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.

 

Giving Thanks

November 28, 2013

It’s the one day of the year when we are reminded to consciously be thankful. I think the observance of the first Thanksgiving is one thing, something historical, albeit controversial these days. However, I feel the concept of giving thanks on a daily basis is something different.  I try to give thanks daily. While I appreciate the time allowed to be with family and loved ones, that does not happen on a daily basis, I try to be grateful EVERY DAY!!

This morning I am sitting in the dining room of a hotel, waiting for my family to wake up. I am so full of joy and gratitude when I think about my children and my husband. When we get to be all together, I feel as if the movement of the universe has cooperated to bring me this magnificent blessing.

I was searching the internet trying to find some sweet sentiment of the day to post on FB, when I stumbled across a favorite: Tiny Buddha’s blog. http://tinybuddha.com/blog-posts/

Celestine Chua posted an entry titled: 60 Things to Be Grateful For,  http://tinybuddha.com/blog/60-things-to-be-grateful-for-in-life/  It is fantastic!

She reminds us to be thankful for:

Our Sense of Sight for it allows us to see the colors of life.

Our Sense of Hearing – For letting us hear trickle of rain, the voices of our loved ones, and the harmonious chords of music.

Our legs and lungs. Our tears and disappointments. Our happiness and sadness.

Our mistakes and heartbreak.

Our home, our beds.

Our enemies and kind strangers.

In short, she reminds us that everything is deserving of gratitude. Every day.

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” 
— Henry Ward Beecher

To paraphrase another saying circulating the internet:

Today I will count my blessings,
practice kindness,
listen to my heart,
and breathe.

If I hope to practice gratitude and thankfulness fully, I will do these things every day not just one day in November.

Celebrate giving thanks!

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?

 

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.

 

Perfect

May 20, 2013

I am in my mid 50’s. I need to loose some weight. My hair is gray. There are some wrinkles on my face. Freckles have changed into age spots. I move more slowly than I used to. I wear glasses to read.

At 50 I took up Svaroopa yoga and it has breathed a new life into me. I embrace myself. Even when I look in the mirror and do not see the person I see myself as….25 years younger, flawless skin, light reddish hair……inside I am that person.

Today I did a 3 hour yoga class. As always, the class begins and ends with shavasana (the Corpse Pose) and a guided mindfulness meditation. I have moments where I experience what some people call the” zen-like mind”. No thoughts. Just a blank silence.

shavasana(from Google images)

Today when my teacher began the end of the class shavasana, she said what she says every time: ” As you settle into shavasana notice how your body feels.”

I momentarily held my breath as I heard my inner voice answer, “Perfect”.

That is a word I never associated with yoga. Or with myself. But there it was. Perfect. And that IS how I felt. In every sense. The whole moment. My whole being. My thoughts or lack of thoughts. The silence and the mind chatter. The muscle twitching.

perfect

It made me think of the mantra I sometimes use: So Hum. It means “I am that” or “I am this”. And that is what that “perfect” meant: “I am this”. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just this.

It was a lovely moment. A lovely place to be. Just this. And it was complete in itself. I was complete in myself.

 

 

I read this article a little while ago:

http://charterforcompassion.org/news-and-events/article/170

It made me sad and then it made me think: how many people do I make invisible by not “seeing” them? Why?

Have you ever walked along on the sidewalk and noticed someone just ahead of you walking towards you….and you look to the side or down when they pass? I have.

Have you ever thought about “what part of town” your walking through? Have you ever felt embarrassed looking at someone and kind of wishing they really weren’t there? I have.

Has your heart rate ever increased as someone approaches you? Have you ever crossed the street to avoid someone? Yes.

Are there people you come across during the day that you try to make “invisible”? Just like a child who covers their eyes so they don’t have to see something? Yes.

invisible_people_

Why do we do this? What do we fear? Where has the fear come from?

If we can find ways to see each other, to honor the existence of every being who co-inhabits this wonderful earth with us, if no young person ever has need to thank a stranger for merely seeing them, then we will have done a fine thing.”

A couple of years ago I was walking during lunch and notice two men near the corner where I was headed, engaged in a very animated conversation. It looked like they were laughing, but it was pretty intense. I could feel myself reacting, but I just kept going. With my eyes looking elsewhere. As I got closer I could hear snippets of the conversation  and it was about race. I tired to make them invisible. I was nervous. This is hard to admit even to a bunch of readers I don’t even know!! Then I heard it: “Let’s ask her”. I was her.

