Monday, November 28, 2011

The Miracle

I have arrived.
That is my insight when I breathe in and make two steps.
I have arrived, I have arrived.
Peacefully, gently, but very determined.

We have been running for all our life, it is now time to stop.
If you are not capable of stopping,
how can you enjoy touching the earth with your feet?

The miracle is not to walk on water or on fire,
the miracle is to walk on earth,
and any one of us can perform this miracle.

The miracle is to walk on earth,
that is a statement made by the Zen master Lin Chi, or Rinzai.

If you can establish yourself in the here and the now,
and make a step and touch the wonders of life in the here and the now, you are performing the miracle.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

This is the perfect time of year to remember to slow down. We can become so busy and caught in the hectic pace of the holidays that we forget the miracle of touching the earth with each step. The wonder of life is all around us! Miracles are everywhere!

Why not take a moment to just notice the gentle flow of the breath and choose to feel the miracle of being alive?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's My Birthday!

Late Ripeness
Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.

One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.

And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.

I was not separated from people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget -- I kept saying -- that we are all children of the King.

For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.

Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago -
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef -- they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfillment.

I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.

By Czeslaw Milosz

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sacred Silence

Silence is indeed sacred and many poets, philosophers, teachers speak of it. I like to think of silence as a great womb birthing all of us and all things into being.
I could fill a book with profound quotes. But these three will suffice for today...

Silence is our real nature.
What we are fundamentally is only silence.
Silence is free from beginning and end.
It was before the beginning of all things.
It is causeless.
Its greatness lies in the fact
that it simply is. 
Jean Klein ~

Silence is like a cradle holding our endeavors and our will; 
a silent spaciousness sustains us in our work and at the same time connects us to larger worlds that, in the busyness of our daily struggle to achieve, we have not yet investigated. Silence is the soul's break for freedom.   ~ David Whyte

The silence of a quiet mind is the essence of that beauty. Because it is silent and because it is not the plaything of thought, then in that silence there comes that which is indestructible, which is sacred. In the coming of that which is sacred then life becomes sacred, your life becomes sacred, our relationship becomes sacred, everything becomes sacred.    ~ Krishnamurti

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


What is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the wind.
It is not a thing that crawls into the sun for warmth 

or digs holes into darkness for safety,
But a thing free, a spirit that envelops the earth and moves in the ether.

~Kahlil Gibran ~ 

Another mother has passed on ~ into the great mystery. My lifelong friend, Douy called yesterday to tell me. She asked that I attend the funeral in her stead as she is halfway across the country and cannot return.

What is it about certain people that when we meet there is a "knowing?" It is rare indeed to find others to whom we can so entirely be ourselves. People with whom we are so comfortable it feels safe to just be.

It is a testament to Evelyn that she provided the space for Douy to feel safe, accepted, and loved through all the years since they met. In high school, over 40 years ago, Douy needed a mother's love and acceptance. She found it in two women, both mothers. Her boy friend's and her best friend's.

My mother also opened her heart to Douy in those days so long ago. The amazing thing is that once opened, their hearts continued to hold and nurture her. Time moves us through the stages of our lives, but relationships sparked by knowing are timeless.

Women from that generation, born before the Great Depression and young adults during the Great War (WWII) are slowing passing on from our lives. Evelyn was 92. Although I didn't know her, I sense she was a great lady.

I am honored to be touched by the spirit and energy of these women. I hold them and Douy and all of their loved ones in my heart ~ that vast open spaciousness out of which all arises and dissolves.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fully alive, completely awake

The essence of life is that it's challenging. Sometimes it is sweet, and sometimes it is bitter. Sometimes your body tenses, and sometimes it relaxes or opens. Sometimes you have a headache, and sometimes you feel 100 percent healthy.

From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death, because it involves rejecting a lot of your basic experience. There is something aggressive about that approach to life, trying to flatten out all the rough spots and imperfections into a nice smooth ride.

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. From the awakened point of view, that's life.

~ Pema Chodron

The thing I seem to be practicing these days is just this. Pema Chodron has such a simple, beautiful way to express what life is and how to navigate one's way through it with grace, compassion and joy. Challenging, sweet, bitter, completely awake... How I welcome each moment!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sons and Daughters

I have been blessed with two children ~ a son and a daughter. On my desk sits their photographs. Both are the senior photos from high school. I love to have them close and just glancing at the pictures opens my heart. I'd like to believe that I love them unconditionally, without attachment. I wonder if a mother really can...

