Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beautiful Heron

Heron Rises from the Dark, Summer Pond

So heavy
is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings
and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks
 of the summer pond,
and slowly
rises into the air
and is gone.

Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is
that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed
back into itself --
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle,
the fallen gate.

And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn't a miracle
but the common thing,
this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body
into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.

~ Mary Oliver ~

from "What Do We Know:Poems and Prose Poems"

While in Florida this month I spent time with the herons. It's difficult to truly capture their beauty, but just watching and snapping a few photos filled me with wonder and astonishment.  This is a young bird and she wouldn't let me come as near as I would have liked.  But when she gracefully lifted into the air, I could see the utter effortlessness of her flight.     

As Mary Oliver so eloquently writes, death is not a hole in the ground! Ascension is possible! And the path seems to be through not grasping.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Welcoming Ground

I lay myself down
on the welcoming
ground, the earth's
spine becoming mine.
Peace seeps into
heavy limbs and
slows my heartbeat
to the pace of
nature. I take refuge
in the quiet, and let
my burdens go,
one by one, until
the earth and I
both float in the
same vast and
holy silence.

~ Danna Faulds ~

At the end of Yoga class, we mindfully move into Shavasana, corpse pose. It is a time to take refuge in the quiet; to let burdens go and to float in the vast, holy silence. It is the most important pose in Yoga practice. This is culmination of all the other poses. With the earth welcoming the body, there is deep healing, profound nourishing, and serene balancing. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not a Grief of Joy

This we have now
is not imagination.

This is not a grief or joy.

Not a judging state,
or an elation,
or sadness.

Those come and go. 
THIS is the PRESENCE... that doesn't.

From Essential Rumi
by Coleman Barks

Last night was Yoga Nidra. I love to offer this class.Yoga Nidra is the most profound way to connect with who you are that I have ever known. I have been practicing Yoga Nidra for about 15 years. 

What is Yoga Nidra? It is an ancient tantric practice of deep relaxation and meditation. Several techniques work together to take the practitioner through the different layers (koshas, in Sanskrit) of the body until the deepest core of your being is found. As you practice this, you begin to let go of all the identities you think you are and come into your true nature. 

Here is the place of great healing; the place of wholeness. This is who you truly are ~ the PRESENCE that is always here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What is There to Realize?

It is false to speak of realization. What is there to realize? The real is as it is always. We are not creating anything new or achieving something which we did not have before. The illustration given in books is this. We dig a well and create a huge pit. The space in the pit or well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth which was filling the space there. The space was there then and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the age-long samskaras [innate tendencies] which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.

- Sri Ramana Maharshi, posted to AlongTheWay

Ramana Maharshi is a revered Indian saint who experienced enlightnenment at he age of sixteen. He spent a good portion of his life in silence. When he spoke, his words were very powerful. He has been a pointer toward Truth for many thousands of people. Though I never met him, I do consider him one of my teachers.

I love the image of space. The idea that it's always there and objects arise and dissolve within this space.  We don't do anything except move objects around in the space. The objects might be snow that we shovel or furniture that we arrange in our home. Or the objects could be our habits of thinking or our long-held beliefs. Ramana tells us, as all sages do, to let go of the attachment to all objects. We are the space - the vast openness in which everything is. We can't describe this with words or use the mind to understand.  We simply BE.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Join the Community of Spirit

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street
and being the noise.
Drink all your passion, 
and be a disgrace.
Close both eyes 
to see with the other eye.


From Essential Rumi
by Coleman Barks

I love this image. Most of my life I've been a people-pleaser and the idea of drinking in my passion and being a disgrace is quite simply ~ perfect. The community of spirit nourishes me daily and I feel the delight. It seems my lesson is to live wholeheartedly, with courage and authenticity. I think it means to just be my self; to allow each moment to unfold and know that who I am is more than okay.

I was introduced to Brene Brown through a friend who emailed me a video clip. Here is a woman who has spent 10 years researching shame and guilt. What became clear to her was that being authentic each day will cultivate the courage to be emotionally honest, to set boundaries, to be vulnerable and compassionate with ourselves and others. And out of this will come wholehearted living and loving allowing each of us to be who we are without guilt, shame or fear.

