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Category Archives: Impermanence

 

Sunday 3/21/20

Dawn blossoms

There was a great article in the Washington Post this morning, which describes how the Covid-19 virus is impacting refugees in Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.  

We INTER-ARE!  No one is exempt from illness or death because of education or wealth.  The privileged are also impacted by the spread of this disease among the poor.  The poor, the homeless, refugees, prisoners, victims of war are at more immediate risk than those with the resources to “distance” in homes, with savings unaffected by the crashing stock market.  They will be able to buy food and medical supplies, some hoarding what others need to stay alive.  As always.  Yet, this crisis provides insight for all of us – to see that we are one world, one small planet that is under threat, that the privileged must help the poor in order to save their own lives.

The compulsion of the few to accumulate more than necessary deprives the many of the basics of food, clean water, land, shelter, medical and educational supplies.  This lack of understanding of our inter-dependence is harming us all, has been killing us for decades.  Destroying our planet.  So perhaps Mother Earth is fighting back, reducing the number of parasites creating pollution, global warming and desertification.  Perhaps we are receiving a powerful message that the actions of one affects the many and the needs of the many are the responsibility of the one.  There is really no separation.

There will be good outcomes from this crisis.  Lotuses arise from mud.  Already pollution has lessened dramatically in China and Italy.  The maps showing the changes are amazing!  We are perhaps learning from quarantining that we don’t really need so many things, so much buying, driving, working, entertainment.  Most of us Americans would be healthier without so much food, so many cars, distractions from the important relationships in our lives.  Perhaps the examples of generosity, the courage of medical personnel and musicians performing on their porches will help transform our notion of separateness from the whole of humanity.

We are asked to be very mindful of our smallest actions in order to save our lives and those of any human being with whom we have contact.  Mindfulness of what we touch, including our own faces, where we breathe and sneeze is critical to stopping the spread of this deadly disease.  Washing our hands frequently, slowly, carefully is becoming a universal practice of mindfulness.  Trying to stay at least 10-12 feet away from the breath of any other person is a challenge on now crowded pathways in parks.  We must be mindful of the air we breathe in and the passing of air from our bodies to other people.  As we pay attention to our own breath and that of others close to us, we also know that so many are taking their last breath.  As we wash our hands, we are mindful of those in refugee camps who have to choose between washing hands or using water to cook food.

Some in our mindfulness communities are using the phrase ‘Karuna virus” to remind us of all the beautiful forms of compassion arising from this pandemic.  Neighbors are helping the elderly to receive food and medicine, on-line meetings for alcoholics and addicts arise, family members and friends are connecting more often.  One of the highlights of our day was seeing the delight on a 2-year-old’s face when sprinkled with mist from our garden hose.  She had been trained not to come close to us, but we could connect and laugh together at a distance.

Our communities are quickly learning on-line skills to set up meditations, sharing of teachings on impermanence, inter-being and non-self, the basic insights of mindfulness meditation.  The Universe is teaching us everyday how inter-connected we are, that using this time of quarantine to connect to others is bringing us all more peace, joy, love and happiness.  Some of us are reframing this time as a global “retreat,” a time for spiritual practices that reduce fear and isolation.  We are learning more deeply how fear and greed separate us and how love and selflessness spread the ‘virus’ of compassion.  

“May each of you, and all creatures on our Mother Earth be well, healthy, safe and free from all worry and anxiety – even now, in this challenging yet precious moment.” (Recited slowly, this ’metta’ takes about the 20 seconds you need to wash your hands).

Eurythmie by Lyn

Today my task is to accept this bronchitis as my path for the day.  I woke many times during the night, still coughing, lungs rattling, difficult to breathe or really rest.  This will be my fifth day of illness, feeling unable to do much of anything.

About 5:30am, I tried Ruth’s meditation, thinking about all the people in this neighborhood, in the city, county, the state, the world suffering from the same illness. I am not alone, never am alone, in joy or suffering. There are so many people suffering much more greatly right now from war, poverty and oppression…and many suffering the way I am today. As I breathe in, I know I am breathing in; as I breathe out, I hear the “wheez” of my lungs rattling. A reminder that I am alive. I am here…in the here and now. I am grateful to be alive, to be slowly healing, to embrace impermanence. I think of my teacher, Thay, recovering from a serious stroke over two years ago, able to travel to Thailand, re-learning speech and movement, one muscle at a time. He inspires me to relax, to rest, to be where I am, with all those around the world who are sick in this moment. I am not alone.  I have my precious husband caring for me. I am breathing in, breathing out.

