Spirituality

 

imageOn September 3, 1985, I got up at 3am to wish my mother a wonderful trip to France.  I was so glad I made the effort, because she died in her sleep later that evening on the plane. That was 30 years ago. The last photo of her was taken just 10 weeks earlier when she came to my graduate school graduation in San Francisco.

Here’s one of my best gifts from my mother:

We moved every few years due to my father’s career.  One of the first things that would appear in the new kitchen when she unpacked was an old index card with a yellowed newspaper clipping from Dear Abby taped to it. She would put that on the windowsill above the kitchen sink. Here’s what it said:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.image

She and my dad had some difficult years in their marriage.  They went to marital therapy (in the 60’s!) and worked it out.  I think their last few years together before his early death were happy ones. She had a deep spirituality and I think that is what got her through it. Sadly, I began to understand and value that when I could no longer talk to her about it.  Nevertheless, I am glad to have received that gift.  Thanks, Mom.image

 

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Good Morning

imageAs you may have gathered, I’m not what is known as a “morning person.” On retreats I often used to sleep through the before-breakfast meditation period, but I have grown to cherish that time, especially at Lake Tahoe. This week I’ll be on retreat at the Lake again, and for the third or fourth time I have volunteered to do the wake-up bell and, half an hour later, the come-to-the-hall bell.image

For my efforts I get several rewards. We use an Episcopal camp for retreat, so I’ll get to pull the rope to ring the big church tower bell. I’ll keep in mind this gatha (short verse) from Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Body, speech and mind in perfect oneness–
I send my heart along with the sound of the bell.
May the hearers awaken from forgetfulness
And transcend all anxiety and sorrow.”

imageI’ll have half an hour to do yoga in the altar space they’ve cleared for us in front of the large picture window overlooking the lake.

And, perhaps I’ll witness a beautiful sunrise, like I did last fall.

May the sounds that you hear also awaken you! (And may WordPress stop fussing with the orientation of my photos!)

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Wheel

imageI like wheels, so when I saw this one on my walk I photographed it.  As you can see from the first photo, I was taking it into the sun, which made an interesting picture, but not the one I wanted. In turning away from the sun the wheel is clearer but looks distorted.

This second photo reminded me of the first part of the Buddha’s first discourse, that life has the characteristic of dukkha, translated as suffering, unsatisfactoriness, stress, and so on.  I was recently reminded that one of the original meanings of the word dukkha is “wheel out of round.”  When a wheel is out of round we don’t get the smooth ride we usually enjoy.  We bump, lurch, are jostled, and generally are bothered. Fortunately the Buddha went on to tell us that there is a way out of dukkha through wisdom.image

I had been sitting outside our local library a few days before, waiting for it to open an hour later than it used to; those saved hours now make it possible to be open on Sundays.  Some people sat quietly in the shaded grass, others on park benches, some reading, some were enjoying conversation with new people.  The woman next to me, however, was annoyed, complaining, and wanted to convince me to be annoyed with her; I refused.  The wheel was out of round (albeit in a fairly minor way) for all of us waiting, but we could choose our response to the dukkha.  That’s known as wisdom.

 

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Numbers

Kathy rattle small versionLast week was my birthday. While I’m certainly a lot–a whole lot, in fact–older than in this photo of me as a toddler, I still find it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I am much closer in age to these two gentlemen.

I find myself saying things like, “when I was in junior high I was on the swim team…and that was more than fifty years ago.” Yikes!

I forget that I am not the same age as my friends who are twenty years younger, or my friends who are twenty years older.IMG_3994

I wonder if I too will live to see one hundred, and if I’ll get a call from the President (do they still do that?).

Bali thru Heather 1170And then I come into this one moment, the one as I sit here at my computer, enjoying the evening breeze, drinking my decaf, and feeling so very grateful to have celebrated yet another year on this beautiful beleaguered planet we call home.

 

Photos:  France, 2012; Bhutan, 1986

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Simple Pleasures

IMG_2844Sometimes when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the suffering in the world, I return to simple pleasures to get some relief. I can revel in these ordinary yet pleasing experiences to renew my energy.

I took this photo some years ago inside my car while going through a car wash—not any car wash, but the one a friend called to tell me about when it opened in Carson City, where I live. “It does a really good job cleaning your car, but best of all, the water is all recycled. You should check it out!” she told me with excitement. I’ve never been through that car wash since without fondly thinking of her. She is a person who often shares little tips that can make life a little easier and more enjoyable so I have many opportunities to experience the warmth of our connection.

