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Monthly Archives: November 2013


I love being a human being, having a brain, a heart, imagination, memory, senses, love for other humans, connections with them, feelings that come and go, the ability to see, touch and be delighted by other humans, by sunlight (it’s coming today, they say, after days of rain and cold), by mountains, oceans, rivers, trees, flowers.

When I hear the “Heart of the Paraprajnamita” (no ears, no nose, no eyes, no mouth, no body or mind), I know that I also have a deeper, higher life within me that does not need the senses to be awakened, or that has used the senses for many years to touch a place that cannot be taken away, a Mind, a Heart, a Love that is beyond this body and mind with which I am so familiar and consider “me.”  I get to touch it every day if I remember, am mindful, aware, in reality.

I don’t really want to die because I can’t (with my limits) quite trust that there could be anything better than this world, this body and mind, this moment.  I know that in this moment is everything, all people, all life, all human history, all thought, all courage and hope.  Time and space converge in this moment and place in the Universe.  The convergence can happen anywhere, but for “me” (whatever that is), it is right here, right now, in this body, with these eyes, this heart, this mind.  How glorious!  The particular is universal and the Universal manifests in each tiny cell of my body and each tiny cell of every flower on earth, every child, every sunbeam.  WOW!  I love life, the mystery and beauty of it all.

Thank you, Universe, for me, for life, for all the people, places and things I love in this vast world.  At this moment there is nothing I don’t love.  Nothing for which I am not grateful.  Even the worse experiences of my life have become precious gifts, the nastiest people my teachers.  Thank you for this moment of Love


MPCF walking tiny

“My ability to be present in the world with an open heart depends on my ability to be present to myself with an open heart.” Sylvia Borstein’’

Yesterday was so FULL!  We expected, anticipated and planned carefully for each of the three major events: Our Level II Qi Gong teacher training “certification ceremony,” the first ever 14 Mindfulness Trainings recitation ceremony at our home by the WMC Order of Interbeing members and the Evening of Remembrance at the Washington Mindfulness Community!  Each event carried emotion: a bit of anxiety, mixed feelings of joy at accomplishment and sorrow at endings.  Each event was a beautiful spiritual activity employing mindfulness of body and spirit, yet each demanded an open, giving heart, sensitive to others.

I find that when I am preparing for days of giving myself intensely, trying to be fully present to the feelings and needs of others, I also need to take good care of myself.  I need space to focus on each event, each person, the nuances of others’ needs for safety, security, affection, recognition, inclusion, attention, affirmation.  In that space, I need time to breathe, rest, look deeply at what I am feeling, needing and doing in the moment.  One of my teachers in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh says “Space is LOVE.”

On the day after so much intensity with others, I am grateful to be writing in my robe and slippers, alone, quiet, reflecting, re-charging.  This is the other type of space I need in the rhythm of my life – time alone, in silence, in meditation.  I love meditation in community, need it, make sure I have it in my schedule most days of the week.  But it must also be balanced by mindful time alone.

How do you take care of your heart, mind and body, giving yourself the space and care you need as you give yourself to others?

sunset -retreatjpg

What arose in meditation this morning?

The suffering of Philippines, Syria, a friend losing her son, another losing her home, all children suffering from poverty, alcoholism, war, violence, child abuse.  Yet, as much as sorrow “is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans,” the flowers continue to bloom. The tree outside my meditation porch is so strong and tall, the blue sky so beautiful, the clouds soft, the dawn glorious.

Even in the Philippines, the sun rises, thousands of people rush to bring aid to the suffering.  Suffering is the other side of the same piece of paper Thich Nhat Hanh holds up to an audience.  Pain is not separate from peace, joy and relief.  It is the same, just the other side of the coin, the paper, the face.  Suffering and happiness inter-are.

In his August retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery, Thay often expressed the theme: “No mud, no lotus.”  He said that we need the mud, the suffering, in order to blossom into the lotus of happiness.  We don’t need to look for mud or create it in our lives.  Humans suffer illness, old age, death and the loss of people and things we hold dear.  Our actions are the ground upon which we stand, our only true possessions the words, deeds, thoughts and feelings that we send out into the Universe.

