, “How do I do that?”

So now here I am trying to figure it out. If I think about a workday morning and all that happens from the moment I open my eyes, get out of bed and begin the day, there is really nothing at all about settling into myself. I am settling into the day and the morning routines, but really not into me.

At work, it’s a similar pattern. First there are all the routine things to do, then the checking in with people and then the doing of being a preschool teacher.

And the day continues on in much the same way. I give no thought to “me”. I get caught in routines. I get wrapped up in feeling rushed, frustrated, hungry, tired, or grumpy. I do things automatically, like driving to work without really thinking about it.  I never settle into me. I settle into “me in the world with rolls to play and jobs to do”, but not  into the essence of who I am. My true self.

Why not? Do you?

What would settling into myself even look like or feel like? Checking in with how my body feels? With what my mind is thinking? With lists of things to do today?

How do I settle into myself like I settle into my bed at night? How do I experience the relief of being me? Of feeling comforted by me? Of feeling safe and secure in me? This is different from taking for granted or believing that I do feel these these things because I should, and therefore, somehow, do.

feather

I had a moment during meditation this morning where I experienced something that was perhaps settling into myself.  It was a feeling of being aware of my body as a feather: light and all most imperceptible. Very little physical sensation. My mind was quiet, very few, tiny thoughts of nothing in particular. A muffled sense of my surroundings that was really only insignificant. I was aware from deep inside that perhaps I had just then settled into myself. When “everything” was taken away or absent, there was only a sense of being that was fresh and light and an awareness that placed no value, judgement, expectation on myself.

Perhaps for a moment I did settle into myself……

A Walk

October 20, 2013

I love fall. Hands down, it is my favorite season. There is something about the colors, the light, the wind, the smell of the air, the sounds…..all of it.

The other day I took a walk. I tried so very hard to be present with each step. To hear the sounds of the leaves crunching. To smell the decay of the fallen apples. To see what was scurrying in the under brush. To see the bird that was singing. It was so difficult.

And yet, as I passed others enjoying a walk, I realized I was probably more aware of the moment than they were. So many were talking on their cells phones, or listening to music with headphones. Runners were focused on running. Dog walkers were focused on dogs.

It became apparent that no one noticed there were at least 4 different kinds of nuts crunching underfoot. Was anyone noticing the herds of chipmunks running here and there with their cheeks full of the bounty of fallen nuts?

pinecone

(photo by me)

I heard the Red Tailed Hawks before I saw them. A pair. They lighted on a branch and seemed to have a conversation. Someone came walking by and I made an effort to be obviously looking at something beautiful…..they did not look up to see what I was watching.

The trail runs along a creek. I noticed a bobbing branch that somehow looked out of place. I stopped and realized it was a Blue Heron fishing for yummies. Again I stopped and watched. Again someone came by, oblivious to me and the display of beauty just in front of me.

heron3

(Photo by me)

Today I walked the same path. I passed a lady coming out while I was on my way in. She looked at me and smiled. Later we caught up with each other coming back. I said “Hello again”. It was like I had opened a door. “Have you noticed how beautiful the sumac is?” she inquired. Yes, I had. “And the chipmunks are loving the hickory nuts!” YES!!! Finally she said, “Sometimes I just stand and watch the Blue Heron in the creek. He is so majestic.” I nodded. She said “Enjoy your walk.” I said “Thank-you”. She looked at me and smiled. “Thank you for seeing all these things.”, I added. She smiled again and said “Thank you for seeing them too.”

What do we miss every day?

What do you see? Hear? Feel? Experience?

 

Being Where You Are

October 4, 2013

Still floating along after a few days in silent retreat. Processing. Thinking. Realizing I took a fork in the road slightly divergent from where I thought I was going. Now I find myself kind of recalculating like a GPS system. Where exactly am I going anyhow?

winter blue(photograph by me.)

I am going to where I am right now.

