Skip navigation

Category Archives: Mindfulness

12987383115_0cce44b7ab_z
I just had an insight, walking slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue in the Climate March April 29th. What we experienced there, our teacher urging us to gather, walk slowly, mindfully, to sing together, be a strong presence in the midst of a huge, loud, often wild scene is really a picture of the highest reality! All the “news” that’s reported about Trump is ‘blah, blah’ noise by comparison. What is REAL, WHAT IS TRUE NEWS is that there are people, groups, a world-wide movement for peace, love, sanity, justice and preservation of Mother Earth. He looks big when magnified by TV news, but he is a blip on the screen of life and history compared to Thich Nhat Hanh, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, the Buddha, Jesus and the millions of people around the world making peace.

We have to keep our perspective, to see what is REAL, lasting, on the Ultimate dimension of REALITY – an amazingly huge Universe that humans have barely begun to explore or understand!

We have to be extra mindful when surrounded by messages that are meant to provoke fear, confusion and dispersion of our energy.  Real damage is being done, many are suffering as a result of ignorance and greed.  But together we are truly larger, stronger and more powerful than any president, any government. If we get distracted by tweets, games, threats and noise, we might forget that we are made of stars, that we are as old as the Universe, as vast, as powerful, as beautiful.  What is REAL, what is TRUE is LOVE, PEACE, Inter-BEING.  We need to change, to act, to stay vigilant and we DID in January and last weekend! But most importantly, we need to keep our perspective, to see what is true, what is real. We need to protect our minds, hearts and emotions, so our lizard brain won’t jerk us into reacting from anger or fear. Every day we nourish our peace, our joy, our freedom, our unity with one another on this precious planet in the vast Universe of which we are a part.

Let us keep walking, marching, smiling, breathing together.

 

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?

A LESSON IN MINDFUL EATING

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived for a visit to my friend in a nursing home toward the end of his lunch time.  He was totally focused on eating, carefully moving the spoon into a dish of custard and fruit.  I sat silently, just breathing and observing the care with which he moved his hands, focused his intention, brought the spoon to his mouth and chewed his food.   He was clear with his aide when he was finished eating, and she waited patiently until that time to remove his tray, leaving a glass of water and straw for him to drink.  Then he was ready for a visit.

What a beautiful time with this amazing man who has helped so many people in his lifetime.  Now is the time for him to receive support with breathing, moving, and just the amount of help he needs to feed himself.  He inspires me to continue to slow down, and take my first three bites for him and my meditation teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, who has also suffered physical limitations that reduce his mobility.  Both these men give me lessons on mindful eating, mindful living.  My heart is full of gratitude for them.

march-with-banner

Together we are ONE” was the theme of our gatherings Friday and Saturday, January 20/21 for a mindful presence at the Women’s March.  Washington Mindfulness Community, MPCF, Stillwater, ARISE, Wake UP, sanghas from Baltimore and many others, local and national, organized and led us in silent walking to the mall.  There we formed a circle of about 140 meditators, then did mindful walking, sitting, singing and eating together amidst half a million other sisters and brothers.  We rejoiced when we learned that we were part of over 670 marches around the world, in every US state, on every continent, standing up for justice, peace and love.

thays-photo-at-march

Our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh was present in the form of a large photo, reminding us to keep coming back to the home of our breath, here and now, in the present moment.

In Together We are One  (Parallax Press, 2010, p. 79),  he says “Sometimes we believe, ‘Until this person or that institution changes, I can’t be happy.’   We may make a particular person or group of people into our enemy, we think they are the obstacle to our happiness.  But our suffering comes from our own ignorance and lack of understanding, not from other people.  When we understand this, we can open our arms to embrace all peoples, all species, and we have no enemies.  To have no enemies is such a wonderful thing.  When we have no enemies, no reproach, and no blaming, our mind is light as a cloud, and our happiness is vast, immense.  We do not look at those who hurt us as our enemies, but as people who need understanding and compassion.  When we are able to look in this way, we can call ourselves the children of the Buddha, disciples of the Buddha, and no one is our enemy….If we use the eyes of compassion to look at the world, we can see that even those who oppress and exploit others, those who instill terror, or those who cause harm, can be our beloved ones.  None are our enemies.”