And, in the car wash, being somewhat of a chicken at amusement parks, I can feel the thrill of my car being putted along, splashed while I stay dry inside, buffeted by brushes and cloth strips, and blown in a mini, safe hurricane.

Did I say simple pleasures?

I’d love to hear about your simple pleasures. To comment so everyone can share, please click on the link to the website and scroll to the bottom of the post.

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Morning Person?

imageMorning person? Not me. But when my beloved yoga teacher started a 7:30am class on Thursdays, finishing just in time for me to pull on some work clothes and get to the office, I was in (especially because none of the other class times worked for me). I always leave yoga feeling stretched, balanced, grounded, and calm—what a great way to start the day!

At first it went well. Though I struggled, I made it to class. Then the Inner Slug realized what was going on and took over. One Thursday, by the time I realized what was happening, it was too late to get there. I didn’t have the strength to overpower the Slug, but I did have the ability to make an end run. I realized I’d never get there if I didn’t make certain marks (like eat something an hour before so I didn’t get woozy).image

So I’d say, “I’m not going to yoga, I’m just getting out of bed. I’m not going to yoga, I’m just eating something. I”m not going to yoga, I’m just putting on stretchy clothes…gathering my work clothes…getting in the car…walking into this room…standing on my mat…” Angela would ask, “How are you?” “I don’t know, I’m not here yet.” I generally would arrive sometime during a standing warrior pose!

imageI still use this when I want to leave in the morning for some physical activity, like a hike. Even though the Slug does not want to go, I do. If I remember to plan out what the marks are that I have to make, I can make it out the door. Yoga is so much a habit now that the Slug doesn’t even bother to try to keep me home anymore.

Photos: hikes I went on despite the Slug

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Slug

imageMeet the Slug—my inner Slug.  (Yes, I know; some of you have met her already.)

She’s been with me a long time.  She’s the one who says “I don’t feel like doing X,” “it’s really so much nicer here on the couch,” “we can’t, we’re just not in shape,” “maybe tomorrow,” and so on and on. Often she manifests as a wordless energy of inertia that might not be noticed until it is too late.

Over the years the Slug has been nourished by depression and habit, and starved by periods of well-being and exploration.  She is tricky and can get her way without my even knowing she’s in charge.image

I’ve developed many different strategies to bypass her, some more effective than others.  None is 100% reliable, so it helps to have many at my fingertips.  I’ll be writing about her intermittently and sharing what I’ve discovered.

Meanwhile, here is a photo of of a tree I took on a hike last week.  The Slug tried to keep me home, but did not succeed!  Sometimes I feel like she has the energy of this granite, and it takes incredible determination to rise above her….so glad I did!

 

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Light

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For some reason Mail Chimp does not always send out my post, often, it seems, when it is time sensitive like this one.  When that happens, what’s easiest for me is to skip a week–the RSS feed always works, and this way the email subscriptions catch up the following week.  So, I hope you had a lovely solstice!

I’m so aware of light these days. imageAs solstice approaches this week, the days are long, and the light is constantly changing in the back yard.  imageIt’s fun to notice how the light affects the art boards, plants, image

 

 

 

 

 

and the glass jar that washed up to a friend in the Mediterranean Sea decades ago.  image

 

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Sometimes the red flowers are the only thing lit up in that section, so they are very dramatic against the dark background, almost like they are on fire.

Happy Solstice, all!

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Being Grounded

imageBeing grounded is one of those phrases with very different meanings. In the context of the hundred of teens I spent time with in two very diverse communities this week, it means one thing: to be stuck at home as a consequence of behaving in ways that draw parental disapproval.

Here’s what it means to me tonight: being home again and finding my way back into habits that keep me sane and centered after a month of crossing 9 time zones in jumbo jets, walking below ground in caves that have art created as many as 36,000 years ago, and attending high school graduations in rural Nevada and in the People’s Republic of Berkeley.

It means unpacking, paying bills, recycling junk mail, weeding, going to yoga, petting the kitties, and venturing out into the neighborhood again, enjoying the roses, snapdragons, clematis, and bachelor buttons now blooming. Simple tasks and ordinary pleasures can help the body and mind settle back into a grounded awareness.

These aren’t my red shoes, but don’t they look nicely planted on the ground?

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More Anxiety

IMG_2952“Action absorbs anxiety,” said cultural anthropologist and activist Angeles Arrien. Based on my experience before my recent trip to France, I would have to add “skillful” or “wise” action. Unskillful action can actually feed the anxiety.

