Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Enough Love to Go Around

I'd been avoiding
for a long time.
Could not bear,
to deal
with so much.
Maybe, if I got busy
I would not notice,
Finally, the call came,
to stop,
and listen, in silence.
And I saw you,
at last.
Our eyes crossed.
You looked at me,
I could not sustain your gaze,
for too long.
Still you had made
an impression,
and I could no longer
Here I come,
to meet you again,
and open my heart,
to you,
my friend.
I feel your pain,
and I cradle you
in my arms.
It's been a long time
I tell you,
what you want to hear,
that I love you,
and I mean it.
I love you, whole.
Come with me,
my love,
and let us leave
the cold chamber
My heart's full
and I've got enough
to go around us,

All He Wants Is Love

Lonely heart,
in a bare room,
ass on hard cement,
wishing for arms,
of love,
to keep warm.
Instead, cold wind,
grey walls,
sensory deprivation.
He's bored,
out of his mind.
Tis a prison,
with no warden even,
to make conversation to.
all he wants is love.
he's gonna scream
if nobody hears.
The silence's driving him,
all he wants is love.
he's been, ignored
all he wants is love.
It's freezing in there,
Indifference's making him,
He wants his heart,
at last,
Will someone reach out,
Absence's killing him,
all he wants is love.
Can't you hear,
his silent screams,
He's in pain.
Will you stop,
and look at him,
long enough,
to feel his pain.
please do something.
He can't take it anymore.
Can't be left out,
in the cold,
just like that.
Got to acknowledge,
that he exists.
A living, feeling, pulsing heart,
all he wants is love.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Twangha, for Community of Buddhists on Twitter

Man, I love Twitter! Tonight, I felt moved to express my gratitude towards the many folks there, who are supporting me in my meditation practice, and wrote this simple tweet:

Next thing I know, I get this back from @iDharma:
Don't you love that name, Twangha! Carrie's brilliant.
So, next time you tweet about meditation, and the Buddhist community on Twitter, make sure to use the #twangha hashtag
PS- Actually, searching for #twangha, it looks like the word had other prior inventors somewhere in the Netherlands . . . Still love the word, and my impromptu exchange with iDharma!

Ah-Ah Moment on 101 Freeway

On my way back from dropping off Prad at the San Francisco Airport, slow traffic stopped me in my race to go home. I noticed a familiar tightening in my stomach, sure sign of frustration. Followed by train of thoughts. I don't like this, being stuck in the car. I hate 101, too many concrete walls, and not enough open space. I should have taken 280. Can't wait to be home, so I can have breakfast, and meditate. And the realization, that I was fighting the moment. Excitement from new insight. Sadness also. I wondered how many times like this, had I spent not living the present, and wishing instead for a hypothetical future. I looked up, and saw this:

Stupendous morning sky, welcoming me in all its splendor. I had been so preoccupied with thoughts of not liking the now, that I had nearly missed the beauty, right there.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sitting Through Sadness

Almost immediately, I felt the sadness. Deep breaths, and the relief from constriction, gone. Tears, rising up close, but not quite ready to materialize. Wishing. Noticing the wishing, for the tears. Sadness, sadness, sadness, . . . I kept noting. And going back to the breath. Inhale making the encounter with sadness more fully felt. Followed by a delicious moment of absolute stillness. Then, slow release, of exhale taking down with it, some of the feeling. There was more than just sadness. Love, also. And the joy of feeling my heart open. Fleeting thoughts about earlier dream, and feelings of compassion for angry young man. Realization that I am getting in touch with his pain, that is also my pain. These are thoughts. To let them go, and go back to the breath. Sadness, sadness, sadness . . . Breath washing over each time, completely, almost, my heart.

The Wisdom of Dreams

Early this morning, I woke up in hell. Some crazed individual was holding me and a whole crowd hostage, in a night club. He was running the show, and playing some loud, trance-inducing music. I was in the company of young girls. They were full of joy, laughing. As the young man motioned towards us, I realized the reason for his rage. He was mad at his brother, for having garnered all the attention, and was jealous of other people's good fortune. So as not to provoke him, it was critical that my young friends did not show their happiness.

