Saturday, September 23, 2017


My neighbor gave me 4 acorn squash plants at the end of May, and they have yielded a dozen children including a set of twins.

Two squash from one stem reminds me that both compassion and wisdom are needed for our meditation practice to take off. They are often called the 2 wings of awakening.
Compassion without wisdom can be mushy and saccharine. Wisdom without compassion is dry.

In our meditation practice, we want to practice self-compassion, and we also want to deepen our insights with wisdom practices. When we speak, we want to to be gentle and straight-forward. Resting in the middle of these paradoxes, we find the Middle Way.

I'll be baking some compassion-wisdom squashes later this fall.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Draininge Ditch

It's been a rainy spring and summer, and already it's a rainy fall. Rainwater has drained into my garage and puddled in the basement. My sweetie has been waiting, waiting, for the road maintenance guys to put a crown on our private dirt road, a crown on our dirt driveway, and to do something about the drainage. When he flew to Portland, Oregon to meet me after my retreat, one of the first things he talked about was his exasperation with the process. "There's a great big ditch between your gardens. I can't possibly drive the truck over it. Call them and tell them to do something about it. They took away your beautiful garden soil. Now what are they going to do?!!"

Since the father of the road guys carved my driveway out of the woods 38 years ago, and his then-teenage boys were his crew, i have the utmost confidence in their artistry with a backhoe. Bill was the one who was bothered. "You call them," i said. "I can't quite picture it being as bad as you say."

When we returned home from our vacation, we found the ditch filled with crushed rock--all the better to drain the driveway. Hooray!

Worry is believing that something bad is going to happen in the future. Curiosity waits and wonders, "I wonder what's going to happen."

This ditch full of rocks is a better solution than i could have imagined.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Portulaca Pot

My friend Nancy, in Olympia, Washington, has a flower pot that goes around the umbrella in the middle of her patio table. Very cute. She has filled the flower pot with portulaca.

The terracotta pot is actually 2 pots, each going halfway around the umbrella stick. By tying the 2 halves together, there's the illusion that one pot goes completely around.

How often do we see something beautiful, only to later recognize its "brokenness," its unsatisfactoriness?

The portulaca pot is beautiful, but it's not quite as it seems. The illusion certainly fooled me.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Mt St Helens

While i was on retreat in August in Washington state, my borrowed landscape was Mt. St. Helens. Two or three times a day, i walked down to the end of the driveway of Cloud Mountain Retreat Center, to take a peek at the still snow-covered mountain.

Gazing at a landscape has the effect of relaxing the mind, and, therefore, the body. Relaxing the mind is the first meditation instruction.

Begin now. Look out the window at the view of your yard. Go out to your deck and sit a spell. Relax.

Photo courtesy of Portland Monthly.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Borrowed Landscape

I'm staying with my friend Nancy in her 800-square-foot condo in Olympia. Outside the sliding glass door, she has a small patio, about 10'x12', which is a lovely space to sit or eat meals while her cat roams around the adjoining lawn or crouches under towering Douglas firs.

The green space actually belongs to the condo association, but Nancy's eyes feast on the expanse of green outside her door. This is called "borrowed landscape." It belongs to someone else (technically), but you have the visual use of it, and, in this case, the cat owns the territory.

I often "borrow" wisdom from my meditation teachers, repeating it to myself or to students, until such time as i thoroughly know it for myself. Right now, the wisdom i'm repeating to myself is "Every being has her own journey."

The cat goes out to the lawn to meditate, while i sit on the little patio, savoring the Pacific Northwest landscape.

Blue Potato Vine

My friend in Olympia, Washington, has a blue potato vine growing up the bricks of her chimney. Solanum crispum looks like nightshade to me, and the berries it produces are likewise poisonous.

It turns out that other poisonous substances are also beautiful. I'm thinking of the word "toxic" hiding in the beautiful word intoxicating. Intoxication sounds likes a lot of fun, until you realize, decades later, that you've been poisoning your liver.

Shall you be seduced by the thought that beautiful people drink wine? Or will you recognize the poison?

The blue potato vine is beautiful.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Spiritual Friend

I'm in Olympia, Washington for a couple of days, visiting a spiritual friend. We are on different paths--she's a Quaker; i'm a Buddhist--but i love our deep conversations. Plus, i'm in the Pacific Northwest, which grows beautiful roses.

Spiritual friends. Life doesn't get any better than this, no matter how free-wheeling our conversations.

Who is your spiritual friend?