Friday, March 18, 2005

Thich Nhat Hanh's blessing

Sometimes we are gifted by the studies and the growth of our friends. My friend Carol is doing some wonderful work with a book calld The Zen of Eating. Wow, her work is powerful...

Carol shared with me her learning of mindfulness in eating. What a deeply moving experience this has become for her.

She shares with me a blessing from Thich Nhat Hanh...


As food is served:
I clearly see the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence.

While looking at a full plate of food:
All living beings are struggling for life. May they all have enough food to eat today.

Just before eating:
The plate is filled with food. I am aware that each morsel is the fruit of much hard work by those who produced it.

While taking the first four mouthfuls of food:
With the first taste, I promise to practice loving-kindness.
With the second, I promise to relieve the suffering of others.
With the third, I promise to see others’ joy as my own.
With the fourth, I promise to learn the way of nonattachment and equanimity.

Upon finishing the meal:
My plate is empty. My hunger is satisfied. I vow to live for the benefit of all beings.


I love this blessing. I have long believed in the practice of thankfulness (which I will lovingly discuss at length later), and this blessing takes thankfulness to a deeper level. This blessing takes me to a place of truly seeing the gift, poignantly understanding the contribution of others, piercingly points out my responsibility in receiving the gift, and leads me to my own completion for having done so. This is the acceptance of a gift. This is the giving of thanks...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

more rumi...

i love the words of rumi…

i have a number of meditation practices in addition to my work, my studies and my writing. i often run out of time to include the study of poetry. so...i listen to rumi while driving in my car, a cd from coleman barks.

i love the words of rumi...

as i travel in and out of the city, rumi’s words surround me and penetrate me. his words, his phrases, his messages, linger with me, remain within me.

give up subtle thinking (i am impelled to go deeper)

love comes with a knife, not some shy question
and not with fears for its reputation

i say these things disinterestedly
accept them in kind

there are love stories and then
there is obliteration into love

no matter how many times i hear the lines, each time is as powerful as the first time i heard it...there are love stories and then there is obliteration into love.

you’ve been walking the ocean’s edge
holding up your robes to keep them dry
you must dive naked under
and deeper under
a thousand times deeper
love flows down

the ground submits to the sky
and suffers whatever comes
tell me
is the earth worse
for giving in like that?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

forgiveness

Yesterday I learned about forgiveness.

I thought I was a forgiving person. I think I was wrong.

Yesterday I was talking with my girlfriend, and she told me a story about another friend of hers. This friend, a man, had been married 17 years when his wife left him because she had fallen in love with one of his friends. Pretty tough stuff, I think. But this man, her friend, being a conscious man, later hired his ex-wife and her new husband to work for him in his company. And why not, he said, for he had forgiven his wife as well as the friend she left him for. Pretty big stuff, I think.

I began to ponder this. And as I pondered this I wondered if I would have been able to do that. As I pondered this some more I suddenly realized I don’t know much about forgiving. I know how to “tolerate.” In my history if you abused me or misused me it is likely I tolerated it (and inside denied I’d been misused). But that is not the same as forgiving. Not at all the same as recognizing inappropriate behavior and forgiving it. And forgiveness is pretty important stuff, I think.

I’ve heard people say you cannot forgive others unless and until you know how to forgive yourself. But the converse is also true. I have struggled with being hard on myself, and in order to be able to forgive myself, I needed to be forgiving of others. And yet, I was not forgiving others but rather tolerating their behavior. And in return I could never forgive myself my own missteps and mistakes. Pretty deep stuff, I think.

So as I pondered my girlfriend’s story, I suddenly realized I have not practiced forgiveness. And the moment I recognized this, I was filled with a sense of forgiveness.

But the lesson didn’t end there. Last night I was talking with another dear friend and in his conversation the subject came up of forgiveness (he being unaware of my earlier talk with my girlfriend), something about the need to forgive a second time and a third. He said to me, of course one must forgive again and again, otherwise it wasn’t real the first time. Forgiveness is continuous. Instantly it made sense to me. This is the meaning of forgiveness.

Tolerating inappropriate behavior is neither healthful nor beneficial. Forgiveness is that and so much more. Forgiveness is blessed.

This is the practice of forgiveness.

Can I tackle the big stuff, like Emptiness?

Someone asked about Emptiness. Someone asked about the Void. And I have been playing those words in my head again and again the past several days. I have become fascinated with my contemplation. Emptiness. Void. Nothing. And I don’t know that there is any such thing.

