Archive for March 22nd, 2012

All alone

Image by Steve-h via Flickr

Hmmmm, odd day for a blogger to celebrate, right?  But, yes, I am thinking about it.  A whole day of being unplugged.  I cannot think of a day spent like that.. Especially this month when I have been so busy, so productive, and my brain is feeling good for being exercised in this way.

But, what is the point… I think mindfulness is so important… how much more time could I spend doing mindful activities instead of checking facebook, finding articles to quote, checking stats, reading other’s blogs, etc.

I love the feeling of community though we have here and I have created on facebook….

I have school work that needs to be done….

There are so many books to buy for my Kindle….

Yes, but does any of it matter if I don’t start from a base of a compassionate heart?

Does it matter if I am forgetting to breathe?

Do I make a bigger difference in the world by taking a day and practicing metta or tonglen than I do surfing and writing?

And, I have to admit it, Friday is a tough day.. how do I unplug while at work?  I have programs I have to write and have completed by the end of the day..

Well, it’s a good time to use the middle path, right?

A day of being unplugged doesn’t mean that I can’t do the work I get paid to do.

It doesn’t mean that I can’t answer Skype when my family calls.

It does mean that I can find the time to set down the keyboard and take a walk outside in this crazy heat that we are having in March.

It means that maybe I knock on my neighbor’s door and ask him if I can take photos of his daffodils like I have been thinking about the past few days.

Perhaps I come home at lunch and pick up a book, not a school book, but a book, instead of working on a blog post…

Maybe it’s a challenge, well, more like a Mindfulness Bell because we know that anything can serve to help us wake up and be present….

So, maybe it’s a smart kind of day to have… one that is not totally connected to sitting in front of the computer or totally hooked to playing tunes off my ipod.

Perchance the time could be spent making a true difference in the world, by allowing space and light. . .

My posts are already scheduled for tomorrow, so except for what I need to do at work, I think tomorrow, I will unplug.  Come on, if it’s good for MTV and performers like Sting, Bonnie Raitt, REM, 10,000 Maniacs, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, k.d. lang, Lenny Kravitz, Melissa Etheridge, and Lauryn Hall, (ie, all MTV Unplugged guests), then I guess it can be okay for us to unplug some times too!

So, I will unplug, outside of work… look at things that are green and natural. . .  maybe thumb through a paper book instead of an electronic one. . . maybe I will go for a ride after work. . .

Let me know on Saturday if you joined in?

Happy Holiday!

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I love the Life is But a Dream blog and was totally psyched that we ‘s inspired each other’s posts. Isn’t that what it is all about? Creating community, sharing wisdom, bring the best out in each other, and supporting one another when we think we are very far from our best.
I honor our community and all the creative voices here!
Thanks for the continued beautiful photos and inspiring words!

Life is but a dream!

Chasing after the world
Brings chaos.
Allowing it all to come to me
Brings peace.

— Zen Gatha
(many thanks to Jennifer for drawing my attention to Gathas with her wonderful article.)

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Green Tara mantra

Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t left an audio link in awhile… there is always so much to say…

Here is a link to Lama Surya Das‘ chanting with Stephen Halpern.

Here is a link to the whole album on amazon.com.

I downloaded this from Itunes and have really been enjoying it.

Take a listen.

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Gathas — What are gathas?

Gathas are short verses  used to help one be mindful during their daily life.  We use them for washing dishes, drinking tea, lighting a candle, etc.

I was first introduced to the concept of gathas in 1989, shortly after I read my first book in college by Thich Nhat Hanh.  In 1992, I bought my first copy of Present Moment, Wonderful Moment and explored the use of gathas.

Listen to the gatha for waking up by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Waking up this morning, I smile.

Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.

I vow to live fully in each moment

and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

I am not a morning person, by any stretch of the imagination.  But what a wonderful way to start the day. 

There is a Zen joke, I think it I heard it in a podcast or class by Tara Brach that goes something like, a person ways laying in bed and said this prayer, “Dear God, I’ve been patient, kind, loving, and present.  I haven’t sworn  or yelled and I have thought good things about my fellow beings today.  In a few seconds, I will be getting out of bed and I think I am going to need all the help I can.  Thanks.”  That could be much more like what we are accustomed to in our daily lives.

They aren’t prayers in the traditional way of using a prayer as a way of communicating with something(one) outside of ourselves and asking for something. 

By using gathas, instead, we set our intentions and attention. 

We remind ourselves to breathe.  We remind ourselves that in our average everyday life, we tend to walk through minutes and hours in a sleepwalking fashion but our intention is to be mindful to life.

Gathas are used to remind us to be present to what is or what we are doing.  For example,

Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth,

I vow to speak purely and lovingly.

When my mouth is fragrant with right speech

a flower blooms in the garden of my heart. 

Imagine what that might be like.  You get out of bed and go to brush your teeth.  You recite a gatha.. maybe you read it off the sticky note on your mirror… You set an intention for your day… you will practice right speech.  But you are doing more.

If you are being present to the gatha that you are reciting and being mindful of the cool water that hits your tongue, the tang of the cinnamon or mint toothpaste, you are not beating yourself in your thoughts. 

You are not rehearsing what you are going to say to your boss after yesterday’s confrontation. 

You aren’t dwelling on the list of things you have to accomplish today. 

You are pushing away anything but inviting in the experience, the phenomenon of now.  Imagine what kind of energy you might be saving that would normally be spent fighting off the world (in our minds as we mindlessly brush our teeth).

Gathas also help us on the cushion.  Here are two examples of gathas that we sing in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition:

Breathing In, Breathing Out — sung  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jshH6GQbSbw&feature=related

The same gatha by a group of children — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xse2sHOtyPk&feature=related

Can you not help but hear, “I am free, I am free, I am free” going through your thoughts?  It makes me smile.  I’m not a singer myself, but in my mind, I can enjoy this as I sit.

Gatha for entering a room

Gatha for entering a room (Photo credit: redwylie)

When I sat with Snowflower Sangha, I would sometimes feel very homesick.  I’m not from this part of the country.  My brother and my grandfather were no longer alive.  My friends back home were far and I would feel so sad as I sat.  And then, I would start to recite this:

I have arrived,

I am home

In the here.

In the now.

I am solid.

I am free.

In the ultimate I dwell.

This gatha would remind me that, well, wherever I was, I was home.  Where I was, I was perfect.  Whatever what was, was perfect.

There is also a lovely gatha, No Coming, No Going that I particularly like to use.  Here is a link to some gathas from a sangha.  Many of the gathas have been set to music, which makes them a little easier to learn.  When I think back to my childhood, I remember the prayer of St. Francis because we sang it at Mass a lot.

Ultimately, we can create our own gathas.  If you are sitting with an elderly parent or an ill parent who can’t speak to you or who is sleeping, you can use this gatha:

Breathing In, I smile to myself.  Breathing Out, I relax my shoulders.  Breathing In, I smile at my parents.  Breathing Out, I honor all of my ancestors. 

Or sitting at a red light:

Breathing In, I am here and now.  Breathing out, I know I have no where to go but here.

Play around and come up with some of your own.  There are many more out on the web that you can listen to, like the clips from youtube.  Create your own.  Share them with your dharma brothers and sisters.  Share them here.

A flower to you, a buddha to be.



Present Moment, Wonderful Moment Thich Nhat Hanh

The Dragon Who Never Sleeps Robert Aitken

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