Archive for April 13th, 2012

Heat arises from the Earth.

Winds slow and stop


The blue is bluer than even possible.

And less cloud cover

seems to be in the sky and

over my being,




I sit at the feet of

two buddhas and a hundred

bodhisattvas and beautifully they

know it and don’t know it.

They know that there is

no other except here and now

and they take all the time in the world

to freely explore in wisdom, in compassion,

in the most honest way possible.

Come in.


Listen gladly,



But Listen

closely with every cell,

connecting to every

atom that exists,

lifetime upon lifetime

that all emerges into one pointedness.

The birds stop

singing and the whole

Earth exhales and pauses.



the clacker.



the bell of mindfulness wipes

away the presence of

everything else.

The edge comes. . .

Beyond the triple gems

and beyond these two buddhas

and hundred bodhisattvas

to a place of great merger

where on the dirt road

I come face to face

with the buddha within.


4/13/12 After teachings at Upaya Zen Center today

As I sit today and drink in everything like a sponge, I am so present and aware of the shoulders I stand upon, the countless beings who have come before me as healers, wise wo(men), shamans, priest(esses), artists, philosophers, physicians, etc who have walked this very earth knowing that being a community is vital to being present to the depth of suffering, joy, and healing in this world.

I am grateful to everyone at Upaya from those cooking and volunteering in the kitchen and nourishing us, to those residents, to my endless circle of teachers that I am privileged to sit amidst.

I feel like my spirit, essence, whatever you may want to call it is going through a detoxification, questioning delusional beliefs I have held lately and very open to a lack of compassion I have had for myself as a being-in-this-world and for those I share this world with.

And I have a more profound love and devotion to my parents, to my original teachers who have loved me in the very best ways they know how.  I honor them and pray that I have been able to and continue into the future to love others as deeply.

With deep gratitude to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha… the three gems, Jennifer

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Have you ever been on a tiny airplane?  They ask you for your baggage before you step off the ramp because well, there just isn’t room for the people on board, let alone all of our baggage…

Imagine sitting, cramped up, afraid to move and even if you weren’t afraid, you have the realization (or the fear) that there is just no where to go.

Sometimes we have this feeling when we are on the cushion.

We are in our hearts or in our minds and everything feels dark, small, and cluttered.  We lose sight of the great spaciousness of the sky that dwells within us.

We don’t have to travel to far away lands to be in touch with this openness.  It is right here within us.

So many of the teachers talk about this… they may call it the luminous sky, or…

I can’t say I have spent a lifetime in this place, or even a good chunk of an afternoon, but there are precious glimpses that I have seen.  And they are usually quite ordinary and extraordinary all in one moment.

For me, being present to the weather, to music… evocative things, helps me catch these glimpses.  I remember moments sitting and writing poetry at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN, not too far from my mentor’s home, when a southern rain would come through, shake the very earth I sat on.  It was always so magical.

And just as soon and swift as the storm had come, it left.  Just like our thoughts when we pay light attention to them.  I try to remember this because there everything in our life comes and goes like these magnificent storms.

We may experience the closed-off-ed-ness and when we can sit with it, we realize that it  may only last a moment.  What keeps us in that cramped, dark space is the storyline we tell ourselves about it. . .

that it won’t ever change.

that it’s the worst feeling in the world.

that it is utterly lonely.

And yet if we can hold our focus, be present, and face what it is that we are experiencing in any moment, we soon discover that there is space between those thoughts.  There is a vastness in between our moment to moment experience, we’ve just been too busy to touch it and to light there for awhile.

But it is in these moments that we find not only the present moment but it is in these moments that we also meet our true freedom from the cramped, dark worlds, the attics filled with cobwebs from our inattention.

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When discussing a case in her book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross states that her patient had “anger displaced in all directions and projected onto the environment at times almost at random.” She discusses this patient’s feelings of “anger, rage, envy, and resentment.

