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!

My Offering Bowl

IMG_3975“The history and legend of Shambhala is based upon a great community that was able to reach a higher level of consciousness. This community could occur because its individual members participated fully in creating a culture of kindness, generosity, and courage.” ~Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

I am so grateful for the Shambhala community and the teachings, and the opportunity attend ESA in an effort to further deepen my own practice of kindness, generosity and courage.

In the Buddhist tradition it is customary to request alms or offerings. For most of us, Buddhist or not, that’s not always easy, but doing so is a beautiful way for both donor and recipient to engage in the practice of generosity. Having participated from both sides of the alms bowl, I’m not sure which opens my heart more.

I humbly present my Offering Bowl Petition to assist me with attending Enlightened Society Assembly at Karme Choling in August.

https://www.theofferingbowl.com/petitions/416

Any amount is so very helpful and good thoughts are also very much appreciated!

Seeing and Hearing With the Heart

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It’s Saturday, June 10, 7:45 am and I am walking along Bloor Street towards the Shambhala Centre. Someone is walking purposefully towards me. Oh please let them walk past me. I’m in a hurry. I have a talk to give today and I need to practice.

“Can you help me? I’m so hungry. I came here for a better life. No one will help me.”

Their face was only inches from mine, close enough that I could feel their breath, and the heat from their body, or maybe it was my own.

“Please can you help me? I’m so hungry” they said again, tremulously.

The pain in their voice pierced the layers of my self-absorption and I felt them drop away, leaving my own tender heart exposed to the already muggy morning air.

“I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. Where are you from?” I said, as I reached into my bag and pulled out some coins.

“Israel. I came here for a better life. I’m hungry. Can you help me?”

My eyes filled with tears as I took their outstretched hand in both of mine and pressed the coins into it.

“Thank you, dear,” they said. “Thank you for seeing me. I love you.”

“I love you, too, I responded gently. “Be well.”

Thank you for seeing me. The words reverberated against my eardrums as I made my way upstairs and let myself into the still empty Shambhala Centre.

As I set about preparing tea and coffee for the morning, my thoughts drifted to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche‘s 2017 Shambhala Day Address which began with the words “Can you see me?” and continued with, among other things, “Can you hear me?”

The evening of the Shambhala Day Address I asked my own teacher, Shastri Nick Kranz, if all Shambhalians were feeling as uplifted and inspired as I was, adding that, “I wish I knew where to start. We should have a conversation about this. And not just us. We should include other people.”

We have begun that conversation, which we have called “Manifesting Great Eastern Kindness,” and will continue it throughout this year. After our first gathering in April where Nick helped several of us to unpack some of the themes raised in the Sakyong’s Address, I found myself coming back to those words “Can you see me? Can you hear me?” They felt like some kind of call to action to me and I said as much to the group.

My thoughts came back to the Shambhala Centre where I was gathered for the weekend with nine other fearless and gentle warriors who were participating in Course Leader Training. The Japanese kanji for listening that Shastri Jil Amadio had shared with us the day before as we discussed deep listening took on new meaning this morning.

According to the kanji, listening involves not only the ears but the eyes, the undivided attention and the heart. Joyful tears flowed freely as I began to fill the water bowls on the Primordial Rigden shrine, an offering in themselves, as I made a silent vow to continue to see and hear with my heart, allowing it to be touched deeply, in nowness.

(Originally published: https://toronto.shambhala.org/2017/06/16/seeing-hearing-heart/)

 

 

Just Being

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Opening to each moment as though it were a loved one

Tenderly

Willing to be touched and moved and changed by the experience

Just being

Without an agenda

Doing what needs to be done as that need is revealed

Not needing anything or anyone to be this way or that

Trusting that it already is and will continue to be just as it should.

Gratitude

IMG_2797Things I am grateful for this morning:

My practice and the people who sit with me in the Virtual Meditation Hall every morning.

The opportunity to give back to my community and deepen my own practice by serving as Meditation Guide, Dorje Kasung, and, hopefully soon, as Course Leader.

The patience, kindness, generosity, and wisdom of my meditation teacher, Nick Kranz.

My dog Shadow who is snoring contentedly at my feet as I type this.

My sweetie who is snoring contentedly downstairs on the couch where he fell asleep last night and the many opportunities to deepen my practice of compassion, patience, loving kindness, generosity, and wisdom as we each walk our paths, together as a couple, and individually as learning, growing, perfectly imperfect human beings.

More work than I know what to do with right now and the abundance that it brings in the form of opportunities to attend programs like Enlightened Society Assembly and help others in a myriad of ways.

The dear Dharma friends with whom I share daily or near daily emails of inspiration and reflection.

Clear skies, cloudy skies, sunrises and sunsets.

Trees, like those pictured above. This is what I see when I turn the corner to walk out of our townhouse complex every morning. It feels like they are waving, waiting to greet me.

The smell and the feel of the crisp spring morning air carrying the songs of cardinals and chickadees.

Cousins who still call me and email me even though the introvert in me is horrible at maintaining contact and accepting invitations.

I could go on and on but the crisp spring morning air is beckoning.