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Posts from the ‘living’ Category

The Light of Meditation

I spent a few hours yesterday immersing in and sharing the practice of meditation with a small circle of people.  We explored through sounds and chanting, breathing and Being breathed, moving and Being moved, guided inquiry, and the home ground of stillness and silence itself.  We explored meeting and welcoming all of the changing objects of life, and likely most also experienced being absorbed within changing realm for periods … beliefs, memories, stories, and emotions.  Along the way there may have been moments or longer where we experienced something fresh, almost without reference to a past or a future.  Perhaps we felt how the changing objects are always arising within an unchanging and unmoving experience.  Many names have been given to this over the course of time: Being, Presence, Awareness … Essence.  Ultimately the words are only pointers to an experience that is exquisite, and at the same time easily missed, yet always here.

To the degree that I have experienced it, in that realm of the unchanging I have felt something that is restful, whole, at ease and not lacking.  I am not defined by that which has felt broken or unworthy.  The urgencies of life seem to fall away, while life itself feels more full than it ever has in the moments of doing and achieving.  Life feels like a gift even in the midst of circumstances that might be challenging or difficult.  In the words of Parker Palmer, there is a hidden beauty and wholeness in all of it.  This unchanging realm brings with it the opportunity to meet all of those accumulated human experiences, the joys and the sadness, the pleasures and the pains.  There is space for all of it to be seen, heard and felt, rather than being denied, avoided, or minimized.  This has been incredibly healing for me.

Meditation is no longer just a thirty minute period of my day.  It is a daylong and lifelong practice of simply paying attention; Being Awake and at times asleep to the myriad movements of life, and in the moments of grace, Being the Awakeness itself.


I had the pleasure of sitting with some dear students yesterday, and I listened as they shared their reflections after meditation.  The feeling and idea of simplicity surfaced, especially in contrast to the moments of life that instead feel complex and complicated.  How often are we caught in the web of our thinking mind?  How often are we chasing our ideas and beliefs, our past and future, our sorrows and joys?  While this is a part of our human experience and not to be denied, it is also exhausting if this our prominent way of navigating life.

What if we had the space to lay all of this to Rest just for a while, allowing it to come and go like the clouds in the sky?  Instead of being caught inside the clouds, we could feel the space through which they move.  We could begin to open to the fullness of the moment and our direct experience by way of sensations and vibration.  For moments or more, we might open to the Simplicity of just this.  Just Being.  This is not something that we can strive toward or try to think our way into.  That only perpetuates the narrow and constricted conditioning.  Instead we avail ourselves to moments of Being, feeling and sensing our way into Life beneath the complexity and conditioning.  These moments and spaces allow us to return to our natural state: open, undirected and uncontrived.

When we emerge back into life, we may carry insights that were otherwise not available through the thinking mind.  We may feel a fresh and new relationship to the very same situations and people.  This can arise quickly or even days, weeks, months later.  I’ll share an example of this from my walk early this morning.  I stepped into the crisp morning air caught in a mind full of things to do and stories about the week’s unfolding.  Several minutes into my walk, my attention opened to the gentle rush of cool air across my skin, warm sun upon my face.  My eyes caught the vibrant, green leaves on the trees, not just seeing, but also feeling.  These same trees just weeks prior were barren.  My whole body began to fill with vibration, and for some moments I was available to the simplicity and the beauty of life.  I returned to my house not feeling as limited for time, nor feeling the urgency of my to do’s.  I knew they would get done, and even if not, things would likely be fine. I felt open and free, at least for a while.

If this resonates, I encourage you to allow for spaces in your day, brief pauses between tasks, between arriving and leaving work, or dropping off children.  Allow these moments to give you the opportunity to return to the simplicity of Being and aliveness of Life.  If you are interested in more of this, I will be offering a 3 1/2 hour event at Yoga Yoga North on April 21, 1 to 4:30pm, Coming Home to Ourselves.  You are welcome to read a brief post about what I hope to offer.

I’ll leave you with this poem by Mary Oliver.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Clearing the way for a purposeful and intentional life

Since the beginning of the new year, I have been taking time to sit and listen for a sense of heartfelt purpose in life, and intentions that I can carry in my days.  When I say heart’s purpose, I am speaking of something that is beyond the personal will and the ego.  While these are important human functions, instead I am referring to a purpose that emerges from something greater.  It is the sense of how we have been called to be in life and, consequently, what we have been called to do.  As such, it is not something we come to know through the mind or the ego.  These are products of familial, societal and cultural conditioning, and can be useful, even brilliant.  However, I am speaking of something more intuitive, a direction that life keeps pointing us toward as our way and our work in the world.  Know that this does not have to mean something grandiose; in fact, it can be small and impactful.  This purpose is often something we feel, though if our days are full and moving fast, we may keep missing the call.  Sometimes it is the truth of impermanence that can wake us up to our inner calling, what really matters, and what this life was truly intended for.  In fact, you can even use this as a point of reflection at the end of a meditation.

