Tag: <span>Mindfulness</span>

The Meditation Group


Eight of us sit, a small group in the heat.
We practice cooling breaths, sip ice water
before silence begins, before a rotating fan reaches
skin. That vast field of the mind stretches at warp speed
through oak after oak, and overheated birds begin
to sing, joining a chant to protect the planet
and bring the forest back to life.


Gudrun Mouw (c)

A Poem Journal Entry The Spiritual Journey

I am reflecting on the healing process these days. I recently had a wake up call type health crisis that required difficult changes. The question I am asking today is, does healing come mainly from a mental shift, or does it come from physical adjustments and a natural progression of the body healing itself?

As I was experiencing the body’s debilitation, I noticed how my mental and emotional landscape changed. There was less less joy, more mental and physical fatigue even after the initial crisis. Though this wasn’t surprising, it wasn’t easy.

Once I fully acknowledged the situation, I made a conscious determination to focus on what I’ve learned over many years through meditation and yoga. I replaced negative thoughts with positive ones, utilized various mind calming practices, and kept an open mind about the future potential for well being and continuing productivity. This allowed the body’s natural healing ability to take hold more effectively.

Yesterday, as I began to feel my recovery happening, I made the decision not to go into my usual routine as quickly as possible mode. I promised myself to step back from all that saps my energy and concentrate on that which rejuvenates and uplifts. Today, I listened to one of my favorites, a video of Leonard Cohen singing, Hallelujah, and experienced a surge of hope and optimism.

That is my wish for the New Year to all! May we not reside in disappointments, frustrations, or anger, even as we may need to make hard choices! May 2017 carry us towards greater understanding, strength and perseverance. And may we have the courage to stand up for a greater good.

Personal Updates The Spiritual Journey

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we-are-three-9780961891602I am again reading Rumi, We Are Three: Translations by Coleman Barks. Inside the back cover, I find a gift.

I had written a poem there, dated 4.21.1991, and there was also a revision on the facing page, dated 5.28.2002. I smile thinking of that saying, “A Poem is Never Finished, Only Abandoned.” Since I don’t much like the word abandoned, I reconsider.

This poem will not be abandoned, because I find myself working on another revision as my memory of that long ago day becomes vivid:

The Santa Barbara Bird Refuge

A goose stands on one leg at water’s edge;
it’s long neck stretches over a glassy sheen,
and a squat duck on one leg,
pecks under its wings.

Similarities and differences jostle
to make an imprint on my perception.
Feathers ruffle in the wind.

A silver cloud floats across the sky
like a large, slow barge.
The carnival of my mind
shuts down.

And the longing for which I yearn,
bursts into into light
like a golden swan rising up.

A Poem Journal Entry




“Vigilant among the negligent,
Wide awake among the sleeping,
The wise one advances….”
–The Dhammapada



Inside our courtyard, as I walked along the pavers I had previously arranged to follow the shape of an Om sign, I became aware that the usual pace I had been maintaining over the last couple of years was much faster than need be. The quicker pace had allowed me to slide over the surface of what my body was experiencing. This insight created a huge shift. The pressure to move more quickly, in order to release tension, dissolved.

I slowed down. The new pace became most interesting as I noticed how many curves and turns were involved in each cycle, and how these complex movements affected various parts of my body. I easily connected to a background sense of presence–the energetic essence of my manthra. Every nuance of the walking meditation, a process of lifting, placing, shifting, became profound and meaningful. As I slowed down, time passed quickly, and I was able to walk longer than I had planned.

The following morning, I continued to enjoy a more easeful walking meditation, feeling light and fluid as I followed the complex design beneath my feet. I remembered what my teacher had often recommended on the spiritual journey, “keep a constant vigilance,” or to say that in another way: be mindful.



The Spiritual Journey


In the final issue of the Inquiring Mind, a journal that for 30 years has discussed topics serving the Western Theravadan Buddhist community, I was delighted to read Gil Fronsdal’s essay, “When Mindfulness Is Too Much.” I felt a tremendous sense of relief.

His comment that giving up mindfulness⎯though “temporary, proved to be a necessary step in my path toward liberation” ⎯resonated strongly with me. From my 44 year journey of meditation and yoga, both as a practitioner and a teacher, I have very much valued how mindfulness shows us how to be present in the moment with whatever we are experiencing. Yet, I have also seen, as with various other mind focusing activities such as the simple act of witnessing, for example, how mindfulness is still, as Gil Fronsdal aptly said in his essay, “an activity of the mind.” The way I have framed the dilemma of longing to go beyond mindfulness is to understand that there are times when mindfulness is not enough.

A different type of experience is that state of deep quiet when all mental activity has come to a stop. I have at times concluded this must be the emptiness I have read about. Other times, I have felt so altered I could find no words to adequately describe the truth of my experience, though I have hinted at it in various poems.

I very much appreciate Gil Fronsdal’s statement, “Now I have a connection to a dimension of mind or of awareness that is unconstructed.” It is helpful for me to have this confirmation of something I have long suspected. He continues on to say that the “unconstructed became very important because it highlighted how everything else is constructed.” I find this perspective of the “unconstructed” and “constructed” to be a skillful insight on the spiritual journey.

Only a few days before reading this article, I had observed a potential tension created by a part of the mind (which I have often called the left brain or the analytical brain) towards something quite the opposite⎯a rising, radical and expanding experience. My sense afterwards was to label that experience as rapture, but even that did not seem to be an adequate description. A startlingly clear delineation between the “constructed” and “unconstructed” was actually helpful because I recognized how both types of experiences are informative in their own way.

The Spiritual Journey

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