Sunday, January 31, 2021

Slightly Light

The sun doesn't rise until 7:06 a.m. here in the North country, but when i sit down to meditate at 6 a.m., the sky is slightly lighter than dark. We've gained 15 minutes of daylight in the morning, and so, about an hour before daybreak, light starts leaking into the sky. It's a sight for sore eyes. I can feel my heart dancing in the pre-light of the coming day.

My little groundhog self burrows out of a warm bed, pulls on fleece pants and wool shirts, and goes downstairs to meditate in the dark-light, in the lightening of the dark.

Groundhog Day is coming.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Vaccine Cold

It’s vaccine cold outdoors. Single digits. 

A local hospital's refrigerator was 9 degrees instead of the recommended 2-8*. Would they have to throw the 860 doses of vaccine away? 

Feel your heart cringe as you read that sentence. Oh no! They have to throw it away? That’s 860 people.

Feel your resistance to what is. Notice that suffering or discontent co-arises with resistance. Acceptance = Peace.

Feel the resistance to the intense cold outdoors.


Moderna said the hospital could use the 860 doses after all.

* This turns out to be Celsius, not Fahrenheit as i originally thought.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Tri-Color Kalanchoe

My tri-color kalanchoe is blooming. It's an ornamental plant i put in my flowerpots at the front door in the summer, where it pokes along, but doesn't bloom. Until now, when snow is on the ground, and it's 12 degrees outdoors.

Somehow the conditions are right in my solarium with radiant heat in the floor. Passive solar gain through the big windows tends to bake the plants in the solarium.

What are the conditions that help meditation bloom in your life?

One friend is thinking it's time to get back into the meditation groove again, so she's taking a half-day Zoom retreat this weekend.

There are so many Zoom opportunities for meditating with a group or going on retreat--for 3 hours, for a day, or a week.

Let your meditation practice bloom with an additional sit. Your heart will feel warmer.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Causes of Joy

Yesterday, in writing group, one of our prompts was "joy." I had just read my daily email from the Cloud Appreciation Society, which quoted a research paper on tears of joy. 

Research shows there are four main causes for joyful tears: beauty, achievement, affection, and amusement.

Achievement tears are often shed in contexts of extraordinary performance or when someone overcomes an obstacle and often include feelings of pride. 

Beauty tears occur commonly in situations of overwhelming elegance or beauty, including nature, music or visual arts, and feature feelings of awe or experiencing chills. 

Affectionate tears are often experienced in situations including unexpected kindness or exceptional love such as wedding ceremonies or reunions and often feature feelings of warmth, increased communality, and feeling touched or compassionate. 

Finally, amusement tears are shed when something especially funny occurs and include feelings of amusement or lightness and the inclination to laugh or giggle. 

No matter the cause of joy, give yourself over to it. To paraphrase:

Be joyful unto Life! Serve Life with gladness. Come into Presence and recognize joy.

Gladness is one synonym for joy. Appreciation is another.

Citation: ‘A Model of Positive Tears’, Janis Zickfeld et al., published in PsyArXiv Preprints 08 November 2020. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Your Houseplants Slow Dance

 Time-lapse photography shows houseplants dance. It's a slow motion dance, but their leaves are constantly, imperceptibly moving throughout the day. A video of prayer plant and oxalis next to a clock demonstrates the continual slow dance of houseplants.

We look at a houseplant and think Oh, I know what my philodendron looks like. Look again. And again.

Nothing stands still--not even our houseplants that are pot-bound, house-bound, and perhaps root-bound. The pots aren't moving, but their occupants are.

We think we are sitting still--sort of. Standing still. But we are in constant movement in and around our home. Our bodies are in constant motion--breathing, eyes blinking, heart beating. Every thought tenses some little or big muscles in the body.

We think we are sitting still and the world is moving around us. Look again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Change and Vanish


Everything i cherish will change and vanish.

This is one of the 5 Daily Recollections--a reminder of impermanence. This past 11 months, so much has changed. So much has vanished.

I'm quite happy with the silver linings of these COVID times: Zoom. No commuting. A lot of gardening. Having the time to be a naturalist; noticing, really noticing birds and their habits. A smaller life.

What am i missing? Busy-ness. Miles on the car. Miles in the car. Travel. Going to the movies.

Everything is changing, all the time. We've had a lot of social change this past year. Black Lives Matter. A change of president and a change in the Senate.

How do you feel about change?

One of my personal mantras is Flowing with the river of Life. I aspire to flow with events as they happen. Stress disappears. Ahhh.

Christmas Tree Reborn


Our Christmas tree left us yesterday. Rest in Peace dear friend. December 6-January 25.

Behold! Our Christmas tree is reborn outside, near the front door. A green tree sprouted in a snow bank. I call it instant landscaping.

Birth. Death. Birth. Death. Birth is happening every moment. Death is happening every moment.

