Categories
Dharma

Screaming Mind and the Love Meditation

The words begin “May I Be…”, and they have been a practice for the past six months. When we reach those places in our meditation practice when nothing seems to work, we can turn toward those actions that are more simple. More basic. This is a place I’ve found myself this year. Sitting meditation went to the wayside. Chanting went to the wayside. Same with Touching the Earth. Asking for help was about all that could be mustered in these moments of difficulty. 

When speaking with my mentors and teachers, each one shared how important it can be to turn toward the body. Body awareness is tactile, real, and evident in virtually everything I do. When I walk, I can walk with awareness. This is a deep meditation. My body is often in motion and so these moments can be an opportunity  to know there is a body present. Legs are there to provide locomotion. Feet are there to touch the earth in each moment. 

And yet, even this most basic practice of being aware of the body and its locomotion can be a challenge in these deserts of practice. When my frustration or distraction arises, as it often does, then if I can bring mindfulness to the moment. This moment is an opportunity to be free. Seeing and touching the movement without judgment. And not to push away the mind with force, but to offer an acknowledgement. Drawing attention to my mind as it screams at me about all my suffering and then learning to calm it with bringing my attention to my body. 

It might only last a minute or five minutes, but that is enough in my relearning to tune the mind and the body. These moments of nuance are guiding me in the practice of mindfulness. A long journey unfolds on this path toward ease and happiness. 

The other practice suggested by my mentors is the Love Meditation. It has been a daily reading practice with my focus on myself throughout this year. The words appear on the page as I read and though I don’t believe they will help, I read them anyway. Slowly and with intention. 

May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit. 
May I be safe and free from injury. 
May I be free from anger, fear, and anxiety.

The first stanza ends with anxiety, a place I know all too well, and it’s easy to get caught by the word as I read it into my mind. As I feel the anxiety present, I turn back to the the word happy earlier in the verse. There is anxiety and there is also happiness. It is possible. 

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love. 
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.

This verse has been really difficult. My criticism and unhappiness for myself has been strong. There is understanding, so the verse says, but I can’t see it. I’ve felt love for myself, but it has been missing. Can it be cultivated by into my consciousness? Sometimes it feels impossible. And yet I read it into my mind each day, hoping and trusting that it may arise again. 

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day. 
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

Here we have advanced practice! For me, I have to embody and hold the first two verses as true and experienced before I can move into this lasting experience. Knowing how to nourish the seeds of joy can be identified. For example, stopping to smile at the ocean before arriving at work. This can be done each workday. But how can it be sustained at other moments in the day? That is the challenge and the practice. 

Pacific Ocean with Fog Bank. Leadbetter Beach, Santa Barbara, CA
Leadbetter Beach, Santa Barbara, CA

During this year while practicing with the Love Meditation, I’ve had to let myself trust that it will work. For many days, I didn’t have faith that reciting these verses would actually help me. But I read them anyway. Allowing the dharma rain to penetrate into me even if I’m always wearing a raincoat. In some form, the words can seep in through the sleeves or around the neck. And if I let them touch me every day, then at some point I’ll be saturated. 

It’s been a good practice. A foundational practice. One that I know is working. Moving me from despair and criticism to gentleness and love. 

The journey continues. 

Categories
Environment

Love Letter to the Earth

nasa-earth-wallpaper-1920x1080_731987765Dear Mother Earth,

I feel you under my feet. The gravity holding me close to you. You are alive with the energy of soil, water, and minerals. I see your children all around – the birds, the snails, the flies, the hens, the coyote, the rat, the orange blossom, the trees, and the mountains. Dear Mother Earth, you are a true wonder. When I look up to the sky, there is the atmosphere protecting us from the dark vastness of space from which you originally came. How is it that you came to be the most beautiful planet in our solar system? The intimacy of our relationship to the atmosphere and the mighty sun is beyond belief. There would be no life here without the atmosphere and the sun.

I recognize that you came from stardust all those billions of years ago and that every single cell and atom arose from you and that one day all will return to you and continue. There is no birth and no death. Even the scientist can see this. There is an interconnection to everything on this planet that goes well beyond any religious belief, political boundary, economic status, or race and gender.

Dear Mother Earth, you have lived so many millions of years without the human, the animal, and the tree. Your cycles do not rely on my being here in this form and that you’re strength and solidity will continue long after I am gone. This body of mine will join with you. And so, we are one body and today in this age we rely upon each other. Interbeing! I am you, dear Mother Earth. The connection has a deep and long history from the beginningless time. There is little difference between your well being and my well being. Taking care of you dear Mother Earth is taking care of me.

Dear Mother Earth, I have not always been so skillful. I have been careless with our resources believing that I will always have everything I need. There are times when I don’t see our deep interconnection, out of ease and convenience, and that to take care of you is to take care of me. Please help me to see beyond my microcosm of the world into the richness of this country, this continent, this hemisphere, this planet. Help me also to see into the animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds so that I might take better care of you dear Mother Earth.

Beyond the sun and atmosphere, water is one of our most precious gifts. Water sustains our lives – animal, plant, and mineral. And it is truly a miracle when I turn on the tap in my house and the water flows. This water comes from deep inside you Mother Earth and arrives to help sustain life. The water we have is good and necessarily. Please help me to see this miracle every day. I vow to take care of this precious gift.

Thank you dear Mother Earth.

I love you.

Categories
Dharma

A Christmas Teaching on Love

It is with joy I discover myself reading about Christ’s two greatest teachings on this Christmas Eve day. The first is to love God with all our heart. If I view this absolute love in a non-dualistic way, this also means to love myself with all my heart. The second teaching is to love your neighbor. To be a bodhisattva, serving all beings, is our true nature and my life practice. Self love and love for others is our vocation.

Can you see absolute love and bodhisattva nature in your life today?

Categories
Buddhism Dharma

Working with our Relationships

Earlier this week I shared in our sangha newsletter a series of questions presented by Thich Nhat Hanh in Hong Kong this past May. He simply read off about 20 questions at the beginning of the Public Talk and invited the listeners to allow them to penetrate into their heart. They weren’t easy questions necessary. Please allow me to share a few of them with you now.

  • Are you in love?
  • Are you still in love?
  • Do you want to reconnect with the person you used to love?
  • Do you have the time for each other or are you both to busy?
  • Do you know how to handle the suffering within yourself?
  • Do you understand your own suffering and the roots of that suffering?
  • Are you able to understand the suffering in the other person?
  • Do you have the time to listen to him or her and help him or her to suffer less?
  • Do you know the Buddhist way of restoring communication and bringing about reconciliation?
  • Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy and happiness for yourself?
  • Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy and happiness?

This doesn’t only need to pertain to our intimate relationships, but can also apply to other important relationships in our lives such as parents, children, friends, etc.

Suffering was the First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha. There is suffering. Suffering isn’t something to be afraid of, to avoid, or to suppress. The question is do we know how to take care of our suffering. More importantly, do we know the goodness of suffering? The goodness of suffering is knowing that we can use our practice to transform the suffering into peace, joy, and happiness. It’s like the compost for the garden. We need to know how to take the garbage and use the compost to grow a beautiful flower or a vegetable garden.

Categories
Buddhism Family Politics

Love, Equal Rights, and Gay Marriage

Today I am struggling. In fact, I have been struggling since before the national election. I don’t understand the opposition to gay marriage and how Proposition 8 passed in California.

Growing up, as a Mennonite, I was taught that love was of the highest nature. I see Christ as a true revolutionary who reached out to the poor, the destitute, and the outcasts and he did so without judgment and with pure love in his heart. In the past, I have written that I am a potential Christian and a practicing Buddhist. Today, after the election season in California, much of my bitterness and unhappiness with my Christian roots have been watered and I am not so positive about this potentiality. This is my struggle today. In fact, it is so powerful that I am experiencing resistance to attending another marriage ceremony between two people who may have voted in favor of Proposition 8. This is difficult.

As a practicing Buddhist, I aim to seek understanding and to have compassion. Writing here I am trying to reach some understanding and compassion for my Christian brothers and sisters who have taken the stand to discriminate against a group of people for their sexuality. I know good Christians, people right here in my town, and they are good people. And yet, they have taken the stand of not embracing, not loving. It seems fundamentally wrong, and in opposition to the teachings of Christ, to not allow two people who love each other the right to join in marriage. When I married Leslie in 1995, we did so to share our love with our friends and family, to give the relationship a bit more sanctity, more seriousness, and make a lifetime commitment. Why wouldn’t we want this for gay couples? Aside from the high divorce rate in marriages, I see nothing but positive outcomes to allowing marriage between two people who love each other. It recognizes and honors the love between two people.