Some people seem to think in between two things there is “nothing.” For one thing, there is space. For another thing, there is much we can’t see, like oxygen, and tiny life our vision can’t grasp, such as gnats and mites. And there is the flow of energy (which is a big story in itself.) But take away those things we understand, and still there is no “nothingness.” I think there is a lot of “otherness.”

It works like silence. Silence is not merely the absence of noise. Silence has depth, and wealth. My parents live on an old dirt road that, while I was young, had very few other people living on it. Accustomed to its quiet, I was unaware of its power. But I have one vivid memory, one that never diminishes, of living away and then making a return trip. I spent many hours in a noisy car (isn’t it wonderful how quiet cars have become today?) with a chattering family and busy radio. And when I arrived at my folks’ house and stepped out of the noisy car and into the quiet wood, the silence overwhelmed me. The silence was deafening. It was not “empty.” The silence was almost painful at first with the dramatic step from complete noise into complete silence. I was surrounded by it and overwhelmed. I have never forgotten the true nature of silence, how full it is and how rich, and how I needed to acclimate to it. I have come to know Silence has something to give me, and if I do not spend time there, I am not being fed…

Oh, and meditation. How I struggled with what I thought was the “nothingness” of meditation. The difficulty of moving from conscious thought into “nothing” and sitting still with it. But there is no “nothing.” There is Something. This Something that appears as Nothing is the greatest place of healing and renewing I have discovered. I now seek every opportunity to meditate and step into this Something.
I remember when I listened to television to disguise my own voice. I remember when I preferred the sound of music to the sound of silence. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still like to watch television sometimes (especially when I am tired), and my life is still filled with the music that I love, but I am less inclined to use it to avoid the depth of my own self and far more likely to seek every opportunity to spend time with no thing.

Monday, March 14, 2005

thank you for your prayers...

i am doing a new work, a writing project bigger than anything i have ever done before. because i have been very busy with it and faced a significant deadline, several people expressed to me they would be sending positive energy or saying a prayer for me for the weekend.

i have taught my little granddaughter something an old boss taught me about the dividing line for worry and not-worry. i told her whenever we are tempted to worry, simply ask the question "will babies die as a result of this?" if the answer is no (and undoubtedly it is), then we are not to worry. almost nothing is worthy of worry. as she visited me and heard me express i am a little nervous about meeting my deadline, she said, "grandma, will babies die?" it took me a minute to realize what she was saying, but i soon recognized her reminder not to worry. then she, too, said she will say a prayer for me as i sit at the keyboard.

i wondered if i would be able to meet the challenge of this new wonderful work. but then, i felt the presence of all that positive energy and i felt the presence of angels. in fact, i have been reminded angels fight on my side.

thank you for your positive energy. thank you for your prayers.

energy matters. prayers make a difference. i am in the presence of angels. and my work is inspired.

i give thanks.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Blog life...

I enjoy and deeply appreciate everyone who has read my blogs and has left a comment or sent an email telling me so (you are in the practice of giving when you do so). Your participation enriches my life and I thank you.

A favorite blog of mine is http://marcoclicks.typepad.com/marcoclicks_weekly/ not only for the compelling photographs but for the rich insights of the photographer. I have been following him since the beginning of his blog.

When you enjoy someone's blog, take a minute to tell him or her. I have been richly blessed with response (which encourages my writing) and I know other bloggers welcome your feedback as well.

Thanks for listening...

Friday, March 11, 2005

The practice of giving

I believe in the practice of giving…

Life is about give and take. We breathe in; we breathe out. We take in food and drink; we expel fluids and waste. Even sex, our richest and most intimate interaction with others, is an act of giving and taking—inserting and retrieving or receiving and releasing, depending upon your position. Life is about give and take. The balance of life is maintained through both receiving and giving. If we only receive, we break the cycle of life. The same is true if we only give—we interrupt life’s delicate balance.

The practice of giving is a spiritual practice, one to be honored and treasured, to be respected and esteemed, one to be attended to faithfully. Giving is not merely a responsibility, not an obligation or a chore. The opportunity to give is a gift, and to honor the cycle of life, our work is to give thanks for each occasion to give and to seek out those opportunities.

To be true, I could possibly write a book on the practice of giving as there are so many aspects to discuss. Today I simply meditate on some of those aspects.

