Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2012

We need to revive appreciation for the traditional model of a practitioner who lives a life of simplicity and humility, sincerity and endeavor, kindness and compassion. We must choose teachers with these qualities, cultivate these qualities in ourselves, and guide our students in developing them.

– Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron, “Shopping the Dharma

Read Full Post »

All of us will die sooner or later

Ironically, my first night of sitting in contemplative silence, meditating on this assertion, All of us will die sooner or later, with what feels like the start of the flu.

We have a fragile, impermanent existence. . . and illness, pain, aging all are like mindfulness bells ringing to remind us to be present here and now because we have nothing more than the present moment!

I got on my cushion in the evening and tried to get comfortable.  I was wrapped up in a blanket to keep warm.  I keep my apartment on the cold side because I find it helps with things like inflammation and pain.

I chuckled to myself that my hands were as cold as a corpse, so maybe that was a good sign for sitting with this true reality of impermanence.  And I sat with my skull mala in my hands, hoping that would ground me to the experience.

All of us will die sooner or later. . .

I’ve often wondered, out loud and to myself, if in our bliss to find our life partners, we stopped to ponder that one day one of us would die and the survivor would be left to mourn, how many of us would really go through the pain of love?  Could we even ponder this every day of a relationship and still be able to be loving?

Like someone once said, I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be present to my dying.  I have to imagine that most people have a hard time thinking of their loved one dying.  It’s not a pleasant thought and it certainly feels like a lonely thought.

All of us will die sooner or later. . .

I’ve done the Nine Contemplations as a meditation series for myself before this time.  I’m always amazed at the richness that comes with it, however, when I am sick and doing the meditations.

It’s one thing to say you have an awareness of aging and dying. . . it’s another thing when your breathing is labored and you don’t have the energy to get yourself out of bed for a glass of water or juice.

My cold hands clutched the skull mala that I own.  I use it when I do meditations on dying.  As the turquoise carved skulls go between my fingers and as my back gets a little achy from trying to hold it upright while sitting on the cushion (when all I want to do is be in bed), I think to myself. . . I wonder what’s really the harder thing to do . . . living or dying. . .

All of us will die sooner or later. . .

there is no getting around it.

there is no hiding from it.

From our literature to our movies, we are constantly reminded that we will say goodbye. . .

not in a sappy love song sort of way though. . .

but in an unraveling of the spirit from the mortal flesh. . .

a pulling away of light from our neurotic grasping. . .

a severing the deep ties to all that we are attached to in this life as we re-enter the world of no-thing-ness.

All of us will die sooner or later.

Related articles

Read Full Post »

To acknowledge that you are dying is to recognize that you are alive.

~~ Dean Rolston, Memento Mori: Notes on Buddhism and AIDS

Read Full Post »

“People tell me they’re saddened by the ugly, uncivil polarization they see in public life, and the isolation and loneliness they feel in private.  They hunger for cooperation, connection, and community.  Meditation, which teaches kindness, compassion, and patience, is a clear, straightforward method for improving relationships with family, friends, and everyone else we meet.”

Sharon Salzberg, Happiness

I don’t know if we are ever so polarized as during an election year.

Human beings label things, pick sides, need to be right, and have fear.

Meditation teaches us how to label without judgment, to follow the middle path, and to let go of fear for a more compassionate relationship with the world.

I am really excited that I have the opportunity to teach at a local community college and mindfulness is one of my first agenda items.  It’s a skill that we should teach in first grade but if they can be inspired, as I was in my sophomore year, than maybe we have a chance for real change and happiness.

Thanks to Sharon Salzberg for an amazing book and profound and simple wisdom.

Peace, Jen

Read Full Post »

Allowing Space

Ani Pema Chödrön

Ani Pema Chödrön (Photo credit: albill)

It is never too late for any of us to look at our minds. We can always sit down and allow the space for anything to arise. Sometimes we have a shocking experience of ourselves. Sometimes we try to hide. Sometimes we have a surprising experience of ourselves. Often we get carried away. Without judging, without buying into likes and dislikes, we can always encourage ourselves to just be here again and again and again.

from “When Things Fall Apart:Heart Advice for Difficult Times”, page 27.
Heart Advice weekly quotes from Pema Chodron, courtesy of Shambhala Publications.

