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Posts Tagged ‘Dharma’

Over a long time taking pictures of the nature...

Over a long time taking pictures of the nature for a change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Yes is openness.  Nature opens itself to everyone without discrimination.  This universal generosity happens to us when we awaken to loving-kindness.  Likewise, nature does not retaliate.  The man who litters the beach may nonetheless catch a fish the same day. . . Nature is such a great resource in living yes:  the model of yes and the gift of yes.  Looking at a flower and honoring it as a guide, no just as something beautiful, helps us relate to nature in a creative way.  This kind of upgrade in consciousness is how the subtle guidance from nature unfolds.  A flower becomes a symbol of the tender life in us that can only grow by firm anchoring to the earth, by welcoming the seasons, and by passing without complaint through its phases.  Then a rose is not just a rose but an escort to rebirth.”

~~ David Richo, The Five Things We Cannot Change. . . and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them

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The subtle suffering in our lives may seem unimportant. But if we attend to the small ways that we suffer, we create a context of greater ease, peace, and responsibility, which can make it easier to deal with the bigger difficulties when they arise.

Gil Fronsdal, “Living Two Traditions”

Have you ever listened to your thoughts?

I mean really listened?

Take 5 minutes right now and open Pages or Word and just type whatever comes to mind.

Or scroll through your wall on facebook.

Really pay attention to what’s there.

Do you see (hear) your thinking?

Do you see (hear) the suffering there?

Listen carefully. . . I’m such an idiot (because your computer and ipad weren’t on the same network and wouldn’t sync).

I’m such a loser (because I’m tired at work and bored with what I do because it seems so meaningless).

You’re welcome! (when the person you let go through the stop sign and they don’t wave to you in thanks or acknowledgment).

What the hell’s wrong with you? (when the person in the right lane moves ahead of you in your lane and never uses a signal light AND slows down).

I’m such a slacker (spending one weekend in pain from a root canal and the next two weekends out flat with a migraine).

Do you hear it?  Does it sound familiar?

Whining about the weather being too hot, too cold.

Not having enough money and wanting stuff that can really wait.

I keep crying, I’m such a baby (or one that bugs me. . . for you guys. . . when you say or think I’m crying like a little girl). . . because someone you love has died.

We bombard ourselves with stuff like this all day, all night, every day.

Would you talk to your kids this way?  Your best friend?  Would you let others talk to you this way?

There is a lot of talk today about bullying. . . and we need to talk about it.

And I think we need to first be aware of our own thinking and our own speech.

We can be pretty cruel and cause ourselves so much unnecessary suffering.

Life can be filled with pain, heartache, injustice, loss, and other tragedies. . . why do we add to all of this?

Stephen Levine, in The Grief Process, talks about the little injuries and losses that we sustain throughout our lives that we overlook and let chip away at us.

He questions, at one point, if we were able to have mercy for ourselves and acknowledge these little losses, would the losses of those we love be as big and hurt so much.

A new wound is most likely going to hurt more if it is at the point of a reopened wound.

So mindfulness helps us learn to acknowledge and bring into our full consciousness that which is usually below the surface, despite how much it can impact us.

With practice, we practice having compassion for these thoughts, feelings, and sensations.  Even if it feels rote or fake, we go through the process until our barriers begin to melt and we can hold our pain, our grief, our illness in our conscious awareness and experience patience, compassion, and equanimity.

This isn’t an easy practice but it is a life saving one.  And our very practice helps us to strengthen this life saving tool.

Listen to how you talk to yourself about your practice. . . do you make excuses for not getting on the cushion.  Do you beat up on yourself when you have a “bad session”?

Great moments to practice patience.

Maybe it will be easier to practice compassion for yourself in these moment than when you are in the midst of intense emotions or safer than situations (or people) that are really hurtful.

Life is filled with pain, danger, illness, discomfort, and other difficulties.  But it is vital to learn the difference between what is inherent because of the human condition of fragility and what is our own creation . . . our own layer of additional suffering.

And then of course, as those start to become clearer, mindfulness and lovingkindness give us the tools to transform suffering into peace.

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English: Thumbnail portrait of Atisha based on...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

The Sixth of the Nine Contemplations of Atisha. . . your body is fragile and vulnerable.

Think about how easily we can be overcome by something microscopic like a germ cell.  We don’t need a tiger to kill us, a few cells can do the trick.

It’s been over 90 in the Midwest for a couple of weeks and it’s been several days with temperatures above 100, without the heat index and on the news last night we heard that two elderly people in the area had died because they had stayed in their homes without air conditioning.  So even something that cannot be seen under a microscope can take these very lives of ours.

Our own bodies can turn on us, as when we have an autoimmune disease.

We grow up in this country to believe that we are rugged individualists, that we have boundless freedom and are invincible when we get good grades, get a job, marry, and raise the perfect family.  And most people can probably name at least a handful of people for whom this narrative isn’t the case.

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

Our teeth decay.

Our muscles grow weak.

Our cells multiple, sometimes out of control and cancer grows.

Sometimes our bones break.

Our sleep gets disturbed.

We “catch” the flu.

