Monday, December 31, 2018

On Retreat

My friend Ponnya is on retreat in her home country of Myanmar. For 10 days, she ordained as a nun, wore nun's robes, and walked barefoot. Today, she returns to lay life as a grandmother and advocate for literacy and education for women.

A retreat is a great way to start the new year, and that's what i will be doing beginning January 1. I'm beginning the year with a 12-day retreat.

I invite you to join me and make plans to attend your own retreat, whether that's for one day or a weekend or more.

Set your intentions for the new year. What does your heart of hearts desire?

Friday, December 28, 2018

The In-Between

Icicles hang from tree branches. Freezing rain means the ground is glazed with ice. Temperatures hover right around freezing. Drip, drip, drip. This is the in-between time--sometimes rain, sometimes ice. Sometimes liquid; sometimes solid. Rain changing to ice; ice changing to rain.

The in-between time seems like a time of magic. In between night and day, the roseate dawn lights the darkness. In between the day and night, shadows lengthen and dimness prevails.

In between awake and asleep, liminal consciousness leads to unconsciousness.

In the ancient Egyptian calendar, these days before the new year were "extra" days--in between the years.

In-between is not a time of waiting, but of watching. Watching / feeling every moment change into the next.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Ice Cubes on a Stick

Ice Cubes on a Stick
Taking a walk by the river, i was surprised to see icicles on the shrubs in a variety of forms--ice cubes on a stick, icicle fingers, and icicle drapery. Nature's artistry is amazing.

The river rushed by, just inches away--water in its liquid form--while i admired water in its solid form. Water appeared in many different bodily forms (solid ice), which only later, when i wasn't looking, would return to liquid form.

Our body appears to be solid, yet we know that it is 70% water. We don't pay much attention to the water flowing into and out of our body. We think, "Water. My body. Urine." and thereby fail to see the water-water-wateriness. Not different water. The same water in different forms.

And really, couldn't we say the same thing about all the people on this earth? Water in such a variety of forms.

Icicle Fingers

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


A friend has a labyrinth in her backyard. What a great place for walking meditation.

A labyrinth leads you around and around, back and forth, sometimes nearer to your goal of the center, sometimes farther away, and then suddenly, there you are standing in the center.

The parallels to the problems of life are obvious--around and around our mind circles, sometimes going farther afield, sometimes seeming closer to a solution. Then suddenly, a solution arrives, and we are standing in a a center. We suddenly feel centered ourselves. Ah, yes. This.

Once, i was mulling over a problem, and my teacher reminded me, "It's dukkha." Ah yes. It's dukkha (suffering or stress). Just stand in the middle of that unsatisfactoriness and recognize it for what it is.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Frozen in Place

The snow has melted, but the ground is frozen, so the outflow of my little fishpond has been caught in action--a scale of ice frozen on top of the lawn. I can follow the drainage course of the water all the way down the slight incline of the yard.

The outflows (asavas) are our predispositions, our mental defilements, which surreptiously keep the wheel of samsara, the wheel of suffering, spinning. The 3 outflows are sense desire, craving for existence, and ignorance. Huh?

It's hard to catch these rascals in action unless you're looking for them. This is what meditation can do: freeze those rascals in their tracks so that you can see tiny shreds of sense desire. You can see the particular ways in which you crave being. (Well, obviously, i don't want to die, for instance.) You can see how ignorance worms its way into ordinary, daily thoughts, words, and deeds.

And the wheel of samsara keeps spinning.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Raking Up the Schadenfreude

The snow is melting, so i started raking near the edges of the snow, where i could see papery tan beech leaves resting on the ground--in the garden, mostly. Those rascal beech leaves blow themselves into corners and behind things so that i have to hand-pick them out.

Rascal bad habits blow themselves into the corners of our minds. I recently had an attack of Schadenfreude--joy at someone else's misfortune. As i practiced self-compassion, that bit of glee opened up into relief. So yes, i was feeling glee (aka joy) at the situation. Joy (and relief) that right action is prevailing.

I had to pick through that Schadenfreude (literally, joy for someone else's troubles) to clean it up. Now my mind can rest in the joy of the right action. I can feel self-compassion for myself and compassion toward the person in trouble.

Now i can rake those rascal beech leaves with a lighter and calmer heart.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Winter Begins

It's the first day of winter, but it feels like the first day of spring. The snow has melted; it's 50 degrees; the birds are singing, and the sun is shining.

We lit a solstice bonfire last night to welcome the sun back on its return journey toward us. I watched the fire changing second to second, dancing this way and that.

