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Category Archives: Impermanence

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.

Duck Sligo

 

This morning, my husband and I enjoyed Qi Gong and meditation on Sligo Creek.  As we sat on a bench to meditate, I noticed a duck in the creek watching for fish to swim by for his breakfast.  I was fascinated by the duck’s patience, hardly moving a muscle watching the water with a slight head movement now and then.  I knew I had a focus for my meditation, the patience and stillness of animals, trees and rocks in this beautiful spot.   Could I ever be that still, even for twenty minutes?  The sound of the water trilling over rocks, the gentle spring breeze and occasional glances at the duck and the sunlight reflecting on the boulders next to the water all enhanced my meditation.  I felt one with nature, with all of life, allowing the beauty and peace to penetrate my body and mind.

When we finished our meditation, I asked Patrick if he saw the duck.  We weren’t sure that any animal could remain in one position for so long.  So we went closer to have a better look and discovered that our “duck” was a piece of branch holding several fallen winter leaves in the water.  Our teacher of patience had taken a different form than the one we both had in our minds.  We smiled.  The lesson happened, even though our perception was incorrect.  And don’t ducks have many “non-duck elements”?

Reading the news after breakfast, I carried the same question “Are you sure?” to articles about the civil war in Syria, the exchange of the American soldier for five Taliban leaders, sexual abuse in the navy, the death of a local hip-hop artist.  I have also been reading the draft of a wonderful book that delves into the shaping of people who end up on opposite sides of a genocidal civil war.  In a world full of both conflict and great peace, would it be useful to constantly ask myself the question “Are you sure, Joann…are you sure?” when I am ready to impose a view, speak out strongly against a perceived wrong, take sides in an argument.  Even my eyes perceive only what they perceive in a moment, and the duck I see might just be leaves clinging to a branch in the water.

May my mind stay open today, trying to perceive what I see, hear what I hear, be whatever I am in the moment, open to the lessons of nature, people, events, letting go of the need to be sure.

Non-duck