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Saturday, August 22, 2009

. . . something as simple as the breath . . .

Be mindful of the breath.

We breathe in that which trees breathe out,
and they in turn breathe in that which we breathe out;
a circular system of mutual interdependence.

So this breath can be seen as a subconscious,
or if you prefer, an instinctual way of serving Life,
at a level beneath conscious awareness.

This part of us which is so simple, so automatic
and so seemingly non-impacting on the world
is actually pre-serving the whole cycle of Life
by which Life Itself is allowed to sustain itself.

This breath which we all share,
which all things share,
is the One Breath.

Humanity's new challenge
is to re-member this part of themselves,
that we are All, and that this One Breath,
this Holy Breath (as Jesus would have said),
this Holy Spirit (as the Greeks and Romans translated it)
can be seen as the Spirit of Life Itself
by which we are all united.

And that in this renewed awareness of unity,
this new way of seeing, of understanding,
this new belief by which to base our actions upon,
we can consciously begin to cultivate habits, or a "Way of Life"
which will serve Life and in time become as simple as,
as subconscious as,
as automatic,
as instinctual
and life pre-serving as our breath.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation

This meditation is a basic human technique. It is a non-religious, mindfulness oriented silent sitting meditation. There are two 20 minute sessions with a short break in between. Attention to the breath, the body and the mind is encouraged. This will bring about a realization of the mental activity, the swirl of thought forms in which we swim unconsciously throughout our usual day to day activities. You will begin to see how much unchecked and unconscious thoughts flavor our emotions and our moments.

Through a practice of silent sitting meditation one not only becomes aware of this semi-automatic and judgmental mental activity, but also one begins to cultivate an awareness which allows one to bring the attention back to the present moment, the here and now. This is a Be Here Now kind of thing. It is a cultivation of serenity, a creation of spaciousness in ones life, making room for healing, answers . . . peace. Through this practice we become aware of the difference between awareness and thought, between living life through the illusory lenses of the past or anxieties of the future and living consciously in the present moment.

It is a reconnecting with the self, the true self, the awareness behind the thought forms, that which resides in the stillness of the space behind and between. It is a way to get to know oneself and through this simple exercise of sitting and breathing and being mindful of the present moment and aware of the brains activity so much else can be reveled. We can see that instead of coming from this spacious and peaceful state in our daily activities, we are often much more in touch with some mental form of suffering which flavors our emotions and interactions with others. Often we are not truly in touch with the moment, with the loved one, with the task at hand . . . we aren't even in touch with our true selves. And so, taking up the practice of mindfulness meditation occasionally, weekly, daily can be a very good start to enriching ones life and enjoying the moment.

There are a few important aspects or techniques to remain mindful of:

1. The posture to sit erect, often cushions or firm pillows are used to raise the buttocks up and help tilt the body slightly forward which causes a natural tendency to straighten the spine. This opens up the hara, or diaphragm area which facilitates easier breathing. Lying down or sittingin a strait backed chair are also options, the attention will be on the body, the breath and the minds activity and presence, not whether or not you have a better lotus position than your neighbor.

2. When one realizes that one is falling asleep or lost in a chain of thoughts, gently bring ones awareness back to the present by focusing attention on the moment, the breath and the body. In this way we can open the hand of thought and let the thought we were attached to go and return to the present moment of peace, of sitting and breathing. This can be done by counting the breaths, or through simple attention to the breath, the way it feels, how it expands and fills the body.

This is an act of love. you are caring for yourself by taking up this practice. Letting go of the tensions of the day, in the body and in the mind. Relaxing. Deeply. Cultivating a practice to counter the years of poor habits of attaching to and identifying with involuntary thought forms which are often negative in nature, judgmental, fearful or anxious, all of which are detriments to our focus, manifestation of intentions and enjoyment of the beautiful moments and people in our lives.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Think Big

I am part of an open membership group known The Art of Living and was recently sent this posting with a section from the book “Think Big” By Dr Den Carson

I believe that it is very good advice about living. I know that we can all translate this into our own spiritual language to make it applicable wisdom to each of us

Think Big

T alent: Our Creator has endowed all of us not just with the ability to sing, dance or throw a ball, but with intellectual talent. Start getting in touch with that part of you that is intellectual and develop that; and think of careers that will allow you to use that.

H onesty: If you lead a clean and honest life, you don't put skeletons in the closet. If you put skeletons in the closet, they definitely will come back just when you don't want to see them and ruin your life.

I nsight: It comes from people who have already gone where you're trying to go. Learn from their triumphs and their mistakes.

N ice: If you're nice to people, then once they get over the suspicion of why you're being nice, they will be nice to you.

K nowledge: It makes you into a more valuable person. The more knowledge you have, the more people need you. It's an interesting phenomenon, but when people need you, they pay you, so you'll be okay in life.

B ooks: They are the mechanism for obtaining knowledge, as opposed to television.

I n-Depth Learning: Learn for the sake of knowledge and understanding, rather than for the sake of impressing people or taking a test.

G od: Never get too big for Him.


