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Monthly Archives: April 2011

What a glorious morning! Cooler, overcast, breezy and filled with azaleas, pink and white dogwood, birdsong and LOVE. Somehow getting the grass mowed yesterday gave me energy to re-pot all my plants and put in herbs on the back porch – basil, fennel and cilantro. Spring is such a gift of the Universe. I picture my God smiling, tapping me on the shoulder, asking if this is enough to make me happy. “Have I pleased you with this sunrise? This perfect peach blossom? This curious cardinal who returns every morning to the porch? Is this enough to satisfy you?” “Are you happy yet?”

YES! I am pleased. I am happy. I am filled with joy actually, even in the absence of sunshine. These flowers are enough. My sweet husband is enough. The encouragement from an old friend and author about my book is enough. My family is enough. My health is enough. Just being alive, breathing and writing is enough. Thank you for all the hard work, whatever powers of creativity and beauty have served me this day full of possibilities.

How are you feeling today?

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Easter Sunday and today Easter Monday – both bright, sunny days, filled with spring azaleas, tulips and freshly planted marigolds. What energy is released after rainy days, entombment and suffering. Why not begin anew, enjoy every moment of beauty, renewal, in whatever form it appears. My Sunday was one of shear delight – working with family outdoors. We worked together, played, enjoyed each other, the sunshine and 80 degree weather.

Photo by Tonigri

After a short rest, shower and dinner, I enjoyed a very special evening with my sangha. The founder of the Washington Mindfulness Community and his wife, both dear friends who stayed with us for the last four days, were available after the sitting to answer questions about meditation practice. The first question was about how to not lose yourself in compassion for others. E talked about healing the riff with her sister, the retreat beforehand, how to nourish compassion within herself, working on her practice, letting the sangha hold her suffering. And R told a story Thich Nhat Hanh shared on a retreat about a man so busy with his family duties that he had no time for himself. He changed the way he helped his child with homework, washed dishes and cleaned house, so that he was doing it for himself….then he had much “time for himself” because he was doing everything for himself. Gradually the man was able to see that he is in his son and his son in him, that all acts of compassion for others can be done in a way that nourish us. The rest of the sharing was also deep and powerful, stimulated by the first deep question and answers. I was filled with gratitude for having a beautiful family I love and a community of practice I also love.

Life can begin anew each day. We can rise as new beings, filled with life and promise.

Photo by Pericomart

January’s moon revisits us tonight, April 17, 2011

We celebrate each full moon with a vow renewal ceremony we learned in Plum Village on a retreat. After a beautiful Touching the Earth ceremony with our sangha, the Washington Mindfulness Community, and two sitting meditation sessions, we came home and realized that we could end the day with our Full Moon Ceremony. Tonight’s full moon is very bright in a mostly clear sky with occasional clouds that lend even more mystery.

The ceremony is very simple and takes only a few minutes. We light a candle at the kitchen window with a view of the moon, sound the bell and recite the Five Awarenesses:

1. We are aware that all generations of our ancestors and all future generations are present in us.
2. We are aware of the expectations that our ancestors, our children, and their children have of us.
3. We are aware that our joy, peace, freedom and harmony are the joy, peace, freedom and harmony of our ancestors, our children and their children.
4. We are aware that understanding is the very foundation of love.
5. We are aware that blaming and arguing never help us and only create a wider gap between us, that only understanding, trust and love can help us change and grow.

The moon slides behind a cloud, but we are aware it is here, that we are here, interconnected.

As I’m typing, see that the sun is suffusing new leaves on the tree outside with transparent yellow light. A red cardinal flew by so fast that I caught the color and a rough shape. Life happens all around me every day if I’m awake and alive enough to notice. Happy I was able to sleep deeply, to rest my body, especially my fingers. The rest of the morning, afternoon and part of the evening I wrote. We also enjoyed a beautiful walk along Sligo on a gorgeous spring evening.

Photo by L*Ali

Words are very powerful
Words have the power to move us
from a place deep within us.
Words have the power to shift us
from old beliefs to new ones.
Words have the power to inspire us
to take action steps that make a difference.
Words have the power to shake us up
and help us change.
Words have the power to touch our hearts
and bring peace.

Ruth Fishel, for April 15 in Peace in Our Hearts, Peace in the World

Yesterday I had the most amazing conversation with a very old friend, a former priest who had planned to be part of a companion draft board action to our anti-corporate action. I had woken the day before with a script between the two of us writing itself in my head. The scene of us waiting outside the government building that housed the draft files was so vivid. My memory clearly pictured the darkness, the cold, the rain, the warm coffee cup in my hands, the fatigue, the closeness I felt to my friend. This would make the perfect beginning for my book, a fifth version of the most difficult chapter – the first.

I had written a version of the scene, but now I wanted it to become even more real, the reader’s first contact with the narrator and two main characters. I realized that I needed to talk to Phil, to pump him with questions, to interview him about that night, to make the words leap to the reader with immediacy. I had tried to find him for years, especially when I planned the reunion two years ago. But this morning, the Universe and its powerful agent, the internet, served me well. It must have been the right moment. I found a contact who emailed him and we set a time to talk, all within a few hours.

Before we talked, he sent me a wonderful selection from his journals that mentioned his activities in DC at the time of the action. Details I needed, memories that varied from mine. When we finally connected by phone, we were both so happy to be in touch again that the words, thoughts and feelings flowed, years fading. We were both still passionately concerned about peace and social justice, still working in communities that served those ends. We shared news about our families, our work, our spiritual journeys over the last 40 years. As I remembered, he was able to plumb to such depths quickly, sharing a beautiful story about the death of his first wife.