Twenty years ago, I discovered Carl Jung, and with him, the way with dreams. Dreams are powerful. Like meditation, they can help expand our consciousness of reality. This morning, I am left pondering happiness, and envy, and anger, and love, and self-acceptance, and how those five play off each other in the theater of my mind. It will be interesting to see what comes up during today's sitting.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Buddha's 12 Steps to Happiness and Freedom

Very happy for Gil Fronsdal's talk this morning at IMC, on 'liberative dependent origination'. In plain English, liberative dependent origination refers to the Buddha's 12 Steps to Liberation.

These are the 12 steps as I remember them from listening to Gil's talk:

1) Suffering
Being conscious of our suffering, and wishing to find a way out of our suffering.

2) Faith
Having faith in the Buddha's way, to get us out of our suffering.

3) Joy
Experiencing joy as a result of our experience of positive effect from taking first steps along Buddha's path.

4) Rapture
A more heightened state of joy.

5) Tranquillity
Reaching (relative) tranquillity of the mind, so that the task of mindful exploration can take place.

6) Happiness
Experiencing happiness, a state that is both deeper, and less excited than joy from step 3.

7) Concentration
Being able to focus our attention longer, and better.

8) Clarity
Being able to see things clearly, as they are.

9) Disenchantment
Becoming disenchanted with things that used to exert a pull on us.

10) Dispassion
No longer being attached to binding states.

11) Emancipation
Liberation from suffering.

12) Knowledge of the destruction of the cankers

Although presented as linear, I am not sure the 12 steps work quite that way. At least, from my humble perspective as a novice along the path. Yes, I did start with an acute consciousness of my personal suffering, and did make a leap of faith to trust in the Buddha's way. Yes, I did feel tremendous joy initially, when I started to see the light out of the dark forest. The next steps do not feel as clear cut to me. I have moments of tranquillity, and concentration, and clarity, and disenchantment, and dispassion. They are just not sustained. I am curious, what other people's experiences are?

The full talk will be available soon on the IMC's website here. (allow three to four weeks from time of talk)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Holding Anger Like a Baby

Sitting, the thing inside comes up, quick. Unwanted guest. Takes too much space. Doesn't leave me much breathing room. Literally. Each breath, forcefully, trying to make its way through. The thing resists. Becomes bigger with each insisting breath. I realize I'm going nowhere. I need to change tactic. Go for softness instead. Go with the thing. Imagine it as a guest that's here to stay. I might as well become its friend. Thought of Thich Nhat Hanh's video, about holding anger like mother holding baby, tenderly.

I am not even sure what the thing is, really. But Thich Nhat Hanh's advice feels right. And I start breathing with the thing. Small breaths, to respect the space that's asked from the thing. I come to rather enjoy it. I am joining along, now. Big sigh, and a yawn. The thing's responding.

The Dalai Lama Says: Love Your Enemy, Be Happy

Inspiring editorial from the Dalai Lama in Vancouver Sun, today, for Vancouver Peace Summit, titled: 'Compassion for our fellow human beings is the key to happiness'

Excerpts that resonated with me:
One great question underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life?I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering . . .

From my own limited experience, I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others puts the mind at ease. This gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life. We can strive gradually to become more compassionate, we can develop both genuine sympathy for others’ suffering and the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another . . .

Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like one’s self. Like one’s self, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. Let me emphasize that it is within your power, given patience and time, to develop this kind of compassion . . .

We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred. As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions and they can overwhelm our entire mind. Nevertheless, they can be controlled and replaced by an equally forceful energy that stems from compassion, reason and patience . . .

I must also emphasize that merely thinking about compassion and reason and patience will not be enough to develop them. We must wait for difficulties to arise and then attempt to practise them. And who creates such opportunities? Not our friends, of course, but our enemies. They are the ones who give us the most trouble. So if we truly wish to learn, we should consider enemies to be our best teachers. For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential, and for that, an enemy is indispensable. So we should feel grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind. Also, it is often the case in both personal and public life, that with a change in circumstances, enemies become friends. So anger and hatred are our real enemies. These are the forces we most need to confront and defeat, not the temporary enemies who appear intermittently throughout life.

Individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of our entire human community. Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same. I believe that at every level of society — familial, tribal, national and international — the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.