Read Full Post »

Stillness

 

Presence has no measurable product except positive feelings, feelings of support, intimacy, and happiness. When we stop being busy and productive and switch to just being still and aware, we ourselves will also feel support, intimacy, and happiness, even if no one else is around.

~~Jan Chozen Bays, “The Gift of Waiting”

Read Full Post »

When will it end?

"Quintessence of compassion"

“Quintessence of compassion” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was so disheartened when I ran home tonight for my dinner break to see the headlines down in a neighborhood by  Texas A & M…

When will we start to look at domestic terrorism, gun control, the mental health system, campus violence, etc?  When are we going to identify the crisis of conscience?  Apparently law enforcement went to deliver an eviction notice and they were fired upon from inside the residence.

I worry.  I have some I love dearly who is a police officer.  This officer was going about doing something mundane and a part of their everyday job.  And another person, a bystander, killed for being in the “wrong place at the wrong time….”  not that that ever comforted anyone.

And why does this shooting get national attention while shootings in neighborhoods of minorities of all sorts, of the disenfranchised, of  those who are disadvantaged, are tolerated and we accept “that’s just the way it is?”

It break my heart to know that another community is shaken to its core.  More families are grieving.  More students will feel unsafe, in the very place we entrust them to learn and foster a new and educated population.

How did we foster a world where the only answer is to get on the internet and buy SWAT equipment and tear gas?

I used to believe that people wanted to get better, that they wanted to flourish, live the good life as best as they can.

I guess I used to be really naive.  But I grew up to say please and thank you, to be of service to the old and infirmed.

And even as I type these words, I think about the violence that so many of us do to ourselves. .  . the hatred and  vitriol of our own thinking and judgments of our selves.

The family violence.

The broken communities.

I think about the terrible pain that is in our world, our communities, and in our hearts and minds.

Oṃ Tāre Tuttāre Ture Svāhā

Wildmind.org says this about this mantra. . .”in particular she represents compassion in action, since she’s in the process of stepping from her lotus throne in order to help sentient beings.”

I think that for the next few weeks, this will be my mantra though it’s not my normal mantra.  But this is also not normal times.  Tara is a bodhisttva of compassion.  Her name means “she who ferries” and I think the mantra is appropriate.  We feel like we are shuffling along and a desert shore, thirsty and trying to get to the sea in order to heal ourselves.  But we are blinded by the sun and parched from the heat.  Our shoreline is crumbling beneath us and we are searching.

Perhaps Tara will hear our prayers and hearts and disillusionment.  Perhaps she will come to bring us to a new land where compassion is fostered, not hatred.  Where we don’t worry about who marries whom or fight over feeding children and the elderly.

I’m not much for believing in mythology being real but I think we need to look at the metaphors for our times.  I don’t think it is any surprise that we are seeing all kinds of superhero movies.  We want to be saved from a world we think is unstable.  But we need to stop searching “out there” for someone to save us and look instead at our own motivations and aspirations.  I don’t think that the Hulk or Iron Man are the answer though… Though, Tony Starks is a bit of a dream.

We need to really take up the cause of our true heroes. . . HH the Dalai Lama, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Martin Luther King Jr, JF Kennedy . . . whomever it is. . . we need to stop posting their quotes on facebook and instead, start living our lives modeled after our idols out there on the street and in our own heart/mind.

We can be our own Tara, our own version of a bodhisattva of compassion.  We are here and now and we are a being that is always moving forward and looking backwards.  Perhaps we can bridge the shore that we are on with a bridge to a more compassionate land.

For the families and individuals who were affected by today’s shooting.  To the kids who will be starting school all over the country next week, I wish for them peace, safety, comfort, lovingkindness, and deep abiding calm.

