Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery...none but ourselves can free our minds!~ Bob Marley

Spring is universally seen as a time of rebirth and renewal. After a long winter's rest, the flower and fauna begin to burst with life. All around one hears the sound of courtship between birds; the spring chorus is one of my favorite sounds. People, too, start shaking the slumber from their bones, and begin taking long walks as the days extend. I woke this morning to the birdsong, and realized I am finally awake and alive in this happiest of the seasons.

With  every birth, there also comes a purging; a shedding of what no longer serves purpose. In spring, we refer to it as "spring cleaning". All around, yard sale signs are popping up as people cast away their belongings after spring cleaning. But we shouldn't stop there. Every new day should be a rebirth; a day to shed what no longer fits in our world, whether it be people who drag us down, objects we no longer need, or memories that haunt us.  Each day is a chance to let go, to be reborn into our truest selves. This can be difficult, as sometimes living with our memories, even the darkest ones, serve as a security blanket.  Letting go often means facing fears long buried, but it is in facing these fears that we become all that we are meant to be.  

This weekend we are cleaning out the  garage in preparation for a move. Inside are boxes and bins full of memories, some beautiful, and some sad.  I am going to go through and collect all that no longer serves purpose, all that is painful, and toss them onto our fire pit as I no longer need them. I am also going to make a list of all that I fear, all of the losses, all that keeps me from realizing complete bliss, and toss that list on the flames too. Only I can free myself from mental slavery...and the same goes for anyone reading this blog.  

We all have a memory box, be it literal or metaphorical; we all carry way more than we need through this life. Take time in this season of rebirth and renewal, to spring clean your mental garage..have a ceremonial bonfire, and let it go.  Go forth clean and new.  Happy Spring.    Namaste. ☼  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Morning Has Broken

~Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day~

Happy Easter Everyone. ☼

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Innocent Truth

What a beautiful kid. <3

Just Do It!

Just Breathe

Conquer the angry man by love. 
Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness. 
Conquer the miser with generosity. 
Conquer the liar with truth. 

The Dhammapada

As I take this journey to self, I find the most difficult demon I face is my tendency to react to things from emotion, rather than taking the time to just breathe. Instead of "going within" and looking  at situations objectively before leaping to a reaction, I let the emotions of a given moment overtake me. This results in my succumbing to my emotions rather than  always seeing the issue clearly. 
 Particularly when another person has done something to hurt me or someone I love, I react with defensiveness and anger, rather than compassion and patience.  It does not happen all the time; but certain people tend to have the ability to bring out the worst in me. It's at those times when I  should take the words of the Dalai Lama, "In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the biggest teacher. " to heart. 

                           There is a great Buddhist story entitled Bag of Nails, that presents a great example of the repercussions of our anger: 


Once upon a time there was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he should hammer a nail in the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. But gradually, the number of daily nails dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the first day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He proudly told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.
"You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out, it won't matter how many times you say 'I'm sorry', the wound is still there."

 There are always going to be people in our lives who are having difficulty finding their own peace. They may be struggling with their own feelings of anger, guilt, and jealousy, and their reaction to these emotions is to blame others around them for their difficulties.  Sometimes this results in choices and behaviors that defy reason and cause great pain and suffering to others. Even the most enlightened person reacts to injustice with feelings of anger and hurt;  what we must be mindful of is how we manifest that anger.  

"If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding." 

Part of cultivating the right attitude means knowing how to use the negative energy created by anger in a positive way. There are times when our reactions to a given situation are justified; this is when it is most important to "go within" and find a spiritual calm amidst the storm so a solution may present itself. 

I cannot change the people around me who choose to live life from a place of anger and hatred.  Only they can come to a place of peace within.  But I can change my own reactions and use my own wisdom and experience to understand why they are reacting the way they are. I must also be mindful of their suffering and pain, and have compassion for same, even if they do not extend to me the same courtesy.  Choosing to combat anger with anger only creates more of the same, and that will never create the harmony we all seek.

The next time you are face to face with an "enemy"; that person who pushes all of your buttons, "go within". Count to ten, and breathe. Know that we are all one, all carrying our own scars and suffering. Dig deep in compassion's garden and cultivate peace. ☼

"Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek." 