A Second Chance

To be happy, drop the words “if only” and substitute instead the words “next time”

- Stanley Blanton, M.D.-

The Art Of Living Blog can be found at:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle

I have really enjoyed studying the wisdom and hopeful prophecies coming from the indigenous cultures of the Amazon and the shamanic traditions of personal and global transformation towards a harmonious world of nature and humanity.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Deliberate Joyfulness in Times of Hardship

Many of us are going through hard times these days. The global economy is going through a period of balancing itself out which is difficult. We are experiencing this in common with our brothers and sisters around the world and it is a challenge to work together toward helping each other make it through.

I have been reflecting upon the virtues and qualities to bring into this new economic climate which could help sustain a positive outlook and an extension of good will towards my fellow man.

One thing i have found helpful is increasing the practice of joy in my life.

How does one deliberately increase the practice of joy in ones life. There are many ways. To count ones blessings or to meditate upon the abundance that we do have in our lives, many of which we take for granted every day. My family, my health, the warmth of the sun, the gift of the rain. A friend, someone to talk to and share these times with is a blessing indeed.

Often in trying times i have been caught in feelings of despair, feeling that life is just not worth the energy. Sometimes i find that i have fallen into bad habits of just moping and focusing on the down side of everything and spiraling into an unmotivated period of gloom. This has never been helpful to me, and has in fact been detrimental to me as well as negatively affecting those around me.

Making it an intention to set aside time each day to be deliberately joyful has been a help. To spend time with my children or even by myself doing things which are fun. Playing a game with the family always produces laughter and joy. Recalling good times or humorous situations and retelling the stories with friends or reminding them of the occasion can invite laughter and moments of joy.

Deciding to engage in an activity which is fun, taking a walk around the block or stopping by the park to walk for even five or ten minutes can add so much to ones day.

Deciding to do something is always better than deciding to not do anything. Call that friend, watch that old funny movie, play frisbee. What ever it is in your life that brings joy, the little things, the free things, these things will make the day seem so much brighter.

I have found that in trying to be more deliberately joyful, in taking time to appreciate all that i do have, makes the work i have to do more joyful.

I recently heard an interesting quote, "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste."

This may sound like a strange thing to say about difficult times, but there is a lot of truth in it. These things in our lives, these challenges, help us develop tools of wisdom to use in the future. The wisdom gained through challenges not only helps us, but also becomes a gift; they give us something to give back to the world.

It is good to be mindful that, as in all challenging times, we will come out on the other side with new perspective and a renewed sense of power and balance through the wisdom we gain. This can be a liberating understanding, for once we can see this and know this, then we can move on in our daily lives in a joyful manner.

Oh, and remember that sometimes smiling is a reaction we have to feeling good, and at other times, feeling good is a reaction we have to smiling.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mahatma Gandhi Peace Quote

"There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."
~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Soul In Depression, Stress and Balance, and a glimpse of The Pain Body

"As a society, we're increasingly aware of the many faces of depression, and we've become conversant in the language of psychological analysis of depression and medical treatment for it."

"One in ten Americans, and even more dramatically, about one in four women, will experience clinical depression at some point in their lives. We take an intimate look at the spiritual dimensions of this illness and its aftermath."

These quotes are from the introduction for last weeks show on Speaking of Faith, with Krista Tippet titled, The Soul In Depression. I found that last night i listened to several of the sites pod casts in a row and thought that this information would be useful to any of my friends and loved ones dealing with depression in their lives. These interviews give many insights into the variety of experience and and methods of understanding of several people who have moved through this 'dark night of the soul'.

The website has much more on this topic, especially the SOF Observed blogs about each of these shows. Each show also has a website with more information, unedited interviews and additional material and links to books, music, poetry etc.

The pod casts are:

The Soul In Depression
Listen Now (real Audio 53:09)

Stress And The Balance Within
Listen Now (real Audio 53:00)

Speaking of Faith says about this show:
"The American experience of stress has spawned a multi-billion dollar self-help industry. Wary of this, Sternberg says that, until recently, modern science did not have the tools or the inclination to take emotional stress seriously. She shares fascinating new scientific insight into the molecular level of the mind-body connection."

Another show i found helpful was this one with Eckhart Tolle, especially the part where he talks about his idea of "the pain body" which is this almost separate entity which arises in an individual and seems to be the accumulation of years of painful memories and emotions which influences how we react to the events in the present moment.

The Power of Eckhart Tolle's Now
Listen now (Real Audio 53:09)

Of this show, Speaking of Faith's website says:
"Host Krista Tippett creates a certain kind of space in her interviews, and this conversation is no exception. Tolle shares his youthful experience of depression and despair — suffering that led him to his own spiritual breakthrough, and ultimately, freedom and peace of mind. He also explicates his view of what he calls "the pain body" — the accumulated emotional pain that may influence us and our relationships in negative ways. And Tolle talks about spirit and God, and what those concepts mean to him."

Listening to these shows back to back really gave me a picture and a feeling of hope and understanding about the issues and challenges facing many people in my life. I would be remiss if i didn't share these with you. I find that this information goes beyond a clinical doctors statement or a pharmaceutical commercial about depression and instead gives the personal insights of very well spoken, contemporary spiritual people about the experience and challenge as well as the meaning and healing that can be found through this experience of human soul.

Thic Nhat Hahn on Peace and its Effects on the Economy

"The value of a dollar is made up of the collective thinking of people, not just objective economic elements. People's fears, desires, and expectations make the dollar go up and go down. We are all influenced by the collective ways of seeing and thinking. That's why selecting the people you're around is very important. It's very important to surround yourself with people who have loving kindness, understanding, and compassion, because day and night we are influenced by the collective consciousness."

