Friday, August 31, 2007


I received this story from this morning and just loved it. I can identify! See what you think:

    Once upon a time, a tiny frog fell into a giant bowl of cream. Unable to get out, the little fella kept kicking, kicking, kicking until finally the cream turned to butter, and he was able to jump to safety.

    This is us. We are the frog. We can either give up hope when faced with impossible challenges, or we can kick, kick, kick until the curses turn to blessings. Rest assured, our Creator wants us to survive our battles, conquer our demons, and no matter how dark life may be, there is always Light at the end of the tunnel. Our challenge is to maintain our certainty and to continue fighting the good fight.

    Keep kicking today. Know that there is a solution to whatever it is that threatens to overwhelm you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Little Moments of Redemption

Forgiveness often does come unexpectedly and hidden inside tiny things--a breath of fresh air, a sense of lightness in a tense relationship, a smile after a long period of frowning, someone letting you in in traffic, a person telling you to go ahead in the checkout line, a lucky break, the benefit of the doubt. Along those lines, I want to pass along this poem that arrived in my Inbox in today's Writer's Almanac:

"Forgiveness" by Terence Winch, from Boy Drinkers. © Hanging Loose Press, 2007.


    Father Cahir kept us holy.
    He smoked cigars in the confessional.
    He had a distracted air about him,
    as though he wasn't sure what
    he was supposed to do next.

    I don't remember what he taught.
    History, probably. It was his
    liberal attitude as a confessor
    that made him a legend.

    No matter what you confessed to,
    he always barked out the same penance:
    "Three Hail Marys and a Good Act
    of Contrition. Next!" So we tested
    this leniency, confessing
    to rape, murder, burglary.

    Cahir paid no attention.
    He knew we were a bunch
    of high school punks.
    Puffing his cigar,
    he'd issue his standard
    penance and absolve all sins,
    real or imagined,
    with godlike aloofness,
    his vast indifference to
    or total acceptance of the darkness
    within the human soul
    exactly how I hope the deity
    regards us. Take forgiveness
    any way you can get it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Nourishing Resource

For some time now, I've been a subscriber to the Ocean of Dharma quote of the week. (You can sign up by clicking here.) The one I received yesterday was especially powerful. Here it is, in its entirety (thanks to Carolyn Gimiam for the permission to post this quote):


    Discursive thought might be compared to the blood circulation which constantly feeds the muscles of our system, the emotions. Thoughts link and sustain the emotions so that, as we go about our daily lives, we experience an ongoing flow of mental gossip punctuated by more colorful and intense bursts of emotion. The thoughts and emotions express our basic attitudes toward and ways of relating to the world and form an environment, fantasy realms in which we live....In order to work with these realms, we must begin to view situations in a more panoramic way, which is vipashyana or insight meditation. We must become aware not only of the precise details of an activity, but also of the situation as a whole....We begin to see the pattern of our fantasies rather than being immersed in them. We discover that we need not struggle with our projections, that the wall that separates us from them is our own creation.

    From "The Bodhisattva Path," in CUTTING THROUGH SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM, pages 168 to 169.

    All material by Chogyam Trungpa is copyright Diana J. Mukpo and used by permission.

I've been working with ideas about the power of thought and the fuel of emotion for a while now, and this quote makes some connections for me that feel profound. I hope it's helpful to you, too. :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Great Bumper Sticker

This afternoon when I picked Cameron up from school, I saw an SUV with this bumper sticker.
Awesome. Here's the link, in case you want to get one. :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Behind the News

It's funny how one idea builds on another. Perhaps partly because of the change of my language and perspective from "poor" to "blessed" (see yesterday's post) and also in light of the "look behind the fear" idea (click here to read that post), today I am listening to the news differently. By listening in this way, I know what to pray for, what to affirm. Let me give you an example.

People (myself included) will go on and on about the negativity in our news. Turn on a news show in the evenings and you fill your family room with stories of defaulted loans, property taxes, abandoned children, war, joblessness, violence. Turn on the radio and you hear about struggles--battles, injustices, exploitation, dishonesty--all over the world. In recent months, I have intentionally filtered the input I allow from the constantly droning (and ratings-seeking) news channels.

But today it occurred to me to look behind the news. What makes news, news? Why are we talking about all these various (and often awful) things? Something interesting occurred to me. It comes clear when you look at what the story points to.

The story about an abandoned baby is really about the loving way we want to care for our children. It's news because our natural sense of caring tenderly for the smallest among us was violated.

Push through the story about the war and you find our desire for peace. It's news because real lives are being impacted and lost, and we care about those lives.

Look beyond the story about the corrupt CEO and you see that we have a built-in expectation of integrity. It's news because we expect people in power to be trustworthy and truly care for those they lead.

