Sunday, May 31, 2015

Redbud Karma

I just found a redbed seedling growing in my backdoor garden. I scattered redbud seeds in that flowerbed, oh, maybe just before or after my dad died, 18 years ago.

There's been a lot of turnover in that particular flowerbed, which used to be a nursery bed for starter plants. Three summers ago, during construction, a 5-foot deep trench ran through that flowerbed.

And today: a redbud seedling. Amazing!

The results of yesterday's actions, even long ago actions, are still springing up in our lives. This is called karma. Knowing that our future is born of our action strengthens our intention to act honorably today. The seeds of today's unkindness may come to fruition 18 years from now. Likewise, today's generosity, today's patience, today's open-hearted kindness will come to fruition sometime in the future.

What kind of future do you want for yourself? The choice is yours: Today.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Friends on the Same Path

Every weekday morning, a meditation friend, Rose, and i carpool 40 minutes to the hospital in Keene, New Hampshire for our radiation treatments. This is Rose's fourth bout with lymphoma. After 9 months of monthly chemotherapy, and, now, 5 weeks of radiation, her hair is growing back, so softly. Spending a couple of hours every day with my spiritual friend Rose is a godsend. The Buddha said that our spiritual friends are the entire spiritual path.

A certain camaraderie develops in the radiation waiting room, even though we're all sharing only small talk. Ron lives on the other side of New Hampshire, and i pass him every morning in the dressing room because his appointment is right after mine.

Yesterday was Ron's last day of radiation, and he brought a bucket of alstromeria for the 6 radiation technicians. He also gave a rose to Rose (ahem :) and a rose to me. Who better to share the joy of the end of radiation treatment than your radiation comrades? They KNOW, viscerally, what you're going through.

Research shows that people in cancer support groups live longer. This is an example of the value of friendship, the kind of friendship where you can talk about your deepest fears and deepest longings, and the other person KNOWS.

What's your deepest longing? What's your deepest fear? Spend some time with a spiritual friend today.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Call of the American Toad

The American toad is trilling its haunting, l-o-n-g call. My sweetie doesn't like to be at home alone with it--it's too spooky for him. He says it sounds like a ghost.

I love meditating on the sound of the toad, which lasts 5 or 10 seconds, in the evening and in the morning before sunrise. I try to listen intently to hear the rapid trill, which sounds, at first, like a monotone. Can i "ride" the rapid up-and-down? I try to feel the sound in my body. Can i soak into the sound? marinate in the sound? become one with the sound?

For years, i thought hearing meditation was me, here, listening to that sound, over there. Then on a retreat, i realized i could feel sound in my body. The sound was not happening over there. Sound was happening in my body. Sound vibrates my bones and my flesh.

Now i try to sink into the sound, knowing that it's not the sound itself that's unpleasant. It's the way the sound feels in my body that's unpleasant.

American toad: unpleasant to some. Pleasant to others.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hearing Meditation

I meditated outdoors on the deck this morning at 3:30 a.m. The temperature was lovely with a small breeze blowing. The first fireflies were lighting up the dark. A single wood thrush sang in the neighbor's woods.  A handful of crickets chirped among the flowers. A frog trilled near the fishpond where the fish were splashing about. Or was that a raccoon trying to rustle up some breakfast?

The mind wanted to know: What is it? But happiness resides in don't-know mind.

Hearing meditation. Simply hearing. Hearing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Stress of Too Much

Back in February and March, i rooted cuttings of many of my houseplants. Eventually i had 25 flats in my solarium.

Early in May i began to plant them out, edging various flowerbeds. I decreased the number of flats from 25 to 7, and then i got stuck. I didn't know where to plant these last ones. What do you do with 35 baby geraniums?

This morning i gritted my teeth and just did it--10 dusty millers, a dozen purple wandering jew, all those little geraniums.

This is the stress of too much. Too many cuttings. This past weekend, I gave a flat of variegated ivy cuttings to the library plant sale.

I have too many clothes, actually. Too many clothes is also stressful. It's time to give some more clothes to the hospice thrift store.

The solarium is practically empty. Almost empty of stress.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mustard Gone to Seed

Last summer i planted a feathery red mustard in my garden. After a while, I enjoyed its yellow flowers, and then it went to seed. Now red mustard has volunteered in my garden, and i have quite a patch of it.

We are all going to seed too. Whether we are young or old. Perhaps we are past our prime.

What seeds are you setting? Kindness? Generosity? Patience? Compassion? Equanimity with the way things are?

I have spent way too much of my life setting seeds of irritation, opinion, judgments, and impatience.

So now it's time to plant the seeds that will condition my mind in the positive ways my heart truly desires.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hammock Relaxation

I'm taking a nap in the hammock beside the garden every day. I'm usually a go-go-go gal, but, perhaps due to radiation, i feel more like a gal. Many good ideas of things to do are not getting done, and it's quite interesting how easy it is to turn those good ideas loose as i float down the stream of Life this summer.

After all, a thought is just a thought. It comes; it goes. A thought has a shelf life of perhaps a second or two. Then it disappears.

The mind thinks a thought, but the body doesn't have to jump-to to obey the slave-driver mind.

The body can relax in the hammock. And really, the mind could use a dose of relaxation too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Radiating Kindness

A few lines from the Loving-Kindness chant often replay themselves in my mind. Perhaps you can guess why.

So, with a boundless heart
should one cherish all living beings,
RADIATING kindness over the entire world--
spreading upwards to the skies, 
and downwards to the depths,
outward and unbounded,
freed from hatred and ill-will.