Those of you who remember me as the “mini-skirted nun” of 1969 protests and actions will smile.  Have you truly embraced this teaching, you might ask?  I am transforming, trying, stumbling sometimes, gaining tremendous strength, joy and hope from the millions who walk with me, one day at a time, one step at a time, never alone now, always “Together as ONE.”

Photos by Bao Tich Nguyen

 

 

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.

img_2337

Reaching to bring the morning light into his heart with the “Monkey Picking Fruit,”my beloved inspires me every day to live a healthy life.  Our health routine begins long before our first bite of breakfast.   We journal our dreams, feelings, insights, read a paragraph from an inspiring teacher, meditate and practice Qi Gong.  For several weeks this winter, we have had the opportunity to practice at dawn near the seashore, with fresh breezes filling our lungs.

A family member has reminded me that I need to lose weight, so I have been enjoying the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables here, forgoing my yen for cheese and ice cream.  I can also swim, bike and walk here each day, in a warmer climate than I would have back home.

We are all responsible for our own health and well-being.  No one else feels the air coming into our lungs, the beating of our own heart.  No one else can walk for us, exercise, make us eat healthier food.  We are in charge of our own health every day.  Qi Gong is a holistic system of nutrition, rest, movement and mental attitude that nourishes my desire to become a slimmer, healthier woman.

One of my spiritual principles is “Compassionate, Healthy Living”:  “We will practice looking deeply into how we nourish our body and mind with edible foods, sense impressions and consciousness….We will consume in a way that preserves compassion, well-being and joy in our bodies and consciousness and in the collective body and consciousness of our families, our society and the earth.”  Please help me practice these principles in all aspects of my life.

Our next Qi Gong Class begins in January 2017.  Please join us. Your health is in your hands!

J at GC GC colors GC with trees

Wow!  The Grand Canyon is a great place to touch the Energy of the Universe!  So powerful in majestic beauty, and in geological, historical, social energy.  I was able to absorb the beauty of these colors, breathe the air, look as far as the eye can see on our Women’s Retreat in Sedona, Arizona.  Fourteen women gathered for a week absorbing the energy of the vortexes, meditating, practicing Qi Gong and yoga, resting and sharing deeply from our hearts about blocks we want to transform to receive energy into our bodies, minds and lives.  Then nine of us were able to travel to the Grand Canyon for our final day in Arizona.

Thank you, Ruth and other sisters on this journey.  Thank you, Mother Earth, for these magnificent mountains, rocks, and fire at your core.  Thank you, Father Sun for blessing us with life every day, whether we see you or not.  Thank you, amazing Universe, for holding us, connecting us in your Energy and Love.

IMG_5666Thank you, friends, for inspiring me this week to get up and MOVE more!  One friend was feeling ill and had stopped exercising altogether.  We promised one another we would get on our bikes this week.  I had a lovely ride yesterday morning along the creek and came home sweaty, heart beating, joyous.  I aim to get to the gym 4-5 days a week for a 60-90 minute workout (depending on weather for swimming), but this week I also added three half-hour walks .   Another inspiration was a friend in the hospital suffering from diabetes, unable to walk.  I don’t want that to happen to me!  It might, no matter how well I eat and exercise, but anything I can do to prevent it, I want to do.  I know that staying healthy, eating what is best for my body takes vigilance, attention, mindfulness.  No one else will do it for me.  If I fail one week, I need to start again the next.

A special thanks to my husband for his constant positive inspiration to get up from this computer and do Qi Gong at least once an hour.  Moving feels GOOD!  (Until about 4:00pm in the afternoon as I finish this blog.)  Each of us needs to find the best time of day, the best pattern and type of exercise that works for us, but as Michelle Obama urges us, “Let’s MOVE.”

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