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seaglassthe waters of the world — the oceans and seas — are powerful alchemists.

broken class is tumbled by currents, by waves. rolled in the sands of beaches, stroked along craggy rocks. over time, the sharp edges begin to smooth. the transparency of the glass is polished into an opaque lustre. what was once hard is now soft, what was once hidden is now revealed.

as with seaglass, a meditation practice performs this exact process on our mindheart.

when we sit with ourselves, we discover our hard places, our sharp edges, our cocoons. with time, the sharp edges begin to smooth, the hardness in us softens, the reasons we cocoon fall away.

what was once hidden is now revealed. compassion for self.

compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. at that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.”

― pema chödrön

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the shimmer of trails left by snails, glinting patterns drawing my eyes

the soft essss curve of a wee garder snake in permanent repose

5k 019regal, stalwart queen anne’s lace sharing the ditches with clouds of modest brown-eyed susans

a gauntlet of pine forests, overfull with the kirtan of morning birds

breezes riffling leaves

the steady fall of my feet on asphalt, still embracing some of yesterday’s heat, softly yielding beneath my soles

a warm sun climbing a morning sky

every reason for joy held in the freshness of the day

i’ve now attended two kundalini gong & mantra events. essentially kundalini yoga classes.

kundalini yoga was brought to north america by yogi bhajan in the late 1960’s and is a practice which frees the energy locked in the lower body (base of the spine) in order to move that energy upward, eventually to reach enlightenment.

the description from about.com provides an accurate description of each of the two events i attended:

What to Expect in a Kundalini Class

A Kundalini class begins with a short chant followed by a warm-up to stretch the spine and improve flexibility. The main work of the class is called a kriya, which is a proscribed sequence of poses and pranayama that focuses on a specific area of the body. The teacher typically does not make manual adjustments. The class ends with a meditation, which may be accompanied by the teacher playing a large gong, and a closing song. Kundalini devotees often wear flowing white robes and head wraps.

i was attracted to the first event by the gong. as a shambhala buddhist, the gong is an integral part of my practice. i connect strongly with the deep resonance of the gong.

i was not disappointed. in both instances, the 31 minutes of gong meditation were a vehicle of transportation.

the entire evening provides high repetition of sounds and movements. the mantra meditation, with its finger movements and vocalizations interrupted my usual meditation practice. they offered busy-ness, noise and nonsense, while i prefer stillness and awareness.

all is good. the gong bath was an amazing experience and i can endure the, to me distracting, activity of the mantras.

 

 

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Occupy[Wall Street] movement, it occurs to me, is a refreshing testament to basic wisdom and goodness.

It is a movement of people who, having experienced sufficient injustice and inequality in their lives, sufficient frustration of their basic needs, sufficient deprivation of honesty and integrity in government, stepped into courage.

They have found and are expressing a shared compassion; an understanding of each other’s pain.

When circumstances exist that seem to threaten us, we just might harden our hearts. We construct barriers to protect; armour placed around our hearts, blinding us and numbing us.  But within all this fortification there remains a soft spot, a spot which can love and be compassionate.

It is this spot which we must occupy. 

Occupy your heart.

When everyone finds the courage to occupy their heart, the world will be a safe, peaceful, just place.

The thousands upon thousands of people expressing themselves through the Occupy movement are true everyday warriors. I am grateful to them, for the rawness of their bravery, for the vulnerability they have willingly exposed, for their collective challenge to protected hearts.

There are many paths to opening a protected heart. Social justice work, pivotal life experiences, spiritual exploration, meditation and yoga are but a few.

Daily meditation to open your heart will not only go a  long way toward creating a more just and peaceful world, it can decrease risk factors for coronary disease. Profound in its simplicity, meditation is a gift and a fully accessible means of personal and social change.