My take away: mindfulness is about sitting, yes, and also practicing being in loving relationship with all beings

Friday, September 25, 2009

Up Close with Unsatisfactoriness

Joy of sitting. Being grateful for luxury of time, meeting with moment. One, two, three breaths. And many more, with gradual realization that not all is as I wish, inside. Something's getting in the way, of breath. Down in my stomach, and in my throat also. I have felt it before. Many times. Struggle to find correct name. I hesitate between sadness, and frustration. More hindered breaths soon make it clear. The constriction's got to do with not being happy with what is. And yearning for a different time, another place. I know I have no other choice than to go with the unsatisfactoriness. Breathing into the resistance. Thoughts of wishing for a more relaxed state, free breath, happy belly, quiet stomach, open throat. Wishing. And a deep sigh. Sleepiness comes, threatening to put an end to my misery. Not now, though. I am to stay awake, and stay with each breath. Straightening my spine, I am no slouch. I start dancing with the sleepiness, and the tension, one step into almost oblivion, soon followed by more brushes with the abrasive reality. Faint smile, translates into frown being ironed out of forehead. I am staying calm despite the relative unpleasantness. Sitting, still.

A Picture of Loving Kindness

That's Bailey, wondering when we are going to go on our afternoon walk.

I look at her, and I see pure, loving kindness. Not conscious, but loving, and kind, nevertheless.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meme Marie's Chicken

Every time I make this recipe, I think of Meme Marie, my maternal grandmother. To her, I owe my love of the earth, and of a life, led simply, without too much fuss. Meme Marie was zen, without knowing. As I venture further and further into the Buddha realm, I am taking her spirit with me. Practical, womanly, real, humble, . . . feet firmly planted on the ground.

  • 3Tbsp canola oil
  • 10 shallots, minced
  • 1 chicken, cut up in pieces
  • 1lb shitake mushrooms, halved
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 cups of white wine
  • chicken broth
  • parsley
Saute shallots in oil. Add chicken, and saute until brown on both sides. Add mushrooms, wine, salt, pepper. Add chicken broth as needed. Add parsley. Cook over low heat for another hour.

A Love Meditation

Heart filled, with love.
Soon to find its limits:
heavy chest, tight throat.
Love's scary.
Sadness, attached.
Some inklings, why.
Each breath's bringing
more sweetness,
and fear, and grief.
Tis tender biz.
Gently, open.
No rush.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When Sitting's Not Enough

I knew something was up, since phone call from a few days ago. I had felt out of sorts, tangled up in a web of difficult emotions, and a smorgasbord of unhelpful thoughts to match. Sitting wasn't cutting it. And neither was confiding in my girlfriends. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to make a collage. Maybe, some answers would come.

An answer did spring. As I was taping the torn pieces of magazines together, a big shift happened inside. First in my head, where divisive, hurtful thoughts, magically gave way to a new order, this time ruled by truth and unity. Soon followed by a wave of love over my heart. Fear, and guilt, frustration, and powerlessness, washed away, in one big sweep. Nothing had changed on the outside, and yet I was reconciled at once.

Next week when I see my teacher, I will ask him, how could I have worked through this with meditation alone? Or are there times, when meditation, particularly for Western souls like myself, is not enough?

Breathing With Fear and Other Scary Emotions

Fear is an habitual companion of mine. Sitting, this morning, I felt its presence, big time. Paying particular attention to the way my breath changed my experience, moment to moment. Each inhale, bringing me ever closer to 'it', wherever 'it' happened to locate itself. In the solar plexus. Moving up to the throat, circled by a knot of fear of the fear itself. Down to the left, in the heart center. 'It' kept moving around. Amplified with each rising. And in between, the sweeping down motion from - mostly - deep exhales. Pushing down the fear, taking some of it sharp edges, in anticipation for the next encounter. Some thoughts, too. My mind coming to the rescue, offering reasons for the emotional storm. I let them scroll by. Not now. Relaxing, or rather trying to relax, and soften around the large presence, inside. Hoping for some reprieve. Tears would be nice. Noticing the hoping, and the wishes, and aversion. I started doubting the fear itself. Was it fear, or something else? There was room for more than one strong emotion. Grief, and sadness soon joined in. And frustration, from being in such company. Breathing through the frustration. I was surprised by a short moment of seemingly nothingness. Quickly interrupted by fear, again. In my throat. Just as the bell sounded.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sitting the Talk

I have been wondering, what if I spent less time writing, talking, and reading about meditation and more on just practicing, sitting, actively engaging in mindfulness throughout my day?

Thanks to @sweepingzen on Twitter, I came across a timely interview with Sei'Un Roshi, woman Zen master, and founder and guiding teacher of the Mountain Moon Sangha.

