Friday, August 31, 2018

Aloha Hummingbird

When we were in Hawai'i a couple of years ago, i bought a locally-made pillow that says, "Aloha served daily."

I love the idea of aloha being served daily. Aloha means much more than hello and farewell. Aloha feels friendly; aloha feels affectionate; aloha feels like welcome.

These mornings, i meditate on the deck for an hour at 6:00 a.m. Every morning i can hear a hummingbird whirring nearby. She comes to check out my pillow. It looks like flowers, but....

Welcome, dear hummingbird. And zip, away she goes. Aloha, my dear.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Monarch in Ochre

Image result for monarch butterflyAn abundance of monarch butterflies flutter around the flower garden this late summer.

The Buddha was a monarch (the prince of a small kingdom) before he left home at age 29 and became an ascetic wearing ochre robes.

Though very few of us would choose such a lifestyle, we can simplify our lives, especially when we recognize the stresses--large and small--of our busy lives.

We too have the possibility of transforming our minds from caterpillars to butterflies, which do not even have the same DNA as their previous incarnation.

It's a mystery.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Turkeys in the Lawn

Image result for wild turkey and poultsI glanced out the window and saw a mother turkey and ten poults slowly pecking their way through the grass. Good, i thought, they are eating ticks.

I was happy for the turkeys and happy for myself, but a bit too gleeful about the demise of the ticks.

As we delve down in our feelings of happiness, we can contemplate whether a certain situation is good for everyone concerned. Does my child's benefit cost another child something?

My happiness for the turkeys is perhaps mostly for my own benefit: fewer ticks. This sort of happiness looks like the real thing, but it has the tinge of self-interest. We could call it the "near enemy" because of its decoy nature.

On the other hand, this is Nature: turkeys eat ticks. And equanimity is accepting life as it is. Right here, right now. Without any opinions.

Monday, August 27, 2018


Image result for veronicastrumVeronicastrum is blooming now. It's one of the late summer plants that add color and interest to the garden when most other summer flowers are fading.

Its spikes of white racemes point heavenward, but i am always fascinated by the whorl of 5 leaves around the stem.

This 5-pointed star of leaves reminds me of the 5 precepts--the guiding star of my daily thoughts, words, and deeds.

The first precept is to do no harm--to anyone or to any being.

The second precept is to refrain from taking that which is not offered. Yes, that means not stealing, but it is also a more nuanced guidance.

The third precept is to refrain from sexual and sensual misconduct. This instruction too can be deepened to refraining from flirting, and thereby acting as a trustworthy person.

The fourth precept is to speak truthfully and helpfully--gently and straightforwardly.

And finally, keeping the mind clear, which is no small task nowadays.

I take these precepts every morning to remind myself to act honorably in the world. And what do you know? When the mind isn't bothered by little, tiny misconducts, the mind settles easily into meditation and flowers.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Refuge from the Storm

I stopped at the Farmers Market in St Albans, Vermont on my way to vacation on Lake Champlain and again when i was returning from the lake. Both times i bought birdhouses. A creative woodworker named Ron puts together some really inventive birdhouses. I liked the one that looks like a tree cavity. (Notice the shelf mushroom perch.) What a lovely refuge for a bird or some other creature.

Where do you take refuge from the storms of life?

Friends are the first place i go--usually Dharma friends. I can talk through the distress of the moment. My friends encourage me to keep my mind and my intention on the high road. They discourage me from snarky remarks. Thank you, dear friends.

Another refuge is the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. The Dharma lays out an ingenious path. And the Buddha's response is, "See for yourself. Don't take my word for it." (Don't take my word for it either. :)

It's tempting to take refuge in the internet, TV, shopping, food, or your other favorite addiction. But the refuges that stand the test of time are Dharma friends, the Dharma, and, if it's not a stretch for you, the Buddha. The Buddha beckons us to see for ourselves.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Loose Strife

Image result for loosestrifeI did find 3 weeds to pull here at the vacation house on the lake. Down on the beach, i pulled up 3 plants of the invasive purple loosestrife.

"Oh, but it's so pretty," more than one gardener has said to me. "I'll keep an eye on it."

Keep an eye on 3 million seeds per plant?

Listen to the name again, my dear: loose - strife. Strife means conflict, discord, and opposition. Why would anyone want to let strife loose in their garden?

Oh, this loose strife has such a lovely disguise. Perhaps not unlike the opinions and judgments we let loose toward friends and family. Ouch, that hurt.

"Oh, they're just a wuss if they can't take it," we rationalize.

Once we have loosed strife into the world, we are the owners of our actions. We cannot retract our words.

Our tender hearts are kind and friendly. Pull those strife-causing opinions, and don't let them go to seed.