Thursday, April 14, 2011

Naming the Demons

"To undertake a genuine spiritual path is not to avoid difficulties but to learn the art of making mistakes wakefully, to bring them to the transformational power of our heart."~ Jack Kornfield "A Path with Heart"

In the Buddhism practice of being mindful,Jack Kornfield, a renowned Buddhist teacher and psychologist who incorporates the tenets of Buddhism into his psychology practice, mentions "naming the demons"  as a way to become aware of the issues we struggle with in our quest for spiritual and inner peace.  

We all have demons hanging around; whether they be personal difficulties with addictions; including substances and food, (I can eat an entire pint of Ciao Bello gelato and not even think twice about it ) road rage,( I have a friend who climbed out of her car yesterday to berate a driver who cut her and her precious cargo off yesterday)  depression, anger, guilt,doubt, and fear, to name some of the big ones. We also come into contact with other people who seem intent on expressing their demons at every turn, and making the world for people around them as unpleasant as possible so as to share their misery.  Everyone knows a person who is in a perpetual bad mood; the reality is we cannot always avoid these situations and people who make our life miserable. The trick is to not let their demons become YOUR demons.  This is where being mindful and meditation are of great service.

Yesterday we spent two hours and hundreds of dollars again attempting to mediate a situation with an individual who is suffering from many demons and is more than happy to share them with us.  You can see them, sitting on her shoulders, waving howdy, froth coming off their fangs in big gooey droplets. 

The night before, we had prepared by playing some kirtan music, chanting, meditating, and trying to stay focused on our goal; to find a peaceful place for all involved to exist, and put an end to all of the anger and sadness.

We woke up in the morning, as positive as we could be, and listened to uplifting music on the way. We were intent on bringing in as much of the love and compassion we could in hopes it would spread.

Unfortunately we did not have any success spreading our positivity, and in fact left the situation with several of our own demons clamoring and clawing at us. Our peace train was derailed, and we went through part of the day shell shocked and angry, as well as disappointed.

To add insult to injury, we ran errands all day, finishing up at the grocery store. We came out of the store to find not only pouring rain but a dead Jeep. 

Instead of screaming profanities at the sky, we looked at one another and smiled, then held each other close. What else can you do? We laughed at the day's circumstance, realizing that all the negative energy has power and it was surrounding us like the dark clouds in the sky around us. 

In a recent yoga class, we discussed anger and the other negative demons we struggle with in our humanness. The fact is, even the most enlightened individual among us is still human. Being such, he or she is subject to all of the emotions that entails. It's how we handle those emotions that make the difference in a situation.   In hind site,  I wish we could have stayed on the peace train rather than jump off ; our succumbing to the darkness did nothing to help the situation, and made for a miserable few hours.  They say people and circumstances are brought in our life for a reason, and I believe we learned a lesson or two yesterday.

Today the Jeep is back on the road; a few whacks on the starter with a hammer did the to our other situation, it still exists, but we won't be taking a hammer to it, as we have gotten back on the peace train. Instead we are going to keep trying to send love and's all we can do. 

Climb on the peace train, friends. It sure beats the alternative.  Namaste. ☼

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shake the dust on Vimeo

Shake the dust on Vimeo
Shake the Dust

Every single one of us is guilty of getting caught up in the same old cycle of non living...of waking up in the mornings and beginning our days with the negative thought that "Today is going to suck". And because our words and thoughts have power, it usually does.

For some, their reality is constant suffering and struggling, and no amount of positive thought is going to change their predicament; the extreme poor, those struggling and continuously losing their battles with addiction, those experiencing loss and disease, to name a few. Everyone has their albatross to wear, and some of them are heavy indeed.

And yet there are others who think suffering is not getting into the passing lane of life; who cut off others to further themselves, never once thinking about what they are missing out on by rush, rush, rushing through life...they think not of those they leave behind, but how much better off they are ahead. Funny how so many with this mindset end up alone and without.

