Deep Knowing

Feeling the gentle bite of the crisp fall morning air

Hearing the crunch of leaves beneath my feet

The acrid smell of a wood fire wafting from afar both irritating and oddly reassuring

Watching the sun stream through mostly naked tree branches to bathe everything in a warm golden glow

The wispy clouds moving freely as clouds do against the vast blueness of sky

Mind settling with the rhythmic lifting and placing of each miraculous footstep

An appreciative heart opening, softening into the deep knowing of the raw honesty of this time of year.

Impermanence

The raw soft beauty of Impermanence

The very truth of life itself

So exquisitely expressed

Offered as a teaching that

When opened to and received

Becomes a blessing

By the natural world

A tear trickles softly

A gentle knowing smile

A heart broken open

To the fullness of

Sadness and Joy

In perfect union.

Stop.

Stop. Just stop.
The still quiet voice was rumbling now, like a freight train shaking the foundations of my being.
Trying to get my attention.
Keeping me awake at night.
Feeding me food that I wasn’t hungry for.
Making me forget things, trip over things, walk into things.
Fly into a rage.
Cry inconsolably. 
So today, body trembling with fear, eyes swollen with tears, I stopped.
I just stopped. 
You’ve been through hell this year, the voice said.
And last year too.
Life as you’ve known it for so many years shaken, broken, pulled out from under you.
Never taking a moment to allow the full weight of any of it to land, to be fully seen, felt, transformed.
As much as there is part of you that cannot be destroyed,
This being, the one that eats, sleeps, walks around and all of those things, deserves the same gentleness and care that you extend so generously to those around you.
You do!  
And self care will bring you the same joy if you let it, but you have to let it.
You, too, are worthy and in need.
All of the love and care in the world from those around you
Needs to be matched by your own.  
You need to make time just for you
To breathe, to play, to rest, to feel. 
To heal.
You are worthy. 
You are!
Worthy of your own gentle loving caring attention. 
Worthy of being. Just being.

I got you babe

Captivated by this beautiful image on my walk this morning, I stopped to gaze at it and as it gazed back, I found myself thinking of the song ‘I Got You Babe” by UB40. (And Sonny and Cher. Yes, I’m that old…).

It’s such a beautiful thing to share that kind of unconditional love and acceptance with those near and dear to us. It truly is. When I can let another see a part of me that’s not quite perfect, and they still love me and are still willing to hold me tight (maybe even more, maybe even tighter!) it’s beautiful. When others allow me to see a part of them that’s not quite perfect, it’s equally beautiful. My heart melts open in this kind of warmth, and I sometimes wonder if there are two of us or just one.

Then I found myself thinking about the times that I can’t, or they can’t, for whatever reason. What then? The truth is I’ve spent most of life thinking that unless the love and acceptance came from an external source, it wasn’t real; it, and maybe I, had no value. So, and I’m just beginning to learn how to do this, what if I could hold my self tight, all of my selves, the ones that are afraid, the ones that are sad, wear their hair too long, or don’t have a lot, and say “I got you babe.”

“…put your little hand in mine

There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb…

I got you, I won’t let go…

I got you babe.”

I’m so blessed to have people in my life that I can hold and feel held by, see and be seen by. I wouldn’t trade it or them for anything.

When I offer that same love to myself, I sometimes feel so raw and tender, so tentative, not quite sure how, so uncertain, is this okay, do I even deserve this, but the more I hold myself in this very real, very valuable warmth and love, the more my own heart melts toward myself, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything either.

I got you babe. And I won’t let go.

Setting Intentions

On this day last year, I was riding back from Karmê Chöling Meditation Retreat Center in Barnet, Vermont, where I had a spent a week coordinating a retreat. As we made our way to a nearby airport where I would catch a flight back to Toronto, our conversation turned to setting an intention for the year.

Mine was ‘ Go with the tears.’ I chose this because on more than occasion the previous week, I found myself feeling overwhelmed and in tears. This was my first time coordinating a retreat away from my home meditation center where I had coordinated several daylong and weekend programs and only my third retreat away from home. It was intense, as retreats often are. I wanted it to be a success for everyone, and to complicate matters, my partner had become ill while I was away.

On one such occasion, the teacher I was working with saw my tears, asked me what was wrong, and when I managed to say “l don’t know what to do and I’m scared,” they gently took my hand and said “Let’s walk.” We walked through the main floor of the house (the retreat center was once a farmhouse) and back to the meditation hall. By then, I still wasn’t sure what I needed to do, much less how to do it, I just knew that I could.

Allowing myself to feel the fear (of judgement, of abandonment, etc) combined with the warmth and kindness of that simple gesture was such a gift, one that made it possible for me to connect with the innate strength and wisdom that we all have.

My default when I feel challenged or threatened is to get angry, but I’m learning that by allowing myself to feel the churning in my belly, the heat in my cheeks, the damp chill in my hands, the shallow breathing, the floaty feeling, without acting on them, without storming out or saying the angry thing, without shutting down, I can feel the sadness underneath. When I can do that, the words and actions that follow seem to come from a much gentler place.

So, there I was, on January 1, 2018, setting an intention to “Go with the tears.” I wish I could say it was easy and I was successful in not saying the angry thing or slamming any more doors or completely shutting down in fear. What did happen was each time I said the angry thing, or felt myself beginning to shut down, I recognized it as being an opportunity to touch back into my intention and gently recommit to it, to myself and to those around me.