~Thich Nhat Hanh~

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Wise Shape their Lives Quote

"As an irrigator guides water to his fields, as an archer aims an arrow, as a carpenter carves wood, the wise shape their lives."


Patanjali Peace Quote

"When a person is established in non-violence, those in his vicinity cease to feel hostility."

~ Patanjali ~

Patanjali, in the third century B.C. (or in the A.D. 400s according to various scholars) compiled from earl;ier oral traditions a fundamental document describing the eight "limbs" of yoga.

It contains the following steps for achieving spiritual liberation:

1. Yama, the restraint of bad habits
2. Niyama, the cultivation of good habits in one's daily life
3. Asana, the adoption of steady and comfortable postures with specific physiological effects
4. Pranayama, special breathing exercises
5. Pratyahara, withdrawing the mind from objects of sensory perception, as in meditation
6. Dharana, concentration on selected objects
7. Dhyana, steady contemplation in which the sense of separateness of the self from the object of concentration disappears
8. Samadhi, the absolute, ecstatic experience of mystical unity with all of creation.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dorothy Thompson Peace Quotes

"Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict -- alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence."

"Peace has to be created, in order to be maintained. It is the product of Faith, Strength, Energy, Will, Sympathy, Justice, Imagination, and the triumph of principle. It will never be achieved by passivity and quietism."

-Dorothy Thompson

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A quote for Thursday

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

-Albert Einstein

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Seane Corn Speaking About Yoga's Therapeutic Benefits For Those Suffering From OCD

On Krista Tippets Website Speaking Of Faith, I ran across this interview with Yoga teacher Seane Corn.

Seane Corn teaches yoga at the Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, California. She is the National Yoga Ambassador for YouthAIDS, and co-founder of "Off the Mat, Into the World."

She grew up in New Jersey and from the age of 11, she had suffered from an undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder. In the interview she explains how the practicalities and power of yoga is a healing force for in dealing with her OCD and helps her face the darkness within herself and the world.

The following excerpts are from the interview with Krista Tippett, a link below will take you to her website where you can listen to the full interview.

Ms. Corn: "When I was around 19 was the first time that a doctor had explained to me what it is that I had. Before then, I thought it was an interesting quirk. So did my family. I was obsessed with even numbers: four and eight. And I'd have to touch things in certain numbers: blink, swallow. If I walked into a wall, I'd have to walk in on the other side. And depending on my anxiety level, my obsession for balance became greater or less than. And it was also very much associated with death. I always felt that if I did things in certain numbers, I could prevent the death or dying of somebody around me that I loved. So by keeping my world in order, I can control bad things from happening. This wasn't conscious; I figured this out way later. It was just an interesting little survival skill that a kid out of balance created."

Ms. Tippett: "Yeah. I mean, it's kind of interesting, interesting only because you found such healing. That yoga is, I mean, one element of yoga is about balance and in fact you had this disordered relationship, this very compulsive, anxious pursuit of balance in that disease."

Ms. Corn: "Well, I didn't know how bad my OCD was until my first yoga class."

Ms. Tippett: "Really?"

Ms. Corn: "Because I remember being in one of my first downward dogs and I looked at my hands and I noticed that one hand was a fraction of an inch further forward than the other, yet my shoulders were balanced. And I didn't understand, how do I get my hands to match but then my shoulders would be out of balance. And my heart started to race and I was, for the first time, really critically aware that both sides of the body aren't exactly the same. And the teacher said something in that class that was really life-changing for me. He said, "Breathe and everything changes." And what that meant for me was that as the anxiety came up, which it was, because I couldn't get my body in the right alignment, I just kept breathing deeply. And it was a sensation. Anxiety is a feeling. It's a sensation within the body. The deeper I breathed the more that started to pass, and it just became something else. And I thought, "Wow. I wonder if when anxiety shows up in my life if I can actually do the same thing, if I can just stay present and breathe and trust that it will change."

"The first time that yoga had a real impact on me was I was still living in New York. I remember the day. It was snowing. I had just finished a yoga class, and I was walking back to my apartment. And I had this really weird feeling in my heart, in my body, and everything. And I stopped because I was trying to identify, like, what it was that I was feeling. And I realized that I was happy. And, I mean, it was such an odd moment because I was young, prior to that class I was confused. I was with a guy at the time; I didn't know if I should stay with him, if I should move to L.A. You know, like any young person, I was just in the middle of my own little personal drama and basically lived each day thriving on that drama and was pretty miserable. I just had this sense that everything was unfolding, that I was in something that was bigger than I could possibly define. It was just such an odd little moment, and I thought to myself, "What was different? What changed?" And the only thing that was different was the fact that I took this yoga class. The seeds had been planted; it just hadn't awoken, and for whatever reason, that day I was ready to receive it."

Link to listen to the full interview:

To access the Speaking Of Faith website, go to:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thic Naht Hahn speaking about Mindfulness

. . . he starts with noticing the blue sky, always a good place to start if you ask me.
I hope you enjoy this.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Simple Sunday Thoughts

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
there is rapture on the lonely shore

There is society where none intrudes
by the deep sea, and music in it's roar.