Read Full Post »

Buddhism in Bangkok, Thailand

(Photo credit: photo-555.com)

Buddhism asks us to go beyond the self, not to perfect the self.

David Brazier Living Buddhism

Read Full Post »

I had someone leave me a question on the Ask Here tab of the website.

The person who wrote shared the story of having a friend that they loved very much who died very quickly after a cancer diagnosis.  Priscilla, the writer, wants to know if it is normal that she still misses her friend and has periods of actively grieving.  She wonders what might be wrong since other friends don’t seem like they are still hurting.  And she wanted to know if there was something that she could do…

Priscilla,

Thanks for leaving me a question.  It sounds like your loss was really unexpected and you had little time to come to terms with your friend’s diagnosis and death.

I used to hear the debate in my grief groups, as I would be walking into the group room from locking the front door… which is worse, a sudden death and the loss that accompanies it or the slow declining death of someone and that loss?

Honestly, loss is loss and it hurts to the very depth of our soul.  We will react to different losses in different ways but being bereft, although the second thing that we all have in common, is still one of our most painful and life altering experiences.

A lot of people in our society think that there is some set amount of time that a person has to grieve.  Apparently businesses think three days away from work is plenty of time to get funeral arrangements made, cope with the loss, and come back to work with a stiff upper lip.

Many in the field of grief will tell you that 6-12 months and you should be spending more time in the “living” process than in the world of grief.

What I can tell you is what I have experienced and what I have been honored to witness in clients, friends, and family. . .

Grief takes as long as it does.  Depending on your relationship, that whole in your heart my be painful until the day you die.

Grief takes on different characteristics over time, sometimes feeling like a stabbing pain, sometimes like a dull headache, sometimes like the darkest hours before dawn, and sometimes the murky twilight when nothing seems real.

And it’s okay that you are still grieving for your friend two years later.  For some of us, friends are the family that we’ve gotten to choose.. we’ve brought them into our lives and our hearts and they have a special meaning that no one can replace.

Have some compassion for yourself for having loved someone so deeply.  Isn’t that what loss is?  Our learning to live without someone being here to hug, call, laugh with, sit and be silly with?

For me, the first year after my brother’s death was painful.  Six months after he died, I went away to graduate school, still stunned and in a fog from two years of caregiving with my parents.

But it was in the second year, when we were sitting in my little basement apartment, away from our family and friends at the holidays that I felt like my heart was ripped out.

We were together, my parents and I… but I was longing to think .. is this going to be his last holiday?  What’s life going to be like without him.. as I had thought for several years…

I longed to feel that kind of pain though I would not have wanted him back in the agony that his life was.

When I went to work for hospice, 7 years after his death, I struggled.  I finally had a community around me, people that I trusted with my grief and pain, and it was a tough anniversary to go through… it was also a few months after my friend and mentor died as well and there was no way that those two losses were not interconnected in a variety of ways in my heart.

The point is that we change, evolve, and grow with time.  Our grief changes during that time too.

With every year that passes, there is more and more certainty that it’s not a dream and we can’t just wish things to be different.

As we find healing in one area, we find that we have the ability to take on a new painful part of the grief and work on healing that.  This new pain may have been there since the loss but we have a way of prioritizing what we can and cannot handle, mostly on an unconscious level.

So, not that you asked for advice per se, but what I would like to offer is:

Take time to touch that gentle tender point in the center of your chest that might be aching for your friend.

Acknowledge the pain as it comes up

Love that he/she meant that much that you still hurt

Find comfort in your memories

Allow what is to be and don’t push away the pain.

And don’t let anyone tell you that you’ve been grieving too long.

If you are able to get out of bed, take care of your kids, go to work, make sure that you are eating, etc than just be gentle with yourself.

If you are finding that you are having a really difficult time dealing with day-to-day things, then see if your local hospice has a support group or counselor.

If you feel like harming yourself, get in to see a doctor.

Most of us will not have the last two experiences, but if you are, know that there is help.