Our muscles spasm and our arches fall.

It doesn’t take much water or ice on the floor to bring us to our knees or drop us on our heads.

Think about your mindful breathing. . .

Don’t you take for granted that as you focus on your in-breath that an out-breath will follow and then another in breath?

Would you if you had asthma?

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

And what about our minds?  We often forget that there is interconnection between our minds and bodies and think of them as separate entities.

It doesn’t take a lot for our minds to “betray” us too.

We have afflictive emotions.  We have perceptions, sensations, feelings, emotions, and thoughts.

We can have hallucinations, dreams, and forgetfulness.

We take little pills to change our thinking and feelings.

Some of us will be born and develop depression, schizophrenia, autism, or dementia and although we see the effects of these diseases, we can only conjecture what really happens, despite our collective belief in levels of serotonin, problems with synapses, etc.

Your body is fragile and vulnerable.

Illness, like death, is an edge for us.  It is a mindfulness bell.  We usually don’t appreciate good health until we have lost it much in the same way that our love grows fonder and deeper when the object of our love has died.

A sore tooth or an aching back remind me of how fragile my physical life is.

I appreciate the rest of the teeth I have while I am sitting with the discomfort of a root canal.

When I have a migraine, I am painfully aware of the week I have had without the pain, sensitivity, nausea, etc. but that does not mean that I have been mindful to the lack of pain during that week.

So, can we use our physical presence and bodies in our meditations?

Definitely!

We cultivate awareness with meditations like body scans and progressive muscle relaxations.

Or focus on attention by practicing Yoga Nidra.

We allow our awareness to the sensation of our abdomen rise and fall with our inhalation and exhalation.

I remember a story from my first philosophy teacher. . . she was the one who introduced me to Buddhism and meditation.  I remember her telling me that her friend, during meditation, knew that there was something wrong with her kidneys and was able to get hydrated and get to the doctor before it was too late.

Our bodies may be weak, vulnerable, and fragile and we will ultimately die from something.  Not even the Buddha himself was able to avoid it.

But our cultivated aware and attention can be powerful as we practice meditation.

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Fundamental group of the circle

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first real experience with this shape was in high school.

I was in a program that combined peer counseling, leadership training, and learning how to provide a day camp experience for children.

It was the dreaded circle.  I could not come to pull my chair into the circle.  I didn’t feel like I belonged.

In college, I was part of a year-long intensive, studying Rogerian therapy in a program that was didactic and experiential.

I would not trade this for the world, but we were in circles again.  And as this was the second great experience that taught me about group process, it also taught me that groups can have a shadow side too.  There were times that business didn’t get finished.  People walked back to their dorms hurt, hand in heart, not knowing how to cope with what came up and how to live with it for the following week.

As a project for a meditation class I took in my second philosophy class, I visited my first Zendo. . . in New Paltz, NY.  And I was greeted into a strange circle where people sat facing the wall, in a dark room, with incense billowing.

After school was done, I went to work in social services. . . circles for staff meetings and staff retreats, circle for support groups . . . I couldn’t get away from them.  I was part of a women’s group — all of us were therapists, educators, etc and we came together to process.

As I became a group facilitator, I learned to love the group process and felt comfortable in the dreaded circle.  I was welcomed into a wonderful sangha in Madison, WI — Snowflower Sangha, in Thich Nhat Hanh‘s tradition and I got to see deep listening and compassionate speech.  I got to see a Starting Anew ceremony.  And I saw a wonderful community — like I got to experience at Upaya Zen Center in April.

Along the way, I came across a book, The Way of Council.  I yearned for this kind of group experience.

The lessons, guidelines, and spirit that is conveyed in The Way of Council works for a family, for close friends, for team members, for intimate relationships, etc.

Calling council gives one the guidelines and means for sustaining deep connections in community, to invite ritual into one’s life, and shares ideas for holding council in all of the relationships just mentioned above in the previous paragraph.

I will be writing more about holding council, about nonviolent communication, deep listening, compassionate speech.  I hold these practices in high esteem.  I have seen the light and shadow sides of groups (and families that I have worked with in therapy and in home visits through hospice, staffs that had a lot of undercurrents and lack of health).

I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give to the readers of this blog — to the therapists, to those who might want to start a peer-led grief group, to those who want to create intentional communities and have deep and meaningful relationships.

Creating the intimacy of council, of truly being present, is scary, doesn’t come easy, sometimes hurts, always heals, and is worth the time, energy, attention, and intention.

I hope you enjoy the blogs that will follow.

In the next post on this topic, I will discuss the Four Intentions of Council.

Stayed Tune.

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A stack of the iPods I now own... included are...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know I have at least one friend who is reading this title and laughing!

I have a specific reason for the title though, I promise…

So, those who know me know that I’ve been called Gadget Girl … I have several iPods, an iPad, two laptops, and a desk top. . . a scanner, a printer, a mobile printer, and well, an all-in-one…   I have several digital recorders, timers, biofeedback equipment, etc.

I’m not bragging. . . . please let me say that right off…

But there is a point to this inventory. . . my point, there are certain things I like to use for certain specific tasks AND I’ve never found an all-in-one that I really loved because it truly cannot do everything I need it to do.