-Lord Byron
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tending The Flow

Calmness of mind does not mean you should stop your activity.
Real calmness should be found in activity itself.

-Shunryu Suzuki
zen mind, beginners mind

I have been working on integrating my mindfulness meditation into my active day, into my life. It is very good for me to make the time to meditate, to set that time aside to be silent and still; to breathe and be with my thoughts.

But one thing that i have learned is that this calmness, this still point, this serenity needs to be brought into my daily activities. My first conscious encounters with this were during my time with the Wet Mountain Sangha, a group of Zen Buddhists who met once or twice a week to meditate. At the Wet Mountain Sangha there was sitting meditation, chanting, reading of inspirational works and discussions, even a book study group.

But what i enjoyed most beyond the sitting was the walking meditation. It was this small integration of an activity between twenty minute sitting periods where i learned to carry the stillness, the mindfulness into an activity.

Years later i am still working on integrating the serenity i achieve in my sitting meditation into my daily activities. This helps a lot with anxieties which arise in the mind.

Often when doing something, performing a task or duty, we expect an immediate result. I know myself fairly well these days and i know that i am someone who enjoys a sense of closure, a sense of accomplishment. I do not like jobs with no end in sight necessarily, i prefer work where when i am done working something is repaired or finished, created, healed or resolved. However, like mindfulness, some things in life are never finished, they are a process or a practice.

Some things are obvious, like eating or sleeping. Or, take the brushing of your teeth, once they are brushed, they must be brushed again soon and regularly.

But then there are other things which simply must be done and no immediate result is in sight, things which take patience. As a gardener i know that this is the case with growing vegetables. I can plant a seed, but its growth to maturity must be monitored and it must be cared for and its needs attended to. In this way, gardening is a long process, a continual flow which even continues into the winter with cover crops, and is extended to mulching and composting, the slow activities of worms and chickens as they contribute to the rich fertility of the soil.

Something i have struggled with for years is financial gain; the work to acquire money in a timely fashion. I have learned to slowly loosen this ideas grip on my emotional well being. When i was doing a lot of landscaping jobs, often the work would be completed for weeks before i ever saw payment. At times i felt that i was just working and not getting paid because of the time between the two events, and i often found this frustrating. I have come to see that my daily work, no matter what it is i need to do that day is all part of the flow of the abundance in my life.

David Skul, a friend and mentor of mine, refers to this as "tending the flow." I love that phrase, "tending the flow." I find that it comes to mind often when i begin to worry about the amount of work or time i am putting into a piece of jewelry or the writing of an article or a piece for my blog. Worries about "wasting time" arise but when i answer that thought with faith that abundance is on the way and give it room and time to grow and fruit in its own time, i realize that i am simply tending the flow.

It is much like gardening. I may go out, pull weeds, and water my garden, but there may not be any tomatoes that day.

I feed my chickens everyday whether they give me an egg or not. I am simply tending the flow. I am simply living and going about the business of life. I am being alive, doing what i have chosen to do in my life.

I recently ran across a quote by Nelson Henderson printed on a box of tea. It is a quote which added another dimension or level to my idea of tending the flow. It deepened the idea, or rather, it deepened my understanding of the flow i am tending.

"The true meaning of life
is to plant trees,
under whose shade
you do not expect to sit."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Mind Follows Love

Sri Sri Ravishankar of Art of Living Foundation
talks about love and the mind's attraction to it.

Below is the link to The Art of Living Foundation's YouTube site with other videos:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Remember That Beautiful Photo of Earth?

First there was that one from the moon, "earthrise" it was called, then came the beautiful whole earth photo from the Hubble telescope, the first time we could see our beautiful gem as a whole planet lit up and floating in space.

The European Space Agency (ESA) just released this computer generated impression of the approximate 12,000 known pieces of space junk and objects now orbiting around our beautiful gem of a planet.

This is amazing, astounding . . . and sad. It's hard to imagine what we have done to things. Reminds me of that old commercial of the Native American on his horse looking at all the pollution and a tear running down his cheek that was on tv when i was a kid.

I always cried along with him, and i still do . . . mostly on the inside.

Check out the image at the below link

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Raspberry Jam

Mmmmmm . . . Raspberry Jam! I love it. I love strawberry Jam too. Let's face it i like jam.

There's nothing quite as joyful as opening a jar of raspberry jam on a cold, snowy winter day. Although opening a jar of garden tomatoes you canned last summer's end and thawing out some green chilies roasted and frozen that same weekend might rival the jam.

Once the jar of jam is opened, the scent alone reminds me of the fresh fruit, and the color(!) oh my, such a deep rich red the kind of red you just don't see in Colorado during the winter months. No, not red. Brown? Yes. Gray? Yes. White? You betcha! But red? No, not so much. Maybe left over Christmas ornaments, or perhaps ones cheeks or nose from being outside, but that's about it.

Oh, and this color remind me of other berries, strawberries especially; and roses and ruby-throated hummingbirds, and the little heads of the finches which nest in my porch light.

It's good to think of these things, to remember the joys of hearty Summer whilst deep in the throes of Old Man Winter.