Here it is, January 1, 2019, and I’m thinking that I’m going to need at least another year, if not another lifetime, to work on that intention, and a few others (like writing more regularly…) and I have a question for you:

Would you like to join me? Would you like to gather with others who are committed to living out their values, and supporting and learning from each other? We could gather on Zoom weekly or monthly, meditate together, and share our experiences? I claim no expertise other than this, and an open and willing heart, and I’d love to have company!

About the graphic: I felt inspired to create this, using Canva, following a conversation with a dear friend about great compassion and seeing with the eyes of the heart.

It Felt Love

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This poem was shared by a friend several weeks ago and I’ve wanted to write about it everyday since but it almost feels too precious, the feeling that it evokes, the memory of those moments that I have felt the encouragement of light against my being, were such an incredible gift that words seem inadequate and I can only aspire to offer it to others.

Honouring the Gift of a Morning Walk

“The earth offers gift after gift—life and the living of it, light and the return of it, the growing things, the roaring things, fire and nightmares, falling water and the wisdom of friends, forgiveness. My god, the forgiveness, time, and the scouring tides. How does one accept gifts as great as these and hold them in the mind?

Failing to notice a gift dishonors it, and deflects the love of the giver. That’s what’s wrong with living a careless life, storing up sorrow, waking up regretful, walking unaware. But to turn the gift in your hand, to say, this is wonderful and beautiful, this is a great gift—this honors the gift and the giver of it…”

Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature
by Kathleen Dean Moore

 

It Would Be Brave For Me To…

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This weekend I attended a program called  Social Meditation and Awakened Community with my meditation teacher, Shastri Nick Kranz, at the Toronto Shambhala Centre.

One of the exercises we did involved being out in nature where we were invited to choose an item to look at, really look at, and then to continue looking when we began to notice boredom creeping in.

I chose this leaf, intrigued by the delicate lacy beauty of it, even in decay. I was surprised at how long I was able to stay with it, but eventually, I did find myself wanting to look away, more intrigued by the sounds of distant barking and laughter coming from a nearby ballgame. I noticed the irritation in my body and returned my attention to the leaf. Again and again. As I recommitted my attention each time,  I noticed a letting go and an opening in my body where the irritation had been.

So many shades of brown! It’s so delicate! Wait. Was there just one leaf? It appeared so, but it also appeared that at one time there might have been two, entwined around the same stem!

At the end of our program we were asked to share an aspiration around the the theme of “It would be brave for me to…”

Mine went something like this: Just as the delicate lacy decaying leaf had more to show me when I kept looking long after I wanted to look away, it would be brave for me to continue looking at the person or situation in front me when I want to look away, as they too have wisdom to share that is just as valuable as my own.

As luck (and aspiration practice) would have it, I soon got an opportunity to practice not looking away, not holding so tightly to my own experience, and staying open to and curious about another’s. I wish I could say it was a piece of cake and I rocked it, but it wasn’t and I didn’t.

Now, it would be brave for me to hold that experience gently, not looking away from it, recognizing how difficult all of this is for all of us, including me, and gently recommit to keep trying, to keep showing up, willing to be soft and open, willing to feel shaky and vulnerable and to not know, willing to feel the sadness and the joy that comes with being willing to grow, being willing to be brave.

Social Meditation

IMG_4020.JPG“The foundation of enlightened society is being unashamed of who you are.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

Recently I had an opportunity to gather with my meditation teacher, Shastri Nick Kranz and several of his other students, via Zoom, to unpack some of the themes in Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s 2017 Shambhala Day Address. This was our second such gathering since Shambhala Day.

Using Social Meditation as our form, applying the key points of body, speech and mind/heart, with Shastri Kranz’s kind and gentle encouragement, expert facilitation, and his own authentic presence as a model, we began to explore, in nowness, our inspiration and challenges around the themes of love, friendship, openness, trust, dignity and fearlessness.

As we held ourselves and each other in the cradle of loving kindness, feeling our own and each other’s vulnerability as we shared our perceived shortcomings, our triumphs, our dreams, and our questions, bravely holding space for our own and each other’s open and tender hearts, wisdom began to emerge.

It was personal, intimate, uplifting and energizing. It was powerful. There was an openness and a tenderness, a sense of connections deepening, bonds being forged, and possibilities I’d never before imagined began to take shape, both in terms of continuing to work to bring those simple human qualities into my relationships at home and at work, at our center and in the world, and also how I might use the form of Social Meditation to help me do that. I can’t wait to do it again!

In the Shambhala Principle, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche writes:

“My father, like many loving parents, would hold my hand in times of difficulty and challenge. He was teaching me to feel, showing me how just being with someone else is a powerful method of engendering kindness. That human contact allowed me to relax and feel my own strength and potential, opening my heart and letting its natural kindness flow forth.”

The world needs our kindness, yours, mine, ours; and we need each other’s kindness. Social Meditation, for me, feels like one way that we can hold each other’s hands, feel our own and each other’s strength and potential, our innate kindness, letting it flow from our hearts into our own and each other’s lives, and into a world that desperately needs it.

I feel extremely grateful that I will get to spend an entire weekend learning about and experiencing more of this wonderful practice when Shastri Kranz comes to Toronto to teach on September 15-17. Maybe he’s teaching at your Centre soon, find out here!