What If ?

Mark of Endless Light and Love shares this powerful and compelling sentiment. At a time of great human turmoil in Europe and the heartbreaking image of a drowned Syrian 3-year-old, retreating glaciers, droughts, fires and global financial uncertainty, it’s important to remember all that we do have, and do what we can for others. May all beings be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.

Endless Light and Love

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I pray for that day, the day that everyone wakes up and has at least 1 full day of just being grateful for everything, I certainly think if we could have a ‘ I’m Grateful for Everything In My Life Day’ then we may just start to open our eyes to what we have in our lives instead of worrying about what we don’t have and what we think we need!

Food for thought my friends, food for thought!

Namaste with Love

Always

Mark

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* Chant for Peace with Tina Turner

In this wonderful blog post by a fellow WordPresser, Tina Turner chants with children of many cultures for peace in the world. How we need it now! Listen, sing with them, be the change…

Find Your Middle Ground

Tina Turner and friends chanting for peace. I love this video. Why not join in and add your voice for peace in the world!

Meaning of the words:

Sarva=everything; Sarvesham= all/ everything; svastir = health/well-being; bhavatu = let be, may there be; Shanti=peace.

Namaste

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Spring in the Time of Climate Change

Summer Garden Bounty

Summer Garden Bounty

 

I’ve planted a small raised bed garden annually for the last 5 or 6 years in our rural northeastern Pennsylvania community where we spend half our week. The soil is organic and freshened every spring, and no herbicides or pesticides are allowed. The whole big garden is fenced and features a rainbird-type sprinkler system that waters it once a day, so dry spells aren’t a factor. We also have a hose for watering our plots ourselves as needed. The garden seems to be divided pretty equally between veggies and gorgeous flowers, mostly enormous Dinnerplate Dahlias climbing high with help from poles and trellises. We also have a community herb plot we can all use, and last summer it included curry, basil, oregano, spearmint, peppermint, and rosemary. I love heirloom tomatoes for their tangy flavor and great texture, so I go for Mortgage Lifter. As a pretty strict (but not perfect) vegan, I love my tomatoes! Sometime I put ripe tomato slices with coconut bacon in a BLT with Just Mayo vegan mayonnaise for an amazing treat.

Mortgage Lifter heirloom, courtesy of Bonnie Plants, So named because a radiator salesman in the 1940s started selling the seeds and made enough in 6 yrs to pay off his mortgage!

Mortgage Lifter heirloom, courtesy of Bonnie Plants.
So named because a radiator salesman in the 1940s started selling the seedlings and made enough in 6 yrs to pay off his mortgage

Dinnerplate Dahlia, getting the name from the size of the blooms, and the plants can grow to over 6′ tall.

I usually throw in a Big Boy or Big Girl tomato plant to get a nice variety. I usually have four tomato plants in my 4×4′ raised bed plot. I also plant Italian flat leaf parsley and enjoy it in my green smoothies all summer. It’s the last of my plants to get killed by frost in the fall. My plot is rounded out with basil, and marigolds are interspersed to discourage pests. Two years ago some critters got in and kept biting the ripening tomatoes on the vine, so I bought wildlife netting, but I didn’t need it last year.

So here we are at Memorial Day weekend, and I was planning to buy my seedlings and get the garden in the ground tomorrow. We are in the 5b hardiness zone, which means that the average minimum winter temperature is -15 to -10 F. Our garden chief told us that the garden plots were ready to plant a month ago but urged us to wait until Memorial Day to plant, because it’s not uncommon for us to get a killing frost in May. Last year I tempted fate and planted in mid-May, and thanks to a late frost, everything but the parsley died and I had to buy all new tomato and basil plants and try again.

So I thought this weekend would be safe. Wrong! Thank goodness I haven’t bought the plants yet because last night it went down into the 30s F and some blossoms on our deck took a hit. That’s two years running with later frosts than we had been having up here. Then there were the past two winters which really pummeled the northeastern US. We had more snow than we knew what to do with. Add to these the tornados and droughts and flooding rains in various places not accustomed to them, and it seems we are in for a bumpy ride in the years ahead.

But a few weeks ago, before the foliage of the shrubs, including blackberry canes, and trees began to fill in, the daffodil bulbs bloomed. We planted them years ago when my aunt brought them to me from Tennessee. Here’s a photo I took with my iPhone, as all my originals are these days!

