Thursday, March 20, 2014

Greeting Spring in the Garden

My sweetie gave me a garden sign for Christmas. It's a quote from Ruth Stout, who became famous as a garden writer in her 50s and was still lecturing in her 90s. Here's a link to her famous video.

The day of the vernal equinox is even (equinox = equal nights), with 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. The sun rises due east and sets due west.

We aim for evenness, balance in our own actions and perhaps, especially, in our speech. This balance is not a static thing; it's constantly moving--like the sun.

So, we greet spring in our garden, knowing that the next moment will change.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sow Poppy Seeds on Snow. Now.

Is this the last snow of the year? We can't be sure, but if it is, it's time to sow poppy seeds. Strap on your snowshoes and trek out to the flower beds where you want your annual poppies to grow. April is too late. Sow poppy seeds on snow. Now.

(If you need poppy seeds, email your snail-mail address to me at cheryl.wilfong at, or message me through Facebook, and i'll send you some.)

What seeds do you want to sow in your life? Kindness, patience, tolerance, skillful speech?

We can sow those seeds now, even if our inner climate is cold and snowy, dark and dreary. Simply begin now with a few moments of mindfulness.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Standing Meditation at the Post Office

I went to the post office this morning and bought stamps. Flower stamps of course. I always buy flower stamps. And i got some of the new postcard stamps of blue hummingbirds.

I still use stamps, lots of stamps actually. I'm always amazed at the person in front of me in line who buys 1 stamp. Wow. I have no idea what their life is like. Mine involves paying bills. Even though many bills are now paid by automatic withdrawal from my checking account, i still need several stamps a week for bills. A couple of postcard stamps each week to send postcards to our grandchildren whom we don't see very often. And (hint, hint) stamps to send poppy seeds to faithful readers like you. (This is an enticement to read Friday's post.)

Standing in line at the post office is a great opportunity to practice standing meditation. Simply being mindful of standing. Or mindful of eavesdropping. Or mindful of the opinions and judgments running through my mind. One stamp! How do they do that?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Back and Forth

The other person in my house moved the winter flowerpot, with greens and a gazing globe, off the front step in December. He didn't want to shovel snow around it. So today, while he was taking the lights off the outdoor Christmas tree, i surreptitiously moved the greens + gazing globe flowerpot out of the garage and back onto the front step.

A month from now, i'll decorate the front step with pansies, but until then, a dash of green looks pretty good. Well, yes, snow is predicted for tomorrow, but shoveling the front step is my job, so i'm happy to have snow and a flowerpot.

The flowerpot stresses him; it doesn't stress me. Taking the lights off the outdoor Christmas tree stresses me (sigh!); but not him. He dislikes gazing globes; i enjoy them.

We could go back and forth all day, claiming our point of view is right, and his (or their) point of view is wrong. The mind seems to love this right/wrong, good/bad duality. And therein lies the source of our stress.

In truth, the Christmas lights have been taken down. I don't really need to have an opinion about it. My opinion = stress. I've moved the flowerpot to the front step, but tomorrow i may find it back in the garage again. Change happens. That is all.

Photo from

Monday, March 10, 2014

Generous with Daffodils

Yesterday i gave a Dharma talk at Valley Insight Meditation Society in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Doris, who sets up the room, drives more than an hour to sit with the sangha on the second Sunday of each month.

The group gathers in the lovely library of the AVA Gallery and Art Center, located in a former factory. Doris arranges the chairs and sets up a little side table with a Buddha, a votive candle, and a small bouquet of flowers.

Both the candle and the flowers remind us of impermanence. The flame flickers, never the same flame, but never exactly different either. The daffodils remind us of upcoming spring and the impermanence of winter and the snow that surrounds us.

At the end of the sit, when Doris extinguished the candle, she offered the daffodils to me. Oh, graceful generosity.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

In the Pink

"In the Pink" is the theme of the Smith College Bulb Show, with the centerpiece of the show being entirely pink.

The word "pink" comes from Dianthus, commonly called pinks. And they were called "pinks" due to their pinked edges (think: pinking shears).

Dianthus a.k.a Pinks
We no longer use the word "pinked," but the noun "pink" is part of our daily vocabulary.

Shakespeare first used "pink" in the sense of "the best of," as "the pink of health" or "tickled pink."

The best qualities are the Divine Abodes, also called the Heavenly Houses or the Sublime States:
  1. Loving-Kindness
  2. Compassion
  3. Appreciative Joy or Gladness
  4. Equanimity
I've never thought of these Sublime States as pink before, but why not? They put us in the pink of mental health and happiness.

