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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.

 

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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?

Have you heard the protests against Trump’s bombing of Syria?  Who is speaking out against this dangerous action? Yet another undeclared war!

Yesterday I attended an excellent panel on Islamaphobia at Takoma Park Elementary.   I was very moved by all three speakers, two of them Muslim women, Dr. Maha Hilal of the DC Muslims for Justice Coalition and Ramah Kudaimi of the Washington Peace Center.  Dr. Hilal’s dissertation was entitled “Too damn Muslim to be Trusted: The War on Terror and the US Involvement.” She explained the term “Islamaphobia” as part of our government policy to enforce laws discriminating against Muslims for the purposes of promoting “war on terror.” It includes violence against Muslims in this country, dehumanization of Muslims, hate crimes, justification for torture, imprisonment without due process, dark prisons in other countries, Guantanamo Bay, criminalization of charity, bans based on religion, kill lists, drone bombing in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

The culture of this country, supported by media, television programs, stereotypes, puts the onus on the Muslim community for “terrorism.” Whereas the true fuel for terrorist actions comes from our own government policies of war, bombing of innocent civilians, increasing severe poverty, stealing oil and other natural resources from countries in the Middle East which are predominantly Muslim, killing and persecuting Muslim people, well over a million in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and northern Africa. These policies have been going on long before Trump and are supported by white supremacy and (I would say) imperialism of our government and our US people.

In other words, the cause of terrorism is in US, not in the Muslim community. So we need to focus the solution, not on changing the Muslim community, pointing out the “good” Muslims who are peaceful, making them responsible for uncovering the “bad” Muslims. The solution is to CHANGE US! Our discriminating laws, such as the “CVE” (Countering Violent Extremism) programs, (spearheaded by the U of MD and Montgomery County!) that equate activism with terrorism. This is a Homeland Security plan to recruit teachers, social workers and police to target youth who express objection to government policies (in violation of their 1st and 4th Constitutional rights of free speech, assembly and security from unreasonable search and seizure), gather information on these young people and stop protest against government policies and actions. Policies like this feel like the beginning of fascism in our country! We have to focus on stopping this, not on changing Muslim communities, practices or “saving” Muslim women! They are some of the most outspoken against these injustices!

Contact mococivilrights.wordpress.com or mococivilrights@gmail.com for more information on how to stop CVE in our schools and community.

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.

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The sun emerged from clouds just after sunrise.  Was it responding to our Sunlight Qi Gong movements, summoning it?  As a child, I thought I could summon sunshine, if I just concentrated hard enough, prayed, wished for it to manifest.

Though many of life’s events have tried to show me that I do not possess that much power, somehow these little coincidences still bring a smile to my lips, a stronger beat in my heart.  Is the energy we generate in Qi Gong much more powerful that we think?  Even if it just reminds us that we are part of vast sources of energy in the universe – the sun, the moon, the stars, the oceans, mountains, all the people working for peace on planet Earth?

Join us in learning Sunlight Qi Gong on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 – 8:00pm beginning April 4 for 8 weeks.  At the Takoma Park Recreation Center.  More information on our new website:  www.qicircles.com or register at https://apm.activecommunities.com/takomaparkrecreation/Activity_Search/qi-gong-sunlight/5096.   If you are not available all 8 weeks, drop-ins are welcome.

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.

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.

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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.

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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!