My son is 23 and just left on an adventure. He'll be working on an organic farm in Colorado. I think it is a good thing. He is such a free spirit and he struggles with deciding what he should do. I used to worry about him, almost obsessively. I felt it was my fault he didn't have direction. Now I know in my heart he actually does; just not direction in any traditional sense of the word.

My daughter, 29, is more focused and has created a life reflecting perfectly who she is. She spent a year in Bejing after college graduation, teaching English as a second language. She likes exciting experiences, too, but is somewhat more deliberate about planning and organizing her adventures. She has a wonderful life partner and is surounded by kindred spirits and family that offer support and love.

Your Children are not Your Children 

They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
~Kahlil Gibran~
With each new day, my heart continues to open to the joy and wonder of these gifts, my children.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Way It Is

The Way It Is
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change.  But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
~ William Stafford ~

Do you know this thread? It's your connection to the timeless, changeless Presence that we are. I was simply amazed when I read this poem because my connection to it was immediate and automatic. When I think back, I can't remember not sensing this thread. There have been times I thought I was lost, but I didn't let go of the thread. Somehow the unfolding just continues...

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011


      to your heart,
  finding out who you are,
         is not simple.
It takes time for
     the chatter to quiet down.
In the silence of "not doing"
       we begin to know
          what we feel.
If we listen & hear
   what is being offered,
       then anything in life
can be our guide.

~ Katelyn Rahdene Langford

I found this poem on the wall at a retreat center a few years ago. Reading it again reminds me of that precious time being steeped in silence for ten days. What comes to mind is that now is the time to listen to my heart. Each moment holds the possibility to know what we feel. In the silence of "not doing" I find my retreat. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Now retire, my dear...

You Don't Have to Act Crazy Anymore 

You don't have to act crazy anymore-
We all know you were good at that.

Now retire, my dear,
From all that hard work you do

Of bringing pain to your sweet eyes and heart.

Look in a clear mountain mirror -
See the Beautiful Ancient Warrior
And the Divine elements
You always carry inside

That infused this Universe with sacred Life
So long ago

And join you Eternally
With all Existence - with God!

 ~ Hafiz ~

Today is the first day of "retirement" for me. Over the last year or so I've pondered this idea of "retirement" and believe me it has not been an easy decision. I kept waiting for some clarity & it just didn't come. Each time I took a tiny step toward it, something would happen to draw me back into my "career." Finally, I was against the wall with no where to go & I closed my eyes & said, "It's time."

I didn't know why & I certainly don't know what I'll "do," but it's time. Once the decision was made, everything began to fall into place. Now here I sit wondering what will happen next ~ comfortable with uncertainty ~ content with just being ~ open to whatever unfolds.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Summer Day

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan,  and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,  how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me,  what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

This beloved poem by Mary Oliver is known by just about everyone who reads poetry at all. It's one of my favorites and one I've used many times at the end of my Yoga class with teens. It renews my wonder and gratitude each time I share it. Nature is just so amazing! Who did make that grasshopper?

This poem reminds me that I do have a say in the planning of my life. Knowing how to pay attention reveals the perfection of this world and reminds us that we, too, are perfect. If we can come into the still point, we can know with our heart which plan is right for us. We can come from that deep sense of joy ~ our true self ~ and allow each moment to simply unfold.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day Dream

Day Dream

One day people will touch and talk perhaps easily,
And loving be natural as breathing and warm as sunlight,
And people will untie themselves, as string is unknotted,
Unfold and yawn and stretch and spread their fingers,
Unfurl, uncurl like seaweed returned to the sea,
And work will be simple and swift as a seagull flying,
And play will be casual and quiet as a seagull settling,
And the clocks will stop, and no one will wonder or care or notice,
And people will smile without reason, even in winter, even in the rain.
        ~A. S. J. Tessimond 

from Kim Rosen “Saved by a Poem” newsletter, July 2011

When I read this, it brought tears to my eyes. I'm sentimental, I guess, and I really long for this kind of day dream. More that longing, I believe in this day dream. Is it so unreasonable to think we can touch and talk and untie ourselves? Isn't it reasonable to find work simple and swift and play causal and quiet? Haven't you ever experienced time dissolving? Did you care? Each time I find myself smiling without a reason, I know we're just that much closer to having the day dream be real.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Daughter Asleep