Like many people I’ve talked to, packing for a trip provokes anxiety. While I usually manage fairly well, I can also become obsessive. And because I have for the most part retired, working about 10% of what I was, I have a lot more time. This led to me writing a new aphorism: “obsession driven by anxiety expands to fit all available space.” It became one of those feedback loops (anxiety leads to attempt at perfection, inevitably impossible, back to anxiety, etc.) that can be seen most clearly after one is out the other side.IMG_2965

What did I learn? Given my personality, it would be ridiculous to tell myself not to get anxious. But I can refuse to indulge the anxiety, staying more present to the feeling tone and then loving the part of me that wants to believe that perfection and total control are necessary and possible.

Yard Art Board 7-10-09“Oh, honey,” I’ll say to myself, “it’ll be okay; just breathe and relax for a moment.” And then I’ll have more energy for wise action that truly moves me forward in a much more satisfying and grounded way.

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The French

imageimageimageimagePlease don’t let anyone tell you otherwise–the French people are warm, friendly, helpful, kind, playful.

In two weeks in France we have encountered only two rude people, and one of them was a waiter who was clearly overworked. Please enjoy these photos of people I’ve met in France.

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Time

imageWhen I’m in the Dordogne region of southern France I’m very aware of time. It’s an easy place to be in the present moment as there is so much beauty and pleasure to experience. Here is a typical meal–fresh, organic food lovingly prepared and beautifully presented. Delicious!

The past is also very easy to be aware of. Around every corner is an old farmhouse, home or castle. On a walk one time I stopped to chat with a local woman in front of her very old home. My French is good enough that we could converse. She mentioned her family’s experience in the war. I thought she meant the second world war, but it turns out she was talking about the Hundred Years war which began in the middle 1300’s!image

And finally, this area has the highest concentration of prehistoric caves in the world. Some of them have art that dates to almost 40,000 years ago! This castle is built over a cave that has a beautiful carving of a horse. The area has probably been continuously occupied for 20,000 years – layers upon layers of people living here.

imagePhotography is not allowed in these very delicate caves, so these are photos of two magnets I bought which are copies of paintings from Lascaux.image

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Nepal Earthquake

This is a guest post by Anne Macquarie, from DharmaZephyr.org.  I have added photos I took near Kathmandu in 2008.  

Namaste childA lot of us at Dharma Zephyr have been talking about how we can best respond to the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Many of us have traveled to that beautiful, gracious country, and have friends and family there, so we have been thinking about earthquake damage and responses. We thought it would be a good idea to share some of this with you, if you are looking for ways to help.Nepal Neighborhood

 

 

 

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal on April 25 left over 7,000 people dead and over 14,000 injured. Over eight million people need humanitarian relief.

Nepal Tibet 192
Electricity, fuel, clean water, food and shelter are in short supply. With over 160,000 homes destroyed, tents and tarpaulins are desperately needed.
We think there are three things to remember now.
• First, while immediate relief is slowly being met, rebuilding will take time – maybe years. Please consider a recurring donation.
• Second, development organizations with roots in Nepal have the contacts, local knowledge, and social infrastructure not only to respond effectively to the crisis, but to help with the long haul of rebuilding.
• And finally, donations of money are generally better than donations of goods. Money is flexible, and can be used to buy the supplies that are needed.Nepal Tibet 415

The following organizations, which have all been working in Nepal for many years, have been recommended by our friends who live and work in Nepal:
America Nepal Medical Foundation
American Himalayan Foundation
Nepal SEEDS
READ Global
Ama Ghar Children’s Home and Ama Foundation
SEVA

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Back Body

Boy carrying siblingI still remember how startled I was when my beloved yoga teacher Angela asked us to bring our awareness to our “back body.” What? There’s something back there worth paying attention to? I’d never had back pain and seldom used a backscratcher, so like many people who live too much in their heads, I needed the reminder.Grandmother

In the years since then I’ve often found it a helpful prompt, especially when I realize I am caught in a train of thought that’s going nowhere. So whether I’m off my meditation cushion or on, one thing I’ll do is imagine breathing into my back, started at my bottom on the cushion or chair, and slowly moving awareness up my back, feeling the body breathing. It can be very grounding.

Man carrying strawIn looking for photos for this post, I did not find even one of someone’s back. But I did find these. I imagine these folks have a very different relationship to their backs!