These simple things we do, spreading jam on toast for breakfast or making our children's lunch for school can be moments to remind one to be mindful. We can take the time to think about the jam we are spreading. What is this glorious stuff full of seeds with their potential for more life and fruit bearing (well, maybe not after the canning process . . . but maybe if it's freezer jam). It is clearly more than the jam, it is not simply jam that is to say, for nothing is self arising. It is so much more than just jam.

Think of the rainwater that went into growing the plant and it's berries, and all that sunshine being turned into sugars by these miraculous plants. And what of the clouds in the great sky that brought that rain, and the ocean it came from and all the weather it brought to others on its way from there to here. What about the dirty hands of the gardener who pruned last years raspberry canes and planted the seeds or the root seedlings. And there's the soil, and the compost and leaf mulch which made it and the worms which enriched and aerated it. When you look at the jam can you see the rain and the soil, the gardener and the garden; can you see the sun, the weather and the worm.

No, this is clearly much more than simply jam, this is part of the endless process of life. Perhaps jam represents a still point moment in the planets water cycle. Perhaps it is the worms' pinnacle altruistic achievement.

How She Knew

and her children grew
since crying from birth,
to make their own wombs,
harvest fruit from the earth

that pollen from flowers
of daisies fed bees;
both laughter and hours
heal badly scraped knees

kites that she flew,
once tethered by string,
now nesting in trees
for birds on the wing

that's how she knew,
in no uncertain terms
that god loved earth,
the circle, the worms

-David A. Martin

Saturday, February 14, 2009

All We Need Is Love

"Imagine" may be my favorite song by John Lennon; it envisions a world created from our best intentions, where the brotherhood of mankind is healthy and harmonious . "All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance" really clarifies the method of moving toward that vision. But "All We Need Is Love" gives us something the one thing by which we can measure and temper each moments intentions, actions and perception.

When we act in this world we can do so from a place of love. When we move through our day we can practice viewing all that comes to us, even the challenges, as an expression of this life's love for us. When we are about to act out from our emotions or are considering how to act in a certain situation, we can quickly ask ourselves, "Am i doing this out of Love?" Often when acting without mindfulness, when we are just playing those same old response tapes instead of consciously and purposefully acting in the moment we often are acting out of habit. Other times we may be acting from quite base emotions. Often when we are angered it is due to ignorance or greed. Even the way we feel about things is often based in greed, or ignorance but our third option is love.

If we are mindful and awake in the present, in tune with the true nature of the moment and are seeing things as they are instead of how we wish they were, we find that responding from a place of love becomes quite a bit easier. It becomes easier to see that love is all around you. Everything is an expression of this vast universe's love and nurturance of you. The universe seeking to increase life and expand toward greater and infinite expression of itself. And we are all parts of that one great self.

So, then one can see that the sun rises each day. That is love. The rain which falls, that is love. It can nourish the forests and our lawns, fill our birdbaths; or it may flood things and overcome the temporary structure of things as they were yesterday, washing old things away to start new life and new forms of expression.

The universe is an artist, creating order from chaos, mixing and arranging various single things into a pattern which becomes a new and unified larger thing. It is always working on the big picture. And just like a painter, sometimes things are only sketches of ideas, somethings are painted over; parts are carved away from the block or the stone to reveal something inside, a vision . . .

. . . but i digress.

It is more than a feeling.
It is a way of life. It is a mode of thinking. It is a knowing. It is a decision making criterion. It can be what we do, why we do it, how we do it and who we are.

"Winter rain, now tell me why
Summers fade and roses die,
the answer came, the wind and rain."

-Bob Weir, Erik Anderson

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Parenting for Peace

"A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes."
-Mahatma Gandhi

This morning my daughter and i were sitting in the lobby of the hotel we were staying at in Denver My wife was still sleeping and we decided to relax in the lobby and let her sleep. I had brought a book (as always) for just a moment when i could get a little further in my reading, but my daughter hadn't brought one on this short trip. I had brought a new book i checked out of the library called PEACE: The Words and Inspirations of Mahatma Gandhi with me as well as the novel I was reading, and handed it over to her.

I ran through the elements ofthe book quickly to map out its territory for her in a shorthand fashion . . .

"This is an introduction by Archbishop Desmond Tutu regarding a central tenent of his culture and tradition called "ubuntu" which is a "me/we" kind of expression, in short, "if i diminish you, i diminish myself" . . . "

"This is several pages about the life of Gandhi . . . "

"And this is a section of quotes by him, most are short and to the point, some are longer . . . so there, you can dip into whatever part you want."

I showed her an example of one page with large lettered words . . .


I asked her if she had ever heard of that saying before, the eye for an eye one. She said she hadn't. I felt it was important for her to hear it and understand what it meant, and that it was a non-peaceful way of thinking. That it was a vengeful or retaliatory way of thinking . . . an example i used was the old, " . . . but, he hit me first" exuse.

She got the pisture.

I then ran across the saying quoted above, "A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes." and realized, that my daughter had never heard the saying about an eye for an eye and so it was not part of her cognitive map . . . but neither was this saying by Gandhi which is a response and remedy to the other saying.

I was made aware once more of the importance of teaching our children our wisdoms, of giving them the sayings and tools to think about this world. Education gives people options, different ways to think about things, opens up possibilities.

In this case, it opens up the possibilities of reflecting back on this saying of Ghandi when issues arise in ones life.

It opens up the possibilities for peace.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A U.S.Department of Peace Moves up on the National Agenda

Dennis Kucinich posted this today.