I scrolled through lots of search results: Toni Packer, Krishnamurti, meditative inquiry, mantras, Buddhism, ………I found myself reading less and less thoroughly. The words were getting muddled. My mind was doing some self talk: “yeah…I know that.”, “OK, I get that.”, “How am I supposed to do THAT?”.

I tried to translate the information. Tried to have it make sense.

And then I stopped. Just stopped. There weren’t any answers on the internet. Certainly none on Pinterest!! LOL!! Reading some books helped to clarify a few things.

Ultimately, it, whatever “it” is, has to come from me, by me, for me. And what I am trying to understand, to achieve, is how to simply be with this moment. This moment. This moment. Only this moment.

Letting the moment that just ended, pass. Allowing the moment I am anticipating ahead not be rushed into existence. How to balance that with the “life I lead.” The one with a job, children, a husband, balancing, responsibility, being tired, being cranky, being happy……

So, this subtle little fork in the road that I am now traveling upon, where will it take me? I don’t know.  Right now it has taken me to right here. That’s a good place to be.

I am aware there was something I had to do a few minutes ago, and that in another moment I will have to get up to attend to something else. I’m trying to let that past moment be done, and not give too much importance to the moment coming up. My joy now becomes to be aware of every moment of attending to that “thing.” To hopefully be able to just do it with no labeling or words.

I’m picking up this edit a few days later and wanted to quote something from Toni Packer’s book The Wonder of Presence. It’s about being present with the moment, not caught up in the drama of words, emotions, our “stories”, but being aware:

“…We have thought like that for eons and behave accordingly, but at this moment can there be just the sound of the swaying tress and the rustling leaves and fresh air from the open window on the skin? It’s not happening to anyone. It is simply present for all of us, isn’t it?”

“Why bother?” you may ask. Or perhaps you’re thinking: “I don’t get what she’s talking about.”. Or maybe “That’s just a bunch of baloney.”

Well, I’ve come to a point in my life where I want to just be in THIS moment. I’ve had a full life with a wonderful husband, amazing kids and a job I love. I’ve traveled the world. I’ve laughed and experienced great joy. I have cried and felt paralyzing pain. I’ve had the proverbial broken heart. And I’ve had the gift of a wonderful life companion. I have a house, a car, a boat, cats….bills, a bank account…..I “have” a lot.

Now, I want to experience the ‘what is’ of every moment. I want to move beyond the words that create the “story” of what I am living through. I don’t want to live “through”. I want to live in. This moment. THIS moment. I want to let go of the words that are attached to drama, desire, disappointment, anticipation, fear, doubt, anger, happiness, unhappiness, the judging, the labeling, the comparing. I don’t want to live a “story” anymore.

There are memories of things I don’t want to forget, which seems contrary to being present in this moment. I just don’t want the memories to become baggage attached this moment. I don’t want the memories to filter or influence the present.  I want the moment to be as it is. By itself.

I want to be present to this moment. This moment. This moment.

Still confused? So am I a little bit.  Toni Packer talks about this is many of her books. I have only just begun to discover her and to explore her writings. But at this moment in my life her words are intriguing. I am muddling through, trying to figure out what her words mean. Especially when she says “they are just words.”!!!

I know this isn’t a road that everyone wants to travel. I can’t say I wanted to either. But I came to that fork and I went slightly off course from I thought was the correct way. The real way. The important way. It’s just a way. There will probably be another choice at some point, another fork. But for now, I put one foot in front of the other and try to just be present with that one step.

This is a very personal entry. I know not everyone will “get” it. As alluded to in the title, this is my form of processing a retreat at Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry.

You can read about the Center and founder, Toni Packer, here: http://springwatercenter.org/ It is helpful to read a little here to understand the origins of Springwater and who Toni was.