J-QG on beach

My favorite place to practice Sunlight Qi Gong is the seashore at sunrise.  My husband and I had the surprise opportunity this week to stay at a friend’s home there for a couple of days to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary.  Touching sand, ocean and sky, breathing in fresh morning air, my heart opens with gratitude, a smile comes alive, greeting the rising sun.

When I die, please don’t see my passing as a tragedy.  It cannot be.  I have lived so many lives already, loved so deeply, been loved so beautifully and faithfully.  I am grateful for every extra moment of life, every sunrise, sunset, wave of the ocean, every breath, every moment with family and friends, every opportunity to tell my beloved how much I love him.

 

 

My affirmation for the month of March, as I heal from a bad cold:

“The spring sun is warming, healing and inspiring me.”Joann:Qi:Beach.JPG

Daddy - best without border

Thomas Lyle Malone (9-9-09 to 4-8-86)                         Photo by Joann

 

Today would have been my father’s 106th birthday had he not died a terrible death 30 years ago.  His smile and kind eyes still reach me in this photo from one of the last years of his life.  I know he loved me to the best of his ability.  Today I still feel his love sustaining me in my healthy body, my love for reading and study, my ability to work hard and laugh at myself, my search for the divine in people, stars and sunrises.  He continues in me, my brothers, his five remaining grandchildren, five great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.  Most of us have life because of him.  Thank you, Daddy!  Thank you, Mother.

For many years I was angry at him, wished he would change, wished he had never taken a drink of alcohol, wished he could take care of himself and not suffer so much.  Slowly, as I realized my own powerlessness, as I began to meditate on his suffering, my heart opened, softened.  I forgave myself and him for many harms done to one another.  Today, I relish walking with him in meditation, holding his hand, comforting him, letting him know how happy and free my life is.  If I can breathe, walk, eat, laugh, play, live and love, he can continue to breathe, walk, eat, laugh, play, live and love in me and all his descendants.  My happiness is his happiness.  My freedom is his freedom.  My life continues his life.

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly Museum with my granddaughter-life, so beautiful, so fleeting it seems

Butterfly Museum with my granddaughter-life, so beautiful, so fleeting it seems.

My son, daughter in law and granddaughter are in the air for a two day trip half way around the world.  We might not see them again for a year, a very long time in a grandmother’s life.  I miss them terribly already, yet the joy of their two week visit is evidenced throughout our home.  Photos from two birthday parties, a christening yesterday in Baltimore of Pat’s grand niece and numerous adventures in museums and waterfront cafes with wonderful friends and family.  I shared with some friends at a meeting on Friday (another joyous celebration) that I’ve found joy nestled within the greatest sorrows.  In fact, joy and sorrow have become not separate, different entities in my life, but the same experience viewed with different attitude, viewpoint, perspective.

During one of his powerful talks, Thich Nhat Hanh (www.plumvillage.org) showed us a piece of paper and said, one side is joy and the other our suffering.  They are not different, separate entities or experiences.  They are the same.  Without our suffering, our challenges in life, how could we find the depth of acceptance, compassion and love that infuses our joy and happiness?  Without a deep inner happiness based on the oneness we have with others, with the whole Universe, how could we endure our suffering?

I might find some tears and longing in my heart today, a bit of fear for their safety and well-being, a desire to cling to them, hold them here close to us.  But it has always worked best with my son to “let him go,” allow him all the freedom to explore, work, learn and be the dedicated person he is in his work to alleviate poverty in Asia and other parts of the world.  I ask that my heart continue to grow with the love he inspires in me, to keep encompassing all people I meet, to treat them with the same respect and love I have for him, his beautiful wife and precious daughter.

I sing “Please Call me by my True Names”:

“My joy’s like spring so warm, it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.

My pain’s like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once.

So I can hear that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up

and the door of my heart will be left open.

The door of compassion.”

 

 

 

 

Storm comingOne day in a place of great beauty, a sudden storm arose, carrying visible, tangible darkness and suffering.