Remember your intentions: We want to harvest calmness and happiness.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Vacation from My Garden

I'm relaxing at the lake this week. The vacation house has a lawn, a few trees, and a view of the lake. Ahhh. So relaxing.

The flower gardens consist of 2 flower pots on the deck. That's it. There's not a single weed for me to pull. And i have to admit, it's pretty relaxing not to have to be at the mercy of pleasant and unpleasant. It's pretty relaxing to simply relax into is-ness. The lake is lapping. The breeze is blowing. That's all.

As much as i love my gardens, it is very relaxing to have a vacation from looking at them.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Not Chipmunk Food

Image result for chipmunk eating bulbI love the delicate pink Lycoris (aka Naked Ladies or Surprise Lily) because it looks like a lily (even though it isn't one) and, most importantly, the chipmunks don't eat the bulbs.

Oh, those darn (but cute) chipmunks. They love to eat lily bulbs (and tulip bulbs).

You know that definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

So i finally stopped planting lily bulbs. Instead I plant stressless Lycoris.

Image result for lycoris squam

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Surprise Lily

Image result for lycoris
Beautiful pink lily-like flowers are blooming in the garden. Lycoris squamigera, also known as Naked Ladies.

The strappy leaves were green in May, then slowly faded away. Two months later, a single stem of flowers rises up 3 feet with delicate pale pink blossoms, like a summer amaryllis.

Our meditation practice can look like this. We meditate and study, do our work. Only later does our practice come into full flower, surprising even us with an internal calm despite windy conditions in our lives.

Meditate now as if your life depended on it.
It does.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Rain Ruin

Rain every day. It feels like we live in the tropics--warm and wet. The sun shines, then we have a downpour. Repeat two or three times a day.

The daily rain ruins flowers fast. The geraniums on my front step bloom, then turn brown the next day. A day without rain and suddenly the petunias look very pink and perky. Then it rains, and they droop again.

When the rain of our life falls on us, we may cry, we may spend a lot of time crying, yet with the support of the Dharma, with the support of meditation, we find an inner strength. We might not bloom exactly, but we can thrive anyway.

As Shinzen Young says, meditation is not a quick and easy fix. But it's a deep fix.

Water your roots deeply with daily meditation.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Galloping Gardens

Image result for horse in flower gardenThe garden is galloping through the summer. No way can i rein it in--pull all the weeds i want to, transplant flowers, rearrange the design here and there. Nor can i harvest everything that's in the vegetable garden.

Company, day trips, swimming. Ahhh. Summer. It's all so delicious. And the garden comes in third, or sometimes last, place.

The mind is way ahead of the body. The mind wants this, wants that, wants a beautiful garden. The mind plans to do this or that.

The body says Relax. It's summer. Let's go to the lake and meditate beside still water.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Funeral Flowers

So many of my gladiolas this summer don't open. They are spotted, brown, and hole-y. They are old and withered looking as soon as they are born.

Apparently, the cause is a small (1/16 inch) insect--the Gladiolus thrips. The remedy is cold storage over the winter.

I wanted beautiful gladiolas, but what i got was dead flowers, not even suitable for their own funeral.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Cosmos Heaven

I went to get my hair cut at Linda's, and was met at the front step by cosmos heaven. I love cosmos, though i don't have quite enough sun for them. They sort of lie down on the job in my garden. Yes, i could stake them up. Also, cosmos are not a good cut flower; they are really more showy in the flowerbed.

Do you hear the flow of pleasant / unpleasant? My mood changing each second with each thought.

I love cosmos. Pleasant.
I don't have enough sun. Unpleasant.
They straggle and flop. Unpleasant.
I could stake them up. Unpleasant.
Not a good cut flower. Unpleasant.
Showy in a sunny flower bed. Pleasant.
Linda's garden is beautiful. Pleasant.

Uh, uh, uh. Now let's leave this mental conversation right here. We don't want to add in the unpleasant thought / mood of envy and jealousy, wishing we had what Linda has. We don't want to water those weedy thoughts.

Let the mind be with happiness for Linda and her garden.  We want to train our mind in these kinds of beautiful and heavenly thoughts.

Maybe i'll just drop by and see her little flowerbed the next time i'm in town.

Cosmos, a painting by Mildred Wilfong (my mother)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Bee Sleeping on Sunflower

Image result for bee on sunflower
When i cut sunflowers this morning, i saw that bees had slept on the sunflowers overnight. I suppose that near dark, the bees are just having a nightcap, and then find themselves comatose on the floor of the sunflower head. I find them lethargic the next morning and shake them awake.

This is what happens when we indulge our cravings, our addictions. We lose clarity.

Clarity is one of the qualities of mindfulness. Shinzen Young defines mindfulness as concentration, clarity, and equanimity.

When we lose clarity, we lose another moment of our one wild and precious life.