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Category Archives: Meditation

J holding sun

This morning practicing Sunlight Qi Gong as the sun rose over the Atlantic Ocean and meditating with the sun warming my face, I had a realization. The sun is always there, giving tremendous energy that keeps life going on our planet. Whether I look or not, whether or not clouds block my view of the sun, it keeps shining, generating and sharing energy with all of us. The sun has not only been here, keeping me alive my entire life, but has existed about 5 billion years! A very potent “Higher Power” in my life! It will continue to sustain me for the rest of my life, and the lives of all people who now exist on earth and those to come for many generations – whether or not I pay attention, respond, understand its generosity and care.

My aspiration today is to be more like the sun, to give of the energy I have, the gifts, the love I have received. Whether or not others notice my light, respond to emails about retreats, days of mindfulness, Qi Gong classes, I want to keep sending out all the goodness, the energy, the light, the love possible that I have so freely received.

Thank you, Sun, for the gift of life. Fill me and help me generate and share your beautiful energy today, whether or not anyone reads this blog!  Or signs up for classes at http://www.qicircles.com.  :):):)

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Redbud and BEE

Suffering surrounds us – the starvation in Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, the bombs in Syria, frightening threats from our government to the Earth’s survival.  Yet we breathe, have breakfast, hear the bees in the redbud tree in the back yard.  How can such deep suffering within and around us and such beauty and joy co-exist?

My meditation teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, says that mindfulness has two functions.  The first is to get in touch with the wonderful and beautiful things all around us.  The second is to get in touch with the difficult emotions, like anger, fear, pain and sorrow inside and around us.  Mindfulness can help us recognize and embrace these difficulties and transform them. (Together We are One: Honoring our Diversity, Celebrating our Connection, p. 84).

Three things help me do this work of transformation:  a daily habit of mindfulness meditation , connection with community and active resistance to war, poverty, discrimination and destruction of our Mother Earth.  Suffering exists.  How do we transform it today within ourselves, in our world?

Beach FL '17

Unable to walk

on the beach – I become

the ocean instead.

A haiku by John Snyder (RIP March 5, 2017)

Just returned from this beautiful beach on Anna Maria Island, FL after a fabulous Women’s Retreat with Ruth Fishel (www.ruthfishel.com).  It was too cold and windy for swimming, but I did have a short walk there.  Now back home, I envision the sky, clouds, waves and sand and become the whole Gulf.  I can also enjoy the blue sky and strong sun that is sure to melt the ice and snow here in Maryland.

I love meditation visualizations that help me calm my body, mind and spirit, becoming the sand, the waves, the whole ocean in my mind.  Our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that it is true that we are the ocean, the sky, the clouds, the sun, the moon.  We are all made up of these elements that sustain our lives.  The ocean is in me and I am in the ocean.  Whenever I am unable to walk on the beach and feel the waves on my body, I can call up these images that help me remember my true self.

Did you have an enjoyable meditation this morning?  Let me know.

Peace, joy and love to every wave within you today.

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.

bell-outdoors

“May the sound of this bell reach suffering ones in the whole cosmos, sending healing, comfort and peace.”  These words from my meditation teacher, Anh Huong Nguyen (www.mpcf.com) last Saturday morning, brought tears of joy and relief to my soul.

I had just traveled half way around the world from a wonderful visit to family living in Malaysia.  I had suffered the night before from lack of sleep and justified anger directed at me from a loved one.  I ate cereal in the car on the ride to this beautiful annual ceremony to transmit the Five Mindfulness Trainings to a member of WMC and many others from MCPF, Stillwater and other sanghas on the east coast.  I had been filled with remorse for my mindless actions that had hurt and angered someone I love dearly.  My body was still adjusting to crossing 12 time zones and being greeted by bitter 16 degree weather.  My spirit needed the silence, the beautiful church with huge windows revealing gently falling snow, a fox trotting by in the woods, the warmth of dozens of beloved sisters and brothers surrounding me.  I took a deep breath, relaxed and let myself cry.

I often find in meditation that the first person who needs the healing sound of the bell is me.  My suffering is so small compared to that of families dying daily in Aleppo, women raped and beaten in many countries, children starved and abused, all people suffering from war, poverty, oppression and fear of their political leaders.

Yet this body is the one I feel most closely, can breathe in most easily, can feed, rest, comfort and nourish.  I hope it is true – as Thich Nhat Hanh and his niece Anh Huong teach me – that in taking care of myself, I am taking care of the whole cosmos.  All suffering beings are present in me and me in them.  We “inter-are.”  I am the child in Aleppo.  I am the woman in Nigeria bearing a child of rape.  I am the coal miner in West Virginia worried about feeding his children.  I am determined to take care of all of me, all of the suffering in the world in my breathing, in the sound of this bell going out to the whole cosmos.

This has been a busy month, traveling to a beautiful wedding on the Mississippi, then to the beach with our precious granddaughter.  Now we are back home to see the bridge near our home being torn down, and taking daily refuge in our Qi Gong spot on Sligo Creek.  We  miss family, but know that life has rhythms of intense activity and periods of calm, both necessary.

Many of us have spent special time with friends and family this summer, traveled, experienced changes in our routine and our emotional life.  How do you react to change – in routine, in surroundings, in people in your life?  Do you have some daily “non-negotiable” needs or routines?