I do not want to take lightly my own practice of giving. I do not want to be casual or unconscious in my gifts. I want to be mindful and participate in the giving. I believe in and practice two kinds of giving: anonymous giving and acknowledged giving. There is an experience in practicing anonymous giving that you cannot have any other place in life. Sometimes when I give and the receiver knows not the source of my gift, the value of the gift is enhanced and the return on my giving is deepened because my ego is out of the way. The gift and the recipient are not about me. But other times life asks my gifts to be known, and part of the give-and-take cycle includes the practice of receiving acknowledgment. Life wants me to know how to be humble in the face of another’s appreciation. My experience needs to know how to receive thanks as well as give it. It is not always easy to be quiet and allow gratitude. For me it is much easier to give it; and life wants me to be on both ends. I need to hear the same appreciation I give. I seek to practice both anonymous and acknowledged giving in my regular life patterns.

Our society and culture promote acquiring, receiving, getting, learning, growing, having. Only a little bit about giving, and certainly not an equal portion to what we receive. Even the Christian principle of giving ten percent is a tiny portion in comparison to what we receive. We disrupt our own balance of life as well as that of the universe when we do not give.

What you give and what I give are different things. Giving is not only about things of matter but is also about time and energy, ideas, help, instruction, encouragement, compliments, and oh, so much more.

Let me be committed, let me be attentive, let me be faithful to my practice of giving...

Space...

I had a conversation recently with my new friend Annie O, a charming woman with sparkling energy, and in that conversation she described her experience last year of being in the audience of Thich Nhat Hanh. What she recalled from her experience was not his words but his action. She said when he reached for his glass to drink water during his presentation, he turned toward the glass, paused, picked up the glass, drank deeply from it, set it down, and returned to his listeners. She remembered nothing else from the speech, but this one thing she remembered is huge. As she spoke to me, her words came alive. Her lesson was numinous for me. A personal message for me. I took notes from the conversation so I could meditate on it later. And I have done so.

All my life I have practiced juggling. I have been acknowledged, admired, envied, even hired for my ability to juggle. I can efficiently juggle multiple bosses, multiple projects, and multiple clients. I can juggle multiple thoughts in my head as well as multiple conversations in an equal space of time. I find it much more challenging to carry only one. This writing is not to judge juggling or isolation. In our society and even in our personal lives it is in our best interest at times to be able to multitask. It is also in our best interest to know how to focus and isolate one thought and one task. Both are needed. From a spiritual perspective, however, we spend far too much time in overlap and we are missing out big time…

To experience fully, it is necessary for us to create space around a thing. Space around a thought. Space around an experience. We dishonor and do disservice to anything that does not receive our undivided attention, including our own selves. I received a telephone call recently that informed me a good friend in Ohio had died. As soon as I heard the news I hurt. The death was unexpected. This friend had cared about me and honored me. It hurt me to hear this news. After hanging up the telephone I soon turned my attention to something else and suddenly I realized I had turned away from the emotion of this man’s death. I was overlapping it with something else demanding my attention. To honor myself and to honor his life, I needed to create space around my thinking of him, and I needed to stay in that space until it was complete. Create space around the events in my life.

How often are we listening to two things at once or doing two things at once? How often are we unable to hold a prayer in our thoughts long enough for it to become manifest? How often is our meditation too short to become deep enough? How often do we fail to create enough space to give something life?

I regularly go through my home and do what I call “creating space.” I like things to have space; I like to have space. I like good energy in my home and for energy to flow freely it needs space.

I need to create more space around my words. One of the most powerful sentences I heard in 2004 was this: Words take up space so choose them carefully. We live in a country of abundance and take for granted our crowding and overcrowding of everything, including our words.

Not creating space leads to an unfinished life…unfinished books, unfinished projects, unfinished thoughts, unfinished ideas. No depth, or at lease significantly reduced depth.

Let me create space around everything that participates in my life that I may honor it and enjoy it and learn from its depth, just as Thich Nhat Hanh fully honored and enjoyed his glass of water.

~ ~ ~
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my heroes, one who teaches me the practice of mindfulness. I read his books and listen to him on my CDs...

Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han) is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. During the war in Vietnam, he worked tirelessly for reconciliation between North and South Vietnam. His lifelong efforts to generate peace moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He lives in exile in a small community in France where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees worldwide. He has conducted many mindfulness retreats in Europe and North America helping veterans, children, environmentalists, psychotherapists, artists and many thousands of individuals seeking peace in their hearts, and in their world.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

a separate Self

Every day and each year, I look into the mirror and see an older person reflected back to me. How quickly and how easily it seems I have become the age I have become. How did it happen so fast?