Have you noticed?

Monday, January 25, 2021

Nuthatch on Icicle


While waiting its turn at the suet feeder, a nuthatch waits on a nearby icicle. It looks like a chilly perch to me, but then i've been going barefoot in the snow.

Today is the day people over 75 can sign up for vaccinations in our state. It's been feeling like a long, cold wait. When? When? When? Then this morning, when is the website going to open? The state Health Department didn't give a specific time because they didn't want to be overwhelmed. After meditation at 7:00, i checked the website again for my sweetie, and it was open! He got his appointment. Now he waits 12 days for February 6, the date of his vaccination.

Waiting through these next cold days for the long-awaited shot.

Waiting. What is "waiting," really? Waiting is not being in the present moment. Waiting is looking forward to the next moment, the next hour, the next day, the next week, the next month. As if "now" were something to be pitched aside in favor of the the desired "then."

The nuthatch perches on an icicle. That is all. Perching, perching. Breathing, breathing. Heart beating, beating.

That sentence about waiting for the suet feeder is just a story i made up.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Orange Juice


Sharon, a California friend, sends me a photo of the orange tree in her back yard. 

Encased in frigid weather here in the North Country, i can't even imagine walking outdoors in bare feet to go pick an orange for breakfast. Fresh squeezed orange juice sounds like heaven.

Yesterday, my spiritual friends group heard from a woman who has a still mind. Unimaginable to the rest of us. Yet, quietude, and eventually, stillness, is one of the fruits of the spiritual life. No mind; no self; no problem.

No problem that i am walking barefoot in the snow.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Barefoot in Winter

Some of my spiritual friends are doing a cold therapy such as cold showers.

Are you kidding? I'm not doing that!

But this winter, i decided to go barefoot around the house. I don't put on slippers when i go out to the deck to sprinkle bird seed on the railing for the birds three times a day. Our guest cottage is 30 feet out the back door, so i dash over to there in bare feet. I go to the wood shed barefoot and return with two logs for the wood stove.

An interesting side effect of this minimal cold therapy is that my restless leg syndrome has subsided. It's not gone altogether, but it's definitely weaker.

Proponents of cold therapy say that exposure to cold increases circulation, deepens sleep, and reduces inflammation. I will say that my sleep has improved apparently from having cold feet. It's really not so bad. I seldom notice that my feet are cool.

I know if my body is warm, i am more likely to drift into torpor during meditation. Maybe the next time i begin to drift into dreamland, i should just go take a cold shower.

Friday, January 22, 2021

January Thaw

The entire month of January has been a January thaw--freezing at night and melting during the day. It's more like March weather when the freeze-thaw cycle starts sap running in the maple trees. 

How are the maple trees doing in this weather anyway? It's been nice for the two-leggeds to walk outdoors--with their grippers on their boots and walking sticks in their hands.

Ice. Water. Snow. Snow melting into water. Icicles. Water dripping.

Freeze. Thaw. Freeze. Thaw.

Change and more change. Including climate change.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Snow Globe

It snows. It stops snowing. Big, fat flakes fall from heaven. Then the snow globe stops shaking, and everything settles down. Until more feathery flakes fall.

I love snow globes. And i love Mother Nature shaking out her feather pillows with feathery snow falling gently and generously to earth.

The snow globe i live in is white and full of privilege. I have everything i need. I am safe. I am warm. I am alive!

Thank you Mother Nature.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Blood on the Deck

Right below the bird feeder, i found drops of blood on the deck. My mind rushes to fill in the story, which i will never know. Let me guess. Someone died. Someone else ate dinner and survives to hunt another day.

Death is certain. The time of death is uncertain.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Squirting Squirrels

 I have a big squirt gun sitting in a quart of water right beside the door from the kitchen to the deck. When a squirrel sneaks up to the deck and starts munching the sunflower seeds sitting on the railing, i sneak over to the door and fill up the gun with water. I open the door as quietly as possible. Of course, the squirrel can hear me. Some squirrels are dare devils and wait until the last second before they take a flying leap off the second-story deck. Others skedaddle as soon as they hear the turn of the doorknob.

Sometimes, they take cover under the deck for a few seconds before they run across the yard toward the trees. I've learned to aim in front of where they are running because the water travels only a little faster than the squirrels.

I'm not sure i'm teaching the squirrels what i want them to learn. I want them to stay away from the bird seed, but that is like teaching starving people to stop stealing bread. The squirrels are hungry!

The squirrels have learned (1) to keep a lookout for me moving inside the house, (2) to run as soon as they see me. Some of the squirrels have even learned broken field running in order to avoid being "rained on" by the water from my squirt gun.

