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Monthly Archives: January 2013

This is my 10th day of illness with the flu. I denied it at first, thought it might be a three-day cold that I could escape with vitamins, rest and fluids. I have not been ill in so long I can hardly remember….a year at least. The coughing continues, keeps me awake at night, challenges me to stay indoors – with myself.

I suppose I could consider that this has been a ten-day retreat – with many hours of silence, being alone, quieting my mind and stilling my body, watching snow fall outside the window – as if I could really do much else. I would make lemonade with this gift of alone silence, a very inexpensive retreat, a time to let go of imagined responsibilities and take care of the one person I could.

Most mornings I was able to do my meditation routine: journaling and Sunlight Qi Gong, facing east in the kitchen, knowing that the sun is there, behind the thick clouds.  I’m sure it is….a scientific fact, right?  Then prayer and meditation in the big black chair after reading a page of Ruth’s Time for Joy and a passage from Thay’s Understanding the Mind.

It is so comforting to have a morning practice of prayer and meditation, something I can do even when ill.  It restores my focus on living in this day, accepting the gifts life has to give me in this moment – a warm home, a loving husband, healthy happy children and grandchild, friends, the stark beauty of winter ice.  I am connected, at peace, hoping to be of service again soon.  My glass is always way more than half full.

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    Last night at the Washington Mindfulness Community, we listened to a tape from Thich Nhat Hanh’s 21 day retreat in June, 2012 in Plum Village and recited the Five Mindfulness Trainings.  The talk related the same story I had just read that morning before meditation, so I thought it might be a special message for me today.  In Understanding the Mind (p. 203), Thay says:

    “Through the practice of deep looking, we can see the interdependent nature of all things and transform delusion into illumination….When your beloved says something that hurts you, try this practice: Close your eyes, breathe mindfully in and out, and visualize the two of you one hundred years from now.  After three breaths, when you open your eyes, you will no longer feel hurt; instead, you will want to hug her.  These are examples of touching nirvana.  We learn to touch the whole and not get caught in small situations.  Imaginary construction brings about the misery of samsara.  The nature of nirvana opens the door of wisdom and reveals the realm of suchness.  The bridge between the two is insight into the interdependent nature of reality.”

A very similar instruction was given to us by Anh Huong about hugging meditation at the ceremony to transmit the Five Mindfulness Trainings on Saturday – “Breathe three times, realizing how precious it is that your friend is here, alive, that she will no longer be in your arms in 100 years.”
Image    This notion of how contemplating impermanence and inter-being and our deep connections with our loved ones across space and time can transform our actions and attitudes in the present moment stayed with me during the day.  Later, my husband and I were taking down our Christmas tree and lights outdoors.  Although I experienced a little sadness that these lovely lights would be packed away for a whole year, I also knew that it was freeing to have the holiday finished.  I gave special care in wrapping up decorations that I had made with my son 30 years before, realizing that I might not be alive next year to unwrap them.  So, I marked each set of lights and package of homemade decorations with notes for whoever might open them next Christmas.  It would be a small act of “continuation,” an act that made this moment more precious, my actions more mindful.  I paused in the work to give my husband a hug, appreciating his warm aliveness, knowing that our love would endure whatever challenges this year might bring.

    It is possible to be happy right here, right now, in this moment, no matter what is happening, no matter what external circumstances are challenging us.  We have our breath, our awareness of the precious and fleeting nature of this moment, this breath, this human lifespan.  In touching our breath, we can also touch the Ultimate reality that we will never die, just transform.  We are not only a brief wave on the ocean, but the whole ocean itself.  We are already everything we need to be in this moment.  We have every condition for happiness, right here, right now.  What joy impermanence can bring!