Particularly this part:

SZ: What book or books might you recommend to someone interested in reading up on Zen?

RS: I don't. If you want to know what it's like to ski, put on the skis and go down the hill; if you'd like to know what Zen is, sit under the guidance of a properly authorized teacher. Three Pillars of Zen gives a pretty good portrait of Zen practise but does not replace getting onto the cushions and presenting oneself regularly to an enlightened teacher for examination.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

Monday, September 21, 2009

In the Midst of Strong Winds

One phone call last night, wiped up all the joy that had come my way, as of late. A few words, well aimed, . . . that's all it took. This morning, still raw from the exchange, I seeked refuge on my chair, sitting, in the quietness. Strong winds of emotions came, and never completely left. Sadness, sadness . . . Breath. Feeling helpless. A tear about to be shed but not quite. Deep sigh. Guilt. Thoughts about what do to. Not now. Back to the breath. Feeling the powerful forces, still, even in the midst of each inhale, and exhale too. Frustration. Pain in shoulder, and the neck. Breathing into the pain. Sadness. Bell ring. So soon.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Old Masters and Beginner's Mind

At the end of the old teacher's talk, one student raised his hand and asked: "Tell us, with all your knowledge and experience, is it - meditation practice - really worth it?" The master paused for a second. I secretly hoped for a resolute yes. And got instead a sobering "I don't know" response.

Last month, during another event, this time with one of America's most respected elders of American Buddhism, I had a similar experience. The old man was facing serious health problems and, you could tell from his talk, that he was having a lot of emotions about his condition. When he asked us, the people in the room, to share life experiences from which we had been able to draw trust, I felt as if the table had turned. The master did not seem so sure of himself anymore, and needed support from the community, to reassure him. The very real prospect of his possible near death had done a number on him.

I am no master. Only a beginning student with the enthusiasm of the newly awakened. And I wonder if the "Is it worth it?" question is not our own mind trying to trick us. Maybe the correct answer is to ignore the question?

Just Washing Dishes

I had planned to write a heady post on the worthiness of meditation practice. Cleaning up the kitchen and washing dishes inspired me otherwise. I caught myself being so wrapped up in the careful soaping and rinsing, and so thoroughly enjoying it, that I had to report.

Being engaged in a simple, dynamic activity such as doing dishes helps give the mind a break. With enough going on, to keep one focused. Yet, not so much, that the brain needs to step into higher gear. During sitting, the physical stillness throws the mind back onto itself, making it especially challenging to deal with the stream of thoughts. Same with walking meditation. Walking is just walking, one foot ahead of the other, and going nowhere. Washing dishes is different. Each dish's got its own set of challenges. Round cup, sharp knives, fragile glass, heavy dish, . . . Got to watch, and pay attention. Monitor the water flow, and when to add more soap. Figure out which piece to wash next . . .

I was almost done with the whole stash, when I noticed. No thoughts. I had had no thoughts the whole time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Simple Apple Tart, With Love

I have noticed, how I feel in the kitchen makes a big difference in the outcome. Hurried, reluctant, angry, mindless cooking produces unsavory results. Happy, peaceful, loving, state of mind, almost always leads to delicious moments. Today, I am making a simple, no fuss apple tart, in preparation for dinner with a few of our neighbors.

  • dough: 1/2 lb of flour, 1 stick of butter (melted, and mixed w/ a bit of water to cool), pinch of salt
  • organic apples
  • unsweetened organic apple sauce
  • make a nest in middle of flour
  • pour butter in the middle
  • add salt
  • mix in dough
  • butter baking dish
  • roll dough on floured surface
  • place in the dish
  • line with sliced apples
  • cover with apple sauce
  • 375 degree oven
  • 45' or until apples are slightly browned
  • let cool
  • optional: you may want to sprinkle with sugar

PS- this recipe makes enough dough for two tarts; I usually freeze extra so I have already made dough for next time