Early spring ruffled daffodils, from Roane County Tennessee bulbs

Early spring ruffled daffodils, from Roane County Tennessee bulbs.

Happy Memorial Day weekend to everyone in the US, as we remember our loved ones who have gone beyond, and all those who died serving our country. And May All Beings Be At Ease, everywhere.

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Meditation in the Garden

Moon Bridge by the Japanese Teahouse at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California

Long ago in my childhood, as I was growing up in Southern California, I was blessed by parents who both savored beauty and creativity. Together we went to museums, gardens, arboretums, botanical gardens, and  historic places including the old Spanish missions erected by the monks who helped settle California, led by Fra Junipero Serra, about whom I learned in elementary school.

Recently in a guided meditation, I was drawn back to the Japanese Teahouse of the Huntington Library in San Marino, near Pasadena. This teahouse fascinated me with its low cushions and tables and delicate rice paper shoji screens. I might have forgotten it except for my son reminding me not long ago of my taking him to the same beautiful place in his childhood, and he remembered Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy.”

Thomas Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" painted in 1770, from the collection of the Huntington Library

Thomas Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy” painted in 1770, from the collection of the Huntington Library

When he mentioned the painting, I recalled my many trips to the Huntington Library as well, and I mentioned the Japanese Teahouse which suddenly came into my mind complete with full-color impressions. He recalled it, too, and we spoke of how lovely it was.

Japanese teahouse interior

Japanese Teahouse Interior

In my meditation some time ago I saw myself in the teahouse on a cushion, the shoji walls moved aside to reveal the beautiful gardens outside. I saw a woven basket filled with gorgeous lotus flowers beside me. First someone who helped raise me came to me and presented me with a lotus blossom, a loving gift teaching self-love and acceptance, for it is sometimes easier to accept the love from another than to give it to ourselves. Then as I sat, one by one my close friends and loved ones approached me and to each I gave a flower. Next came those towards whom I feel neutral feelings, and lastly those with whom I am or have been in painful conflict, and each received a flower.

lotus flower

The next time I sat in meditation and brought up this scene, I found that I was sitting just outside the teahouse on a rock near a stream, surrounded by manicured lawns and shrubbery, and in my basket were dahlias.

dahlia

Each, as before, but in different order came and were given a flower. Some came by for a second flower and this was fine. Water flowed by me, making its sweet fluid music, and early crickets chirped in the reeds. Orange and dappled koi circled lazily in the waters by a stone footbridge linking me to the lawns of the teahouse.

Koi by the Japanese Teahouse at the Huntington Library

Koi by the Japanese Teahouse at the Huntington Library

I will share with you now a Metta (loving kindness) meditation I use every day, in one form or another. This one is taken from Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice, by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. May it serve you as well as it has served me. The sounds behind my voice are those of a stream and crickets, punctuated by a Tibetan singing bowl.

Please enjoy, and share if you feel so inclined.

Click on the link below for a 7.15 minute meditation.

Namaste

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May We know How to Nourish the Seeds of Joy and Happiness in Ourselves

Loving kindness meditation includes aspiring for ourselves and all other beings to know how to nourish the seeds of joy and happiness in ourselves every day. Daily practice of seeing, recognizing and nourishing those seeds of joy is not only a pleasure but an obligation towards our well-being, just as eating, breathing and sleeping are equally important obligations. Oh sure, we can get along without nourishing our happiness, but as a wise one said, “man does not live by bread alone,” neither can we flourish without regular infusions of joy. How do we know how to nourish joy? I find that it is mindfulness to daily experience, even the smallest things and seemingly irrelevant events, that provides the seeds of joy. Once perceived and appreciated, and shared, the small things and brief events are ours to savor with joy. In the past few days, here are just some of the things and events that have brought me joy:

  • Watching a chipmunk eat piece after piece of a cut-up peach, filling his cheeks, running back somewhere in the underbrush, and returning for more
  • Seeing the white-tipped, bushy tail of a red fox as he lept in tall grass near my garden, as this beautiful drawing by irishishka portrays

    Red Fox Pounce by irishishka

  • Smelling a skunk under our window at night, the pungent aroma signalling some distress or confrontation but no indications of what by morning.

    Pepe Le Pew, courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

  • Hearing the amazing hooting of an owl in the middle of the night, and learning that it was a Great Horned Owl

    Great Horned Owl

  • Seeing wild raspberries near my garden Buddha

    Wild Raspberries

  • Seeing Spotted Touch-Me-Not near the raspberries

    Spotted Touch-Me-Not

  • Realizing that my anger can teach me something wonderful and useful, healing, peaceful and divine, by reading “The Poison Tree” by Judy Lief in the latest Shambhala Sun. Click here for a preview.

