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Monthly Archives: January 2014

IMG_3156Last night at a wonderful women’s meeting after the big snowstorm, my first time “out” in two days, I was reminded of how isolated and confused many of us can get, especially on cold winter mornings.  I actually had two lovely mornings indoors, while a beloved child slept, doing meditation, readings that inspire me and Qi Gong to the rising sun.  But developing the morning routine, and, in retirement, combining it with exercise connected to nature, has helped me greatly to dispel isolation, loneliness and confusion during the first couple of winter morning hours.

What do I do?
First: journal…write whatever thoughts, feelings, dreams, worries, bright ideas, affirmations come to me…write until my body, mind and feelings are calm, in the present moment, ready to begin formal meditation.

Second: Qi Gong (or yoga, any stretching, shaking, breathing movement that works for you).  Doing “Sunlight” Qi Gong as the sun is on the horizon is very energizing for me.    Ideally outdoors, but not when it’s so cold, rainy or windy.

Third: Read inspiring words from the wise ones.  I’m using Your True Home by Thich Nhat Hanh and one of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings right now, just short readings that give me food for concentration in meditation.

Fourth: Sitting meditation for a minimum of 20 minutes (usually with my husband or twice a week with a sangha of friends for an hour of sitting, reading and dharma sharing).

Fifth: Prayer that the connection with my Higher Powers will stay with me during the day, that I live the day in mindfulness and service to others, that all those I love and all beings be safe, happy, free from fear, anger and worry.  I have developed a written list of people in my family, community and the world for whom I pray daily, then the St. Francis Prayer, Serenity Prayer, etc.

This routine was suggested by a friend over 28 years ago and has expanded as time allows, but even when I taught high school for my second 20 year career, I got up at 4:30am to be able to have time to find connection with the Universe, energy in my body and mind and calmness in my feelings to be able to enter the classroom a human being at 7:00am.  A good breakfast was also necessary.

Whatever your morning routine might be, I hope it enables you to see the sunrise even when it is behind clouds, feel your own body’s energy and breath and find inspiration and gratitude from connection to the living beings in our world.

Thay’s inspiration from yesterday’s reading: “We have to light up that lamp of mindfulness so the light will shine out and the darkness will dissipate and cease.  Our practice is to light up the lamp.”

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“It was an army into which no one had to be drafted, it was white and Negro, and of all ages…It was a fighting army, but no one should mistake that its most powerful weapon was love.”   Martin Luther King, Jr “Why We Can’t Wait,” 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 85 years old yesterday had he not been assassinated in 1968.  Yet he is alive in every one of us who were deeply affected by his voice, his hopeful message and courageous actions to defeat segregation and the oppression of African-Americans.  He changed my life forever, especially once I was able to experience living in the city where he carried on his long and effective bus boycott.

My first teaching assignment in 1963 as a Catholic nun was to a small diocesan school in Montgomery, Alabama.  I traveled there by train, educationally armed with knowledge about social justice, but naive about the lengths to which people with power and privilege would go to protect their interests.  In August, the March on Washington had opened my eyes further.  But the September bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four girls, in the city where I first experienced a segregated train station just two weeks earlier, shook my being.

I was teaching in an all white Catholic high school of 300 students – in a city in which less than one percent of the population was Catholic.  The black Catholic high school -St. Jude’s – had 150 students. What sense did this make?  Wouldn’t it be more economical, more just, more sane to have one Catholic school, combining student populations and resources?  I started an integrated baseball team, urging students from both schools to get to know one another, practice together, talk to resistant parents.  It was a simple effort, but threatening enough that I was transferred the next year, a different person.  I realized that I had grown up in the same racist, segregated system in Missouri, just without the “whites only” signs.  I had changed inside, come to love and understand both my white students and African American students, their fears and their courage.  I would tell their stories, become the voice of Martin and other revolutionary leaders for my students back in Missouri and throughout my teaching career.

In the same year that MLK wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and led the March on Washington, I changed from an ordinary nun into a revolutionary activist.  Martin’s words and actions, along with those of his friend Thich Nhat Hanh, whom he nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1966, slowly but surely led me to the 1969 action in DC against the war in Vietnam.  These next few years will be filled with so many 50th anniversaries of changes in our lives.  Hopefully we will continue the fight for justice, peace and unity, using the powerful weapon of love