Monday, August 25, 2008

Buddhist Proverbs

I got Pema Chodron's Getting Unstuck audiobook from the library yesterday and today after I dropped Cameron off at school I listened to the first part of the first CD. She has such a lovely voice, lyrical and gentle with humor and space. Her words and thoughts and teachings are grounded in such a moving sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance; I found myself wanting to listen just for that loving blessing of the sound of gracious openness, a type of beautiful music.

Visiting her site led me on to other Buddhist teachings, and I found her referenced on this site, along with a huge list of Buddhist proverbs written in the 12th century. The site displays how each of several teachers of Buddhist thought phrase the various proverbs. This captured my imagination and I decided that for my own learning I would create a PowerPoint presentation of the various proverbs, to cycle through on my laptop as a screensaver. What a great way to fit awareness and spiritual practice in with my work! :)

So, just in case you're interested in the same thing, here a link to the simple presentation. Be forewarned--it's long; I think there are close to 70 slides. But don't work too hard at taking it all in; just let it wash over you, like cool mist on a mountain walk. :)

Note: For some reason the file isn't running automatically as a PowerPoint show, so if the PowerPoint file opens on your computer, just press F5 to start the slide show.

So True

Well, I have to admit this quote of Thomas Merton's is a little deflating for people like me who try to put words--emotions, images, something--on the tiny transformative spark that occurs when faith, heart, and consciousness come together:
    No writing on the solitary meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.

    Thomas Merton. Honorable Reader. Robert E. Daggy, editor. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1991: 91

Today I have the windows open in the sunroom (it was only 59 degrees this morning when I woke up! Wonderful!) and I'm sitting here listening to the wind in the forest as I write. The trees, the locusts, and the voices of children on the school playground a quarter of a mile away all mix together to make the most delightful music proclaiming the goodness of God, the wonder of life, and the real and inexhaustible hope that keeps us loving each other and envisioning a healed world. What else is there to say? We can only listen, receive, and offer our breathless thanks.

Note: To subscribe to the Merton Institute's Weekly Reflection (which is how I received this Merton quote today), go to and click Subscribe Now on the right.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Listening & Guidance

It occurred to me this morning--after an exciting, jam-packed, creative week--that the most profound change and deepening in my spiritual life over the last 10 year has not come about because I did more, understood more, or prayed more. It wasn't the books I read (although those certainly helped), the situations I lived (although at each place I found God right there in the midst of it), or thousands upon thousands of prayers, actions, and thoughts that went streaming to the Loving Presence I know as God. Rather, the big inner shift, the opening, the deepening, the enriching happened when all the outer striving and trying and working and acting ceased, and I began to notice a need for listening more. Just a quiet, open, gentle space, where I listened quietly and in love for whatever God would or wouldn't say to my heart. The listening became the prayer, the act, the communion, the point. It is a refreshment like nothing else, a moment of gathering in beauty in the Garden. I highly recommend it, whether you use something like the Centering Prayer (here's a great site for that) or the Jesus Prayer or the simple and beautiful Quaker method of silent worship. Take even the smallest moment and just breathe with God. There's no refreshment like it, and from that still centered spot in the core of your being, everything else begins to blossom. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Gift of Perfect Peace

The other day Ruby (my 22-month-old granddaughter) was here spending the day with me (which is joy enough) and we had just finished running a bunch of errands. As we turned onto our street, Ruby nodded off to sleep, her arms and legs hanging limp in her car seat, her little head snuggled against the padded cushion. Earlier in the afternoon, we'd spent more than an hour "trying" to go to sleep at naptime (which for Ruby means repeatedly playing the music on her Fisher Price aquarium, singing to herself, and saying "Mama-Dada-Nana" like a mantra). As an active almost-two-year-old, she's fascinated with everything and has lots of good ideas and really doesn't want to give it all up and go to sleep. (I can identify--when I was little, I used to stretch out on my babysitter's bed and sing "These Boots Are Made for Walkin!" at the top of my lungs instead of taking a nap. I guess that dates me, doesn't it?!)

When Ruby slipped off to this peaceful sleep, I knew this was precious time--and a rest she really needed. Come to think of it, maybe I did, too. It was a beautiful day; I parked the car in the garage, rolled down all the windows, left the sunroof open, and enjoyed the breeze, the goldfinches I could see in my rear view mirror, and my sweet, sleeping grandbaby for an entire hour. What did I do? Simply enjoyed the time, loved her, thanked God.

It was the best rest I've had all week! Wonderful. May you find surprising gifts of respite in your day as well.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Singing Thanks

Yesterday I wrote this in a note to a dear friend, and the thought and feeling has stayed with me, so I thought I'd share it here: "In the moments when I feel most awake and present, I get a sense that all creation—-literally all creation—-is singing Thanks! to God. When I am really here without defense, projection, or pretense, I am singing it, too."

Really Sing It today! Countless angels are your backup singers. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Living Gratitude

Yesterday afternoon my sons and I spent two hours in the waiting room of a MedCheck while my oldest son found out about chest pains that had begun earlier in the afternoon. Ordinarily this wouldn't be the best place for contemplation--the waiting room was full, my older son was grim and concerned; my younger son was anxious about a school project due today. The fear that usually accompanies an event like this for me wasn't present--I knew from Christopher's voice and color and breathing that all was reasonably well (although I did feel it was important to have his symptoms checked out because my dad had heart problems). After two EKGs and lots of listening, the doctor told Christopher he had strained a muscle in his chest, just above his heart. Nothing a few Ibuprophen and a couple of days' rest can't fix.

