Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Robins and Owl

At dusk, an owl sits in a willow tree beside the pond.

Mama and Papa Robin are chirping constantly. they fly into the willow tree, perhaps trying to scare away the owl.

Dark is coming. The robins will go to sleep. The night owl will stay awake.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Forest Bathing

Cloud Mountain Retreat Center is located in the coastal range of Washington state, about an hour north of Portland, Oregon.  The meditation hall is nestled on a wooded hillside of Western red cedar, Douglas fir, and Western hemlock. The evergreens of this Evergreen State are tall. Really, really tall.

Walking in the silence beneath the giant trees, I am surrounded by three-foot tall ferns, Oregon grape, moss on the ground, and more moss hanging from the trees. I smell the forest floor. In splotches, I feel hot sun. I am not carrying a camera. My inner naturalist delights at the sight of spiderwebs glistening in a ray of sunlight. A deer ambles across my path and stops and looks at me.

I feel calm. My mind is quieter than usual.

I’m forest bathing.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Silence is Medicine

On a 10-day silent retreat, the teacher, Willa Thaniya Reid, says, “Silence is medicine.” I like the sound of this idea, and so I puzzle over it for a few days. This is what is called contemplation or investigation.

Noble Silence is one of the cornerstones of a silent retreat. Turn off the mobile phones. Put away my books. Even put away my writing, though I do jot down notes to myself, such as this blog post.

Sink in to the Nature all around me. Meditate on a cushion or chair seven times a day. Walking meditation in between. Eating meditation at mealtimes. And work meditation while doing my assigned chore (pot washing, for instance). Maybe meditation will even follow me into sleep. Or not.

Silencing all the devices, silencing the input of information cleanses my smogged-up sense perceptions. Colors are brighter. My skin even feels cleaner. My mind is more alert. Tranquil and alert. No worries. No anxieties. Calm arrives as the pace of daily life slows way down. I practice loving kindness. “May I live with ease.”

Silence antidotes the dis-ease of my mind. Silence is medicine.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Gardening Feet

I went to the hot springs for a long soak in a 1920s style bathtub. The dim room of a dozen bathtubs for women, separated by white curtains, smelled faintly of Sulphur. After the soak, I wrapped in a large thin towel and walked into the adjoining room of a dozen cots. The bath attended mummy-wrapped me in a sheet and covered me in a blanket to sweat out toxins for half an hour. She placed a cool washcloth over my forehead eyes.  I snoozed.

Afterwards, I felt clean down to the bottom of my pores. As I walked out the door, colors were brighter, sounds were crisper, and smells more fragrant, as if my air filters had been de-smogged.

My April-May-June gardening toenails were clean.

In the spring and early summer, I make my excuse to the masseuse every week.  “I’ve got gardening feet this week.”

She says that most of her Vermont clients have gardening feet in the spring and summer.  It’s just part of the landscape. But women from the nearby city do not. They are much more conscious of their image.

And the point of being image-conscious is...? What? So other women won’t judge us? So we won’t judge ourselves? Or is it that we judge others and then don’t want them to say the mean things about us that we mentally say about them?

If we practice kindness, our self-judging recedes. And when self-judging fades, so does the judging of other people.

Maybe city women prefer clean feet to gardening feet. Who’s to say?


"Solitude is a silent storm that breaks down all our dead branches. 
Yet it sends our living roots deeper into the living heart of the living earth."
― from "Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Life"

Friday, July 26, 2019


I'm in Portland, Oregon, visiting friends. Every morning, Mary Beth walks her dogs in her neighborhood. One home has a perfect front lawn with flowerbeds of orange marigolds and red begonias and accents of blue lobelia and blue salvia. Spectacular!

My friend says the flowerbeds have the same design every year. It obviously works.

Some people strive for perfect flower beds or perfect bodies or perfect clothes. "Perfect" comes and goes, just like everything else in this material world.

What if everything is perfect--just as it is? Tangled, cluttered, weedy. (I'm thinking of my vegetable garden, which is "weedy" with volunteer flowers.) This beautiful life we are living is just-so.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Night Sky

My friend Mary Beth has a hanging basket of petunias near her back door. The petunias are one of my favorite varieties—Night Sky. White dots scattered on a purple background remind me of a clear starry night. Each flower has its own unique markings, which are caused by the temperature conditions of each flower’s birth. The wider the nighttime and daytime temperatures are, the more white markings.

Each flower is unique. Each snowflake is different from all others. And each of us is unique, depending on various causes and conditions of our birth, childhood, young adulthood, etcetera.

Yet how much time and suffering have I spent trying to shoehorn myself into “normal”? Trying to look and act and even think like “other people.” What a useless waste of energy.

Each Night Sky petunia is unique and authentically itself.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Still Lightning Bugs

Image result for lightning bugs female mating with male
A few lightning bugs are still lighting up the fields and forests these hot summer nights. The males fly around and look for the flightless females lying in the grass. The males drop down to mate, and then the female eats the male. Whoa! That is not a happy ending to the story. It turns out that sex (for the fireflies) is dukkha ("bummer!").