Dept of Peace finishes in 2nd place on poll of "Ideas for Change in America"!

Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 10:38pm
Your efforts have resulted in a wonderful victory - a resounding call for peace building and non-violence to be a priority in our domestic and international policies. As one of the top 10 ideas, the Department of Peace and Non-Violence will be presented to the Obama administration and a formal nonprofit sponsor will be selected to help create a nationwide movement to lobby the administration and Congress to turn it into policy. In addition, it will be promoted by MySpace and dozens of other partner organizations, reaching millions of Americans!
We have demonstrated Strength Through Peace!

To learn more about the Department of Peace and Non-Violence, please visit:

Thank you!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Islamic Sufi Wisdom for All

In my spiritual explorations and studies, i have found that there are many levels of understanding to be found in all religions. All religions have brothers and sisters who are spiritually undeveloped and whose religious zealotry often manifests as the violent treatment of others. It is unfortunate that these few bad apples seem to ruin peoples notions of the whole barrel.

Depending on ones media culture, religion and country, one may have a very poor opinion of those of other religions. In non-Islamic countries, Islam has come to be mistakenly seen as a violent and hateful religion, a religion of intolerance and self-righteousness. We in the west understand that the often oppressive Taliban regime were Islamic, and we in the west hear everyday of the resistance organizations who attest to being agents of Islam and engage in horrible acts of violence.

However, we would be mistaken to allow these people and these current events portrayed by the sensation loving media to create for us our understanding of Islam and the huge portion of the earths population for whom Islam is the religion of choice. Could it be possible that all these millions of people are hateful and violent, that they all believe in war, that they all hate everyone else.

No, this has not been my understanding of Islam at all, but i have spent time exploring its wisdom paths and poetry. The poetry of Persia has long been understood to be some of the most spiritual and moving poetry in the history of literature. It was through this doorway that i discovered Islam and have found much wisdom in the gardens of verse planted by Rumi and others.

WWe must listen to the more spiritually developed teachers and versions of religions. Religions, like all things change. Religions are the conversations we are having about what it means to be human and about our relationship God, with life, with the universe and what our highest principals are. Like the Constitution of the United States, it is an ideal we strive for, that we may not have reached yet, but that we believe in attaining. As our understanding of the world and ourselves increases and becomes less vague, so do our religions. But many of our highest ideals were encapsulated in our earliest philosophies and earliest versions of many religions.

The Sufi order of Islam believes that it is possible to draw closer to God and to more fully embrace the Divine Presence right now, in this life, in this very moment. Sufis seek to restore within themselves the primordial state of fitra, described in the Qur'an which is simillar to the concept of "Buddha Nature." In achieving this state, the sufi abandons all notions of dualism, including the concept of an individual self, and instead realizes a divine oneness.s.

I recently ran across a final discourse of Kwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti, known more popularly as Hazrat Khuaja, a renowned teacher of Sufi Islam who was born in 536 AD. Khwaja or Khuaja is a title meaning "Master of Wisdom." I found it to resonate with a spirituality in tune with high spiritual development and humanitarian heart. These words were spoken just before his death and was his last advice to his followers about their ideal conduct:

Love all and hate none.
Mere talk of peace will avail you naught.

Mere talk of God and religion will not take you far.
Bring out all the latent powers of your being and
reveal the full magnificence of your immortal self.

Be overflowing with peace and joy,
and scatter them wherever you are
and wherever you go.

Be a blazing fire of truth,
be a beauteous blossom of love
and be a soothing balm of peace.

With your spiritual light, dispel the darkness of ignorance;
dissolve the clouds of discord and war and spread goodwill,
peace, and harmony among the people.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mindfulness and the Inner Garden

There is a saying with many versions which goes something like this:

"What you think about, you become."

Much has been written lately about the variants of this saying and it's variety of meanings to a variety of people. It is an important thing to realize when working with intention or visualization, and many people have seen great change come about in their lives through positive thinking and visualization.

Part of this personal work being done by so many these days has a direct connection to mindfulness. These people are paying attention to what their minds have been thinking for so long, all the negative and pessimistic theories of the future, all the poor perspective of the past and all the hopeless thoughts about the present and realizing that they were creating a lot of it.

Of course there are those who will say that there really were bad things going on in their lives. To them i would have to respond by saying that we should be careful to judge things because so much good comes of what we initially see as bad. Often, one will find that one was simply focusing only on what they perceived as the negative affects events had on their lives. They were ignoring all the doors that opened, the people they met, the strength and wisdom they gained.

For the most part we often get into a rut with our thinking. This is a habit where we are no longer consciously thinking fresh new thoughts about current events, but rather responding to these events by just playing old tapes. Old recordings of the same old thoughts about things, the same old fears and jaded pessimism. And so at times, our lives become like a record that is skipping, repeating the same thing over and over. Running over the same old ground, not really learning our lessons and moving in a new direction, but repeating the responses we had in the past to the things of the present and usually finding ourselves in the same predicament.

But it is easy to see that when we dwell on the things we fear about our lives, we are actually dwelling in those fears. Living inside those thoughts. They are like warped glass bubbles we surround ourselves with and observe the world through. We won't have a clear vision when we do this.

