January 2, 2014
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
September 25, 2013
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?”
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.
May 12, 2013
Some days the world is so full of pain and sorrow I just wish there was some way to have it all righted, and have everything “fixed” and made OK. It is overwhelming.
Staying grounded and keeping things in perspective means we have to understand and accept we cannot fix the entire world. We have to find balance and reach our hand out to that which is within our reach, and slowly, with love and care, mend the broken and wounded parts that are within our grasp.
Sometimes it means starting with ourselves: making sure we are whole and healthy. Many of us resist taking care of ourselves if we perceive we can spend our energy, resources, time on someone else. Truly, for us to help others we have to be healthy and strong. Sometimes we might not even know what we need in order to take care of ourselves.
Sometimes fixing things means we have to let go. Letting go in all kinds of ways. Letting be. Leaving alone. Walking away.
Or maybe we need to sit with something. Be present and simply experience without doing or changing. And then letting it go.
Or, maybe we need to take a first step that might be hard for us….to speak up or out, to stand up.
I listen to the news sometimes and cringe. I hear parents screaming at their kids in grocery store and cringe. I listen to college kids speak jokingly in ways that are really mean, callous and misogynistic and cringe. I listen to lyrics of songs that are violent, that demean women and others and I cringe. There is no way I can change all those things.
I read of pollution. I read of deforestation. I read of rising sea levels and melting ice fields. I can’t prevent those things from happening.
My arms do not reach that far.
But, there are things within of my own grasp. My choices are within reach. My words and actions are within reach. My voice is within reach.
I am within my own reach. I can start with myself.
I can work towards reaching out, and stretching a little more to take a step towards mending what is within my reach. And with patience, someone else might try too. And the reach will be a little longer. A little more mending will happen.
Maybe we can reach out together.
(hand mandala from google images)
January 26, 2013
“Remember. Be Here Now”
Ram DassJust BE where you are now with no judgement or labeling. No resentment or anxiety. Let all that stuff go. Just take a breath and be. Let everything stop for a moment. Close your eyes. Count your breaths. If you’re walking, let your feet kiss the earth. Whatever you are doing, just do IT. Just be with it. Just look at your feet. Be where they are. Be here now.
January 5, 2013
Do you know what a Buddha Board is? Or a Zen Board? It’s a magical board where you use a soft calligraphy brush dipped in water to create a picture, a design, or to write a word. Then as you sit back and watch, it slowly disappears, dissolves and is gone. It is brief, fleeting. Impermanent.
What if we could make our crazy, busy, over thinking minds like a Buddha Board……noticing what we have created in our mind, or are experiencing with our emotions, and then watch it fade away and be gone? Anxiety, worry, fear, doubt, apprehension anger, sorrow, anticipation, even joy and happiness. What if all these things were there, and then not there?
For me the idea of not holding on to the experience of happiness, joy, satisfaction, contentment, etc., is hard to “want”. At the same time, I understand these are a type of false happiness because they do not last….they fade even if I try to hold on to them. They are fleeting. They cause me to have desires for more of the same, or feel sad when they are replaced by another emotion, or to long for the past, or be anxious about whether the future will hold more of the same good feelings or not, to wish or hope for something more or different……what a circle.
Another analogy is your mind being like the sky with clouds drifting by…changing and disappearing. Thoughts and emotions are like that. When we watch clouds for real in the sky we do it with awe and humor and then, when the cloud has changed into something else or floated away, we do not mourn the “loss” but think: “That was fun.”, or “That was beautiful.” Often we do not give it another thought. No longing for that cloud to return. It was, and now it is gone. Yet we experienced it, appreciated it. It brought some fun into our lives….made us smile and feel good.
Our minds are so jam packed full of stuff: thoughts, ideas, emotions, self doubt…..Sometimes it is hard to just be settled and present with where we are now. To be grateful for life and health. To smile and make eye contact with someone. To say “thank-you”. To be present for ourselves and someone else.