For myself, I need journaling, sitting meditation and some QiGong each morning, preferably outdoors.  So, as we traveled, I continued to wake early, journal, find a different body of water for Qi Gong and meditation before I was ready for all the wonderful excitement and interactions with beloved family.  Time with family goes much better when I am my best self, remembering that I am never alone to meet any challenges – within myself or in my changing world.

car snowed inThese last four days of being buried under two feet of snow has been a challenge for many of us. It is especially difficult if we don’t have a strong meditation practice, are not used to being alone and miss distractions and activities (work, shopping, driving, even phone calls, television and internet if power is lost).  At last my copy of the Washington Post arrived today!

This morning my husband read a passage from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Art of Communication before our sitting meditation (after journaling and Qi Gong, our usual morning routine). Thay said “The way in is the way out.” I breathed with this phrase, letting it sink into my consciousness, the truth of it connecting to my heart.

Even though my outer world has been still, covered in snow, preventing usual outward activities, we have been happy to have this little four-day retreat together. Fortunately we also have power, so we’ve checked on friends and family, FaceTimed with those half-way around the world, held an on-line meeting, faced some tasks that we might have shunned without this intense period of time alone at home.

But the most precious gift was extra time to meditate together. To touch our hearts, to feel fears of isolation, “cabin fever,” being ‘trapped’ should there be a medical emergency. Our logic tells us that we have great neighbors (our next door neighbor held a brunch for all the children who made her lawn into a giant snow slide), a four-wheel jeep across the street, many friends. But sometimes our hearts beat with irrational fear. We need time to calm our heart, clear our mind, find our breath and know that we are truly at home, here and now.

From the safety and joy of going inward, we find the strength and clarity to reach out to others, dig out our cars, wait patiently until it is safe to venture further and reach out to the rest of the world, with all its suffering and joy.

“The path home begins with your breath. If you know how to breathe, you can learn how to walk, how to sit, how to eat your meal, and how to work in mindfulness so that you can begin to know yourself. When you breathe in, you come back to yourself. When you breathe out, you release any tension. Once you can communicate with yourself, you’ll be able to communicate outwardly with more clarity. The way in is the way out.” (p. 17/18).

Claymont dawn

What a joy to step out into the early morning, see Venus still bright in the Eastern sky, breathing, with the bird on the highest branch, waiting for the first light of dawn.

Our Women’s Retreat at Claymont Court gave us clear night stars, a glorious moon and two precious dawns. Some of us enjoyed a night venture into the meadow and also an early rising to greet the sunrise with Qi Gong in the ballroom.

Now that a hurricane is bringing us clouds and rain, can we summon up the beauty of those clear skies in our minds? Stay inspired, stop occasionally to breathe mindfully, eat more slowly, walk carefully, listen deeply, speak kindly?

Clouds come, clouds go….my mind is a clear blue sky.

IMG_0461

The Gazebo at Brookside Gardens                                           Photo by Joann

Most of us don’t need to go far to see blue sky, sunlight, clouds, water, green leaves, paradise.  Happiness can be present in our next breath.  In this breath now, if we are aware, awake, alive.  What a miracle this cool, beautiful August morning offers us.  I was particularly moved during meditation at Stillwater this morning by the beauty I saw outside the windows of our meditation hall.  I get to be alive today to see the sunlight filtering through these green leaves, to see some of the first of the yellow ones fall.

My mind flitted to remembering family and friends who passed away, some recently, some years ago in early August.  I want to see all I can today, to live fully, to experience the breezes on my cheeks for them.  They are alive in me, if I am aware.  My life extends beyond this body, this period of time on the planet, I hope.  Yet I don’t need to wait for paradise the way I was taught as a child.  I can experience paradise now, hearing the birds sing, smiling at the clouds.  I am so grateful to be alive, so grateful my beloved is alive and present with me.  Thank you, Universe!

Claymnt back

“Embracing, Loving and Accepting Ourselves Just as We ARE, with All our Imperfections, All our Experiences”

 

We should do “before” and “after” photos of the women’s retreats. Several women were going through traumatic or very difficult changes in their lives, one not wanting to live, one describing her feelings as 99% of the time feeling as if her skin is being peeled off with a vegetable peeler 24/7.  The Powers of the Universe helped us create a big enough “ocean” of love, understanding, healing, positive energies to absorb the pain, at least for the weekend, to give hope, an intense experience of what peace, rest, joy and connection with other women feels like. Even those of us who weren’t currently experiencing such deep pain had done so in the past, or could “take names” of those who were suffering our worst fears. Seeing their survival, strength, vulnerability and reaching out for help, makes it more possible for us if/when we lose a child to drug addiction, suffer a dangerous divorce, have our house burn down, face fatal diseases or take a deadly drink. Together we can go through any human suffering, knowing that others have survived the same experience, that help is available, that there is a path to transform suffering into happiness.

It feels so GOOD to be any part of such transformation. And Ruth and I benefit every time! We receive what we are trying to give others – renewed commitment to daily meditation practice, journaling, stopping in our daily lives to breathe, take care of ourselves, rest, reflect on questions like “Is it true?” when something, someone disturbs us. We are not on this path of spiritual transformation alone. And the journey never stops. I’ve been on three retreats, many other group meditations and have practiced mindfulness daily in the past month. Yet I know I will need many more retreats (planning for six in the next year), my regular three days a week with sangha, daily journaling, Qi Gong and meditation with my husband and many other resources to stay on the path, to keep growing, learning, developing my mind, body and heart. This is our life! What a great life!

claymont front

In front of Claymont Court, WV, our weekend home