Mindfulness practice is a good way to exercise the minds ability to think consciously. It is not a lazy way of thinking or an avoidance of life's issues, it is rather a very active way of thinking and connecting to the moment. It helps us to recognize when we are playing tapes, and then we can nip it in the bud sooner.

I found that this was important when i began working on my life's intentions. First, i had to stop thinking all the negative thoughts i was having about all sorts of things. Work, relationships, money, recreational time . . . you name it. I hadn't realized how pessimistic and grumpy i had become. When i realized this negative influence in my life, i knew it wasn't aligned with my intentions of living a happy life. I could no longer blame events in my life (or other people for that matter) for my unhappiness. My emotions are my responsibility. They are things i can work on within myself.

I began to think of it in gardening terms. I realized that i was growing a lot of things in my garden that i didn't want to grow. But those were the things i was paying attention to, watering and feeding everyday, and so, they thrived. Meanwhile all the goodies, all the juicy, meaty tomatoes i so desired were languishing with my neglect.

It was time to reconsider my gardening practices and make some changes. Pull those weeds out and keep pulling them out as new ones popped up. Pull them out when they were small instead of waiting till they were well rooted and using up all the water and soil and shading out the good plants.

As a gardener with experience in farming and greenhouse work, this analogy made a lot of sense to me. I found a lot of fertile metaphors that related to my inner garden easily. So if you are a gardener this may be useful to you as a way of thinking about what things are growing in your garden.

I'm sure that no matter what type of work or craft we do we can probably apply it's language to our observations of ourselves. We can find a way of understanding ourselves if we think about our inner processes in the same manner as the processes we do everyday in our work or hobbies.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Meditation, Beauty and Gratitude

The connection between mindfulness meditation and gratitude.

Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, on ecan awaken to the beauty of life which is, in itself, a direct path to gratitude.

When we practice sitting silently with our thoughts, one of the first hurdles we must face is to have compassion on ourselves. This sitting and stillness is no easy task. However, there is no need to force any of this.

Oh, i do not mean that we may need to force ourselves a bit into setting aside time for practice regularly and then to actually sit in meditation. Like any life change we wish to cultivate, it takes quite a bit of intention and determination.

The body will speak of its discomfort and this is important to pay attention to. One should find a position to practice in which is comfortable. Sitting, lying, it doesn't necessarilly matter, it is the state of mind we are paying attention to.

Watch your thinking. Watch what you are thinking about. You may find you are thinking about your shoes, or what you are going to say to so and so about such and such, the dog barking outside, or perhaps the wind or a bird or a memory. We do not need to shut off our thoughts about things, but to be mindfull of the thoughts. They may or may not be important, and at times we may want to examine why we are thinking such thoughts. We can follow such thoughts with the inquiry as to why each thought arises.

So, in not trying to change our thinking, we can see why certain thoughts arise in your mind so that we begin to understand the meaning of every thought and feeling. We can use this time to learn about ourselves instead of simply being our sleepwalking selves.

In this way we begin to have a perception, a consciousness which is active in seeing every kind of thought, every kind of feeling. The mind or our awareness awakens and becomes extraordinarily subtle, alive. No part of the mind is asleep. The mind is completely awake.

That is merely the foundation.

When the mind is very quiet one's whole being becomes very still. And in this stillness we can see things as they are. Not how they could be, not how they should be, but how they are.

Meditation is not sitting in a corner with our eyes closed, or repeating a lot of words or to think of a scene and go into some wild, fantastical imaginings.

To understand the whole process of your thinking and feeling is to be free from all thought and feeling. Not to say that thoughts and feelings aren't there, but there becomes a distinct separation between being your awakened awareness and being those thoughts or feelings. When we are free from identifying our selves with those thoughts or defining our self by those feelings, the mind becomes very quiet. One's whole being becomes very quiet.

This still point, this quietness is an important part of life. Within that quietness, you can look at the tree, you can look at other people, you can look at the sky and the stars.

This is, then, the awakening to the beauty of life.

To be able to see the beauty of life is the first step toward gratitude. When we are grateful for life and can appreciate it, its subtle workings, it's magical mystery, it's blessings we become consciously connected to life.

The beauty of life. We can see it in a new way. the way it is. With all its serendipitous connections and manifestations; from what we see as complex to the wonderment of what the sleeping mind sees as simple or ordinary.

Take trees for instance. They are around us all the time near us, lining our city streets, populating our parks, far away in the mountains. We see them, at times even pay them some attention, but how often do we really see them for what they truly are.

Take the simple fact that trees are green. This may seem simple, something which we don't think is all that extraordinary in our daily lives. But trees are not simply green, they are green because of photosynthesis. Trees are using solar energy. They are in fact turning sunlight into sugar.

Humans think very highly about themselves and their mechanistic and industrial accomplishments, and granted, these are great feats for mammals such as ourselves. But a tree, now there is an amazing being which is silently and through stillness turning sunlight into sugar. Humans have nothing like this. No machine created by man can turn sunlight into sugar.

So, to be grateful for the trees and to see them as amazing and mysterious forms of life's beauty is a good and humbling thing.

The beauty and magic of life can be found everywhere, for it is happening all around us.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snow Falling on Silence

Another snowy gray day. Even though it's winter, southern Colorado usually has blue skies, even if it's only twenty degrees out. But not today, today the skies are gray and what started as minute snow has grown larger and it's coming down more heavily.