Change. The only sure thing.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Beautiful Potting Shed

Judith has a beautiful potting shed. When i visited her recently, the other people we were with shivered immediately into her house, but Judith and i slid over the frozen snow in her backyard so i could tour her lovely potting shed.

We gardeners need some place to make a mess. We have our own personal gardening space and maybe even our own potting shed. It's important to have our own meditation space too--a place where we can allow the mind to clean itself up. Purification, as it is called, happens naturally and is one of the forerunners of a calm mind. A mind content with the solitude of the garden, content with the mess inside the potting shed, or content with the purification happening on the cushion.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Spectacular Sunrise

The sunrise was spectacular this morning--in the colors of Necco wafers.

Some days are brilliant. Other days are ho-hum. Yet every day is a day to be grateful for.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

I Have a Cold

Image result for minced garlic
I have a cold. Drip. Drip. Drip. Lying down is the driest position. When i stand up, drip, drip, drip. When i walk around, drip, drip, drip.

I throw my used tissues into the compost bucket beside the kitchen sink. It fills up quickly. I throw used tissues into the fireplace, and soon they look like a white snow drift.

My mind is dull. I try to focus on the unpleasant spots--right sinus under the eye, right sinus above the eye, a general feeling of heaviness. Unpleasant. Unpleasant. Unpleasant.

I am of the nature to become ill. Sickness is unavoidable.

Yes. Here it is. The mind is too dull to contemplate. I merely recite the phrases.

Day 2: the drip recedes. Eventually i remember garlic--my cure-all. I mince a large clove of garlic and swallow it down with warm water.

I am of the nature to become ill. Sickness is unavoidable.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ring Bell

My sister sent me a doormat for my birthday. What a chuckle to have at the front door!

Isn't this what we do? Busy ourselves with a distraction rather than wait patiently. Waiting patiently seems like a waste of time. Waiting patiently is being mindful of the present moment.

Oh, i do pull weeds when i'm waiting--at the car dealership for my car to be serviced, in the food coop parking lot, or just walking down the street. Pulling weeds seems like a very useful activity. It keeps me active.

On the other hand, a mindfulness bell has rung. I could take a moment to be mindful of now.
Then i'll pull some weeds.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Flower Quilt

I bought a quilt wall hanging at a church Christmas bazaar. It's colorful and flowery. It's beautiful. I love it. Now what am i going to do with it?

For the moment, it's my winter flower garden in the living room. But i so-o-o don't need any more stuff. This is the stress of desire.

I saw the little quilt. Pleasant. I bought it. Pleasant. And now what? (Unpleasant.) Not knowing is stressful. Not wanting clutter is stressful. Wanting and not wanting. (Stressful.)

Maybe i'll go to the living room and smile when i look at it.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Older and Wiser (?)

My sweetie has been bothered by an incomplete pruning job for the past few weeks. So he belted on my pruning saw, climbed up a ladder, and into the hemlock tree.

Yes, that's an 83-year-old man hanging by one hand in a tree--20 feet off the ground. All for the aesthetics of sawing off one offending branch.

Is this an example of "older and wiser"?

What is wiser, anyway? What is wisdom?

Part of wisdom is having good judgment. Judgment doesn't necessarily need to be good or bad, right or wrong.

Wisdom can simply discriminate between what is a skillful action and what is an unskillful action.

My sweetie had an exciting time climbing the tree, and he was very pleased with how the tree looks now--minus one branch.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Seed Savers

Image result for nuthatch on side of houseOne morning last week, my sweetie and i were sitting outdoors in the hot tub when a nuthatch lands on our board-and-batten sided house. He pecks at the siding a few times.

Odd, i thought. Is he looking for bugs, as the woodpeckers do? In this cold weather?

Then he extracts a sunflower seed from between a batten and a board.

Aha! He uses our house to "bank" his seeds, so that when he's hungry, he can make a withdrawal from his savings account.

Now when i hear a light tap-tap-tap (3 taps) on the side of our house, i smile because i know the nuthatch is making a deposit into or a withdrawal from his seed-savings account.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Berry Bowl

The church Christmas bazaar season has begun, so i went to one of my favorites--the Unitarian-Universalist meeting house. I like to buy a couple of berry bowls--little terrariums filled with moss and partridge berries with cling wrap over the top to keep the humidity inside.

I'll be going on retreat from January 1 to mid-March. I'll be in my own mini-micro-climate--meditating for several hours each day here at home. Letting the outer world go. Becoming calm and quiet, and seeing what beautiful mind states grow.