I was tickled pink to be at the Bulb Show with some of my best girlfriends.

Tickled pink--another word for joy.

Photos from and

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lisianthus from Seed

Susan is growing lisianthus from seed. These delicate flowers look like a Georgia O'Keefe painting, as layers of soft petals unfurl.

I myself have never succeeded at growing lisianthus.

I could envy Susan. I could envy her lisianthus. I could stomp my foot and say, "But i want lisianthus."
Or i could enjoy her ability to grow them.

How does envy feel?
How does enjoyment feel?

How does lisianthus feel?

Photos from and

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bulb Show

My women's group drove down to the Smith College Bulb Show today for a blast of spring. Two greenhouses filled with daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths, blooming apple trees and forsythia, and a multitude of other, smaller bulbs.

While we were there, we walked through the Palm House, the Succulent House, and the Orchid House. Oh, it was so hot and humid in there.

It was 2 degrees here at home this morning, winter still wearing her full regalia--2 feet of snow, frozen in place.

Sometimes, we just need a reminder of the possible.

When your inner climate feels cold and dry, warm yourself up with gratitude and loving-kindness.
Write down 3 gratitudes right now.

I'm thankful for friends, flowers, and home-grown food.
And i'm very grateful for you, dear reader.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Faith in March

I received my first (and only?) Equinox card in the mail. Susan sends Equinox cards instead of Christmas cards. I like the idea. She included a poem by Celia Thaxter:

O March that blusters and March that blows,
what color under your footsteps glows!
Beauty you summon from winter snows,
and you are the pathway that leads to the rose.

The only color under my footsteps at the moment is white. So the beauty that March summons is a matter of faith right now and for the next several days.

When i say "faith," i mean confidence or trust. Do we have the confidence that March will indeed summon beauty? Do we trust that March is the pathway leading to the rose?

Do we have the confidence that our meditation can lead us to moments of calmness?
Do we trust that mindfulness can make a dent in our infernal inner critic?

That's all the faith we need.

Photo from

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Topography of Snow

People are beginning to ask me about my garden. "So, how's your garden?" they say.

It's a joke. This morning it's 10 degrees--again. All flowerbeds are still covered by two feet of snow that is so crusty with ice, snowshoes barely leave a track on top.

I'm starting to admire the topography of the snow, which is no longer smooth, but sculpted into hills and valleys as it melts from below. My yard looks like a relief map.

In other words, i'm desperate. The hyacinths have finished blooming; my forced tulips have not yet begun. I've given every houseplant a haircut, and i have 25 jars of cuttings sitting on a window sill.

I would go into hibernation if i could, but the sun heats our passive solar house up to tropical by 11 a.m. It's time to wake up and move. Squirrels scamper across the snow and devour the bird seed. New birds, more birds are showing up at the bird feeders--purple finches, flickers.

Restlessness. One of the 5 hindrances to our meditation and to our life.

The earth is moving. The birds are moving. The snow is moving.
And so am i.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Memorial Magnolias

I attended the memorial service for my friend Lou on Saturday afternoon. There at the registration table stood a vase of magnolia blossoms. A perfect memorial for this dear, sweet North Carolina native.

Eventually, i realized the magnolias were not real, but were silk flowers.

Meanwhile, a slide show of Lou's life played on the screen. I had to leave that room and find a tissue because tears were prickling my eyes.

The silk magnolias gave me the illusion of reality and engendered present moment feelings of pleasant. Then i realized they were false, so the pleasantness was attenuated.

The slide show gave the illusion of reality and gave rise to feelings of pleasant (dear Lou!) and unpleasant (She's gone.) Until i realized that part of my grief was wishing i had known her better, and through the slide show i was indeed getting to know her better. Pleasant.

Photo from

Saturday, March 1, 2014


I just noticed that one pot of amaryllis has 4 good-sized bulbs in it, so i transplanted them, each into its own individual pot.

When i turned the pot upside down, out fell another, smaller pot. The 4 bulbs bulged out of the small pot like a middle-aged woman trying to fit into a dress she wore as a teenager. The bulbs bulged so strongly that i could not shake them out, pull them out, nor push them out. A table knife eventually solved the problem as i cut around the edge as i would do for a cake stuck to a cake pan.

We can get so comfortable with our bad habits that we don't realize they don't fit any more. The cute sullenness of a teenager doesn't look that good on a middle-aged woman. Teenage lingo and speech mannerisms don't fit a young professional woman if she is serious about her career.

The first step in breaking a bad habit is simply to be mindful of it. Listen to it. Look at it. Feel it in your body. You don't have to change a thing. Simply by being mindful, change will happen on its own.

Photo from