If you need help with a daily practice, try the following:

  • Stand or sit in a place where you feel comfortable. Close your eyes.
  • Place your finger tips onto your low back if standing or onto the floor behind you if sitting.
  • Begin opening and lifting the chest, drawing the sternum upwards, pulling your shoulder blades together in back.
  • Breathe into your chest, lengthening and deepening your breath as you settle in to the expansiveness across your heart centre.
  • Keep your focus on your breath while you feel your heart beat steady, strong and calm.
  • Maintain this sense of opening for up to five minutes.
  • Gently open your eyes, smile, and return to a natural breath.

You can get a visual of this practice in the following video. The first three minutes is sufficient to derive great benefit from a daily practice. Should you wish to move further into the pose, enjoy the colours.

 

And, if you wish to go further in opening your heart and balancing heart energies, Anmol Mehta has shared this wonderful Kundalini Yoga Kriya.

 

A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.           ~ Pema Chodron

I’m generally great at the getting to sleep thing.  I work long, active days and crawl happily into bed with a book about the same time that most folks are curling up to the glow of their nightly netflix. I rarely make it past a paragraph or two when I float off.

But, every now and then I have a bit of a challenge settling in. This is most likely to happen when I work late.  Heading to bed a bit wound up, over-stimulated, is usually a formula for wendy-wide-eyed-ness well into the night.  Or, when I am time-crunched and have difficulty finding the off button to my brain, you know, busy saving the planet, rehashing yesterday’s conversation,  or planning tomorrow when today is right here and happy to be my lullaby.

I work early (early!) mornings . It is so important to my good health, my relationships, and my work that I be able to turn off my busy monkey mind when I go to bed.  When my alarm rings, somewhere between 3:25am and 4:30am, depending on the day, I want to be springing happy, curious and excited into my day.

What to do then.

There are some yoga poses which help me settle at night. In particular, viparita karani, legs up wall pose, calms anxieties and rests sore and tired feet and legs. Done before bedtime, this pose can contribute to a great night’s rest.  You can find a lovely viparita karani instruction here.

Beyond a single pose, a yoga series can also assist with achieving a good night’s sleep. One of my fave youtube yogis is Sadie Nardini. She has a lovely, well taught, explicit sleep flow which is easy to follow along with and to learn. Check out Sadie’s video on yoga for sleep, insomnia or deep relaxation:

 

I’d have to say that the simplest, most graceful and expedient way I have of drifting happily off when my neurological systems is high-firing is meditation. Particularly meditation where I focus on breath.

Try it, adapting these easy steps to your own needs:

  • Lie in a comfy position in your bed; close your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath. Gradually allow your breathing to become deeper and slower, finding the perfect rhythm.
  • Imagine filling your body with clean, healing air each time you breathe. Allow each inhale to carry calming oxygen to every part of your body. Get a visual, if you can, of this pure, healthful air moving through your body.
  • With each exhale allow stress and  tension to flow out of your body. Release the stale and the stagnant, using your breath to cleanse toxins from your body.  Imagine your exhale happening through every single pore of your body and the toxins dissolving into space.
  • Continue following your breath. Exhale and feel cleansed, inhale and experience calm.  Allow this rhythm to be part of your phenomenal experience without putting words or labels on what you are doing and what you are feeling.
  • When you notice thoughts, acknowledge that you’ve been thinking and return your attention to your breath.
  • Stay with your breath, experiencing the increasing lightness and relaxation, until you fall asleep.

Lullaby and good night, may sweet softness surround you.

I got out for a lovely barefoot run this morning. Overcast and damp from showers, the early morning air was greenhouse humid and cotton swab thick.

I ran slowly, enjoying the feel of the air lifting the fine hairs on my arms, focusing on technique, wanting to land so softly on the spring cool asphalt I’d be quieter than a butterfly kiss.

Robins swooped and cattle lowed and a fat plush kitty strolled across my path. Somewhere in a stand of trees along a recently plowed field, crows were enjoying a raucous sunday morning service.

I ran slowly, in meditation, thankful.