Springwater Center is nestled in the rolling hills of the Genesee Valley in New York state. It is located on 200 acres of beautiful land that acts like a buffer not only from the active, busy world of our life, but from the noise…..even internal noise. The retreat is a silent one. The majority of the day is spent in silence and focused on awareness…being present. There is often a short “talk” in the morning and an hour group meeting where talking is permitted. The rest of the day is silent. In the spirit of being aware and present in the moment, there is no writing, reading, listening to music, computing, drawing or painting except in the privacy of your own room. Even that possibility to gently challenged. “What would it be like for you if you chose not to do those things?”

springwater building

There is a short work time in the morning to prepare food for the day, help with basic housekeeping jobs, but that’s it. Then there is the silence. There are “sitting” times, meditation, if you want to participate. There is no “teaching” of how to sit or meditate.

This was my second visit to Springwater. On my first visit I felt a little lost, struggled a little to figure out what the place was about.

This visit was profoundly different.  And here is where this post may become murky for others. This is a reflection of MY experience. Something that happened to me, inside of me, through me, with me.

During one of the talks, Richard Witteman  (http://springwatercenter.org/teachers/witteman/) said two things that literally sprang into my brain and attached themselves there. The first was a quote by Toni: “The less you know, the more fresh things become.” Ahhhhhh!!!

The second item affected me in a very profound way, and I know out of context it will sound unusual, maybe upsetting, or even confusing……but for me it was as if a door opened. I became so full of the words I don’t know if this was a quote from Toni, or from Richard, or from someone else. And it doesn’t matter. It was:

“Not knowing is okay.”

Nothing about “what” we don’t know, but that NOT knowing is okay. It’s ok.

“Knowing” is something that is so important for so many of us. Knowing tomorrow will come. Knowing the alarm will go off so we can get up in the morning. Knowing we have our trip planned, reservations made. Knowing the doctor said we are OK. Knowing our parents loved us. Knowing we have money or a car that works. Knowing we have friends. Knowing we are liked or respected by others. Knowing we can have fun. Knowing what’s coming next. Knowing we experience pain. Knowing we experience joy. Knowing provides comfort, certainty. Knowing takes away the “what ifs”. Knowing. Knowing, knowing……knowing……

But now, NOT KNOWING IS OKAY. I felt a tether break away. I felt euphoric. I floated off my chair. Fear, anxiety, control, worry, anticipation, doubt, confusion….it all melted.

I know that sounds crazy, but I am going to let that story rest now.

The next experience came forth as a result of different thoughts, ideas, observations coming together.

Each day as I sat for meditation I looked out of four tall windows. Usually I had my eyes closed and the view was irrelevant. But when my eyes were open I was aware of the view. The grass, the trees, the clouds, the deer, the wind. I noticed how the windows framed my view. The windows highlighted beautiful aspects of the outdoors. But the windows, and the walls that held them, also obstructed the whole view.  There were parts of the scene I was not aware of. I became mindful that when the windows were open I could sense more of the outdoors…I could hear the bird song more clearly. I could smell the freshness of the air. I could feel the coolness of the air or the light touch of the wind.

The sunlight would fall across the floor creating shadows…shadows of real things that no longer held their real shapes or image. The images were blurred or stretched. The image created hinted at what was there, but it was softer, less defined.

At night the windows turned dark. The beautiful lights hanging from the ceiling glowed softly. They were reflected in the window. But the reflection was distorted. For every one actual light, there were three reflected in the window.

I got to thinking….inside anywhere, looking out through any window I experience a sense of comfort and security. I know that here inside I am sheltered from the weather. I know what the things around me are for: a couch for sitting on, a stove to cook on, a bed were I can sleep. I know what is in the next room. I know where things are. I know.

I can look out the window and “see”. But the view is incomplete. The view is chopped up. Parts of the outside are hidden from view. The sensation of the aliveness of the outside is filtered through the window, the screen. Sometimes something is reflected, but even the reflection is a distortion.

For me this was a moment of awareness, of being present. I knew that until I opened the (metaphoric) door next to the window (in my life), and stepped OUT (into reality?) I could never experience life fully. I would always be living a life looking out and not a life EXPERIENCING fully. And in stepping out of the door I had to trust that it is okay to not know what is around the bend in the path, over the hill, across the stream, up in the sky, under the water. It was and had to be OK not to know. Because, in the false comfort of believing we “know”, we “believe” we have control. And we don’t really. We have no  more control over the events of our day, our emotional responses to others, or other people reactions to us, than we do to controlling the weather. We may think we do, but we don’t. That is scary. And freeing.