In meditation we consciously nourish the energy of mindfulness, aware of the suffering in our bodies, minds and feelings.  We wake up, become more and more aware, not only of our own suffering but also of that of the people in our lives, the people in our neighborhood and community….the people in the world suffering as we suffer.  Someone somewhere is suffering in exactly the same way we are suffering at this moment.  Some are suffering much more in this moment.  We are interconnected in our hearts, even with people we will never meet in person.  We can keep opening our hearts, discovering more compassion.

How can my friend who recently lost her son have so much insight, calm and ability to mindfully open her heart and express her needs?  I don’t know that I could do what she has done, but her ability to survive and take care of her grief gives me hope.   She is reading the Discourse on Love over and over:

“Just as a mother loves and protects her only son at the risk of her own life, cultivate boundless love to offer all living beings in the entire cosmos. Let our boundless love pervade the whole universe, above, below and across. Our love will know no obstacles. Our love will be absolutely free from hatred and enmity. Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying, as long as we are awake, we maintain this mindfulness of love in our own heart. This is the noblest way of living.”

In his poem “Please Call Me by my True Names, Thich Nhat Hanh asks,
“Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one….
so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open,
the door of compassion.”

Please let my heart continue to open to my own suffering and that of my fellow humans.


Last weekend, I “came home” in physical, emotional and spiritual ways at a retreat at Conception Abbey, two hours drive north of my home town.   I brought my brother who had never participated in a Buddhist retreat but was also drawn to this abbey where my father had studied for the priesthood and met my mother.  Without this powerful center and all the conditions there, we would not exist.  We were visiting our family roots, our spiritual roots, our land roots, even the roots of our childhood praying, eating and breathing habits.

The four days were rich with miracles that will prompt much writing, but let me begin with these:

* The convergence of my ancestors, walking the paths where my father and his four brothers studied for the priesthood, driving through the “town” nearby where my mother was born.

* The new information about our family from monks who knew my uncles, Fr. Edward and Fr. Michael, meeting Fr. Joachim, a 94 year old monk in the infirmary, who told us many stories of the ‘30s at the abbey.  At the end of our interview, we realized that we were cousins!

* Taking pictures of the graves, of Conception Junction and Clyde (now just a few houses amidst rolling hills, cornfields and wind generators) and of the beautiful basilica, one of the few in the country, dedicated in 1891.

* Finding archives with books written by and about our relatives.

But all this research and interviewing took place after two full days and nights of the retreat led by Joanne Friday, one of my favorite teachers in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition.  Led by her powerful talks on mindfulness and finding our true home in our breath, my brother and I participated fully in the silence at meals, overnight and most of the day except for conferences with Joanne and our small group sharing.  He was very respectful of the silence, the routine of mindful movements, sitting meditation, deep listening and mindful walks outdoors and indoors.  We enjoyed meeting the Heartland community members (with whom I hope he will find a new home).

We were able to share a room and get along, feel comfortable, even though we had never done anything like this together before.  We hadn’t seen one another in five years, had probably never slept in the same room.  Our lives have taken very different paths, but this wonderful retreat gave us an opportunity to be at home with one another.  We smiled in silence at some of the food that reminded us of our childhood roots in the Midwest – mashed potatoes, over-cooked green beans, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls.

The messages of the retreat were powerful for both of us.  Joanne said that “from the moment of birth, we get pulled away from our basic goodness,” that “all people have within themselves the capacity to be enlightened.”   She transmitted what she has learned and embodied from her teacher and experienced in her own recovery from a brain injury – “Be still and heal.”  Throughout the weekend, I felt the presence of my mother, father, uncles and teachers, both Catholic and Buddhist.  The powerful Midwestern wind energy drew my brother and me closer, healing family suffering, embracing us as children, allowing us space in our aging years to enjoy one another now.  The retreat leader told me that the love between us was palpable.

We had ARRIVED, we were HOME, in the HERE and in the NOW.