Friday, September 18, 2009

10 Tips From a Meditation Newbie

Here, for all the other meditation newbies like myself, are some of the things I have learned, packaged neatly into 10 humble tips:
  1. Find a community to practice with. Meditation is a hard discipline. I could not have started without the support from my community, at IMC. I am also discovering the beauty of developing an online community through Twitter. The two complement each other. My online friends are available 24x7. At IMC, I get the full impact from being in the physical presence of teachers and other students.
  2. Find a teacher that you like. He or she will keep inspiring you as you develop your practice, and guide you when needed. I have chosen to study with Gil Fronsdal. Gil's a wonderful teacher, and fortunately I don't live very far from IMC, where he teaches. With the Internet, and thanks to YouTube, and podcasts, it is possible to have access to great teachers, regardless of your location. Readings are also another way to soak up wisdom from contemporary teachers. I have learned a lot from reading Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein, and Sylvia Boorstein, amongst others.
  3. Commit to a daily practice, and stick to a set length of time. 30' works for me. I have grown very found of the timer on my iPhone. At first, I was looking for fancy zen timer apps. Now, I just use the regular timer, set to a neutral ring tone. Bells and whistles are extra when it comes to meditation, . . . :) What the timer does, is it keeps me accountable, and it delivers me from the burden of keeping track of time.
  4. Find a space where you can practice relatively undisturbed. I don't mean complete silence, for that is not how life is, and it is good to make room for outside life during practice. On the other hand, you don't want to be in a place with too many distractions. Being subjected to your roommate arguing with his girlfriend, or banging pots in the kitchen, is not ok. You may need to adjust your practice time for when home is most quiet.
  5. Find a meditation posture that works for you. I suffer from chronic back pain, so no lotus for me! I am finding sitting in a chair with a straight back works well for me. When I am tired, lying is also good. But everyone's different. This does not mean, indulging every itch and ache, but rather determining what is good vs. bad pain. In my case, it would be foolish to make my back condition worse.
  6. Start with the breath. And go back to it, after each diversion from the thinking mind. Each time, paying attention to the myriad of ways that the breath can entertain you. What I like about the breath, is I don't have to do anything. It happens, regardless, and independently from the thinking process.
  7. Take notes. Of your thoughts, and feelings, and sensations in the body. And of the way you apprehend them. Like. Don't like. Indifferent. It's all grist for the mill. It took me a while to get the part about my relationship to the thoughts and feelings. I found that realization to be extremely freeing, and a great source of inner strength. It has taught me to be more interested in the way I deal with my thoughts and feelings, rather than in the content itself. This is what I interpret detachment to means.
  8. Say no, sometimes. Not all thoughts are good, or timely. And some, can be especially sticky. This is when you need to exert your will, and stand up for your happiness. I tend to be a busy bee, always planning, thinking up new ideas. While not bad, creative ideas have no place during meditation. "Not, now". Same with unwholesome thoughts, that risk taking you down the path of suffering, quick, if you are not careful. I have learned from Blanche Hartman to say "No, not taking that train". You can say the same.
  9. Turn your attention to the outside. When your attention starts to wane, as it will inevitably, and tiredness sets in, and even the breath does not do it, use outside stimuli as a new resting place for your attention. You can keep plenty busy, noticing the variety of sounds, and rhythms, and the way they play off each other. Birds chirping, cars in the street, children at play, construction workers hammering away, dogs barking . . . all manifestations of the life around you at a given moment.
  10. Keep it simple. The main thing is to pay attention. If you are psychologically minded as I am, you may be inclined to interpret, and assign meaning to your thoughts, and your feelings. Make connections to past events, and inferences about the future. Fish for insights . . . Don't do that. Instead just be a keen witness of each moment. That's all.
Now, I would love to hear from you. What are some of the ways that have helped your meditation practice?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Does Mindfulness Look Like?

For the past month, since I started this blog, I have been looking for a visual to describe mindfulness. Not easy. How do you capture such a subtle experience? I tried to think about what I see when I sit, and close my eyes. The darkness, and light also, and the mystery. But those three don't an image make . . . Just when I was about to settle for a smiling Buddha, I found what I was seeking, right outside my window, this morning. Thanks to Blogger editing capabilities, it has now become the header image for this blog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Drama Queen in Waiting

Lots of boredom moments today, captured as I was walking around the house, also during swim practice, and just now, while sitting. I had never given much thought to boredom, until I got into meditation.