Finally, Richard also read something attributed to Buddha: “Seeking but not finding the house builder, I traveled through the round of countless births. Oh, painful is birth ever and again! House builder you have now been seen. You shall not build the house again. Your rafters have been broken down; your ridge-pole is demolished too. My mind has now attained the unformed nibbana and reached the end of every kind of craving.” (Dh. 153-54.)

I felt as if my (limited!) “understanding” and being able to open the door and walk out was my “house” being broken down…the rafters falling. Oh, I know this only the beginning of some sort of journey and I will most likely get lost along the way. Hopefully though I will be okay with the not knowing what comes next.

Thank you for reading this experience of mine. I’d love to hear from you.

The Goodness of The Day

June 25, 2013

Sunsets grant us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the movement of the day. They remind us to take time to be still and quiet as the passage is made from day to night. To experience gratitude for the goodness of the day.

“When the sun is setting, leave whatever you are doing and watch it.” 
-Mehmet Murat ildan

sunset2

(photo by me, Oregon coast. Sunset)

In our daily lives we often participate in many things that might not fall under the category of “good”, or “pleasant”, and too often it so easy for us to hang on to those things as if THEY were our life threads, our defining moments. They are not.

At the end of the day the sunset comes. It has no judgement on our day. Yet the sunset can give us that moment to reflect on all the wonders and beauty in the world, and in people, that we may not have noticed during the day. The sunset reminds us of things that are greater than our evaluation of how we did during day. Greater than our evaluations of how we think others did during that day.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
– Rabindranath Tagore

The raging colors splattered across the horizon, the muted sorbet wisps translucent against the day blue sky: the sunset. It reminds us to give pause and notice the beauty and harmony in the natural world. To reflect on the goodness of the day and to be still and fully present in the beauty of the moment. THIS moment. A time of transition from day to night. Where there is nothing but the sunset. Events , struggles, pain, sorrow, laughter, joys of the day are gone…behind us. The next moment has not yet come. This is what is. It is natural. Ever changing. Impermanent. Beautiful. Miraculous. Inspiring. Healing. Breathtaking.  This is the cessation of the things that maybe are not so important. This is the interlude between misunderstanding and truth. This is the respite that says “Stop. Be mindful of the goodness of this day as it passes. Be present to this stillness and let the silence of the stillness echo throughout your body.”

Only For Today

May 24, 2013

I always look for new ideas on how to be more mindful of the present moment. Sometimes it is so very difficult to do that. There are always thoughts jumping ahead to what is scheduled next, what might happen, what will never happen.

Today I ran across a little article that was directed instead on focusing on the day today. As I thought about it, I felt that really that is what I try to do. I keep the day as a whole in my head, and as I wind my way through the hours and events, I then focus on those specific things as they are happening.

The Ten Simple Rules for Daily Living came from the website Greatfulness.org

DSCN0499

(photograph by me: Oregon coast)

Here are the thoughts, in my words:

* Only for today, I will live the day being positive and not try to solve the problems in my life in one day.

* Only for today, I will be mindful of my appearance. I will dress as if my appearance is an expression of my thoughts and values. I will not raise my voice. I will be kind and compassionate to others. I will not criticize others. I will not judge others.  I will only work on improving myself.

* Only for today, I will remind myself that I have within me the capacity to be happy. To be content.

* Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances around me without requiring that all circumstance adapt to my own wishes.

* Only for today, I will commit 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering to feed my thirst for learning, knowledge and understanding.

* Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

* Only for today,  I will make a plan for myself. I might not follow it exactly, but I will do my best. I will be mindful of hastiness and indecision.

* Only for today,  I will remind myself that today is a gift.

* Only for today,  I will have no fears. Within the hours of the day I will focus on each moment.  In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness and compassion.