This reminds me of a chant.

Separation from the liked is dukkha.
Association with the disliked is dukkha.
Not attaining one's wishes is dukkha.

Well, we could apply all of these to our sexual relationship(s).
Separation from the beloved is (sometimes) distressing and creates a longing.
Association with the disliked (state of aloneness and yearning) creates a desire for change.
Not attaining one's wishes (i will leave the sexual details to your imagination) can create disappointment.

Those beautiful male lightning bugs light up the darkness

Photo from

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Bee Rolls Around in a Flower

Every morning, when i cut a bouquet of annual poppies (Papaver somniflorum), bees are rolling around inside of them. Sometimes, it's one bee; sometimes, it's six.

I use this image of a bee rolling around in a flower when i lead gratitude meditations.

Express gratitude.
Then take one of those gratitudes, and roll around it, like a bee rolls around in a flower.
Yes, the mind will wander away, but keep bringing it back to this one gratitude.

By savoring one gratitude for at least 30 seconds, we begin to rewire our neural networks. We begin to re-set our baseline emotional state to a more positive set-point. Positivity begins to become a habit of mind. We begin to feel more joyful--sometimes, for no reason at all.

I feel joyful watching the bees roll around in the poppies.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Hungarian Bread Seed Poppies

Image result for hungarian bread seed poppy

This year i have a flower bed full of Hungarian bread seed poppies. The blue-black poppy seeds are used in baking Hungarian poppy seed rolls and strudels.

The flowers are a stunning purple that i've been trying to grow for years. Year after year i buy a packet of seeds. Finally! Success! These annual poppies reseeded themselves from last year's poppies.

We try to grow wholesome qualities in our mind. Sometimes, we plant the intention--for generosity, for patience, for compassion--over and over again. And then--It blooms, perhaps unexpectedly, in some situation.

We can't really say that those previous attempts were failures. We have faith that by re-setting our intention for a skillful quality of mind, that beautiful mind state will eventually show up.

The purple poppies proliferate.

Photo credit:

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Thorny Raspberries

Giraffes eat thorny acacia trees. Here on this continent, deer are eating my raspberry bushes--thorns and leaves.

Giraffes have very big hearts--weighing 26 pounds. For this reason, they often symbolize of love. And deer? Well, we all read Bambi or saw the movie when we were children, so we have a soft spot in our hearts for innocent deer.

How about a big heart when it comes to dealing with the thorny issues of our lives? It's called self-compassion--being kind to ourselves when things go awry.

If the deer and the giraffe can eat thorns and digest them, then we can practice self-compassion. Right now, i'm practicing patience and compassion toward the critters who are eating my raspberry stalks.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Too Hot to Garden

Related image
With temperatures in the 90s this week, I go out to the garden as soon as i've finished my hour-long meditation from 6 to 7 a.m. I can garden for about an hour before the sun rises over the trees, and then, it's suddenly too hot to garden.

I look for shade and pull a few weeds, but i've lost my oomph.

At the end of life, the body loses its oomph, and it's too late to....  Too late to say that important something to that beloved person. Too late to do that special, unique thing you do. The body goes all out of whack--too hot, too cold, too heavy, too loose. Too late.

What's that one special thing that silently calls your name? Listen. Listen to the stillness.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Sleepy Poppies

I went out to cut annual poppies (Papaver somniflorum) at 5 a.m., and, true, to their name (somni-florum = sleep flower), they were still sleeping. Their sleepy-head buds had not yet popped open for the day. I returned at 7:30 with clippers in hand, and they were finally out of their (flower) beds.

Rumi says,

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open
Don't go back to sleep!”

What do you think Rumi is talking about? Why is he telling us to wake up! Why is he so insistent about not going back to sleep?

The poppies like to sleep. But what about you?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

He Loves Me

Our front lawn is now a field of daisies. My sweetie has mowed them into creative shapes. This is the first year that he's allowed the wildflowers to stand. Last month, lavender fleabane bloomed in the lawn. Now the daisies. In the past, he has hated to mow the stiffer stalks of these flowers, but this year, he's enjoying them as much as i am.

When i was young, i plucked the petals off daisies. He loves me. He loves me not. Now there's a stressful thought: "He loves me not."

But i can see that my sweetie loves me whole-heartedly. I have a lawn full of daisies and thousands of daisy petals to show me.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Swamp Azalea

The swamp azalea is blooming pink now. The name of this native shrub may not sound attractive, but the blossoms smell like cinnamon. I love to stand next to it and breathe in the fragrance.

The Buddha's teachings may not sound too attractive when we first hear them. The first noble truth is suffering? Yech.

But the closer we stand to our experience, the more we see: The Buddha was right.

And once we look closely at stress and suffering, we begin to understand that our native nature is love and kindness. That each one of us has a truly beautiful mind.

What a lovely scent.