Boredom is a dangerous state. So pernicious. Not juicy enough like anger, or greed, or lust, to hold my attention and keep me engaged for long. Boredom is, well, blah, and that says it all doesn't it? Stored in my brain, are some useful Buddhist teachings, to direct me in the right direction. I am to pay more attention to the moment, that's what I was told. There is the obvious breath, to be sure, and the noises outside. I try. I am almost grateful for the dogs barking at the construction men next door. How desperate is that? Judging. Breath, followed by a few more. I am doing well. Pride. Then boredom again, even stronger this time, and spelling doubt in my mind about the worthiness of sitting. Wishes for the bell soon. Boredom. I don't like it. Judging. Back to the breath. The bell's still not ringing. I blank out into another world, filled with excitement. Make it back, I don't know how, to the reality of me sitting. Feeling guilty for having been gone so long. Self-loathing. Big sigh. Boredom. Oh! no . . . I really don't like this.

I'm a drama queen in waiting. Half of the time, I am bored, waiting, hoping for some excitement. And when that fails to materialize, my brain is always there, ready to kick in high gear, and fire some thoughts, making up some drama, to take me out.

To realize that boredom does not come from the object of our attention but rather from the quality of our attention is truly a transforming insight - Joseph Goldstein (from Thank You, Boredom)

First Time Love Practice

I just started this new practice. I call it the 'first time' love practice.

Imagine relating to your loved one as if you were meeting him or her for the 'first time'. Mind untainted by memories, good and bad from past encounters. And free of expectations regarding how things should and should not go between you two. Leaving all your baggage behind. Being totally present for each shared moment as it unfolds second after second.

New time, new experience. I look at him with virgin eyes, and I listen to him with open ears. As if meeting him for the 'first time'. Present moment as only reality. He's leaving his things behind, also. Fleeting thoughts come and cloud my view for a short while, and I brush them away, remembering they do not belong to now. Same with familiar feelings that threaten to weigh me down, if I am not careful. The desire to meet him is stronger. And I say to myself, the first time mantra, over and over, until I see him clearly, and I hear him well, again.

I have tried the other way before, and it hasn't worked. All that baggage was wearing me, us down.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Drinking From the Power Cup

Tonight, as I sat, I drank from the power cup, an intoxicating brew made of ambition, and greed, and desire, and delusions. With a twist of anger for good measure. I had drunk the stuff many times before, the general feeling seemed familiar. Only I had never stopped long enough, to really notice. Messed me up. I could taste the bitterness. This was bad s..., that could take me down the wrong path. Back to the breath for a bit of sanity. Breathing in, I savored the slow rising of my belly, and my chest. Stopping at the top. Then watching the slow descent, until the next breath. And the next one . . . Until soon, the smell from the cup within, drew me in again. I had to be careful, not to resist too much. I knew the more I tried, the more I would be at the mercy of the witch's brew. I remembered Jack Kornfield's instructions, and let myself feel its full effect, to see how far it would take me. Aversion. I found I did not like how it made me feel. Some tears came unannounced, strangely devoid of feeling. Ring of the bell, too soon. I was not done.

10 Tips for Buddhists on Twitter

From my previous incarnation as a green blogger, I know numbered lists are big in the blogosphere. Here's my shot at 10 tips for skillful tweeting . . . inspired by a whole morning spent checking out the Buddhist crowd on Twitter:
  1. When referring to yourself, tweet in the first person. No one's that important.
  2. Hold your fingers back before firing a tweet. Is your intention pure? Is your tweet self-serving, or is it for the greater good? Might it cause harm?
  3. Be grateful. Let people know when you have benefitted from their tweet, and make generous use of @s.
  4. Share the goodies. When you find an awesome tweet, make sure to RT (retweet).
  5. Keep personal complaints to yourself. Why spread the misery?
  6. Only tweet when you have something worth sharing.
  7. Practice compassion, and engage in random tweets of kindness.
  8. Be a real person, warts and all. That's what makes you interesting.
  9. Use Twitter in moderation. This stuff's addictive!
  10. Exert care in the way you build your 'Following' list. How many folks can you genuinely keep up with? Are they being mindful in their tweets?
Of course, tips are meant to not be followed . . . Have fun and tweet away, mindfully. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Catching Joy From Beth Goldring

The temptation to stay home, reading the Sunday paper, and sipping tea almost kept me from attending Sunday practice at IMC. I decided to go last minute, and made it just in time for the second sitting. When the bell rang, I discovered someone else sitting instead of Gil. Nun, monk, it was hard to tell with shaved head and robe . . . I was really curious.