Move into the story of the trapped miners and find your belief that none of us is ever lost, separated, or beyond the reach of God.

Stories about global warming aren't about our abuses of the planet--they are about how much we love the earth and each other, present and future.

Behind each story, if you look, you will see the perfect value it is lifting up. Which values are being violated? Love, connection, harmony, peace, integrity, responsibility? Which stories do you turn away from the quickest? Chances are they point to something you can't reconcile within yourself, because you are a living example otherwise.

It's at that point, I think, that we need to pray. When you feel sick about a news story, don't look away--look behind it to the value that seems to be under attack. Affirm that the value is really there--otherwise, you wouldn't feel the hurt, outrage, anger, frustration. The value is there within you, and you can use it to bring light to the world. When there appears to be hate, look through it and affirm love. When there seems to be exploitation, see that integrity is there or you wouldn't feel the way you do. When you are frustrated by dishonesty or game playing, remember that you are feeling your own natural draw toward truth.

And who knows? Maybe with this kind of news watching, ratings would actually go up, and eventually there would be less news to report!

[Added note] One clarification, though--I'm not saying that the people, places, and circumstances that are the subject of the news stories don't need our prayers, because they do. We want healing, wholeness, peace, comfort for all who need it. But by putting our conscious attention on the value behind the story, we can help make it more visible. And thus "poor" becomes "blessed."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Shaping Power of Language

I have always had a tender heart for animals. As a child, I cried when I left wooly worms behind on the path, I cried when I watched Lassie (my mother would try to keep me from watching it and then hear me sobbing from under the desk in the living room as Lassie waved her paw at the end of the show), I agonized over leaving my stuffed animals when I went to a friend's house for a sleepover.

Okay, you guessed it. I was an odd child.

But the other day, 40-some years later, I had a little epiphany about it. I looked outside and thought, "Poor flowers--look how hot it is and how much they need a drink." Later, I thought, "Poor birds--they need fresh water in the bird bath."

And then I became curious about the language I was using in my head. Where did that "poor" come from? Why do I feel bad for everything, concerned for its welfare, sure that it is suffering in some way from the natural elements? Maybe the flowers are simply a bit too warm--just like we get--in the late afternoon sun? Perhaps the birds are on their way to a little lake somewhere else, not dependent on the bird bath in my backyard as their only source of fresh water.

What would happen to my language, my feelings, and my expectations of the world (and God's provision for it) if I stopped putting that word "Poor..." in front of everything? What if I substituted the word "Blessed" instead?

"Look at that blessed little to fly with other birds, alive on this gorgeous day, able to sing and bring joy to others!"

"Wow, what blessed flowers. How did they get so tall? And what radiant faces they have, especially in the morning and evening, in the cooler part of the day. (And aren't they lucky to have me to care for them? And aren't I lucky to have them to bring such beauty to my day?)"

I am going to become more aware of my use of the word "poor." What in God's creation can be poor? How can we be cut off from God's abundance? Whether we--in this moment, and then this one, and then this one--are the receiving or the giving heart, we are all part of God's ever-present harmony. I wonder whether we can make more blessing visible in this world if we look out through eyes trained to see the good that's already here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Whole Gratitude

This morning I woke up thinking about gratitude. Like a gazillion other people, I watched The Secret, and interesting bits of the video bubble up at different times. Today the thought was about what one of the men said about gratitude--he wakes up every morning, and as he brushes his teeth, he goes through all the things he's grateful for. He made sure to say that it's not just some mental list; he really feels the feeling of gratitude.

This morning as I got out of bed, I went through the things I'm grateful for--a peaceful beautiful morning, new thick carpet (nice!), a good night's sleep, a loving family, work I enjoy, a beautiful home, health...

And then it occurred to me that I was making a mental list. I was trying to bring to mind everything I could that I was grateful for. I probably could have come up with a thousand different things. But I wasn't feeling it, I was thinking it. A mental list. An intellectual exercise. Suddenly I had an image of my prayers getting no higher than the ceiling.

Okay, I thought. The list is fine. But how about feeling gratitude for those things too? I imagined the first few things on the list, and asked for a little help in feeling a whole sense of gratitude. Instantly, I felt a wonderful sense of warmth and openness spreading through me--especially my chest and stomach. A kind of deep relaxing. I think I was experiencing something close to real, whole gratitude--not just a mental image of things I am grateful for.

It's a profound difference. Maybe you already know about it. But I'm so glad to have a way to say thank you with my whole self!

So, thank you for reading this. And when I say "Thank you," I mean "T-h-a-n-k y-o-u" in the wholest possible way. :)