Photos:  Bhutan, 1986

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Outfits

Bhutan mo and kidsThere’s an old Kingston Trio song that goes “you can see by my outfit that I am a cowboy; get yourself an outfit and be a cowboy too…” I frequently think about this song because the roles and/or identities we take on are so often visible in how we present ourselves.

When I was in graduate school training to become a therapist, my sister students and I went to our national professional convention. My friend Robin commented that she could see how therapists dress: flowing, comfortable, made of natural fabrics.

Of course our earliest conditioning is in our families. Recently I attended a committee hearing on a bill about federally-owned land in Nevada which would greatly impact ranchers. As I approached our state legislature building I saw a family exiting: two parents and three elementary-aged school children, all dressed in jeans, western shirts, boots, and cowboy hats. At the same time, going in was a group of lobbyists, all dressed in dark suits, including a boy wearing a dark suit and tie too.  We teach our kids who we are by dressing them like we dress ourselves.

This Bhutanese family is dressed in their best traditional clothing. In Bhutan there has been a law requiring all Bhutanese to wear traditional dress in order to preserve Bhutanese culture. This has led to discrimination against other ethnic groups who live there. Sometimes in our urge to protect our identities we can also do harm.

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The Spice of Life

French spicesOne of the pleasures of travel is to taste different cuisines.

 

A constant around the world is the use of herbs and spices.  Bhutan Monk with chilisChiles are popular almost everywhere I’ve been.

 

 

 

 

 

Peru salsaMarkets are a fun place to see spices on sale. image

 

 

 

 

 

One of the things that constantly amazes me is the similarity of cultures–sometimes in looking at a photo I’ve taken in a market, I’m hard-pressed to tell you even what continent it is on!image

 Photos:  France, Bhutan, Peru, India, Burma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hair Play

MedusaI think people have been obsessing about hair for a very long time.

By the time I was eight, I was getting Toni Home Perms, which turned my hair into a frizzy mess. Didn’t stop me, though—I did keep trying.  Don’t worry, it’s not my portrait to the left!

 

One of the joys of getting older is feeling less attached to appearance.KS mug a.m. hair

I was very amused when I woke up with this hairdo one day several years ago, and I made it my Facebook image for quite a while.

 

 

 

KS Horn Creek Rapid hair

On the Colorado River raft trip through the Grand Canyon, I staggered into the “kitchen” from my sleeping bag for my wake-up cup of coffee. The guides started hooting when they saw this hair, eventually deciding it looked like the wave in Horn Creek Rapid!

 

Fall 07 Man's hair copyAnd, just to prove that it’s not only women who obsess about hair….

Photos:  Turkey, 1989; India, 2007

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Flying home

imageFlying home into the sunset from a very relaxing time in Florida on retreat and visiting family…so relaxed that this is it for this week’s post!

photo:  Monday’s sunset

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Mind

Bali thru Heather 756

As you read this, I am on a week-long meditation retreat. On retreat we maintain Noble Silence—speaking only when necessary. We don’t read or write for the most part, and certainly don’t listen to music or the radio or even look directly at each other. We minimize the sensory input so our minds have a chance to settle down.

Munindra, a teacher of many of my teachers, said “if you want to know the mind, observe the mind.” When we begin a meditation practice we are often surprised and discouraged by the constant stream of untamed thoughts we are observing, often called monkey mind. But if we keep observing, we begin to notice a background of peace, stillness, clarity. It’s like taking the stick out of the pond we’ve been stirring, letting the mud settle.086

Once on retreat I told the teacher I felt like my mind was like a wild horse I was trying to tame and ride. Just when it seemed like the horse had truly calmed down, it would begin bucking and galloping. And then it would calm down again!

There are even more metaphors for this process we call the mind. Stay tuned!

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Happiness

Fall 07 138

I used to have an unconscious belief that I could not be happy until everyone was happy. It somehow didn’t seem right, or fair. But then I understood that if we all waited for everyone else to be happy, no one ever would be. What a mess that would make!

What’s true is that we all have a right to be happy, and, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, happiness is available here and now. Our life circumstances are not necessarily the deciding factor. Even in the midst of great suffering, people have found happiness.

Fall o7 165Seeing these photos always brings a surge of happiness to me. I encountered the man in a small village near Bodh Gaya, India. The woman was the toilet cleaner at the border crossing into Nepal from India. She happily gave me permission to take her photo.

I hope that even if you are experiencing difficulties you are also finding moments of happiness.  And when you do, please soak yourself in them!