What would matter if you had a year left?  What begins to matter if you had a week left, perhaps just moments?  How do you want to Be in this life?  What is your heart called toward?  How does this guide you in what you do and what you make time for?  What do you say no to and what do you say a resounding a yes to?  

These are invaluable contemplations.  When we come home to a sense of purpose and direction, we feel more resilient in the face of life, across the movements of success and failure, triumph and challenge, loss and gain.  Life does not hang on a single outcome because it carries a greater overarching purpose.

It takes time to hear the call, and it requires that we listen often and regularly.  Once heard, we take time to know our purpose through our minds, but also to feel it in our bodies.  This is important so that when we find ourselves speeding through our days and our weeks, forgetting how we want to be and what matters, we can eventually remember because it has been known and felt through this living, breathing body.

This is an exploration I will continue to sit with myself, and one that I will offer in classes  through the next few weeks.  For today I will leave you with a poem by Martha Postlewaite that perhaps will resonate with you.

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.
~ Martha Postlewaite


Today during dinner, we found ourselves discussing evolution and biology, as these are topics that my 7th grade daughter will be exploring over the next few weeks at school.  Herb asked us to guess how much of our human DNA matches up with that of a mouse and a chimpanzee.  While I knew that our DNA was very close to that of a chimp, I was surprised to hear that almost 85% of our DNA blueprint matches that of a mouse.  Really, 85%!  Chimps brings us to a close 96%.

With this degree of similarity, it almost feels silly how as humans we spend so much of our time and energy on the perceived differences between people, rather than on the overwhelming parallels.  Through my own meditation practice, I have seen how the differences and the distance that I sometimes feel with others, are nothing more than stories or beliefs that I have taken to be true.  Often, they are far from it.

This past New Year’s Eve, my family and I distributed food to the homeless on the streets of Austin.  We each made an intention to make eye contact, to acknowledge, to offer words and to offer food. Though the vulnerability of outer appearances were difficult to take in, upon looking at an individual in the eyes, I could only see the essence of a spirit very much like my own.  Yet our life circumstances were worlds apart.  It evoked a depth of compassion and connection that broke my heart open in a humbling way.

Thomas Merton, a theologian and a mystic, eloquently describes much of what I experienced.

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one of us is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. Their would be no more war, no more hatred, nor more cruelty, no more greed. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”

I hope that this new year I will remember to go slow, to connect and bow often to the humanity and mystery within and around me.

Listening and Loving

It is the time of the year when life begins to feel full in a way that I don’t often plan for.  I have been waking up with a mind full of tasks and reminders, and have found myself moving from one thing to the next without pausing. The season of joy can sometimes feel like the season of overwhelm for me.

This morning I woke up knowing my meditation practice was calling me and I was craving it. I needed to slow down, and to let the reminders and the tasks to fall to the side for a time. About forty-five minutes later I emerged from my practice to find Herb in the kitchen. I told him how I had been feeling.  He listened. He didn’t give me advice. He didn’t try to alleviate. Instead, he just listened and gave me a hug. He reminded me how much he loves me and how he has my back, as I literally felt his hand resting on the back of my heart.

If I was looking for a way to disrupt the overwhelm, I received exactly what I needed.  Listening and Love.  In fact, these are synonymous in my experience.  To be seen and heard is powerful, and perhaps one of the most loving gestures one human being can offer to another.  In an increasingly technology driven and speedy lifestyle, more of this human to human connecting and listening is necessary.

This morning the tasks and reminders did fall away for a time while gratitude took their place. I am thankful for a partner who can be at my side in a loving and grounded way.  I am thankful that my twelve year old chose to quietly snuggle with me in bed before we went to sleep last night.  I am thankful for my ten year old who shows me love in ways that I would never have expected.  And I am thankful for my beautiful niece, whose laughter and smile can light up my heart in the flash of a moment. While the world can feel crazy and life can feel more than full at times, today I am grateful for the deep well of love that I am surrounded by.

Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.  

Thich Nhat Hahn