While we waited, I read an old book by the Dalai Lama that I found at the library last weekend: Kindness, Clarity, and Insight. The book is a compilation of lectures he gave the U.S. 20 years ago, and they are wonderful, simple, and clear.

In the midst of this experience, the Dalai Lama's voice and thoughts washed soothingly over me. He wrote about compassion, compassion for all beings. This type of compassion is not simple empathy but a kind of love and gratitude that begins within a heightened awareness of our own blessing. He suggests we remember a great kindness someone in our life has done for us--perhaps a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend. Then we allow our gratitude for that great kindness to shine brightly within us. Soon we respond to others with that same sense of gratitude, a thank-full approach for the blessing they are bringing into our lives. And from this ever-growing underground stream of gratitude, true compassion pours out naturally--beginning with my thankfulness for you, I want happiness for you and as well as health, freedom, creativity, joy, and love. When I act from compassion, it is because the idea of us as two separate beings has dissolved and I recognize that as you love, I love; as you hurt, I hurt; as you seek peace, I seek peace.

May we flourish in the true compassion that arises from the grateful Heart of all being.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pray without ceasing...for all beings

The Abbey of Gethsemani is continuing its gentle shaping influence on my heart and life. Since my visit there in late May (I attended a wonderful writing retreat at Bethany Spring), I have been immersing myself in Thomas Merton's faith and thought. Because he has such a strong, clear voice in his writing (and so honest!), I wanted to hear the sound of his voice as it really was. The director of Bethany Spring pointed me to a link on their site, and then I wanted more, so I searched YouTube and found a few "videos" (really audio with photos) someone has uploaded. The first link I clicked on was Merton teaching new postulant monks about the Jesus Prayer. I'd never heard of this prayer before and it seemed too simple to be very effective, at first, but then, listening to Merton's teachings, I realized the transcendent power--the Holy Spirit is praying with you when you pray this prayer.

I realize this is a big concept and probably something that should be covered in a book as opposed to a blog post, but I have been praying with the Jesus Prayer for a while and it is truly a transforming and loving and powerful prayer. I've also just begun reading The Way of a Pilgrim, the personal spiritual journey of a 15th century Russian peasant who desperately wanted to pray without ceasing and discovered the even-then ancient tradition of the Jesus Prayer was the method that ministered to the yearning of his soul.

So what is the Jesus prayer? Simply, and heart-fully, this:

    Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me...

Because I am learning and beginning to live with a greater awareness of Oneness, I often pray have mercy on us... or have mercy on all, or simply, have mercy. I'll write about my discoveries on the topic of "mercy" in a later post...

Yesterday it occurred to me to combine the Jesus Prayer with tonglen as I was in conversation with someone who was hurting. If you're unfamiliar with tonglen, go here. Pema Chodron, the American Buddhist nun, wrote about the practice of tonglen in her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. The use of breath as prayer is part of both the Jesus Prayer and tonglen--it was a very tender and beautiful moment. And the person I was with seemed to feel a shift in the depth of struggle. A lightening occurred, and the rest of the evening seemed to be more peaceful (even with a little joy thrown in).

Note: I was hoping to share the links to the Merton teachings on the Jesus Prayer with you, but when I checked the links, the creator of the clips has taken them down. If I locate them again I'll post them here at a later time.

Be well, and may you feel, receive, and share all your blessings today! :) k

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dissolving Inhumanity

Today on the way to work, as I was merging from 69 South onto 465 West, a trucker refused to let me in. Then the car in front of him wouldn't let me in. I was surprised--this has never happened to me on the way to work before, even though I always drive in rush-hour traffic. I was dumbfounded as these drivers seemed to set their faces against me and pretend not to notice my flashing turn signal. The truck was downright aggressive about it. Finally, I was able to zip into a tiny space that opened up. I was puzzled and a bit stirred up by the experience.

I started thinking about the moments of grace that are available to us as we drive. I like to leave a relaxed amount of space between my car and the car in front of me, so other drivers feel like they can move into that space if they need to. I like the way that makes me feel as I drive--like I have more room, more time, the grace to be flexible. Other drivers ride the bumpers of the car in front of them, pushing, leaning forward, always late. I've felt that way before and I don't like it. I choose not to create that in my day, or impact others' driving experience with that kind of energy.

I got to work and glanced at the clock on my phone as my computer came to life. 8:15. I think that's the moment the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, killing 80,000 instantly, on this date in 1945. I was silent and sad for a moment, praying. Is it possible that the imprint of inhumanity--absence of grace--is left on this day? I prayed to dissolve any internal belief I carried about the "hardness" or "insensitivity" of the inflexible drivers this morning. I may not be able to do much to affect the horror and injustice people suffered on this day (and in the months and years following), but I can dedicate myself, my efforts, my thoughts, and my prayers today to dissolving the inhumanity in myself, silencing the echos of judgment and separation that are tempted to arise through me this day.

May all beings feel the stirring of Spirit and Grace today, without exception.