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Fog

imageOne year at Plum Village Thich Nhat Hanh—Thay—asked us not to take notes during his talks. He invited us to allow the words of the dharma to fall on us like a soft rain, not to make an effort to take them in. In fact, he said, we could think of it as being as effortless as walking in fog, telling us that if we walk long enough in the fog, we’ll get wet, soaked with the dharma.

In mid-winter I often feel like I am mentally in a fog. It takes me longer to wake up and get going, and it’s harder to change gears or tasks. I tend to be more distracted and less focused.

I think that may be one reason I love this photo and had reproduced it for my office. We were walking from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village to the Lower Hamlet, where we had been invited for breakfast. It was a beautiful walk in the early morning fog.

Even when we are in a fog there is beauty.

Photo:  France, 1989.  The sign on the telephone pole points the way to Plum Village, TNH’s retreat center.

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Home Base

imageTo continue with our theme of working with anxiety, sometimes we realize we are in the anxiety canyon, but we may be unsure of “where to go” if we “evaporate” out of the canyon. It can be helpful to have a home base that we train ourselves to come back to.

This is one of the functions of meditation. To train the mind we establish a home base, known as the object of our attention. Often we use the breath for home base, as it is always with us. We can use the whole breath, or find a point or area in the body where the breath is easily discerned. Every time we realize we have strayed, we return our attention back to the breath.

When we are caught by an obsessive worry thought or we feel the bodily discomfort of anxiety, going back to the home base of breathing can calm both the mind and the body. Sometimes our return to the breath and body may have the energy shown in this photo of the ballplayer sliding into home plate. If we rest there and breathe consciously, we’ll begin to experience some relief and perhaps peace.

Photo:  Tropicana Field, Tampa, Florida, July 2014

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The Soul (a guest post)

sufi winged heartA guest post from my beloved friend Susan Juetten–

The soul: what do I mean by “the soul”? Not a concept in Buddhism, but possibly contacted in the deeper realms of meditation. The term still represents something I feel inside me, not like it flies away upon death to heaven or hell as in Catholicism, but it’s a spiritual but earthy part of myself that is nearly synonymous with Heart, and can be damaged by or covered up by events in the material world. It seems to be missing in the technological, aggressively secular age we live in, and it’s what we return to nature to rediscover. The lack of it in some hearts is what is killing the world. We can also recover the felt sense of it by journaling, or by listening to sublime music or reading novels or other works that call forth an ineffable part of the human condition. It feels deeper than mere emotion. In some people, the soul shines through unmistakably.

The soul never grows old. It always feels young and uplifted when you can feel it, but it can be battered and bruised sometimes, and is impossible to locate when depression takes over.

There must be a million symbolic representations of it. The one that came to me just now was the picture remembered from childhood called the Sacred Heart of Jesus, deep red heart prominent in his chest, and with wings. Or are the wings in the Sufi representation? Perhaps it’s this quality of soul or heart that Native Americans mean when they say someone “walks in beauty”. I love that.

Photo:  a stock image of the winged heart of the Sufi, a mystic branch of Islam

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Worry Canyon

Kathy -- puzzledWhat, me worry? I guess I dealt with anxiety from an early age! Or at least, trying real hard to figure things out…

So learning about the way the brain is organized like canyons (as I talked about last week) was very helpful to me. I could begin to see the patterns of my thinking, which helped me not be so lost in the content.

But working with content can be helpful too. Many times we run the same stories over and over again in a repetitive way because we are trying to solve what we see as a problem and are organizing the data. The difficulty with this is that we are simply running the same rapids over and over again, and the answer obviously lies elsewhere or the problem would be resolved.Bhutan 1153

In this case it can be helpful to write the content down in all its detail, so it won’t be lost. That way, we can more confidently evaporate from that canyon to explore different ground, knowing that we’ve preserved the “facts.” And often in this new territory the answer appears, whether it’s the solution to a math problem, the name of that movie we saw last week, the understanding that we need to let go and forgive, or the confidence that we will rise to the challenge.

Photo:  Placing rock on pile at the pass, Bhutan 1986

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Canyon

Bali thru Heather 380 A metaphor for one way the brain works is a river basin. Water falling into creeks at the headwaters of the Colorado River will lead inevitably to the Colorado, not to the Mississippi. Multiple creeks and tributaries will feed into one large river. As more water flows, rivers may get wider and deeper, and canyons can be carved out of even the hardest stone.

