the soft bliss of love..

I am feeling melted in the soft bliss of love in this moment… I am in my quiet home space, after giving a concert to a beautiful private retreat group. I feel so stretched by love, again, and again, and again, and again. And it is all I want. To see how far this stretch can go. I know it has no limit. I feel so humbled by life.. life that is love itself.

The moments we give ourselves to something greater, something wider, and then are gone in that, add up, until we are just gone in That, and That lives our life. And then there is such awe, such humble amazement at the power of love.

I understand why Amma always wants to be hugging someone.. always wants someone in her arms until her last breath. Because as we are serving, as we are desiring to offer something greater than ourselves, it blesses us most of all. She Loves, all the time. And so love is always, always, coursing through her like a river.

We can make what ‘we do’ a way to give love. Whether it’s cleaning houses, or selling someone groceries, we can do it with love. And then love flows through us and fills us and blesses us.

If we knew how blessed we can be by giving, people would be knocking themselves out to give more. Let us come to that. Let love be what we worship most, what we give most, what fills our thoughts, our feelings, our bodies, our relationships, our lives.

heart

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Ode to my beloved Mt. Shasta….

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Mt. Shasta. My friend Jeffrey brought me up to visit Mt. Shasta when I was living in Lake Tahoe. I was so deeply affected by this mountain. By the incredible beauty of the beautiful lakes and forests here. By the deep peace and stillness so palpable in nature. By the absence of psychic noise.

There was a holiness to this place; and I knew I had to live here. It took a number of years, but in 1991 I moved to this sacred mountain. And for twenty-two years I have been so blessed to live in this amazing place on the planet. I have been so deeply nourished by all that exists in nature here. I have walked so many days at Siskiyou lake, getting in touch with my Self once again. I have swam innumerable times across the higher alpine lakes here, some of the most beautiful places on the planet. I have loved and served this community in different ways over the years.

I take all the gifts I have received here with me. All the blessings live in my heart as an enduring love, strength and stillness. All the moments of love shared here are etched in my soul for eternity. There is a sadness in this departure, but I am not going very far away. I will come back often, will go on my favorite walks and hikes, and will visit my dear loved ones here.

Thank you beloved mountain, for all the gifts you’ve given me. Thank you my dear friends who have touched my heart here. Thank you for the loved ones who live always in my heart. Thank you for the peace and beauty, regality and wonder you have endlessly reflected. I am a better person for being so deeply blessed by this holy place.

8-17-12-1020-3

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

a meeting in the ocean…

I want to share a story of how the energy of aware, loving people can be very attractive to others, even non-human others!

Last month I gave a Mindfulness Retreat in Maui. I had a lovely group of folks from all over. On the second day of our retreat, after we had been diligently practicing mindfulness of thoughts, feelings, the body, walking, and eating, we went out for a mindfulness swimming activity. I took everybody to a beautiful beach that was supposed to have great snorkeling and we got in the water….

We all swam out a ways; my group was swimming behind me and I was floating above a turtle, who was just sitting on the ocean floor about 25 feet below me. I was thinking he was so beautiful, and sending him love, and saying in my mind ‘oh I wish you would come up here and visit me’. 10 seconds later he just started floating up, just levitating up, not swimming, not moving his little fins, but just rose straight up and ended up right beside me all of about 6 inches from my face with his face. We just gazed into each others eyes for the longest time, all the while my group was in awe watching, and then he stuck his head out of the water, and I did too, and we gazed into each others eyes above the water! This went on for some time, and we were so close I was having to back-peddle to not bump right into him. Finally he swam very slowly and I swam with him for some time. It just filled me with bliss, with love, with wonder!
All beings are attracted to awareness and  love, and respond to it with the awareness and love it awakens inside of them. This is why there is no greater gift we can offer the world than to be deeply present in awareness and living from the love of

connecting with a sea turtle..

connecting with a sea turtle..

our true nature.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

True Meeting

I had a really powerful experience last Sunday sharing music and love at the Center for Spiritual Living in Napa. I had just sung for a Memorial service the day before for my dear friend Joyce McLellan. I was reflecting how precious and short life is. And I had this moment where I realized my life’s closing chapter is a mystery. It could be sooner than I know. And as I was singing, looking into the eyes and hearts of all those present, I was feeling such a longing to connect in the deepest way, purely heart to heart. I poured this desire into the notes I sang and played, and felt the audience respond in kind. I left that concert and that meeting of souls feeling deeply touched. It is a mystery and yet so fulfilling, those moments where we really meet and see deep into each other. I drove home so grateful, and with the feeling that even if I left soon, I feel fulfilled in life. It is love, the meeting of two hearts, that makes it all meaningful and worth while.
“Love is the reason I am here.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Tending The Garden of Our Minds

The study of the brain has always been fascinating to me, since I was in college getting my psychology degree and my favorite course was physiological psychology. Our experience of life is totally dependant on what is happening in our brains, so it makes perfect sense to want to understand the workings of the brain. There is so much research happening right now that is discovering new things about this magnificent part of our body.