I had to look up, to make eye contact, to smile. One man said, “My friend and I here are having a conversation about people. He thinks you won’t hug me if I ask you to because I am black. What do you say? May I have a hug?”

What could I say? “Of course I will give you a hug.” And I did. He laughed and I got a great big bear hug. The other man asked why I had said yes. “Because he is just a person asking for a hug.” Inside I was realizing how hard that had been and was upset at all the reasons of why that were going through my mind. Irrational, stereotyped, fearful…so many negatives.

“Let’s interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of “those people” (whoever they are to you). Let’s greet and acknowledge the folks we generally walk by or around and watch what happens.”

I got a hug.

Now I am mindful of my eyes, my body language, my thoughts and choices. I walk where I am going without thought of who I pass by. I hold my head up and look at people and smile. I say “Thank You”, and “Hi”, and “Have a good day”.  Yesterday I thanked the eye doctor for being open on Saturday. I take for granted places are open on Saturdays. I thanked the man who was sweeping the sidewalk and his face lit up. I thanked the grocery clerk bagging my groceries. I tell the cranky parking attendant “thank you” and wish her a good evening. I am committed to making the people I make invisible, visible.

Years ago when I worked downtown there was a young man who participated in the programs of our mental health clinic. He was physically not healthy. He received services for mental illness. He was someone who could easily be made invisible, and many people in fact did not see him. But he was happy. He laughed, he smiled. He tried to engage people in conversation. Generally they did not see or hear him. I began to respond to him. I had short conversations with him about the weather, the trash, whatever he brought up. One day I noticed that wherever I seemed to be in a 2 or 3 block area downtown, every time I came near a door, he was there. To open it for me. One day I said something about it and he said “I like to do this for you. You’re nice to me. You don’t have to be but you are.”

There is another woman named Caroline. She also struggles with mental health issues. Some days she doesn’t do so well: you can see it in the way she dresses, the way she grooms herself. On “better” days she initiates eye contact. I invited her to sit and have coffee with me sometimes. We had nice little conversations. Sometimes  even just the next day she wouldn’t even recognize me. One day in our local bookstore Caroline walked in. The owner greeted her and she handed him a small pile of books and thanked him. He smiled at her and said something and they laughed  The woman I was with asked him who she was and why she had given him books. He told my friend Caroline’s story and said he lent her books to read, commenting that she was a very bright person going through difficult times. He said she loved to read but couldn’t buy books and couldn’t get a library card. My friend said something like, “I would have never guessed.” Caroline was someone who was easy to make invisible.

“If we can find ways to see each other, to honor the existence of every being who co-inhabits this wonderful earth with us, if no young person ever has need to thank a stranger for merely seeing them, then we will have done a fine thing.”

There is so much fear, distrust, apprehension, suspicion about “others” these days…………there are lots of invisible people out there. Do you have any? If you don’t, do you still have a responsibility to help others see these people who are just folks waiting for a hug, a cup of coffee, a short conversation, a kind word, a smile, or a good book to read?

Let’s accept this invitation:

“Here’s my invitation to you: let’s take a month and intentionally notice those we would normally not see. Let’s interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of “those people” (whoever they are to you). Let’s greet and acknowledge the folks we generally walk by or around and watch what happens.

So let’s say “Hey” to someone new tomorrow. I’ll bet we have conversations that surprise us. I’ll bet we learn something new.”

” Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

“Remember. Be Here Now”

Ram Dass

be here now image

 
Making the conscious choice to live in the present begins with a certain ability to stay present and mindful of THIS moment.  So much of life today is bound up with hanging on to the past or thinking/ worrying about the future. “Did I do a good job?”, “Did they like me?”, ” What should I do this weekend?”, “I want a new car.”, “I wish I was still on vacation.”, “I’m not ready for this meeting.”, “I have soooo much to do. I’ll never get it done.”
If you ask yourself what is preventing you from having a peaceful day, how many reasons are there in your head….things you have given power to? How many things are labeled in your head as “good” or “bad”, “right” or wrong”? How many things are you wishing were different? How many things are you feeling are not good enough?
How do you get your thoughts to just be present in this one moment so that there is less worry, stress, fear, anxiety? How does one learn to “Be here now”?
 
 Look at your feet. They are in the present. Not the past or future. Where your feet are, is where you are. Now. 
feet
 
Just 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. 
 
walk kissing earth
 
Whatever you are doing, just do IT. Just be with it. Just look at your feet. Be where they are. Be here now.