I like to write my blogs on my macbook air but put them “together” on my HP laptop.  I like to take photos with my iPhone but listen to music and audiobooks on my iPod classic.

It’s easy to justify having all of them, but I would rather spend time appreciating their place in my life. . .  and sending gratitude to the universe for being able to have things on which I have come to depend.

And for some reason, while cooking dinner tonight, I kept hearing, almost as a mantra, “No one can be all things to you”  and I figured if it was that important to be sitting right there in my awareness while I was futzing in the kitchen, it was important enough to write about.

So here we go. . .

No one can be all things to you. . .

I think back over my life and there are “constants” that seem to always be there, in one shape or form. . .

lessons of the heart, mind, body, spirit, sangha, community, etc….

Some constants come up as recurrent themes like Roshi Joan Halifax‘s chant at the end of her dharma talks “Do not squander your life” and how that is sitting so profoundly with me right now.

Other times it’s been Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “I have arrived, I am home” or “Be here now” or “Loving is saying goodbye”, etc etc etc.

And I think that “No one can be all things to you” is a constant.

I’ve lived in many different states from the time I was in college until 2000 years, mostly so that I could remain near family.  I’ve learned time and time again that no one is everything or everyone…

My main mentor was in no way, shape, or form the only wise woman in my life.  She was one of many and we had a heart connection because of our shamanic call to be present with dying.  But there were others that came before her. . . my mom being the first of the long line of graceful, loving, intelligent, no-nonsense women. . .

No one can be all things to you. . .

There was a beloved philosophy professor from school in NY who introduced me to the Dharma and probably doesn’t even realize that she saved my life… well, my existential life.

There have been crusty old hospice nurses told it like it was, gentle and kind therapists/colleagues, and a wonderful mentor in gratitude school who has an all-encompassing sense of grace about her.

No, woman were  not the only one’s who influenced my life.

My dad and his father certainly did . . . while I was growing up, the sun rose and set around me in their eyes.

As it also did for a family friend who was like a second dad to me.

And my brother… well, I’ll tell you a secret… (Mike was terrified that he’d be forgotten. . . and yet, he gave me the gift of companioning him through his dying and in doing so has touched the lives of thousands through me and my work).

So if you have a similar fear, love someone and you will never be forgotten!

No one can be all things to you. . .

There was the French teacher in high school that scared me half to death but pushed me harder than anyone else in my life and I learned what I could achieve because of it.

There were wise professors whose feet I sat at and a few friends whose shoulders are probably still stained with tears during years of deep connections, retreats, and stories about  love affairs.

And I realize that no one friend, no one mentor, not even one parent can be or has been everything to me.

There have been times in my life that my dad and I were inseparable and others times, it was my mom and I.

I’ve thought this lover or this partner — well, of course he was going to be “the one”.

People have moved in and out of my life, and I, physically, out of their lives.

Each connection bringing with it a kind of grace, depth, and compassion that has a different flavor than all of the others.

No one can be all things to you . . .

A young couple who look very much in love by t...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we think that we will find “the ONE” who will be there through it all, no matter what, forever, our relationships are filled with delusion and attachment (not the healthy kind of attachment).

We can practice mindful awareness of the time that a person is in our lives, the gifts that we share, and the nuances that they bring to the totality of our lives.  And bless them when they are no longer here with us.

There was a poem that we read at hospice often that always moved me to tears of gratitude, forgiveness, gentleness, and great compassion.  Here it is linked to a song by Enya. . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HaI7V6eB9M&feature=fvwrel

No one can be all things to you . . .

Let us be grateful for what we have had,

what we were,

what we are.

Let us savor the moments,

the kiss, the touch, the lesson, the love and may we always part gracefully ~~

whether by dying or by conscious choice. . .

Let us know in an embodied way that we are One and that

we do not need to wait for “the ONE”.

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MORE OF A PHILOSOPHY THAN A RELIGION. BUDDHISM...

“For as long as space endures

And sentient beings suffer

May I also remain

To dispel the world’s sorrows.

~~Shantideva

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English: Patrul Rinpoche tibetian yogi

English: Patrul Rinpoche tibetian yogi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In a previous life, the Buddha was born in a hell where the inhabitants were forced to pull wagons.  He was harnessed to a wagon with another person called Kamarupa, but the two of them were too weak to get their vehicle to move.  The guards goaded them on and beat them with red-hot weapons, causing them incredible suffering.

The future Buddha thought, “Even with two of us together we can’t the wagon to move, and each of us is suffering as much as the other.  I’ll pull it and suffer alone, so that Kamarupa can be relieved.”

He said to the guards, “Put his harness over my shoulders, I’m going to pull the cart on my own.”

But the guards just got angry.  “Who can do anything to prevent others from experiencing the effects of their own actions?” they said and beat him about the head with their clubs.

Because of this good thought, however, the Buddha immediately left that life in hell and was reborn in a celestial realm.  It is said that this was how he first began to benefit others.”

~~ Patrul Rinpoche from The Words of My Perfect Teacher

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