Shame and guilt only make our grief worse so if possible, make a point to acknowledge that grief hurts and you are okay for hurting.

Love takes a time to build.  And loss takes a lifetime to heal from.  Know that you are forever changed by the experience of having had this friend in your life and having lost them.

Be gentle with yourself Priscilla, allow yourself to grieve as the thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with the grief arise.

Related articles

Read Full Post »

Homemade Tassajara bread and Chèvre

This is a thoughtful and beautiful book that I downloaded to Kindle in April.  Whether you buy it for the recipes or the Buddhist wisdom, you will not regret this book.

Enjoy!

by Edward Espe Brown

Prayer Helps Throughout the day I offer many prayers as the occasion arises: “May you be happy, healthy, and free from suffering.” “Just as I wish to be happy, may all beings be happy.” “May you enjoy vitality and ease of well-being.” I am not asking for everything to be better, or for all your dreams to come true, but given that things are as they are and go as they go, I wish for your well-being and happiness in the face of all the changing circumstances. Things quite likely will not go ideally or according to plan, so I wish for the growth of buoyancy, flexibility, and resiliency. I wish for the nurturing of generosity and tolerance. Not by design, but something shifting inside. In the context of Buddhism I do not see prayer as necessarily directed toward a supreme being or higher power. Rather, I see it as a clarification and expression of true heart’s desire, or what my teacher Suzuki Roshi called innermost request. What is it we really want? To know and act on true heart’s desire or innermost request usually involves unearthing, sifting, and sorting. Speaking it can help to reveal and clarify it. Each day I offer a prayer before meals. I like using an ecumenical expression: “We venerate all the great teachers and give thanks for this food, the work of many people and the offering of other forms of life.” There are many possibilities: “May this food bring us health, happiness, and well-being.” “Just as we have enough to eat today, may all beings have enough to eat.” “May this food nourish us (me) body, mind, and spirit.” It could be as simple as “Blessings on this food.”

To have food on the table is truly a blessing, and one’s life can change profoundly by acknowledging one’s gratitude and appreciation. If you use your verse whenever you eat, even when snacking—it can be silent or spoken—it will help bring you into the present and will have a tremendous effect on how you receive your food and assimilate it. Acknowledging the blessedness of food is also acknowledging your own blessedness, your own capacity to nourish other beings as well as your self. Nourishment comes from receiving food (or any experience), fully taking it in, assimilating what is useful, and letting go of what isn’t. In Buddhism what comes into our lives is called dharma, or teaching.

In Christianity all that we receive can be viewed as a gift from God. Gratitude is called for: “We give thanks for this food, this ‘teaching,’ this ‘gift.’” Lately I have been reading Larry Dossey’s Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine. Dr. Dossey is a physician who began incorporating prayer into his practice of medicine after reviewing scientific studies that demonstrated its effectiveness. He found the evidence for the efficacy of prayer to be simply overwhelming, even though this is one of the best-kept secrets in medical science. What he points out is that prayer works regardless of religious background or belief. Also, it turns out that the most powerful prayer is not one that aims for any particular result, but one that is more all-encompassing: “Thy will be done,” or “May the best results occur.” Along with a blessing or grace before meals or snacks, other eating rituals can be beneficial.

Ritual in this sense could include sitting down a table to eat, rather than eating standing up, walking, or riding in an automobile. Another is to turn off the TV and radio and to eat in the company of family or friends, or to focus solely on eating rather than eating and reading, or eating and talking on the phone. Each of us can determine which rituals are most helpful. In this sense ritual can be seen as ways to do things that help to heighten or deepen awareness. Noticing tastes, physical sensations, feelings, thoughts, and moods will inform or enlighten the food choices we make, and our capacity to be nourished by the food we are eating. Giving our attention to the experience of eating is powerful, whether we are eating wholesome foods or unwholesome foods, or are overeating. Ritual, prayer, your innermost request—please find your own way to bring yourself to your meal, to sitting down at the table and taking the time to eat and nourish yourself.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »