Like an animal in the forest

“Meditation does not have to be hard labor. Just allow your body and mind to rest like an animal in the forest.” – from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

Charles-François Daubigny, Deer (Les Cerfs), 1862, National Gallery of Art

Allow yourself to be happy

The ocean of suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see the land. The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy. When one tree in the garden is sick, you have to care for it. But don’t overlook all the healthy trees.

Mary Cassatt, Under the Horse-Chestnut Tree, 1895, National Gallery of Art

Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life–the beautiful sunset, the smile of a child, the many flowers and trees. To suffer is not enough. Please don’t be imprisoned by your suffering.

from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

Words of wisdom

Sunday I spent in retreat with D.C.’s All Beings sangha at Woodburn Hill Farm in beautiful St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Seventeen of us enjoyed a special visit from Dairyu Michael Wenger Roshi. We studied the poem the “Hsin Hsin Ming” by Seng-T’san, in a translation Dairyu’s working on.

Dairyu Michael Wenger. Not only does he look cool and has a sense of humor, his voice sounds raspy  as Voight’s on “Chicago P.D.” lending  special power to every syllable.

Michael moved to California in the 1960s to climb mountains. He met Suzuki Roshi, stayed on to study at San Francisco Zen Center and became ordained in the tradition.

St. Mary's County, Maryland
St. Mary’s County, Maryland in April

Highlights from Dairyu’s teachings:

  1. Everything in the world is happening all at once.”
  2. “Don’t confuse opinions with the person.”
  3. “There’s no distinction between thinking and feeling.” Allow head and heart to align.
  4. Be aware that the language of psychology influences the interpretation and translation of Buddhism in the West and the language of Taoism influences Buddhism in China.
  5. Be aware of the limitations of words. See number 3.

 

Woodburn Hill Farm
Woodburn Hill Farm. We sat on the second floor.

More that I’m pondering after the day:

  • Be aware of what are habits and what are choices. Yoga is great for disclosing habits in posture and behavior.
  • Forms help us recognize habits. That means the ritual of any ceremony, and yoga asana practice has qualities of ceremony, show us when and how we are or are not in alignment with our values and with our bodies.
  • Inclusiveness. Retreat participants included people who identify as Catholic, Muslim, Episcopalian, Jewish, agnostic, atheist, Democrat, Republican, male, female, retired person, activist, and more. (I know this because our discussion did not shy away from politics!) This circles back to number 2.
  • Mindfulness practice is a step along the meditation path and falls away. I have found this to be true. I’ll share more in my classes and on the blog.
  • Buddhism in America has too much head and needs more heart. Let us open our hearts.
  • Suzuki Roshi, Dairyu told us, said upon raising a cup, “I drink the whole universe with this tea.” See number 1.

Just let things be in their own way

and there will be neither coming nor going.

Obey the nature of all things (your own nature)

and you will walk freely and undistributed.

-from “Hsin Hsin Ming”

I’ve met a few people within whose presence I felt flashes of wisdom. Father Bob Tsu, of St. Anselm’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Calif., who (I am so grateful!) married my husband and me in 1992; Father John Talbott of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., yoga teachers Mary Paffard and Richard Rosen, some professors, some writers and musicians, and strangers.

These are people who walk the talk, often forsaking renown to tend their garden of ideas.

As Dairyu said, quoting Thich Nhat Hanh, “We need more Zen corners, not Zen centers.” I agree. Small, simple places.

If you are at all interested in meditation or Buddhist philosophy, I recommend All Beings in D.C., led by Inryu Bobbi Ponce-Barger. She shared some of her words of wisdom for an article on stillness.

If you’re in the Harpers Ferry neighborhood, I hope you’ll stop by and practice yoga with me, share your thoughts or just take a moment to breathe. If you’re in D.C., consider arranging private yoga lessons, and we’ll form, as one student put it, “a sangha of two.”

a small space for simple, joyful yoga
a small space for simple, joyful yoga in Harpers Ferry

 

simple, joyful reading

What is simple and joyful?

Finding good books in unexpected places. Such discoveries often mean reading something one wouldn’t typically open.

Tucker chooses to walk the alleyways of our Cleveland Park neighborhood. Last week, one block off Cathedral Avenue, we found a grown-up height Little Free Library. Inside, Kitty Sewell’s delicious thriller, Bloodprint. Curled up with it during this weekend’s “Snowzilla.”

dolphin in snow
Saturday’s view through my apartment window.

A colorful reading diet is as nourishing as a colorful plate of food. It’s about balance.

In addition to the guacamole of thrillers, the minestrone soup of Joy Williams, the shepherd’s pie of the poems of Charles Wright, I’m chewing my way through the steel cut oats of Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. (I’ve renewed the book from the library three times.) A taste from a wise one:

The living Dharma is not just a library of sutra books or audio or videocassettes of inspiring Dharma talks. When I see you walking mindfully in peace and joy, a deep presence is also awakened in me….When you take good care of yourself, your brothers, and your sisters, I recognize the living Dharma.

A coverless book is the potluck canapé surprise.

A couple of weeks ago, when the weather was warm, among loads of paperback sidewalk give-aways on the neighborhood library’s rolling metal shelves, I found Next Stop Gretna by Belinda Dell, a Harlequin Romance published in Canada in 1970. This red-rimmed paperback somehow survived the rubbish bin.

belindadell

Here’s my favorite sentence.

A smell of excellent coffee pervaded the atmosphere.

The raciest scene is on the second-to-last page and includes the word “deliquesce.” And,

A sensation like vertigo seized her; she felt as if she were adrift in a strange, multicolored cloud, frightened and yet filled with delight.

This sounds a bit like yoga!

Anyway, it’s a fun read and fun is good.

Last line:

People in love take no notice of trivialities.

Nor do people who love to read!

Who has snacked on crackers and peanut butter for dinner while finishing a good yarn?

Or looked up from the page to notice it’s dusk already?

Happy reading these winter nights and days! Dine well.

 

 

(Mindful) Morning!

Pleased to have “Make It a Mindful Morning” published in today’s

WITHIN OUR MORNINGS, there are moments as expansive as giant soap bubbles we could step into and inhabit. This is mindfulness: that intentional “stepping into” the current of right now, with curiosity, without judgment.

Why bother with mindfulness? After all, by the time the sun comes up there are cats to feed, coffee to brew, news feeds to read and cereal to chew.

Mindfulness, as defined by the American Psychological Association, is moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. Noticing what’s happening in our mind and body, as it’s happening, appears to offer a host of benefits from greater relationship satisfaction to increased focus, strengthened immune system and a more functional memory.

Even better, the cat can eat, the coffee can pour and the cereal can be crunched. Routine activities provide the perfect home base for practicing mindfulness.

Reading the news, on the other hand, will have to wait. But after a few mindfulness moments, when you do turn to headlines, chances are you’ll feel more focused. A mindful morning increases the likelihood of continued mindfulness throughout the day.

How do we measure a moment?

Continue reading here.