Sour Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 2c chickpeas, soaked overnight and simmered until tender
  • 2c water
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2tsp salt
  • 1 hot green chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 4tbsp lemon juice
  • 6tbsp olive oil
  • 2 med. tomatoes, chopeed
  • 1tbsp ground coriander
  • 1tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2tsp ground turmeric
  • 2tsp garam masala
  • 1/4tsp cayenne

Method

Place 2tbsp of chopped onion, 1/2tsp salt, chopped green chili, ginger and lemon juice in a small dish. Mix well and set aside.

Heat oil in a heavy, wide pan. Fry remaining chopped onion until it begins to brown. Add the tomatoes, continue to fry another 5 – 6 minutes. Add coriander, cumin and turmeric. Cook an additional 30 seconds.

Add the chickpeas, water, remaining salt, garam masala and cayenne. Stir to mix. Bring to a simmer, cover, turn heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.

Add the onion in lemon juice mixture previously set aside. Stir to mix.

Serve hot or barely warm.

This is a recipe I was first served while on a weekend meditation workshop at Dorje Denma Ling. I love chickpeas and this dish was delicious, speaking particularly of wholesome tastiness from simple ingredients.  On a subsequent visit to Dorje Denma Ling I asked Lucy, the kitchen manager, for the recipe. She had been given it by another DDL regular, Adella, and was happy to hand it along.

 

On the weekend passed, I attended a program on Contentment In Everyday Life at Dorje Denma Ling.  The opportunity to explore and deepen my sitting practice was appreciated and the richness of experience shared by other program participants was an important part of the weekend.  The program instructors were wise and helpful and humourous. It was good.

doing dishes at ddl

The kitchen at DDL fascinates me and I find myself drawn to rota duties which allow me to prep meals or do dishes. I most prefer the meal preparation and appreciate how I can be of service by washing, peeling, dicing, slicing, wiping, storing, fetching, rinsing. Mindfully. Appreciative of the small human symphony conducted sweetly by Lucy, the kitchen manager, and which produces delicious, nutritious, colourful, bountiful, earth-inspired compassion-filled meals. What a truly authentic and meaningful way to practice.

So, while I sat on my cushion, munched on sour chickpeas and chocolates, performed contemplations, and explored experiences of gentleness, nowness and inquisitiveness, Udo provided a lovely stand-in at home in the sunday soup department.  When I walked into the house late Sunday evening, he was dishing up single serving portions of Split Pea Soup. Love.

Split Pea Soup

Ingredients

  • 2c split peas, rinsed
  • smoked pork hock (the smokey flavour is important, so if you are vegetarian substitute in some liquid smoke or…simply enjoy the soup with a glass of Bowmore)
  • 1/2c onions, chopped
  • 1c celery, chopped
  • 1/2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1tsp sugar
  • dash cayenne
  • 1/4tsp thyme
  • 2tbsp ghee
  • 2tbsp flour

Method

In a large pot of water (about 10c) cook split peas and pork hock for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until tender.

Add onion, celery and carrots, simmer an additional half hour.

Add to pot garlic, bay leaf, sugar, cayenne and thyme (and liquid smoke if substituting).

Chill soup and remove fat.

Melt butter in a small sauce pan and stir in flour until well blended.  Slowly add a small amount of the soup to the mixture. Cook and stir until it comes to a boil and then add it to the rest of the soup, stirring until incorporated.

This is another wonderful winter soup and I’d have to add that this is an exceptionally delicious batch he has wrought.

along the road to ddl

On the weekend past I attended a mini-retreat on The Posture Of Meditation.  The weekend was one of astoundingly inviting sunny bright days and profoundly learned lessons of the heart, mind and body.

Held at Dorje Denma Ling , the weekend was a veritable feast of enjoyable relaxation offered by Will Johnson.  Will is a passionate, intense man with dancing hands, wise words and knowledge of the body.  With him skillfully instructing, we were guided gently and surely through alignment, relaxation and resiliency work which will strongly enhance my time on the cushion. Now when I take my seat, it will be vibrant and my breath will inform movement through every joint of my body. And when moments are just right, I will breathe through my body, my visual field and my auditory field.  I will not sit still.

