Archive for December, 2011

Click here to be part of the sangha for the new year at Plum Village.

Here is a link that will get you to last year’s Dharma talk — 2010.

If you miss the live streaming, check out these other talks.  Click here.

If I find a copy of the talk after the streaming, I will post here.

Peaceful new year to you all.

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English: Snowdrops & Bench The bench really ou...

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“We’re fascinated by the words–but where we meet is in the silence behind them.”

~ Ram Dass

Silence can be such a precious commodity.  There seems to be so little of it in today’s world.  Even going to a nearby state park, thinking I can run away and forget the world, and I hear the sounds of the traffic from the highway rushing by the park.

Maybe it’s because I am so introverted that I love silence and am comfortable with it?  Maybe it’s the years of meditation?  Or training as a therapist.  Coming from a small family?  Who knows, but I really do like it.

Silence can take on so many flavors and nuances if one can stand it long enough to touch it.  Right now, I work at a job where silence could be fostered much more than it is.  There are many situations with the clients that we work with where silence would be soothing and deflate situations that become volatile.  But silence is the last thing that is thought about, let alone practiced, when we have our agenda of where we need to be and how things should happen rather than letting things unfold before us.

There is such beauty in being able to sit with someone and being so comfortable in your self that you don’t need to fill the space with words.  Sometimes it’s just that that you can be present to the experience of the anxiety that accompanies the long pauses but I think that is an acquired gift.

Silence can be such a precious gem that we can bestow upon someone. . . a client, an aging relative, someone whose heart has been shredded by grief, or someone is who dying.  There’s no distraction in silence, no busy-ness, no nonsense.  Silence is intimate as two people sit in a starkness and nakedness that can be some uncomfortable and yet might be just the thing that two people are craving — the acceptance that comes with that being-with in silence.

My role is to often be silent with the person I am with. . . to hold a hand, to sit attentively, to bear withness to a person’s story or experience.  Meditation is an ideal practice for slowing down and opening the heart.  One learns, through practice, acceptancce of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations.  One practices having a gentle touch with that which comes into consciousness.

We learn not to get swept away, but to allow an idea or a feeling to come up and release it after labeling it.  We learn to have compassion  for the unending streams that our are brains create.  And it is in fostering this acceptance that we can cultivate this openness for another person.

 So much can be created in silence, just think about the phrase a pregnant pause.  Things gestate and grow and become when they have light and space.

As we practice silence with others, we allow them the room to grow before us and in doing so, the roots of that experience grow to unimaginable depths.


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English: Picture of Sharon Salzberg.

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Sharon Salzberg answers questions from a mediation student.

Here is a great quote from the article by Liz Matthews:

“I often say to people, “Isn’t it ironic that if someone said to us, ‘Here is this thing you can do 20 minutes a day, and it will really help your friend,’ we’d probably do it. But to put in that 20 minutes for ourselves is much more difficult.”

I love Sharon’s straight to the point groundedness and humor.  She is one of the finest meditation teachers in this country.

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English: The Dying Gladiator Life-sized figure...

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I love hearing stories of caregiving.  Maybe because I grew up with a family of caregivers and it feels like home to me.  Maybe it’s because I am so interested in how we interact with each other, especially at times that give us great opportunity for growth.  And there is no other time like dying and caring for the aging and dying that can give us the gift of growth.

David Brazier, Buddhist teacher, says, “Life comes to life at its limit.”  Everything becomes intensified — our love, our strength, our anger, our fear.  I sometimes think that we need to have the edge of living with dying to bring out the best in us.

I had a recent scare with the idea of losing someone very close to me and life became intense.  Thinking of last-minute travel plans, trying to get ahold of people who could tell me what was going on, fearing that I might not make it in time. . .

I thought the limits of our relationship were drawing in on us quickly and it seemed to bring the very best in me out — the loving, care, concern, and compassion that I have placed on a shelf, at the back of a dark closet.

I wish all of the stories I hear could turn out as good as this one did for me.  The person recovered, I did not have to travel to be close though I wanted to, and recuperation is slow but steady.  All and all, a much better picture than the one that I painted in my mind’s eye as all of the chaotic thoughts of loss swirled around and around.

The most painful stories for me are the ones where the dying person is stripped of dignity while they die.  And I really don’t mean the actual dying but rather the living their dying. . . knowing that it is coming and having everyone else think they know how it needs to be done.  When the people around the dying think they now what it means to die well.

Our need to control can be insidious at times, so subtle that we don’t have any idea of what we are doing.  We tell someone who is dying that they have to take their medicine or they have to stop smoking.  We tell them that they can’t eat something that they have always loved.  We tell the person who has the bottle of scotch close to the bedside that there will be no more of that.  And who are we?