My Daughter Asleep

And so to these

unspoken shadows

and this broad night

I make

a quiet


to the

great parental


to hold her

when I cannot,

to comfort her

when I am gone,

to help her learn

to love

the unknown

for itself,

to take it



a lantern

for the way

before her,

to help her see

where ordinary

light will not help her,

where happiness has fled,

where faith

will not reach.
3rd stanza from My Daughter Asleep by David Whyte
River Flow, New & Selected Poems, 1984-2007

David Whyte is one of my very favorite poets. He wrote a particularly poignant piece that resonates so deeply with me, even after my own daughter is grown and in a home of her own. I think the chord it strikes concerns the duality of our deep desire and/or fear for our child's well being.

Well being is so much more than simply physical health and safety...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

All in this together

Life has taught me the wisdom of moving toward what scares me. Although it is embarrassing and painful, it is very healing to stop hiding from yourself. It is healing to know all the ways you are sneaky, all the ways that you hide out, all the ways that you shut down, deny, close off, criticize people, all your weird little ways. You can know all of that with some sense of humor and kindness, By knowing yourself, you're coming to know humanness altogether. We are all up against these things. We are all in this together.
                                                                    ~ Pema Chodron

In 2005, I traveled to China, the farthest I'd ever gone. My daughter was teaching in Beijing for a year and it afforded me the opportunity to experience a culture very different from my own. One of the strongest memories I have is a felt-sense of humanity, large masses of people moving like ants, knowing which way to turn, where to find food, shelter and companionship.  

Our visit to the Great Wall was filled with adventure, excitement and fear. Lillie, a student and friend of my daughter's was our guide. She found the right buses, all four of them, leading us through the city and countryside until we reached our destination. For better or worse, it was a holiday in China and many people joined us on our excursion.  Lillie said it wasn't always this crowded as we squeezed our way up the 1000-year old stairs. It was a beautiful day and the air was clear, filling our lungs with much needed oxygen as we made our way along the wall. Coming down the steep staircase, I marveled at the young women who chose to wear stiletto heels, as I carefully placed one foot after the other, my sturdy walking shoes grounding me with each step. 

It was a long day, filled with such intimacy. The vastness of the geography of the place and the sense of oneness with the earth was really amazing. Along with the thousands of people, whom I would never know; I felt a kind of intimacy with them. Through our shared experience we discovered "all the weird little ways" of the each other and ourselves.

Humor and kindness are essential tools for travelling. We are all in this together. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Everything... is Light

The Ponds

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
midsummer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them—

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly loopsided—
and that one wears an orange blight—
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away—
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its won
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and falling.  And I do.

~Mary Oliver

Sometimes these poems just speak so authentically there is nothing to add. I love the image of light being everything. What a great day "to cast aside the weight of facts and float a little above of this difficult world."  I do want to be dazzled by the white fire of a great mystery...

Monday, July 25, 2011

The True Self Hidden...

Your true substance is concealed in falsehood,
like the taste of butter in buttermilk.
Your falsehood is this perishable body;
your truth is that exalted spirit.
For many years, this buttermilk of the body
is visible and manifest, while the butter, which is the spirit,
is perishing and ignored within it -
until God sends a prophet, a chosen servant,
a shaker of the buttermilk in the churn,
who skillfully shakes it, so that you might know
your true self which was hidden.

~ Rumi ~

This body does conceal the true self and I love this image of the body as buttermilk, the butter as my exalted spirit. What is it that shakes the buttermilk until pure butter emerges? Is it practice, or awakening, or a teacher? Sometimes it's so easy to see those chunks of butter; other times so deep is the truth that even the great one shaking skillfully does not reveal what is hidden.

After many years studying, practicing, meditating, searching, I've come home. Could it be the shaking has done its job? Of course, there will always be unfolding, opening, experiencing, but the taste of this butter is unmistakable.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heart Speaking

Always speak from the heart, never from the mind.
Your sincerity and courage will set an example for others too,
And by listening to you they will be inspired to reveal their own heart.
This "heart speaking" is a spiritual practice.
It means you must only tell the truth and live within your own boundaries and dimensions
Without ever bragging about things you won't ever be able to live up to or deliver to others.
Heart speaking will bring you a gift whenever you practice it.
You will always be right.
The heart knows but cannot tell; the mind doesn't know but can tell.
Stretch yourself to speak from the heart and bypass the mind.
You will see miracles boomerang back into your life.