    “The Poison Tree” in Shambhala Sun

    What brings you joy today?

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Gazing at Peace and Truth

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 We gaze at the face of the Buddha, one who has shown countless beings who have gone before us the way of peace and truth, of right living, of non-harming (ahimsa), of mindfulness, of dwelling in the moment, of experiencing life open and aware (mindfulness). We see calm and beauty in his face, and we remember why we seek it, for peace in our hearts and for peace in the world we inhabit. We seek to live honorably, fairly, humanely, responsibly and rightly, and embodying loving kindness (Metta).

What do we bring today to honor this enlightened being who has spoken wisdom, passed down to us through the ages, offering tools by which to bring an end to suffering in ourselves and in others? If we follow the Dharma, we bring the intention to align our lives, every moment of every day, with the Noble Eightfold Path. Perhaps we succeed only momentarily, but as we continue to practice with the intentions of Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration, we will have more such right moments. Even more perhaps than the peace right living brings to us is the peace it can bring to all with whom we come in contact in our lives. The ripples spread ever outward, and the healing influence and positive effects are endless.

The path awaits.

Namaste

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Being An Instrument of Peace

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Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

SaintFrancisPrayer

How do we become an instrument of peace?

St. Francis of Assisi lived the words in this prayer attributed to him. He, as did the Buddha, gave up a life of wealth and ease to live modestly and spend his time and energies ministering to the poor and those in need of compassion and relief from suffering. It is said that animals of all kinds came towards him, and he is often depicted with birds on his shoulders and resting in his open hands, and adoring animals at his feet. The Franciscan Order was founded in his name and espousing his values, and Francis, the current Pope, himself a Franciscan, has demonstrated his commitment to being an instrument of peace wherever he goes.

  • In order to transmit peace, we need to receive and nurture peace. This means seeking it and sharing it.
  • Being an instrument of peace, in my view, means abstaining from harming any other beings, practicing ahimsa, the Eastern principle of non-harming.
  • To receive peace we need to be in harmony with the peace around us. We therefore must tune in to peace wherever it may be. We must seek out beauty and tranquility in nature, and we must gravitate to those beings with whom we feel at peace. Animals who share our lives can bring us the peace of their presence.
  • We can find peace virtually anywhere, even where suffering occurs. Even in suffering, we can be at peace, and we can comfort others in their suffering with our peace. Even one suffering and near death can be at peace and in so being transmit that peace to us.

To be an instrument of peace means to earnestly seek peace for all beings–whomever, however and wherever they may be. When we can do this, we begin to become liberated from the schadenfreude that characterizes much modern emotional life. We no longer wish for our allies, candidates or teams to win at the expense of their competitors suffering ignominious defeat. It becomes possible for us to feel at ease with win-win, rather than requiring win-lose for our happiness. This is not to say that we will not yearn for goodness, right and charity toward all to prevail. Naturally we will seek these things always. But we learn to refrain from wishing ill towards those who fight against goodness, right, and charity toward all. Perhaps as peace truly takes up residence in our hearts and minds we aspire for those who sow misery to be transformed into loving, caring and better beings.

One way we can transmit peace toward all beings, to truly be an instrument of peace, is to make Metta, or loving kindness, meditation a part of our daily practice. We aspire to all the desirable states of being for ourselves, then for our loved ones, next for those with whom we do not feel peace and harmony or are aware they do not feel them towards us, and lastly for all other beings, whomever, however and wherever they may be.

When we aspire to Metta, or loving kindness, for all beings, we do so in a sweeping “lighthouse” sort of manner:

For beings in this universe and all other universes.

For all beings above us and below us.

All beings to the north, south, east and west of us.

Male beings and female beings.

Young beings and old beings.

Human beings, animal beings, and all other beings.

Living beings, and beings who are not yet living.

Beings in the air, beings on the earth, beings under the earth.

Beings in or on the waters of the oceans, rivers, lakes and streams.

Beings wherever they may on the path toward enlightenment.

Beings at any plane of existence or level of consciousness.