He said something very freeing about our differing memories about the timing of some events. “It’s like scripture, isn’t it? Every person has their own words, their own view and memory. It’s a good thing, or else we’d only have one book instead of dozens.”

Now I’m waiting to skype the young man who was inside the building we were watching! More connections to come!

Friday evening I met for the first time with my new writers’ group. The woman who invited me to join the group had participated in a class with me at the Writer’s Center last fall on Narrative Non-fiction. She gave excellent, detailed feedback on my book and other submissions by students in the class. The revival of her writers’ group happened at a perfect time to give me energy, focus and feedback on the book and a proposal I need to submit to an agent within a week. I sent the participants the first four chapters of the book before our meeting, and received enthusiasm for the story, stimulating questions, suggestions and a possible new title. Saturday afternoon I worked on a revised proposal, including a cover letter with a pitch, an overview, bio, marketing plan and chapter summary. This evening I sent it to several members of the group for feedback.

Saturday I was also inspired with yet another approach for the beginning of the book. This idea led me to search for the ex-priest who was supposed to participate in a draft board action several days before our DC-9 action. I envisioned our dialogue as we waited outside the building housing the DC draft files and wanted to interview him for details. I researched him on line, found a lead, emailed an organization in California to locate my old friend. By this morning I had an email back from him. Re-connected after decades! Love the internet! Tomorrow we plan to do the interview.

My husband is constantly urging me to continue writing, to follow my muse, to let the world know how important this book is to me. Is it true that when we follow our deepest instincts, when we open our hearts to share our truth, we are aided by angels? Definitely when we ask those angels for help. Help arrives.

Thank you, my angel fellow writers. Thank you, California peacemakers.


Photo from Stillwater Mindfulness Practice Center website (www.stillwatermpc.org)

Recently I had two opportunities to offer healing guided meditation to friends who were suffering from physical ailments. One had a persistent pain in her leg which was worrying her because she was about to embark on a trip that would involve much walking. The other had a serious physical problem that was causing stress and inability to focus on work. In both cases, my friends were getting medical treatment, testing and physical therapy. I am no doctor and don’t give medical advice. But each of us had experienced the power of meditation to deal with pain, illness and stress. So, the first woman only had time for a short meditation by phone and the second asked me to come to her home to guide her in a deep relaxation meditation. In each case, I began and ended with the sound of a bell, invited my friends to assume comfortable positions (one sitting, the other lying down) and begin following the breath. As we moved through the body, breathing energy and relaxing, I tried to concentrate on the particular areas of discomfort. Breathing in energy from the Universe; breathing out pain, relaxing.

I love doing this work and do it best when I am also breathing slowly, aware of my in breath and out breath, relaxing my body as I am directing others to do the same. Becoming aware of places where I am holding tension, and relaxing that muscle. I would not be able to instruct anyone else to relax and breathe, to concentrate on images or experiences that bring peace to body and spirit if I did not do the same for myself on a daily basis. I also allow others to guide me in deep relaxation and my husband to guide me when he notices tension or suffering in my body and spirit. We “inter-are,” so my meditation affects him and his affects me.

The practice is very simple, something that anyone can do, anywhere, anytime with oneself or others. Breathe, follow the particular breaths, in/out, relax each part of the body…..concentrate on an area of the body or mind that needs attention. Sit with the discomfort…..feel the feelings….watch them move and change…..we are still sitting and breathing, alive!

The Buddha taught that each living being has within the potential to become awakened, aware, alive in the present moment. Guided meditation is a tool for awakening, one that gives to both the giver and the receiver at the same time. I plan to do a deep relaxation meditation at a day of mindfulness next week and several forms of guided meditations on our upcoming retreat for women in May.

Perhaps these guided meditations might become my next book. Something that helps people trust the spirit within themselves to find the words to help themselves and one another breathe, relax and awaken.

What do you think?

Today is the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today I heard a part of a friend’s story I hadn’t heard before, one that reminded me both of how much MLK’s dream has come true and how much more of it we have yet to fulfill in 2011. My friend recalled that he attended a Catholic church in his youth in St. Mary’s county, MD in which blacks were seated at the back of the church and had segregated weekend activities from white parishioners. I was curious about the time period – 1950? “No”, he said, “the early 1970’s.” Yet today, we sat in a non-segregated (non-Catholic) church hall sharing stories of our common religious upbringing and the reasons why each of us had grown away from it. Our journies back to a spiritual life took very different paths, but neither of us returned to the church of our youth, the church of our parents.

Of course, the racism in the churches in the 20th century was a reflection of the racism in our culture, our government and our laws during most of our lives. My friend and I both realized the role that racial segregation and the dismissal of women drove each of us from organized religion. Yet we needed a Power greater than ourselves to survive, live, thrive. We had to find a Power greater than any organized religion and find a way within our hearts not to dismiss the valuable gifts in religions and religious people along our paths.

I continue to be shocked by the horrors of segregation, even though my own experience of it was also complete. So complete that I never saw a black person in my Catholic parish. Did black Catholics in Kansas City have their own parishes? Where? Were there also segregated churches there as late at the 70’s? Most likely.

I must continue to plumb the depths of my own experience in my writing and encourage my black friends to write, to share their stories, to pass down our heritage of both suffering and transformation, to keep MLK’s dream alive in our own lives.