And yet, no matter what I see in the mirror, and no matter in what ways my body may feel and respond differently as time continues, the truth is on the inside I do not feel any older than I felt at any other age. I am the same person on the inside. On the inside it doesn’t feel different at 47 than it felt at 18. I am separate from the age of my body. My real person is not about the age or condition of my body. Part of my body can be ill, or I could lose a part of my body, and my person remains intact (someone with an arm missing or a breast removed is the same complete person she was before the loss). My person is separate from the age or condition of my body.

In the same way, my Spirit is not about the actions or conditions of my person. My Spirit is whole and complete and pure, regardless of my mistakes and imperfections. This is the Part that is constant, that is always Present, that is my Soul. I want to choose actions and create conditions that support my Soul and honor mySelf in the highest position. And yet, regardless of my stumbling or fumbling or even of my unconsciousness, my Spirit is whole and complete and pure.

There is a Part of me that is unwounded, unaffected by my life as it has played out, unhurt by what has happened to me or what I have done. If my attention is on the wounds or on the wounding, I am in pain. If my attention is on my pure unwounded Self, I am strong and in no pain. My work, then, is to attend to this Spirit, my true Self, and not to indulge in living and re-living my own wounding.

I give thanks to God for who I really am...

~ anyway, these are the things i was thinking as i was driving down 16th street today.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

a woman's cycle

I am a woman and far more a woman now in this time of my cycle. My blood flows from me thick with the pulse of life.

Throughout my day and through the night I meditate on my participation in this feminine ritual from the beginning of time. I am one with my universe and one with life. Life has grown within me and has burst forth from me. Still, I continue my participation in earth's cycle, join with its movement, contribute to its death and resurrection.

Some would curse this time, avoid it, or ignore its truth. Yet I include it in my meditation, give thanks for my participation, relish its cleansing, and indulge in its depth.

I am a woman and far more a woman now in this time of my cycle...

Monday, March 07, 2005

My practice...

On February 23 I wrote "I am what I practice..."

I am astonished with how powerfully my practices impact my life.

Last week I attended a meditation practice with Sharon Salzberg leading, and during her discussion, Sharon said some have come to her and have expressed they don't "feel" anything happening during their meditation practice. She asks them if their life is any different, and some exclaim, "Yes, my life is changing beautifully" or they say, "People tell me I am very different..."

In the same way, I am not always aware of major growth during my daily practices (though sometimes I am dramatically aware), but the impact on my life is astonishing.

For one month now I have been practicing mandalas, each day coloring intricate mandalas following the 12 stages of the Great Round of the Psyche. Some mandalas take several days to complete, write of the experience, and evaluate color choices. While I struggle to express the experience in words, I can say without hesitation my experience is powerful. Sometimes in the course of a troubled day I reach for my book of mandalas and lay open the pages just to see, meditate and reflect on a completed circle. Sometimes the mandala speaks to me of cascading, opening energies. Sometimes I come into connection with Something deeper, Unknown, that calms me and shows me my life is in alignment, that all is well. Mandala practice has provided me the simplest, single most powerful stress management tool I have known. And I am barely 30 days into the program.

Remember, you may be what you think. You may be what you eat. But you are most assuredly what you practice...

For a month now I have also been practicing the Labyrinth. I started by twice walking the labyrinth on a large floor in the National Cathedral in Washington (home to me) and have followed it daily in a small hand-held replication. I did not purchase the little silver labyrinth with any expectation of developing it into a meditation (I purchased it because I thought it would be lovely in a planter). But now I move through the labyrinth in a daily meditation with this palm-size version of that found in Chartres. Sometimes I am silent. Sometimes I weep. I am inside my Life and inside my Self. I am writing an article about the experience of the labyrinth and will let you know more about that later...

I practice healthful eating. To be true, this did not happen overnight. In fact, this represents a lifetime of struggle to find my footing. But with the demonstration of conscious friends, with the consultation of a nutritionist, and with the incorporation of South Beach recipes, my life has become a practice of healthful eating. I could not have imagined how much peace I would discover to have a life without craving. And without white sugar and flour I no longer live with constant craving. I start my day with a 3.4 mile walk and I now end it with a session of free weights. This practice contributes to incredible peace.

I don't want to write so much in one day that I begin to lose my readers. So I will write more about daily practice at another time.

Choose carefully what you practice. And be sure to practice what you practice.

Learn more about Sharon Salzberg at http://www.dharma.org/teachers/sharon/index.htm

Contact my nutritionist, Tim Kuss, for consultation at 303-703-3772

Sunday, March 06, 2005

impermanence

i am rested. i am settled. i am strong.
and yet, if all things be impermanent, then this state be so too,
and i can only give thanks and enjoy this in its time.

when i am not rested, not settled, not strong,
let me give thanks then, too,
for the impermanence of that state.

call nothing final. claim nothing absolute.
enjoy each moment as it is and allow its movement to the next.
but for now...
i am rested. i am settled. i am strong.

