Thursday, January 19, 2017

Amaryllis Joy

My neighbor, Cliff, has inspired me to grow amaryllis. He reliably has an amaryllis blooming every year. Today he has a single amaryllis flower in a vase on the kitchen table.

When you look at just one flower, and when you look in detail, the mind slows down to pure joy.

So it is with mindfulness. By bringing our attention to one thing in each moment, the tension in the body relaxes, the mind relaxes, and voila! Joy arises.

Slow down. Right now. Feel your eyes touching these words. Feel your i-toy under your fingers. Feel the body, as a whole. Notice the mind. Just for a moment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


I bought a new sprayer for the hose in my solarium yesterday. The check-out clerk said, "Now that's something you don't see every day, in January." I could hear the question in her voice.

"The sprayer on the hose in my solarium leaks, shooting water out of the handle," i said.

The coiled hose in my solarium is very handy for watering houseplants. Much handier than lifting 6 gallons of water in a watering can twice a week.

Sometimes we are called to do things out of season. Some of my friends are parenting their grandchildren. Sometimes our lives do not unfold in a so-called "normal" fashion. I am about to go on a one-month self-retreat, the mention of which makes several of my friends flinch even as they are saying "Good for you."

Life unfolds. The ego tries to control Life, but, really, that is quite useless.
Allow your life to simply unfold today--without your touching it and yet being touched by all that Life has to offer. In season or out of season.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice

My sweetie came home from the grocery store with a bag of juice oranges last evening. I immediately juiced up 2 glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice--with pulp! A delicious (and non-alcoholic) aperitif.

Of course, fresh-squeezed orange juice meant 6 orange rinds for the compost.

Isn't this the way it goes? You buy something beautiful without thinking about the waste stream it's going to create. In the case of food, the waste stream is fairly immediate and visible. Orange rinds into the compost bin. As you already know, orange rinds do not decompose very fast. Composting citrus peels takes time and patience. Many other non-food items can take hundreds or thousands of years to compost.

Here's another opportunity to bring mindfulness to shopping. Take a moment and visualize the entire lifestream of that item. Where did it come from? And where is it going?

I use a plastic fork to eat a grab-and-go something. That takes 10 minutes. I throw the plastic fork away and it will take more than 100 years to decompose.

We say we want to save the earth, but do we act accordingly?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fresh Air Daffodils

Spring is just around the corner in London. Walking through Covent Garden yesterday, i saw a pot of daffodils on an outdoor table at a restaurant.

Many restaurants in London have outdoor tables with people sitting at them, bundled up in their coats, enjoying their meals, or perhaps more often, their drinks or cigarettes.

You'd think that the outdoors would mean a breath of fresh air, yet that's where people go to pollute their lungs with cigarette smoke.

The little daffodils silently remind us to breathe and enjoy this breath. This breath of fresh air. This breath of city air. This breath of smoky air.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Composting Christmas Trees

In London, Epiphany (January 6) is the time to throw out the Christmas tree. Big cages are set up near parks for recycling Christmas trees.

Trees come in to the city via private haulers. Then, it's up to the city to dispose of them.

As our Vermont governor said, several years ago, "Companies want to privatize the profits, and socialize the losses."

After someone makes money on Christmas trees, then tax dollars are needed to dispose of those trees.

The same can be said for most of what we buy--someone makes money, and then we all pay for the disposal costs. Every time we buy something, we are buying demise in disguise. And although we don't realize it when we desire that beautiful new thing, we are committing to pay for its funeral, which we then call trash.

A Christmas tree doesn't live very long. Most of what we buy will be in the rubbish bin within five years. From treasure to trash, it's all impermanent.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Phoenix Garden in London

Near my hotel in London, the Phoenix Garden is hidden away, a quiet oasis in the city. Even though the garden is closed for renovation, as i approached yesterday, i could suddenly hear birds singing. Birdsong immediately relaxed my heart.

In the city, in this busy city, i am usually walking with some tension and intention. So many things are unknown: Where am I going? How do i get there? Can I cross the street now? I have to remember, have to remember to look in the "wrong" direction for oncoming traffic. I have to be constantly alert, which adds up to stress.

Then, once in a while, i find a garden in the city, on some quiet back street. A place where birds sing. And i can relax.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

I'm on a theater tour in London, and seeing a lot of plays. In Love's Labour's Lost, the young woman tells her young man that she will marry him--after he spends a year doing hospice work with the dying. She prescribes this in order to soften his sharp tongue.

The Buddha recommends that we all reflect on dying every day.
While this contemplation may sound distasteful, it's a fast track to developing compassion for ourselves and our fellow human beings.

We can develop compassion for those who believe in the philosophy of "Eat, drink, and be merry"--in other words, consume as much as possible. Buy. Buy. Buy. These souls are trying desperately to fill up the emptiness of "for tomorrow we die."

Compassion can look death in the eye.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Intending Kindness

Ardisia crenata
The hotel where we are staying in London is just switching out its Christmas plants for new year's plants.

The shiny green foliage of Ardisia crenata has tomato-red berries. Very seasonal for Christmas. And very invasive in the southeastern United States.

We think we can cheat just a little, lie just a little, or even hate just a little, and get away with it. In these small ways, we give ourselves permission to be unkind. These unkindnesses invade our heart-mind, and then we feel ill at ease. These unkindnesses can look rather attractive to begin with, but they are never worth it.

In the new year, switch out any unkindness--and i mean any unkindness--for the good intentions of your heart.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Beech Hedge

In Scotland, some years ago, i saw beech trees used as a hedge. In Dublin, i see a beech hedge surrounding the Garden of Remembrance--a peaceful oasis on a busy street.

Since beech saplings are plentiful in the woods around my house, i've tried to develop a short beech hedge as a background. Beech leaves don't fall off until spring, so the tan leaves really do look like a hedge all winter long. My neighbor is twisting the branches of beech saplings together, aiming for a hedge that keeps out the deer.

A hedge can act as a container for the garden. Or a hedge can form a backdrop against which other plantings can show off.

Mindfulness is the container for our inner and outer garden. When we "hedge" our minds in with mindfulness, the mind becomes calm and peaceful. When the mind calms, we can see the facts of life--change, stress, and emptiness--so much more clearly.

Considering protecting your mind from the busy-ness of everyday life by remembering mindfulness.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Cool, Calm Cyclamen

Cyclamen are blooming outdoors in Dublin and London where the temperature is in 40s most winter days. Cyclamen like it cool.

Mindfulness cools our over-worked minds; mindfulness cools our over-wrought emotions.

We've heard, and perhaps we know from experience, that cool heads prevail over hotheads.

A cool mind has the capability of thinking things through. A cool, calm mind is good in emergency situations. A hothead sees one possibility; a hothead charges ahead.

Let's take the cyclamen as our reminder to stay cool and keep our minds cool in these troubling times.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sheep Follow the Leader

Five topiary sheep cavort on the lawn of the Natural History Museum in Dublin. Indoors, you can see native birds and animals in glass cases just as they were displayed when the museum opened in 1857. Outdoors, the bucolic boxwood sheep nearly baa.

Sheep are notorious for following the leader, even if the leader is a fool, even when their leader jumps off a cliff.

The Buddha encourages us to take a solitary course rather than to keep company with a fool. It can be difficult to admit that some of our friends are fool-ish in one way or another. We love them, and yet it's really better for us not to spend too much time in their company. You may feel uncomfortable with a judgment like this, but i call it discernment. I'm not judging my foolish friend; that's just the way they are.

If a fool or a sheep is heading toward a cliff, the wise one doesn't follow the flock but follows her own heart instead.