A snowy day can be a real good day to take a moment for introspection. The naturally slow pace of the falling flakes can give the moment a noticeable calm.

Check the stress levels, how is the mind doing? What is it doing?
Does it's pace and content match the falling snow?

One day at a time, one thought at a time, one flake at a time.
And between each thought and between each flake, what is there?

Can you take a few moments to just sit or stand, watch the snow fall, and listen to the peaceful space between the flakes?

Snowfall can be a metaphor for our inner journey, the thought processes in our mental environment, which is, for most of the day, the inner dialogue we have with ourselves.

Marina Raye is a musician who draws from her inspiration from her deep love for the earth. She has a strong vision about the awakening of peace in every heart. In the notes for her album Snow Falling on Silence she references a small story by Kurt Kauter about the conversation between a sparrow and a wild dove.

In this story the sparrow asks the dove what the weight of a snowflake is. The dove's reply is "nothing more then nothing." The Sparrow then tells the dove that it had been counting the flakes of snow settling on a the twigs and needles of its branch. Everything was fine when flake number 3,744,952 settled on the branch, but when the next flake, flake 3,744,953 landed the branch broke.

The dove thought about this for awhile and then said, "Perhaps there is only one person's voice lacking for peace to come about in the world."

So this fable is a kind of twist on the old "straw that broke the camels back", or perhaps "the hundredth monkey". If we cultivate serenity and space in our moments, we can realize peace in our lives instead of each thing we react to being "the last straw." In this way we can be one more entity experienceing peace on the planet, adding to the ever growing number of people having the same realization in their lives.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Meditating anywhere

Sometimes, setting regular time aside to meditate is not such an easy thing to do. Once out of the routine other habits of my daily schedule can take over and become the new way i start my day, unfortunately devoid of my mindful moments.

However, i have found that life presents many moments which can be used as triggers to remind me to meditate and as well as actually providing me small blocks of time to practice.

Delays in traffic due to congestion or accidents can at first seem like irritating delays, but i have been finding that these are perfect moments to just sit and be mindful of my thoughts, allowing myself to cultivate serenity and gratitude instead of dwelling in impatient thoughts or being filled with resentment and anger at the circumstances life has brought to me. Those circumstances can be what i make of; moments for clarity, a return to mindful serenity.

What’s the difference? The situations are the same. The need to arrive at my destination in a timely and punctual manner is the same.

It is the frame of mind. It is my perception.

Consciously deciding to remain a calm center, a serene traveler. This allows me to respond to the traffic jam and that guy who is trying to edge in from the other lane from a place of peace instead of irritation and anger.

I smile and wave and let him in. I hope he is mindful that for that moment he was living in an enlightened society of peaceful people. I hope i made his day better.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I have struggled to maintain a regular meditation practice for years. I have found that when i do meditate regularly, my stress levels go way down, my immunity goes way up and that i am generally in an even-keeled state of well being.

The form of meditation i use is mindfulness meditation which is simply sitting and paying attention to my posture, my breathing and my thoughts. I like the Zen master Dogens word for it shikantaza or "just sitting."

I would like to point out that "just sitting" is not as easy as it might sound.

Have you ever tried to just sit?

The first thing that will happen is that thoughts will start popping up. I don't mean that you will begin to think things, for if you pay attention you will notice that thoughts simply arise.

Like bubbles up from a stagnant pond.

In more ways than one.

No, you will find that when you sit and are mindful of what is going on in your land of thoughts you will find that often you are not really thinking your thoughts they are simply arising unbidden from the bio-machinery of your mind.

At this point of noticing, i acknowledge the thought, decide if its anything i should pay attention to (such as the smell of smoke in my home) or not (a moment in kindergarten i suddenly and without prompting recall) and then, since 99.99 per cent of the time it is an unimportant thought, i turn my attention back to my posture and my breathing. These strangely unbidden thoughts, like pop-up ads on the screen of an infected computer, are pesky and will pester the meditating person often.

I find that counting the breaths is a useful tool, it is a simple form of attention or focus which is not something one needs to attach himself to very deeply. Breathe in (one) and breathe out (two), breathe in (three) and breathe out (four).

It is simple.

There is no mystery here, no drama, nothing of interest to distract one from ones intention to just sit.

When a thought arises i simply return to my breathing count. Sometimes i realize i have been entertaining some long train of thought and i have no idea where i left off.

The train doesn't have to be very long for this to occur, so nipping it in the bud is wise advice.

As ones meditation practice matures it often becomes easier and easier to catch these thoughts sooner and sooner. However, as i said, i have struggled to maintain a healthy meditation practice and i have found this affects my ability to meditate when i do get around to attempting it again.

This reminds me of the saying "Zen mind, beginners mind." which implies that the mind is something we all have to deal with no matter how long we have been meditating. Meditation is not an activity with a goal in mind, there is no "end result" it is simply a practice. An ongoing practice, like our other practices of sleeping and eating.

One does not get good at eating and finally arrives at the point where we no longer need to engage in the practice of eating.

It's the same for sleeping.

I find that meditating cultivates a healthy sense of serenity in my life. A place from which i can respond to life in a level headed and peaceful manner instead of habitually reacting to events in my life as though they were the last straw, you know, the one that broke the camels back.