I remember when my son was very  sick and we were spending yet another week at Children's Hospital, trying to figure out what was wrong with him. It was a scary time for everyone, especially him. I felt lost and helpless, unable to make him feel better as a mommy should. He kept asking me what was wrong with him, and I couldn't give him the answer to that.

 I wandered through the hospital, praying for guidance  and hope.  Then I passed a child with cancer walking with her parents. Some might have noticed her bald head, or the tubes and wires connecting her to the pole she had to walk with.  What I noticed was the amazing smile on her face, and on the faces of her parents. When she laughed, it was music to my heart, and it gave me courage to walk back to my son's room and sit with him. I may not have had the answers he needed yet,  but I could hold his hand and make him smile, which was enough for that moment.

Wherever you are in life..whether you feel stuck, lost, scared, sad, unloved,  or empty....know that someone else has a bigger burden than you. Do as Anis says in his poem; Open the door to life. Let whatever is meant to happen happen, but don't let the dust settle in your veins. Don't settle for empty when you can be full of love and light. Shake the dust.
Peace to you. ☼

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The More That You Read..The More Places You'll Go...

"Let us read and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world." ~ Voltaire

There are few things in life more satisfying to my soul than a good book.  My parents tell me I picked up my first book at the age of one,  and in a language only I understood, began reading it to them.  By 4th grade I was devouring books  at an amazing speed, often hiding them inside my school books, especially my math book, ;)

One of the best parts of motherhood has been  sharing books with my children. I began reading to them before they were even born, hoping my voice and the stories would enter their minds through my womb. I visualized their baby dreams, filled with fairies and fables, myths and magic, taken from the stories I would read.

This is also one of the main reasons why I chose to teach;  I love getting kids excited about literature; I love sharing  my childhood favorites with them, like The Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte's Web, and Misty of Chincoteague to name a few. While I loved taking my own children to see the movie adaptations of these great classics,  to me, there is no comparison to reading the stories themselves.  You can make your own pictures, using your own imagination to be transported to wherever it is you want to go.  I admit to trying to walk through my closet into a different world after finishing The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,lol. 

Bookstores and libraries are sanctified, almost holy places to me. I love an old book store; the smells of the covers, the aged paper, the stacks and stacks of adventures piled high and's even better if there is a big comfy chair to curl up in, and the ever present bookstore mascot, usually a cat who winds himself in and out of your legs as you wander the literary labyrinth.

The most difficult part after choosing the latest transport, is deciding which to read first.  Today I came home laden with 10 books; I am savoring them all, trying to decide which will be the first to take me away...the decision is always tough; I want to save the best for last, and yet I am always disappointed when I finish a masterpiece...I want the words to go on and on. So here I sit, observing the pile, and wondering oh where, oh where to begin.  I guess I should just close my eyes and choose..
eenie, meenie, minie..............

Monday, April 4, 2011

Grateful Am I

"You pray in your distress and in your need...would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance"~ "The Prophet, Khalil Gibran"

I sit here looking out the window at the beautiful, bright spring sky. The sun's rays are shining across the water, and the windsurfers are out in abundance.  There are three little birds eating out of our kitchen window feeder. Senor Gato is twitching and chattering at them while  our new Sandy Paws doggy dog lies at my feet, sleeping after a long walk. The sounds of Wah! surround me.."Radhe Jaya Jaya", translated.. "You should be glorious"..and I am. Glorious with gratitude at the many blessings that surround me. They include my incredible children, who are becoming beautiful young adults and who amaze me every day with their many gifts of spirit, my love and best friend Billy, who allows me to be me, and loves and supports  me in all my incarnations, along with his sweet children who I  love as my own.  I have a wonderful and zany family who always provides amusement .. I have also  met so many new people, wonderful eclectic souls full of peace and joy, and it flows between all of us like a living water. My old friends remain true and they are cherished for the diamonds they are.  

 I am loving the present, and grateful to the past for all its many lessons..and know that the future will also hold its share of smooth rides and tasty waves, as well as some tricky ones.  I will savor them all and remain grateful for all experiences, as it's a part of it all. 

I hope everyone finds a moment today to be amazed and filled with gratitude, for it's the little blessings that make our life what it is.  Be grateful. Be blessed. ☼