After watching her PBS program last night, I deeply connected with this community of the spirit. What do I see? Grace, joy and gratitude.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


"Compassion for me is just what the word says; it is 'suffering with'. It is an immediate participation in the suffering of another to such a degree that you forget yourself and your own safety and spontaneously do what is necessary." ~ Joseph Campbell

In light of world events and the devastating tragedy in Japan, it seems important to reflect on the concept of "compassion." According to several spiritual traditions, compassion is an attribute of our true nature. It is not something we need to cultivate, but rather simply undercover. Like mining a diamond or chipping away unnecessary stone as the artist creates her sculpture, we recognize habits, attitudes and beliefs that don't support compassion and clear them away.

Compassion emerges from our hearts and we find ourselves being held in the great womb of the universe - that primordial place of protection and safety. Then each of our hearts opens and we hold each other. The world and all of us in it need to be held. Then we need to "spontaneously do what is necessary."

Friday, March 18, 2011


Yesterday was my mother-in-law's birthday. She would have been 92. She loved being born on St. Patrick's Day! I don't think she was Irish, but the huge March 17th celebration was embraced with total abandon.  I've never known anyone who received as many birthday cards - well over 100!

The thing about her was that she just had this indomitable spirit. She never wanted to admit she couldn't do something. She rode her bike 7-10 miles a day until she was 84. The only reason she stopped was because she fell and her doctor advised her not to ride anymore. She grew up in a small Indiana town and listening to stories of her youth reminded me of the novel, "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe."

She lived in Florida for her retirement years, nearly 30. She absolutely loved the sunshine! When we visited her, she was like a little kid, giggling and excited to have us. We met her friends and toured all the local spots with her. So many warm memories...

She had many, many friends from all over the country and for years they corresponded by letter. She loved getting all those letters and then she'd worry about responding to everyone. It was hard to watch as her ability to write began to wane.

When she decided to move from Florida to be near us, we didn't realize her forgetfulness was early stages of Alzheimer's. The dread disease crept into her brain and stole her memories, first just little things like forgetting the laundry. But later in a most cruel way, she forgot almost everything. 

Visiting her was so difficult at the end, I think in part, because it brings you face to face with your own aging, your own failing memory, your own fears. Often I would just sit with her, just feel her love and send her love. It was so important to us to be with her even though she may not have remembered who we were. I will always believe that she knew the love we shared and was comforted by it. We miss her...
Mysteries, Yes
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
~ Mary Oliver ~

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some Kiss We Want

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of spirit on the body.

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.

Close the language-door
and open the love-window.

The moon won't use the door,
only the window


Friday, March 11, 2011

Alligators and Gratitude

Alligator Poem

I knelt down
at the edge of the water,
and if the white birds standing
in the tops of the trees whistled any warning
I didn't understand,
I drank up to the very moment it came
crashing toward me,
its tail flailing
like a bundle of swords,
slashing the grass,
and the inside of its cradle-shaped mouth
and rimmed with teeth--

and that's how I almost died
of foolishness
in beautiful Florida
But I didn't.

I leaped aside, and fell,
and it streamed past me, crushing everything in its path
as it swept down to the water
and threw itself in,
and, in the end,
this isn't a poem about foolishness
but about how I rose from the ground
and saw the world as if for the second time,
the way it really is.

The water, that circle of shattered glass,
healed itself with a slow whisper
and lay back
with the back-lit light of polished steel,
and the birds, in the endless waterfalls of the trees,
shook open the snowy pleats of their wings, and drifted away,
while, for a keepsake, and to steady myself,
I reached out,
I picked the wild flowers from the grass around me--
blue stars
and blood-red trumpets
on long green stems--
for hours in my trembling hands they glittered
like fire.

~ Mary Oliver ~

There are so many alligators in Florida. I see several each time we are on a golf course. I can relate to what Mary Oliver is saying because as I was attempting to capture one in a photo, I realized this particular gator was a mother surrounded by about a dozen hatchlings. When she noticed my presence, she whipped her head around. I didn't wait long enough to see if she would take chase. 

The terror that instantly filled my heart gave me the gift of seeing the world as it truly is. Being alive and so very present. Every fiber of my being alive with gratitude!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Just Be...

There is nothing to practice. 
To know yourself, be yourself. 
To be yourself, 
stop imagining yourself 
to be this or that. 

Just be. 

Let your true nature emerge. 
Don't disturb your mind with seeking.

 ~ Nisaragadatta ~