Similarly, every time we run a particular mental pattern, that pattern is more likely to occur. It is said that neurons that fire together, wire together. So if we are used to worrying, for instance, we can say we create a worry canyon. All the different worries are like tributaries of the same river, leading to the same feelings of stomach tightening and mind contracting.Bali thru Heather 344

If we find ourselves daydreaming of a pleasant time, our thoughts are said to meander, the name of a river in Turkey which means a winding pattern.

Mindfulness can be a wonderful tool in exploring the territory of the rivers of our minds. The sun shines brightly when we are in the spacious parts of our experience. Even in the deepest part of the Grand Canyon, however, the sun occasionally shines directly.

Bali thru Heather 412Like the sun, our awareness can be shone into each aspect of our experience. If we are able to meet these moments with friendly curiosity and acceptance, we more fully appreciate the potential beauty of all experience.  And, if we find ourselves in an unwise pattern, with awareness we can “evaporate” out of that canyon into a neutral, more skillful pattern.

Photos:  Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, 2010

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This, That

imageWe live in a very black and white world, it seems. Have you noticed?

People will say, “I don’t know if I’m happy or sad.” Or “I love him but I’m so mad I hate him.” Or “you are right” or “you are wrong.”

Why do we feel we have to choose, and come down on one side or another so much of the time? Instead, it can be wise to notice “I’m this and I’m that, both at the very same time, and so much more.” And so are you!

When I get caught wanting to take sides and simplify the nuances of life into a dichotomy, I often repeat that phrase to myself: “it’s this and it’s that, both at the very same time, and so much more.”image

The Balinese symbolize this with the black and white checked cloth you see sometimes being worn during ceremonies, as shown in these photos, and often draped on trees, statues, bridges. This cloth is never used in the interior of temples, where a deeper understanding is practiced, that death is inherent in life, and life in death; that mistakes lead to wisdom, that joy contains sorrow. When woven, black and white checks can’t exist separate from the mixture of black and white that connects them.

So, I’m black and I’m white, I’m good and I’m bad, I’m happy and I’m sad, both at the very same time, and so much more.

(Thanks once more to therapists Stephen Gilligan for teaching me this and Stephen Nicholas for reminding me of it.)

Photos: Bali, 1967

 

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Finding Calm

Bali thru Heather 1264“Anxiety is contagious,” said Fritz Perls, influential psychologist, in the 1960’s. It’s a good thing to notice, as you may unconsciously take on others’ anxiety and wonder why you feel that way.

He may as well have also said “calm is contagious.” Anyone who has helped a crying baby calm down knows that you need to calm yourself to calm the baby.image

When the Vietnam war ended and thousands of people fled the country, they became known as the “boat people.” They left in boats that were overcrowded and rickety, facing rough seas and pirates, not knowing where they might land. Thich Nhat Hanh says that if there was one calm person in the boat, that boat was more likely to make it safely to shore.

One of my aspirations is to be that calm person in situations where others are anxious. When I am talking to an anxious person, if I am conscious of it I will deliberately speak more slowly and quietly and deepen my breathing. Often that helps them to be calmer too. At least it helps me not to ratchet up! I also sometimes imagine scary situations so that I can practice maintaining a calm presence; then, if I find myself in that situation in real life, I have a greater possibility of being helpful.

So when you notice me being anxious, help me find my way back to that calm presence!

Photos: Bali, 1987; Venice, 1968

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Happy New Year

imageMany years ago on a 10-day meditation retreat, our teacher pointed out that nothing actually happens at midnight on New Year’s Eve. One moment follows the next as usual; it’s people that give it significance.

Nevertheless we decided to stay up and mark the occasion. Of course we did some of the usual things one might expect from meditators, like write down what we wanted to let go of and burn the paper in a fire.

Sitting and walking in silence all day is surprisingly exhausting, so most of us would be sound asleep by 10pm. The organizers knew we would need fortification to make it to midnight and made hot spiced cider and popcorn for us at 11 or so. We munched and sipped quietly, but there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air at this very unusual gathering.

imageSuddenly I thought about what the folks who’d been at Times Square earlier that evening would think if they saw us. I think we all had the same thought at the same moment, for someone began to giggle and soon the room erupted in laughter that went on and on. After some time it subsided and we calmly and quietly found our way back into the hall, marking the new year by sending lovingkindness to all beings everywhere.

May you and all beings find peace and harmony this year….

Photos: Moon setting at Lake Tahoe; sunrise in Carson City

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Lights

imageOne of my favorite things about this time of year are all the lights.  Here’s one from Florida.

Happy Holidays all!

The days are getting longer again–hooray!

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