Who are we to think that’s how someone needs to be loved at the end of this life?  Who are we to try to change the fundamental aspects of this person?  We say things like, “Mother, you shouldn’t use that kind of language” when they swear at the visiting nurse.  We correct them when they tell us things like, “Your uncle, he’s sitting over in that chair waiting for me” and we see no one in that chair.

Maybe we do and say these things out of love or out of misguided actions.  I’m not sure there is just one reason or if reason is even a part of this primordial need to fix things or have everyone socialized into our consensual reality.  Even when someone is living with dementia or slowly dying, we have a need to pull in the reins and have people conform to our notions.

Aging and dying can be times where we practice giving unconditional love.  We do this when a baby is born.  We don’t yell at them for soiling their diaper or throwing carrots during  a meal.  We laugh when they do things that don’t make sense.  And yet, we don’t do this for those aging and dying.

Can you imagine having something that gives you comfort when you are anxious — a cigarette, a drink, an emotion, a great curse word — and someone wants to take that from you?  Can you imagine how unloving that might feel, how being corrected and chastised could be mortifying?  You are trying to cope with what’s going on, trying to make your way through the situation and you are being stripped of it.  How lonely it might feel.  How judged and unloved I might feel if I am this person.

I think aging and dying are times in life that the human being is celebrated.  What would it be like to celebrate the complexity that is the person who we care for?  What if that meant temporarily putting on hold our need to control or to do what is right and proper?

One way a caregiver can allow themselves to love more freely is to meditate on their own death.  What might it be like?  What would I want and need?  What are things/ideas/values that I would be unwilling to compromise?  What are things that might give me some comfort?

Can you settle in and let your breath relax?  Become more mindful of the flow of air that arises and falls with each inhalation and exhalation.  As you do, can you imagine what it will be like to be frail, confused, fragile, or anxious?

What kind of powerlessness might you feel as someone you once took care of has to take over caring for you?  Imagine what it might be like to be naked in front of your adult child as they bathe you or change your clothes. . .

Picture yourself being asked to take several pills when even drinking water is laborious.  Can you have mercy on yourself in that situation — wanting to live until your last breath?  Can you have compassion for what your caregiver might be going through?

We spend years sitting on a cushion, chanting, touching malas, and doing loving kindness as a practice.  Envision the ultimate loving practice of holding space in your heart to love an aging or dying person as if they were the baby buddha in your hands.  Can you relax into just being present and loving?  And sharing the greatest gift of all, your presence?

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Reblogged: Do what you love. . .

Light Heart

Image by mariobraune via Flickr

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions.  I guess I think of birthday’s as new years more so than the end of the calendar year.  I have rather high hopes for new lessons to be learned, adventures to come, strangers to turn into friends, and other chances to grow from the energy of the renewal of birth.

But I like Robert Moss’ spin on looking at them a little differently.

For the last three years, I’ve found myself doing what I do to keep a roof over my head and bills paid instead of doing what I love.  I hope opportunities are created in 2012 for that to change.  For me, this blog was one of the seeds I started planting to get me back in touch with those dreams and the very things that make me thrive and feel like I am contributing to some greater good.

Would love to hear about your lists or how you are actually living by doing that which you love now.



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Corpse Pose

One way of embodied healing is yoga. This blogger talks about the benefits of the “corpse pose”.
Child’s pose and twists are my favorite and are great for relaxign and rejuvination respectively.
If you are grieving and dealing with a painful diagnosis, look into yoga and meditation and discover the benefits they have for reducing suffering.

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See: www.falundafa.org/eng/exercises.html

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Here is a blog post with a transcipt for a Lovingkindness Meditation.

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Thich Nhat Hanh at Hue City, Vietnam (2007)

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I’m not a huge fan of Oprah’s, since she has helped thrust people into stardom like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz but I thought this was a good interview with Thich Nhat Hanh.  And it’s the transcript, not a clip.  It is 9 webpages but worth it.

Take a lot at his comments on happiness:

Happiness is the cessation of suffering. (my italics.) Well-being. For instance, when I  practice this exercise of breathing in, I’m aware of my eyes; breathing out, I  smile to my eyes and realize that they are still in good condition. There is a  paradise of form and colors in the world. And because you have eyes still in  good condition, you can get in touch with the paradise. So when I become aware  of my eyes, I touch one of the conditions of happiness. And when I touch it,  happiness comes.”
Read more: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Oprah-Talks-to-Thich-Nhat-Hanh/3#ixzz1hx0xCJvK

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A picture of Candle burning at dark room. Snap...

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Truly, it is in the darkness that one

finds the light, so when we are

in sorrow then this light is

nearest to all of us.

~~ Meister Eckhart

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Life Lessons Post on Huffington Post.

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