Before they turn on the radiation machine, the radiation technicians leave the room and close the door. Although the radiation is focused on my right breast, bits of radiation are radiating over the entire room, without discrimination.

Can we radiate kindness--without discrimination? Can we radiate kindness, without expecting anything in return?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Filling Myself with Golden Light

I often lead a guided loving-kindness visualization called A Lotus in Your Heart.*

Imagine a lotus 
growing in your heart. 
From the center of this lotus streams forth golden light, 
filling you from head to toe with golden light. 
The warmth of this golden light surrounds you completely 
with a feeling of well-being and protection.

While i'm lying in the radiation machine every day, i imagine this golden light streaming from my heart, filling me from head to toe with golden light. As the radiation begins its 40-second arc over my chest (and heart), finally buzzing its last 10 seconds directed at the scar on the side of my right breast, i "feel" this golden light of well-being and protection throughout my body.

May all beings feel protected.
May all beings have ease of well-being.

* Here's Ayya Khema leading the meditation.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dandelions & Veronica

My May-green lawn is full of yellow dandelions and tiny blue-blooming veronica. It's beautiful. But i look at it and see weeds. The creeping veronica has crept all over the shady sections of my lawn, which might be okay, but it creeps right into my flowerbeds. Arghhh! It is so small, i have to be very picky to weed it out.

This is how it goes with beautiful stuff. It's so pretty--colorful or shiny. (Oh, i am a sucker for shiny things.) And then, dissatisfaction sets in. So pretty, but it's weeds in the lawn. So pretty, but it's too much clutter. So pretty, but it's more complicated than i thought. So pretty, but now i have to fix it.

Dissatisfaction is our clue that stress has arrived in our minds. Beauty is only skin deep. Beauty turns out to be stress in disguise.

We can aim for a beautiful mind, which is beautiful through and through. Beauty without stress.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Daffodil Patience

Yesterday, 2 people asked me why they have daffodils in places they've never planted them. Stray daffodils show up 20 to 50 feet away from an established clump.

Since rodents find the taste of daffodils offensive, it's hard to imagine a squirrel taking the time and trouble to bury a daffodil bulb.

The next, most likely scenario is that the daffodils reproduce from seed. Yes, this is possible. For us, this method requires 5 years of patience. But the garden has all the patience in the world. The garden has all the time in the world, because in the garden, there is no past or future; there is only the timeless Now. The ever-changing Now.

When we notice this Now ourselves, when we see that the world simply unfolds, we too can abide in the calmness of patience.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Spring Comes Fast

Yesterday, the trees were a pale green haze, and today the woods is bowl of salad. Life becomes greener by the hour. Change is happening fast!

We love new growth, the young, the unblemished. It makes us feel vibrant, alive.

Then living sets in, and we become calloused. We go on autopilot. We take things for granted.

Everything must change.
Even us.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Beech Leaves Let Go

Last year's beech leaves are finally falling off beech trees today. Pushed out, i suppose, by new green leaves, rightly curled into pointy buds.

How long do we hold on to old grudges, old traumas? We hold on, hold on, hold on. Eventually our mind lets go. In retrospect, we wonder: What was that about?

While we are holding on, our minds and bodies hold tension--perhaps an unrecognized tension because we are so used to it.

New growth happens when we finally let go.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Celebrating the Buddha's Birthday

Tonight is the full moon of May--the Flower Moon, according to the MoonPhase app on my smart phone.

In the Buddhism of Thailand and Burma, this full moon is called Wesak and is celebrated as the birthday, the enlightenment day, and the death day of the Buddha. The Buddha was born in Nepal, very near the border with India, where he spent his adult life.

My friend, Florence, from Burma was here this past week. She says that she celebrates her birthday by making donations to monks and other programs she particularly likes.

I'm celebrating the birthday of the Buddha by making a generous donation to my favorite program in Nepal, Nepal Youth Foundation. One of their programs rescues daughters from very poor families who are sold into slavery at the age of 5 or 7.

Generosity is the very first practice recommended by the Buddha. Open your hand, and open your heart. Let go.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Green-Up Day

The first Saturday in May is Green-Up Day in Vermont. All over the state, volunteers gather at 9 a.m. to receive a batch of green trash bags and their road assignments. They walk along the roadside and pick up the accumulated winter's trash. It's a family event with lots of kids and parents. I drove the length of Vermont today (read: winding 2-lane roads through the mountains), and saw dozens of full green trash bags sitting beside the road, waiting for pick-up on Monday.

Vermont passed a "bottle bill" decades ago, requiring a 5-cent deposit on many (but not all) bottles and cans. It's meant to make people think twice before tossing a nickel out the car window. Still, there are a surprising number of bottles in the greening grass.

Where do we throw our own inner trash? Do we throw it into the public right-of-way by getting mad about a delay at the airport, cutting off a rude driver on the highway, or talking loudly on our cell phone in public places? Do we say cute, rude things about people we know? Do we indulge in a bit of back-biting about co-workers when they aren't present?

The guidelines for Wise Speech include speaking kindly, saying what is useful and beneficial, and speaking in a timely manner. We are both straight-forward and gentle in our speech.

Let's clean up the edges of our own spiritual path by speaking green-ly and cleanly.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Clippers with a Broken Hip

My clippers broke their hip while doing an ordinary chore around the home flowerbeds.

Unfortunately, there are no hip replacements for clippers, so farewell dear clippers. Into the grave of the landfill you go.

I won't grieve long however, because i'll replace you with some bright, shiny, new clippers, and then i'll fall in love with them.