Everywhere we go there is artificial noise, and visual overload. All around us are images and suggestions of what will make us feel happy, or powerful, or important, or satisfied, or beautiful, or even scared or worried.
But will they really? In a lasting, meaningful way?
I’ve come to a time in my life where I WANT my mind to be like a Buddha Board. I want to be able to watch the clouds in my mind drift by, change shape and disappear. I want to be able to be in THIS moment, free from longing for the past or being anxious for the future. One is gone forever, and the other may not even come.
October 21, 2012
I came across a guide for preparing for the day. It is based on the chakras, but I think that even if you do not have interest in chakra work, the general idea is one worth considering.
It starts by reminding us that each day is a new beginning. The task for today is to learn the practice of consciously entering your body and your day. Begin by focusing attention on your entire day from morning to evening.
Review your plans for today:
- Think about where you need to be and with whom you need to be.
- Do you feel stressful about this day or do you feel comfortable?
- Do you feel prepared for today’s events?
- Are you projecting fears and expectations into this day?
As you gather yourself and plan for the day, add these thoughts to the process:
- Identify your fears for today and pull them into your consciousness.
- Acknowledge the strength of the energetic circuitry connecting you to all life.
- Visualize that strength replacing your fears for today.
- See yourself standing tall.
- Work: What am I going to do today?
- Creativity: What am I going to create today?
- Focus on your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself today:
- Am I feeling strong? Frightened?
- Do I need someone’s approval today?
- Will I need to be courageous?
- Remind yourself of your boundaries, dignity, inherent honor, and integrity.
- Make an internal promise in terms of how you want to live your life today.
- Reaffirm to yourself that you want to look at today through your heart and not through your fears; that you want to feel gratitude for events that do or don’t happen as they should.
- Keep your attention on the right way to walk into this day, with compassion and patience.
- Define your needs and desires for today and let go of doing the same for others.
- Envision choices that result in positive attitudes and feelings about yourself.
- Vow to express yourself honestly.
- Prepare your mind to enter the day feeling good and not generating fear or doubt.
- For today, release old grudges, beliefs, attitudes and patterns that no longer serve you.
- Remember that everything in your life is there for a reason and to teach you something about yourself and others.
- Pull your attention up and out, and hold the idea ‘live in present time.’
- Let go of the past and do not anticipate the future.
- Find moments of gratitude throughout the day.
At the end of the day, pause for a quiet time to reflect on the day, and put it to bed also.
- Think about how you feel about yourself and your day now that it is over.
- Reflect on the million things that happened to you today and be appreciative of them all.
- Remember that everything has the potential to be a valuable learning experience.
- Look at the positive things you invested in today and be grateful for them.
- Were you able to make choices that enhanced your life today? If so, acknowledge those choices, take a deep breath and decide to put your energy into more of them.
- What choices drained your energy? Commit to changing those choices in the future.
- Ask yourself “Did I speak with honesty and integrity?”
- How have you done with forgiveness today?
- Were you judgmental or critical of yourself or others today or did you extend kindness and compassion?
- Release your fears and doubt.
- Breath and allow yourself to prepare for restful sleep knowing that tomorrow will be a new day.
April 8, 2012
On Christmas Day, one month and two days before my father died, he gave a Christmas dinner blessing based on an article in one of the Process Studies journals. The article was called You Are`What You Eat. But, it wasn’t about food. It was about the sustenance we receive from other people, other experiences, situations, events. What we experience, absorb, shun, embrace, hear, say…..create the person we are.
Jay McDaniel outlines 8 points central to PT.
Everything is in process…always flowing,all things are inter-connected, all of nature has value and deserves respect, we find happiness in sharing experiences with others: we become whole through reciprocity, the universe is a continuous creativity: all things are expressions, all beings seek harmony, thinking and emotion cannot be separated, every human experience begins with feeling the presence of the world and being affected by it.
The world is constantly in process and everything changes. And so do we.
How do we learn to be pliable in order to flow with being in constant process and change. What do we hold on to, what do we have to let go of in order to hold on?