What have i learned? That the squirrels are hungry.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Welcome Friend

I stuffed a glass gazing globe with a string of white fairy lights and set it in a ceramic flowerpot beside the front door. The warm light is welcoming. I find i prefer the glow to the brightness of a porch light. Besides, who is coming to visit in the evenings? No one.

No one drops by for a visit after dark. My sweetie and i are seldom out after dark ourselves. We are tucked in to our warm home by sunset.

Still, the welcome mat is out. 

Can we put out the welcome mat in our hearts? Welcome each new person like a friend. Welcome each new event, whether or not it's what we want. Welcome Life as it flows through us. Welcome this moment, this hour, this day. Just as it is.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Cause of Death

Three friends died this past week--two from cancer, one from COPD. Maybe we could say we all die from breathing. We all die from living, from having lived. The cause of death is birth.

Look deeply into the eyes of those you love.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Winter Wonderland

It's a winter wonderland here today. Big fat snowflakes falling. Pine trees bowing under the weight of the snow. All is still.

"Hear rest" is one of my favorite meditations. It's like listening to the sound of silence.

Pay attention to your throat. Relax your throat and keep it relaxed. Notice that every time a thought crosses your mind, you experience a sub-vocalization and your throat tenses up a little bit.

Relax your throat. Relax into stillness.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Winter Sunrise

The earth turned last Saturday, and now we are gaining daylight at the beginning of the day as well as at the end. Already we've gained 24 minutes of daylight in the evening. Thank goodness. So far we've gained 2 minutes in the morning. Now those minutes start to add up--11 minutes a week of additional daylight.

Meditation can be like that. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Though sometimes it feels more difficult too.

Just keep adding another minute here and there. Another minute of mindfulness is always good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Cardinals at First Light

 The cardinals come precisely at sunset for a last bite to eat before bedtime. They are also early risers--here at the first light of day, half an hour before sunrise.

Sunrise and bedtime--excellent times for meditation. I've been trying out a new meditation schedule:

5:15 a.m.  half an hour by myself

6:00 a.m. 1 hour on Skype with 2 meditation friends

7:10 a.m. half an hour at our local meditation center on Zoom

8:00 a.m. 20 minutes with my neighbors on Zoom

I find this 1-2-3-4 schedule very helpful, like doing repetitions.

And i see the cardinals at first light.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Mistaken Identity

 A new visitor appeared at our suet feeder. It looked like a nuthatch, but it was a beautiful chestnut brown instead of slate gray. It had an eye stripe.

I asked my birder friends, and eventually someone came up with the answer: a Carolina wren.

What i had failed to notice was the perky tail and the ever so slightly curved beak. Now that i see those features, i see them clearly.

Identifying our emotions can be similarly blurry. We know the feeling in the body, although even those sensations are blurry for some people. But what's the name of that emotion? It takes a while to develop the emotional intelligence and the emotional fluency to identify the emotions in our very own body. "Well, it sort of feels like...." What?

Welcome, Wren.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Feeling Left Out

 Last week, my 6 a.m. meditation buddy, Elizabeth, reported that, during meditation, she had felt a very familiar feeling of being left out. She recalled a reading group she was part of, but she hadn't heard from them since last summer. Were they meeting without her?

Feeling left out is one of my very familiar go-to places. I could give you a hundred examples, similar to Elizabeth's. They are meeting without me. No one told me about.... Everyone else is (or has).... They all seem to know about [something i don't know].

Elizabeth said, that during meditation, she felt the thought from a place of Awareness, and the thought turned into a pleasant vibration. The thought was gone. Gone.

I said, "Well, that gives me hope."

The following morning, i saw HOPE floating among the trees in my yard.

The belief that I am being left out is just a thought. A thought that, if i pay close attention, is a vibration. 

Sound is a vibration. You can "hear" sound throughout your body as it vibrates your bones. That vibration can be pleasant. Though roaring motorcycles might be unpleasant. A thought is nothing more than inner hearing; hearing an inner sound with a very weak vibration. But it does vibrate. Use all your mindfulness to notice this.

The thought/belief of being left out dissipates into emptiness.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Floating Hope

This morning, i looked out the kitchen window and saw the word HOPE floating in the trees on the other side of the lawn.

Usually, hope is a desire for something different--wanting this moment to be different or wanting an outcome to be different. The Buddhist path cultivates the equanimity of accepting this moment just as it is. We may not like it. We may not like the news, for instance, but accepting what is, as it is, is clear-eyed seeing.

The Buddha teaches us about the path. Desire, wanting, craving are the sources of the problem. When we stop wanting, when we stop resisting this moment, as unpleasant as it may be, our minds and hearts come to rest.

Then we proceed with our heart leading the way.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Angel Hovering Round


While attending a meditation class on Zoom, it looked an angel wing was behind me. Our local hospice choir sings a song at the bedside of the dying, "There Are Angels Hovering 'Round." What if angels hover around us all the time?