This mini-retreat was experienced in silence.  From Friday night around 7:00 until Sunday afternoon at 4:00 we maintained silence, except for asking questions during program instruction or when necessary during Rota duties.  There was much value in this silence.

In deference to my silent journey, I’ll not share more in words but will share some of the sights from my weekend.

 

 

photo from getty images

Throughout my independent adult life I have always enjoyed washing dishes.  Yes, you read that correctly, I have always enjoyed washing dishes.  I have a dishwasher in my home, and one in the two homes before living here.  None of them have every been used, at least not for washing dishes.

Washing dishes has fulfilled many of my needs over the years though these needs may vary across time.  And yes, there are times when the task holds little reward for me, though this is a rarity, or when I have completed the task just to get it done rather than to enjoy the experience.  Now, there’s a phrase — enjoy the experience — most folks would never pair with washing dishes.  You see, my attitude towards washing dishes is such that applying the label ‘chore’ to it just doesn’t seem right.  A ‘chore’ is generally an unpleasant task or something so routine and mundane it is performed mindlessly.

On the practical side then, my family has only consisted of five people, at its largest.  Today there are only three of us in the house.  I cannot fathom owning enough dishes to allow us to continue eating while we wait for the dishwasher to be full enough to run.  I wonder if this concept, of having more ‘stuff’ (in this case dishes and more space to store them) in order to do less really works for people?  Or, is it more stuff in order to do more?  Either way, I have trouble here.  Five people does not = too many daily dishes, so three surely does not.

The practical aside, I’ll let you in on the great wonders of washing dishes:

  • it is the rare family member who wants to help, so I am assured of time to myself.  No one will even stick their head in for fear of being recruited to a tea towel tabata.  Washing dishes is like solitude on a schedule.
  • my hands are in warm, sudsy water.   Are you there?  The warmth is comforting, relaxing, soothing.  There is a therapeutic value here in which I revel and, as an additional benefit, my cuticles are gently softened.  Some people pay for this and call it aesthetic services!
  • in a relatively short period of time, I can take a cluttered and soiled space and create order.  I can take stacked glassware, sloshing with dregs, scattered cutlery and spent pots, and turn them into squeaky cleans glinting from their assigned cubbies.  The sparse counter profile is pleasing in its austerity.
  • cleaning up is an act of love, as important to me as part of how I care for my family as the creation and consumption of shared nourishment.  When my partner is doing the cooking, I enjoy providing the follow through, the continuity in this important family ritual by leaving the kitchen tidy.  I also love the feeling of having the room ready for the next scrumptious tryst.
  • there is a lovely window above the kitchen sink.  I can observe clouds pass, hummingbirds flit,  black hollyhocks gently sway, damp sheets billow on the line, a fast moving skunk skitter under a crumbly shed, snowflakes drift down or drive horizontal, frost patterns on the pane, garage lights come on when he arrives home, potato harvesters trolling the field, crab apples bright in maturity, a burning bush of sentimental value pass seasons, paint peeling, spiders of the fat juicy variety live a lifetime, webs of silver, too tall grass, a treeline which cannot be separated from the beauty of the skyline, the pointer on the outside thermometer.  There is much to observe.
  • washing dishes is frequently a time when I can be mindful.  I can breathe, I can be aware, I can just be.

The point of meditating is to bring about a greater degree of mindfulness, so that your entire life can be transformed.

To some extent this can happen naturally; the mindfulness we develop in meditation simply spills over into our daily lives, and we find ourselves being more aware of how our mind and emotions function in everyday encounters with the world, leading to an increased freedom from reactive emotional and mental habits.

But we don’t have to simply hope that our meditation will have an effect on the rest of our lives. We can consciously choose to use everyday activities as opportunities to practice mindfulness.

~ from Wildmind

Oh, and if I were a portrait kind of girl, I might have mine done while doing dishes.

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