But more importantly, she says this next:

“The problem here is that few people place themselves in the patient’s position and wonder where this anger might come.”

Did you ever stop to think about this?

I’m not the nicest person when I’m at the dentist office… I’m fearful, probably in pain when I arrive, projecting into the immediate future, worried, did I mention in pain?

How often do we stop to think about how someone is feeling and how it might be justified, to them?  Not right or wrong.  And I’m not even saying that we have to condone it, just…. wow, I can see how she might feel this way… I wonder what that’s like for him…

We live in a world where it is too easy to throw some sort of label on them. . . denial, angry, non compliant, depressed, borderline, etc.  And don’t get me wrong, I know people have life threatening problems that need help. . . there is no denying that.

But what happens when we are more concerned with treatment planning than we are than attending to the person from whom we sit across?

I have to believe, no matter how long I meditate, no matter how many chants, prayers, or hands I have to hold, I might feel anger if I knew that my death was coming.

And let’s look at when Kubler-Ross was working with patients… before I was born.  Think about the de-institutionalization that happened just in the 80s because we thought people’s care was not humane.

This was the end of the 60s, when doctor’s didn’t have to have informed consent.  When they didn’t tell their patients what was going on with them or their test results.  This is when people did whatever their doctor’s told them to; no finding a second opinion.

These were people who were gravely ill, who weren’t given treatment options… let alone anyone saying to them, you know, you could go home with these people called hospice and be comfortable at home with your loved ones and die peacefully.

We judge these words by our world today, that has come a long way, in some respects.

I’ve read some angry accounts of Elisabeth’s work and I feel badly for those people who have written them.  No, I don’t agree with some of the things she has written and I certainly don’t understand how she could have helped to write On Grief and Grieving on her death bed when there was already so much confusion about her work.

But I do know this… we could still be in that dark place if not for her “at the time’ pioneering work.  And given that most doctors today still don’t need to have a course in death and dying, I would prefer that they have Elisabeth’s work in their bag of tools than just what big pharmacy tells them about magic pills and new techniques to try.

If you are a caregiver of any kind, the next time you start to feel yourself tighten because of the anger, frustration, annoyance, or other difficult emotion from the person you are caring for, think of this:

Elisabeth suggested that this was the patient’s “cry, “I am alive, don’t forget that.  You can hear my voice, I am not dead yet!”  And when you think of it, think about how many quote the lines from the poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas.

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There is a lightness about the desert that is appealing.

As if all the dankness is evaporated and

Blown to the Four_Winds.

There are trees blooming everywhere

Despite the stark landscape.

The cold desert is

Seeping in slowly,

Past the armoring,

To the warm aching heart below.

This is the heart touched so deeply by the motherless child,

by the twinless twin,

the person letting go and expanding into the

Ultimate here and now.

Breathing in, I melt and evaporate.

Breathing out, I fall into simplicity

for it is in the depths of simplicity that we

find nothing more profound than


4/12/12 After our zazen @ Upaya Zen Center

May the merit of all that we are and all that we do be of solace and comfort to those who are in need.

With great love,


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Here is another gatha for your practice…

“Breathing in, I calm my body.

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment.

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.

Breathing out, I know

as the in-breath goes deep,

the out-breath grows slow.

Breathing in makes me calm.

Breathing out brings me ease.

With the in-breath, I smile.

With the out-breath, I release.

Breathing in, there is only the present moment.

Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.

In, Out.

Deep, Slow

Calm, Ease

Smile, Release

Present moment, Wonderful moment.”

From The Plum Village Chanting & Recitation Book, Compiled by the Thich Nhat Hanh and Monks and Nuns of Plum Village

Note:  I will be away on retreat for the next week.  I wish you all well and I hope you enjoy the articles that I have left in my stead.

May sorrow show us the way to compassion

May I realize grace in the midst of suffering

May I be peaceful and let go of expectations.

May I receive the love and compassion of others.

With love and deep gratitude, Jennifer

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