Alan Cohen

This morning I am learning from the words of Alan Cohen. I am amazed and in wonderment of how life brings the words I need to hear, the message I need to learn, at precisely the moment I need them (my work is in the remaining open...).

Alan Cohen writes about the movie Billy Elliot (I watched that movie on a plane returning from a trip to Ireland) and tells of what he learned in the process. Now isn't it wonderful I am learning from a writing about what Mr. Cohen learned from a movie I saw a long time ago. This is what Cohen writes:

It is easy to be seduced by the idea that how things turn out is more important than what happens in the process. Manifestations, as desirable as they are, are by-products of the soul qualities that are developed in quest of the goal. The real question is not "How did it turn out?" The question is, "What happened to your spirit as you journeyed?" I studied with a healer who told me two of his most profound healings occurred with people who passed on soon afterward. "How could that be?" I asked him. He explained, "These people experienced a spiritual healing; their souls came to peace before they passed. Yes, it is important to try to heal the body, but it is more important to heal the spirit." In my seminars I often work with people who are struggling with having been divorced. Many talk about the "failure" of their marriage. I asked one fellow, "How long were you married?" He answered, "Twenty years." "And were you happy most of that time?" I asked. "Yes, we had a good marriage for many of those years. It was just during the last few years that our relationship unraveled." "Then why discount the gifts of those good years just because it didn't last forever?" I asked him. Just because a marriage (or anything) ends, doesn't mean it failed. Ideally, of course, we would like a marriage to last for a lifetime. But when it doesn't, we we dishonor the relationship by casting an aura of failure over all of it. If you loved, learned, and grew during the time you were together, there was real success. The relaionship is a failure only if you learned nothing and you go on to repeat the same mistakes. And even if you do, all of your experience is contributing to ultimate learning, so it is all part of your soul's growth.

Alan Cohen, M.A., is the author of 20 popular inspirational books and tapes, including the best-selling The Dragon Doesn't Live Here Anymore and the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life. He is a contributing writer for the New York Times bestselling series Chicken Soup for the Soul. Alan's syndicated column, From the Heart, appears in new thought magazines internationally.

Alan Cohen in Application

So, what does it all mean to read pretty words and clever phrases? What does it all mean to get a good message?

After reading Alan Cohen this morning, I pondered the message, let it seep through my bones. And throughout the day my attitudes adjusted...

For the past month I have thought much, expressed, felt, anguished over "losing" my best friend. But after reading Cohen I began to realize I did not "lose" anything. I gained very much knowledge and a wealth of understanding through this friend. I grew in spiritual depth and in professional development. I had many good times. Lots of laughter. Great conversation. Gentleness. Affection. Friendship. Lots of sharing. I am bigger. And better. And stronger. And deeper. And richer. For having known him. Any struggles we had are not in this moment and no longer exist. Is there anything I no longer have that I had before knowing him? No. I only have "more." There is no loss. There is only gain.

And I did not "lose" him because one cannot "have" another. I can "have" only what one gives to me, and that I cannot "lose." I have the gifts, and they are mine to keep. I am left with gifts and memories. It is not possible to "lose" at all.

There is only gain...

And messages, whatever their kind, are for application.

Catching up

How quickly and easily one day turns into a week and suddenly I am without having posted my words and messages during that time. Last weekend when I read the book Chasing Rumi, after reading the first half I noted what was numinous for me to that point. I returned to the book and finished reading it but ran out of time to write further. As my week progressed I did not continue my writing in this post because I still had not completed my Chasing Rumi reflections. And as the week progressed I found it more difficult to complete (I recognize the importance of my noting everything of significance I read--it is the best way for me to learn from the message). So, not only did I miss a step in my parade, I stepped out of the parade because of that missed step. Better a march with one missed step than an unfinished parade...

Saturday, March 05, 2005

morning glory...

Accept everything that arises. Accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you did not have. Accept your experiences, even the ones you hate.
Don't condemn yourself for having human flaws and failings.
Learn to see all the phenomena in the mind as being perfectly natural and understandable.
Try to exercise a disinterested acceptance at all times
with respect to everything you experience.
--Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Acceptance appears easy, but it is not.
True acceptance gives us freedom from suffering.
Only when you accept your feelings
can you begin to transform them.
--Susan Santucci

Our greatest glory is not in never failing,
but in rising every time we fall.
--Confucius