Beth Goldring, founder and director of the Cambodia Aids Project, soon had the whole room riveted to her every word. What an inspiration! I was so grateful I could meet her, and catch a bit of her infectious joy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Signs From the Body

During sittings, I have learned to welcome those small signs from my body that tell me that all is well. My favorites are the sighs, and the yawns, and the silent burps. Physical expressions of more relaxed states. Rewards for staying focused, and being with each breath. Not trying to rush, or control the pace. Respecting the in between stillness of the chest. Not being too greedy either, and yearning for the goodies. I love the sensation of expansion, that comes from going with what is, constriction included.

Listening To the Voice Within

This is my collage of the week. For a change, I am not trying to assign too much meaning to it. Simply putting it together suffices. My eyes keep going to the pink purse in the middle, and the "within" lock.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Swimming Meditation

Annoyed at feeling irritated, still, from an unpleasant exchange earlier in the morning, I motioned towards the pool. And acted as if all was well. Slipped on my fins, put on my cap, and adjusted my new pair of goggles, and dove in. As I warmed up slowly, I had plenty of time to mind the grinding sensation inside my stomach. Along with the dislike, and the wishing away of the anger. Fleeting images of the one at the source. Letting them go by, making up a breathing set to help me focus. I lasted two rounds, that's it, until anger visited again. And stopped for the coach's instructions for the session. Unlike other days, when I forego difficult intervals, this time, I decided to try harder. Concentrating on the times, and the strokes, and staying in sync with the people in my lane. Next time, I checked, I noticed it had been quite a while - ten, fifteen minutes at least - since anger had visited. In between, were no thoughts, other than counting laps, and intervals between each. It is true that anger is not a solid state. Rather a juxtaposition of moments, with varying degrees of stubbornness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Control Freak Encounter

There is a knot in my throat. My brain gets going, and starts to elaborate a scenario about the knot. I must be sad because my daughter left today. I need to release the pain. Shed some tears. Breathe into the knot. I get frustrated about the knot still being there, and no weeping yet. Judging. Go back to the breath. Not think about what the knot is about. I am trying to control the process. Wishing, judging, interpreting, . . . I feel tired. Getting bored. Notice knot gone. What happened? Thoughts about work. Planning the end of the afternoon. Breath, in, and out. Shallow. A few times. Knot back. Constricting. Sound of baby crying next door. I get lost. Deep sigh, and a yawn. Then knot again. Thinking about struggle, with my thoughts. How do I step aside, and let the knot be? Breathe, let the breath do its work. And note the struggle. Bell rings. Too soon, almost.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

You Mean I Don't Have to Sit Like the Buddha?

I suffer from a chronic back condition that does not agree well with extended periods on the cushion. Some days are better than others. This morning not so good. All I could think of was the pain in my right lower back. Breathing into it, being with it, accepting it, getting absorbed into the surrounding noises, . . . noting the not liking, and the judging the not liking, going back to the breath, wishing for the bell to ring, acknowledging . . . The bell did ring.

I asked my teacher, what I am to do with the pain? Gil suggested I not be so hard on myself, and give my body a break instead. "Adopt whatever position works for your back. You don't want to make things worse. It's ok to change position in the middle of a sitting as long as you stay mindful. Some very good meditators need to move every 20'." Made sense.

For the second sitting, I decided to go for a chair. Much better. The pain was still there, a remnant from my earlier stint on the cushion, but not as pervasive. I even experienced long stretches without feeling or thinking about it. And I did follow Gil's advice, and listened to my body, and moved accordingly with each signal from my back. When I opened my eyes, I noticed a twinge of envy, as I saw other people in the room, sitting in perfect Buddha position. Then remembered Gil's talk. Standing, sitting, lying down, it's all good.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Open Mind, Happy Swim

I have started the new practice of consciously noting my thoughts as I come across strangers. This morning, I got plenty of opportunities during swim practice. Several people showed up in 'my lane'. Old folks, who swam slower than me, and took liberties with the coach's instructions. I was not pleased. Who is this old fart who is entering the pool at the wrong end? He should not be there. I am going to tell him to go in the other pool. And this plain looking woman. She's got an odd looking bathing suit and does not fit in. I could feel my world shrink, as my mind went on with more judging, and disliking, and wishing for my lane minus 'them'. I had a choice. To keep on excluding, and not liking. Or to make room for my swim mates, and my thoughts and feelings towards them, and the reality of our communal swim. I chose the latter, and opened to a whole new experience, discovering once more the happiness from keeping an open mind.