When I first began practicing Metta meditation, I failed to comprehend the value of this sweeping, inclusive nature of the practice. I simply wished for “all beings” all the aspirations I wished for myself. Now I find myself visualizing peace and all goodness for all beings as I list the various kinds of beings and their various states and positions, and I can feel the loving kindness permeating me as I visualize it permeating the universes and all who dwell in any state of being within them. In this manner, I believe we broadcast loving kindness in all directions, and thus truly become Instruments of Peace.

Today I heard a beautiful rendition of the St. Francis Prayer by Singh Kaur, a devout Sikh convert and amazing musician, and a being whose life ended long before its time, or so it must feel to all those who loved her. This beautiful floral slide show complements her heavenly voice.

 

Mindful calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh

Namaste

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Enjoying The Great Outdoors

waterfall

Green, cool, wet, shady, lush plants, all these qualities soothe our souls. We need to get out into nature when we can to refresh ourselves. Maybe we can’t get out there to see it everyday, so looking at photographs can refresh us. Taking photos and printing them out is another way to bring nature into your life.

Creating a natural outdoor space at home can be amazing, if we are lucky enough to have the space and the means. Here are some ideas on ways to create an oasis in your own world.

Outdoor Chill Zones

 

Koi_Zen_Garden,_Tokyo

 

Namaste

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Ending Suffering

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All sentient beings–human beings, and all beings large and small in the animal kingdom, seek to avoid suffering. It is the natural way. Libido, according to Freud, is the life force, the very energy which makes us gulp air even when trying to hold our breath. We associate libido with sexual intention and it does guarantee procreation for the perpetuation of life, but it is far more general than that. Libido drives creativity and interconnectedness, and many in the religious life find that in denying the sexual, they transcend the baser urges into altruism and selfless love. Thanatos, or the death force, is far less known and runs deep underground in most beings. It can be activated when suffering becomes too great.

All sentient beings–human beings, and all beings from the largest to the infinitessimally small in the animal kingdom, seek to avoid suffering. It is the natural way, or so it seems.  Instead, many humans seek suffering through self-harming behaviors and often have difficulty giving them up, so powerful is the addiction to certain very painful experiences. Humans often perpetuate suffering for themselves, and many more who would avoid their own suffering at all costs willfully inflict suffering on their fellow humans, and even more routinely on the animal kingdom. Ironically, by routinely condemning to misery and painful death the 100 or so animals each meat eater consumes yearly, the human hand contributing to this misery by virtue of paying for it, even at a distance, pulls in secondary traumatic experience and, as some believe, bad karma. This is guaranteeing ongoing human suffering. Psychology Today recently published an article on the phenomenon of loving dogs, cats and horses but consigning other animals such as cows, chickens, turkeys, and pigs, and their newborn offspring, to unimaginable terror and suffering without a second thought. Please read it for some interesting political revelations.

Without Prejudice

The Meat Paradox: Loving but Exploiting Animals

Unpacking stereotypes, bias, and discrimination
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And today this is my practice.
Namaste
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Mountain Mindfulness and Metta

Snowy Woods

My practice today:

Sitting before my window to meditate today, my eyes rest on the changing winter scene outside. My heart is full with gratitude for returning health after illness, calm after concern, ease after stress. I begin with mindful breathing.

Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I smile.

Breathing in I see the blue sky, breathing out I see the trees.

Breathing in I feel the sun, breathing out I see the shadows.

Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I smile.

Breathing in I see the clouds, breathing out I hear the wind.

Breathing in I see the branches, breathing out I see old leaves.

Breathing in I see green fir boughs, breathing out I see white snow.

Breathing in I see the rocks, breathing out I see the bark.

Breathing in I feel the sun, breathing out I feel solid.

Breathing in I feel peace, breathing out I smile.

Breathing in I feel soft paws on my back, breathing out I greet my cat.

Breathing in we see the trees, breathing out we watch the leaves.

Breathing in I have love, breathing out I am at peace.

After continuing in this manner for many minutes, I began my customary Metta (loving kindness) practice, aspiring first for myself. Then I aspired for specific loved ones in need, for all loved ones, for family and extended family, for friends, for neighbors, and for clients. Next I aspired for those with whom I have or have had conflict. Lastly I aspired for all beings near and far, in this universe and all other universes, to the north and the south, to the east and the west, above me and below me,  in the earth, in the air, in the seas and in the rivers and lakes, living and not yet living,  human and non-human, male and female, young and old, known to me and unknown to me, and those who know me and those who do not.

And today this is my practice.

Koi_Zen_Garden,_Tokyo

Namaste

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