Most of us want to believe that we are honest; that we are sincere. But do we speak from the mind or the heart? I've found there is quite a difference. Heart speaking doesn't weigh how I will look in the eyes of others. It demands that I be compassionate will everyone, including myself. 

Perhaps most importantly, it gently allows the space to feel my boundaries and move softly into my own dimensions. After a lifetime of trying to be there for everyone else, I find myself longing to stretch into that "boundless heart space." Here I am sincere and courageous ~ what a gift!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My True Task

Red Bird Explains Himself

“Yes, I was the brilliance floating over the snow
and I was the song in the summer leaves, but this was
only the first trick
I had hold of among my other mythologies,
for I also knew obedience: bring sticks to the nest,
food to the young, kisses to my bride.
But don’t stop there, stay with me: listen.
If I was the song that entered your heart
then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
and thus wilderness bloomed that, with all its
followers: gardeners, lovers, people who weep
for the death of rivers.
And this was my true task, to be the
music of the body.  Do you understand? for truly the body needs
a song, a spirit, a soul.  And no less, to make this work,
the soul has need of a body,
and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable
beauty of heaven
where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes,
and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.”

~ Mary Oliver ~
(Red Bird)

I watch and listen to the birds and find such connection to life! Maybe it's true ~ the task of the red bird or every bird is to teach us. It seems reasonable to me, for we do need "a song, a spirit, a soul." Early in the morning, at dawn, or just barely before, all the birds begin their songs. It's as if they can't help themselves. Their joy simply must be expressed!

And some mornings, after a rainstorm has cleansed us of all grief and sorrow, we might be able to join that red bird, recognizing that we too,are "both of the earth and of the inexplicable beauty of heaven."

Monday, July 11, 2011


Chicory & queen anne's lace line the roads this time of year and open my heart to the simple beauty of nature. I remember when my children were young, we would drive from our central Illinois home to northern Michigan for the summer. The roadsides were full of wildflowers, particularly chicory and Queen Anne's lace. As we neared our destination, we would stop to pick some flowers to surprise their aunts upon arrival at the lake.

Each time I wanted to include the beautiful small blue-flowered chicory, but it would always be wilted by the time our flowers were reached their new home in a vase on the table of the cabin. I wonder if those delicate flowers, like so many of us, just can't survive being taken from their home. Chicory is usually found along roadsides because it actually likes growing near warm rocks! Although an inhospitable environment for most plants, chicory finds a loving home.

Chicory is one of those biennial plants having a two-year life cycle and blooming only the second year. They grow everywhere in the United States and southern Canada reaching about 4 feet tall. This size makes them easy to spot from the road. They are wispy and graceful in the breezes that blow in the fields.

I found a photography website where a man named Brian Johnson posted beautiful close-ups of chicory. He said he picked the flowers and brought them back to his studio. How is it they stayed alive for him? Amazing to see the rich beauty of these flowers!

Oh well, now I am content to enjoy their beauty with the eyes only, not needing to pick them and bring them home. Somethings are meant to simply be...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

See All the Love

My Guitar Gently Weeps

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps 
I look the floor and I see it need sweeping 
Still my guitar gently weeps 

I don't know why nobody told you 
how to unfold your love 
I don't know how someone controlled you 
they bought and sold you 

I look at the world and I notice it's turning 
While my guitar gently weeps 
With every mistake we must surely be learning 
Still my guitar gently weeps 

I don't know how you were diverted 
you were perverted too 
I don't know how you were inverted 
no one alerted you 

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping 
While my guitar gently weeps 
I look at you all 
Still my guitar gently weeps 

~George Harrison~

I love the Beatles! When I was young, they were so amazing, opening my heart and mind. George was always my favorite, especially after he showed his interest in spiritual things.  I remember sitting with huge earphones under our stereo which was suspended from the ceiling in our family room listening to this and other songs that touched my heart in ways I had never imagined. 

Now some forty years later,  I'm sitting with my MacBook wondering... why nobody told us how to unfold our love... see the love there that sleeping... with every mistake we must surely be learning.

Love really is all there is.