Sometimes, i do think my guardian angel is keeping a watch out for me. Close calls and i am still alive. Unaccountable luck. One of my great good fortunes this week was to receive my first COVID vaccination because i am a hospice volunteer.

As my mother was dying, i found this hand-written poem in her purse:

Angel of God, guardian dear,

To whom God’s love entrusts me here.

Ever this day be at my side,

To lead and guard, to light and guide.

If i had a quick glimpse of my guardian angel this morning, i say, "Lead on!"

Friday, January 8, 2021

Light in the Dark


The twelfth day of Christmas has come and gone, but i like to keep my outdoor Christmas tree lights up for another month. The season of darkness begins on Halloween and ends on Groundhog Day. Suddenly, there's light.

For now, i have to be content with outdoor Christmas tree lights, which bring happiness when i look at them.

What brings light into your life these days? For me, it's the kindness of neighbors. A loaf of bread appeared in my kitchen this morning when i wasn't looking. Another neighbor gave me scones today.

So many things to be grateful for today. List yours.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

CBD Doubt

 I harvested my two 5-foot tall hemp plants in September and dried the flowers. Then i packed three half-gallon jars with the sticky, dried flowers. In one half-gallon, i added coconut oil and set it in the basement for 2 months.

I looked and looked for recipes for CBD body creme. I asked advice. I found shea butter, cocoa butter, and beeswax in the DIY section of the food coop, along with almond oil and mango butter. But what to do with the ingredients?

Doubt stymies me every time. Some people just launch into new territory, but i am stumped by doubt. I used to call it procrastination, but that feels like a character flaw and another reason to beat myself up.

Now i call it Doubt and recognize this stuck-in-the-middle-ness as a hindrance. It feels like a hindrance; it feels like my way forward is blocked.

Eventually, i chose one recipe, one path forward. The next batch, i tried a different recipe. Good-bye doubt. Hello variety.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Neighbor Possum

A possum lives under our front step. From there, it's a short trip to the grocery store, otherwise known as our compost pile. Once in a while, if we take the kitchen scraps out after dark, we can find her dining out.

My neighbors and i have decided we like possums because they eat ticks, mice, and rats. My neighbor who has a chicken coop feels lucky to have a possum living underneath the coop.

Mindfulness eats our pesky thoughts, simply by watching and feeling them. Here and gone. I don't have to believe that thought, after all. Sometimes, i watch the same thought come and go a dozen times. Why does the mind need to keep giving me the same message over and over? Because the mind isn't listening to the silence of truth.

The possum waddles off into the dark.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Do No Harm

The reading in my neighborhood meditation group this morning reminded us to Do No Harm. I remind myself of this when i recite the 5 Precepts every morning.

Today i intend to:

do no harm to anyone

take nothing that is not freely given

use my sensual energy wisely

speak truthfully and helpfully

and keep my mind clear.

The precepts outline specifically how i can do no harm. The precepts are my guiding principles.

Just for today, can i speak truthfully and helpfully? Can i refrain from gossip? Can i refrain from chitchat? Can i refrain from divisive speech?

My plants are silent. Perhaps i should take a lesson from them.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Thorn in my Thumb

While tidying up my asparagus fern, one of the tiny thorns on the stem stuck in my thumb. Such a small little prick--that caused my thumb to swell and throb for two days.

One of the Buddha's nuns wrote a poem about a thorn that is hard to see.

My thorn, indeed, has been removed! Buried in the heart, so hard to see. That grief which had overcome me — Grief for my son — has been dispelled.

When i look at any of my triggers, i find a little or big thorn of a belief driving my reaction. Sometimes those thorns are so tiny and so hard to see. Sometimes it takes weeks to find one of them.

Although the nun was talking about the death of her baby son, we might consider the thorns of not being able to visit children and grandchildren. We call it love. And a thorn is hiding in that love. Can you see it?

Sunday, January 3, 2021


On New Year's Eve, we attended a Zoom gala of local performers including local artist Margaret Shipman. During an interlude between singers and guitars and banjos, it was fun to see her paintings and collages of flowers, her mandalas of found flora.

We try to find meaning in the collage of our lives, the collage of sense impressions that arrive and leave every moment. 

There's only one thing we can be sure of: Everything is changing.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Wise Attention

I'm attending a weekend retreat on Zoom. The teacher is talking about Wise Attention. 

But first, a word from unwise attention. Here's my list: Facebook, impatience particularly with the person i live with, opening the refrigerator--again, on-line window shopping, not watering my houseplants.

What's on your list of unwise attention? What do you pay attention to, unwisely?

Wise Attention includes meditation and staying close to my meditation object. Being curious. Being interested. Saying "Yes" to the moment--whatever it is.

Taking a walk, a slow walk. Feeling my sit-bones on my computer chair. Relaxing.

What's on your list of Wise Attention?