All Over the Place

To be is quite difficult. Sitting, with my eyes closed, I start fresh with clear mind, and a slow quieting down of heart beat, and breath. Attuned to outside noises. Noting how I react. Likes and dislikes. Jumping mind takes me into another space, another time. I wish for no thinking. Frustration from tyranny of busy mind. Not liking, at first, then remembering to make space. Deep breath. Reconciliation with imperfect state.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Minding Anger, With Love

Yesterday, out of the blue, an angry mood overtook me. With fiery thoughts to match, about X . . . The size of my upset seemed disproportionate with the offense, and I wondered . . . First impulse was to feel guilty for hosting such a 'nasty' state of mind. Then, the realization that it was only a temporary condition, made up of harmless feelings and thoughts - as long as I kept them to myself - brought some relief. I was just to observe, explore, feel, note, accept, . . . doing so from a heart place, and not a should stance as before. A funny thing happened. Soon my attention shifted from 'I' to X, and I started to feel the other's pain, and think thoughts of what I could do to care for X. The big shift was my ability to no longer feel divided by my anger. Being at one with myself, through the storm, truly. And letting that state of reconciliation spill over to the object of my initial fury. Mindfulness does work . . .

Sunday, September 6, 2009

'Elle' Intelligence

The psyche works in mysterious ways. All I know right now, is 'something's coming'. The dawn of a new way of being, of relating, and experiencing life. To do with the feminine.

I'm excited . . .

Saturday, September 5, 2009

On Doing, and Thinking, and Being

Sitting still. Mind busy with to do lists. Heart under siege with worries. I want to take a vacation from my thoughts. Not liking all the agitation. Not liking. Breathing into the restlessness. Very much a part of me, although an add on, that I am pretty sure. I have an inkling of my self, undisturbed, just being. Frustration with my inability to let go of the grip of doing, and thinking. Feeling powerless. I breathe into surrendering to reality of this moment. As I do, I catch a few islands of almost complete stillness. One, two, three shallow breaths, at the most. Oh! no, judging. I like the calmness. I hate the busyness. Back to the breath, that which happens without any effort. Magic slate for the mind.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Just Look at the Lettuces

Walking the gardens of Green Gulch, with my dear daughter, I am struck by the perfection of the moment.
She is soon to leave for a long stay abroad, and my delight is tainted with sadness. I wish I could suspend time. Mindful mind steps in. Clinging. I am suffering from clinging. To not be attached and go against the reality of impermanence. Or else the pure sweetness will give way to a bitter taste. I decide to be fully present, instead. Listen to what she has to say, and marvel with her about the beautiful patterns of the multicolored lettuces. And breathe, and lock my steps into hers.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One Way Or the Other

I have this pain, right below the surface, that comes up soon after I sit. Let's face it, I would rather not have the pain, but I am no mistress in my house. The pain is there, and insists on being recognized. Being a good Buddhist, I tell myself to keep my heart open, open, open . . . And breathe through the center of my chest, where the pain dwells. I remember Jack Kornfield's gentle words last Sunday, to let breath breathe itself, and I relax into the pain. The ring of resistance opens, making space for the pain to come out. One tear, soon followed by many more . . . and a big sigh. The ring tightens, again. I have reached my limit, for now, and want out. I get lost into wishes for the bell to ring, soon, so that I can get up and go about my business, and forget. Avoidance, yes. Back to breathing. trying to focus. Oh! pain again, this time in my lower back and my thighs. Purely physical, and seemingly disconnected from its earlier, heartfelt version. And yet, begging for my attention just as much. One way or another, I am to embrace the pain. All of it. And not judge myself for succeeding only partly. I am convinced the world would be a much better place, if only more people were willing to face that which comes with being human: pain.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Alzheimer's Moment

My mother is 87 and suffering from advanced stages of Alzheimer's. We found a safe place for her in a nursing home close to her home village, back in France. I have learned to let go of my expectations of what my conversations with her should be like. Instead, I just go with her flow, as here:

Me: It's time for dinner soon.
Mother: Yes, I am thinking of going out to the restaurant.
Me: That sounds great! Where do you want to go?
Mother: I don't know yet.
Me: How about the place downstairs?
Mother: What do you mean?
Me: There is a restaurant right where you live.
Mother: Really? How do I get there?
Me: You get out of your apartment, make a left, take elevator on the left, push 0 button and once on ground floor, ask the people there. If you forget, someone will come and get you.
Mother: Good, I will do that.
Me: Good!

A perfect moment.