I watched, listened, breathed in the smell and feel of quickening wind and rain.

Storms are sometimes quick;  some gather slowly, remain longer.

But all of them seem to contain an ending, a quieting, a moment of light

Bursting through.   I wait, listen, watch and keep breathing in the smell and warmth of light

within the clouds.

Sunrise over sea

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I am with Thay in his hospital bed in spirit. But he would want me to be breathing, walking, smiling, cutting vegetables, speaking and listening mindfully, since he can’t do most of those things right now but breathe. There was another announcement that his vital signs are good and he has oxygen in his blood. Meditators all over the world are sending him healing energy and love.

I spoke about him in the dharma sharing at WMC last night. I loved hearing his voice on a CD from the 21 day retreat last June in Plum Village. Thay said that we ARE the cosmos, that the wave IS the whole ocean, that the ocean is in the wave, the cosmos is in us, but we are also the cosmos. The way he said it was so definite, so true, so scientific, so logical that (even though I’ve heard him say this over the years), it felt more true thinking of him, his great mind, BEING the whole cosmos. I hope his mind is at peace, that he is not in pain. He knows, because he has been teaching us this for many years, that his body is transforming, as are ours. I know he is aware that he is the whole cosmos. I hope for a greater awareness and peace for myself too.

I will continue to do my part, to be aware of him in the hospital, to be aware of where I am every moment, the people I’m with, knowing that I am deeply interconnected to them all, to all living beings, to the sun, moon, stars and the whole cosmos. I am the ocean. I am the mountains. I am the moon, sun and stars….all the stars beyond our galaxy. I am one with the entire cosmos. I have never been born and will never die. I am LIFE. I am Breath. I am Energy. I am Love.

When I forget and feel very small, very human, afraid that I don’t have “enough” food or books or something that makes me feel secure, I need a mantra to remind me of my whole self and my interconnection with all beings. This month, this time that Thay is so il, I need to stay connected to my sangha, to friends, to my teacher. So, I will write this each day for 21 days:

“Thay is reminding me that I am the whole ocean, the whole cosmos.”

Fall leaves at sunrise 11:3

With daylight savings time, I can now easily catch the first light of dawn, and, as i journal near my eastern window, the gradual lightening of the sky, the tips of our tupelo tree’s red leaves highlighted by the first rays of the sun.

I have probably always been a sun worshipper, a cloud watcher, a tree climber, a runner up and down the hills of my youth. So, it is refreshing and wonderful to have found a spiritual path and a teacher who writes

    Love Letters to the Earth

We are reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s wonderful book in our morning meditation group, relishing the notion that the Earth is not separate from us. Mother Earth is in us and we in her. Everything we have of life comes from her, through her bounty.

If we experience sadness, loneliness, isolation, fears that we are separate beings floundering about in this life, there is a ready and powerful solution. I just go outdoors, take a little walk, no matter what the weather, feel the rain, snow, sunlight or breeze on my cheeks, touch the earth, see the beauty of the natural world. Almost immediately I feel more whole, more connected to life, more ready to see my problems in perspective. I am part of something vast, beautiful, real, alive! I always have been part of the earth, the mountains, the oceans, the rivers, the deserts, even before I saw them from my midwestern home.

What are we doing today to enjoy the leaves as they change colors, as they fall?

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6:00am is a delicious time be outdoors doing Qi Gong, breathing in fresh air, delighting in the sunlight beginning to filter through the trees.  This morning I noticed a beautiful spider web in front of me as I did Sunlight Qi Gong.  Then, in a second, a bird flew through one of the tender strands of the web and it was gone.  I felt so privileged to be there to notice the beautiful web before it disappeared.  I thought of all the work the spider must have put into building it, only to lose it in an instant….and probably begin weaving another.

Each moment is truly filled with miracles if we take the time to notice them.  Mindfulness practice is not “just sitting and meditating” says Thich Nhat Hanh in Your True Home.  “Practice is looking, thinking, touching, drinking, eating, talking.  Every act, every breath, and every step can be mindfulness practice and can help us to become more ourselves.”

Thank you leaves, dew drops, spiders, webs, sunlight, for being my practice teachers this morning.   Mosquitoes too.