I have been quite inspired by Andrew Newberg’s research from the book “How God Changes Our Brain”. In his book he talks about how our society in America has four essential concepts of God. One is authoritarian, a God who is angry and willing to punish unfaithful people. Another God is distant, and is not involved with us, more like a cosmic force. Another God is critical, this God does not intervene in the world but casts judgment in the afterlife. And the fourth God is benevolent, a God that is loving, forgiving, gentle and active in our lives.

It was fascinating to see that 72 percent of Americans believe in either an authoritarian, distant, or critical God, and only 23 percent see God as loving. A lot of people ‘fear’ God, and feel that if they don’t live rightly they will be punished. And this is supposed to motivate us to do good.

Another fascinating discovery is that if you believe in the punishing God, the oldest, most primitive structures of the brain are active, most especially the limbic areas, which generate fear and anger. However, when you perceive God as a benevolent force, as loving and compassionate, it activates a tiny area in the front of your brain called the anterior cingulate. This wonderful part of the brain sits between the limbic and pre-frontal structures and when stimulated, it suppresses the impulse to get angry or frightened.

Andrew Newberg suggests that the anterior cingulate is the true “heart” of your neurological soul, and when this part of the brain is activated, you will feel greater tolerance and acceptance towards others who hold different believe. The God of the limbic system is a frightening God, but the God of the anterior cingulate is loving.

Thus, it seems to me we should do everything we can to cultivate the circuitry of this anterior cingulate. It seems to me whatever awakens and lights up this part of our brain, is what we need to deal with the bigotry, hatred, great anger and intolerance in our world.

Things that stimulate this part of our brain: meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, centering prayer, self-reflection on inner demons, breath awareness, deep yawning, visualization and guided imagery, sending kindness and forgiveness to others, enjoyable creative endeavors, and time in nature.

The mental health of our society is dependent on the mental health of the brains that make up our society. May we tend the precious garden of our minds like a very sacred patch of cosmic real estate. Understand your brain. Information is power, and we have the power to create peace on earth by being at peace ourselves.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letting Form Change….

A few months ago I decided to spend a whole day and night in meditation, at home alone. I fasted, sat, prayed, and went deep into a stillness of being. Once in a great while I have a transcendent experience, have a profound stillness of mind and feel my Self as an enormity of consciousness, spreading out into infinity, deeply silent, with the quality of immense love and compassion for all life expression.

One of the most profound revelations I had during this sacred communion, was that I need not fear anything whatsoever. That I can let form change, and fear not. I can not hold on tight to any particular form staying as it is, but gracefully allow the changing world to go about it’s changing. Whether it is the form of this body I inhabit, or the form of my work in the world, the form of my relationships, the form of a situation I thought was stable, whatever it is, let it be, let it change, as it will. It is only fear that wants things to stay the same.

If we can let go more easily, let change be more easily, let things come, let them go, let form morph into this and then into that, without attachment to it staying as we think it should, we can be free. We can suffer much less. We can sit back in a peaceful repose, loving life just as it is.

I love the wisdom Jack Kornfield has to share about letting go, and letting be. He says, “Anyone can see that if grasping and aversion were with us all day and night without ceasing, who could ever stand them? Under that condition, living things would either die or become insane. Instead, we survive because there are natural periods of coolness, of wholeness, and ease. In fact, they last longer than the fires of our grasping and fear. It is this that sustains us. We have periods of rest making us refreshed, alive, well. Why don’t we feel thankful for this everyday Nirvana?”

Having time in silent retreat, I realize how essential it is for us to take real, quality time to cultivate awareness of awareness. Where we can loosen our identities with all form, our body, our thoughts, our emotions, our situations, our relationships, our roles in the world, all of it. Rest from it all. And feel our Self as the spacious consciousness, the Being that all of this exists in, and dissolves in as well. The more we can know this awareness as our true Self, the more things can change and we rest in a peace untouched. Or perhaps we get caught in momentary identification, but then we let go of that. Returning to peace. Returning home to the truth of who we are.

Ajahn Sumedho, the first American abbot of a Theravada Buddhist monastery says, “For minds obsessed by compulsive thinking and grasping, you simplify your meditation practices to just two words- ‘let go’ -rather than try to develop this practice, and develop that, achieve this, and go into that..”

I am recording a chant this Tuesday called “Let Go, Let God”, and it will be a helpful reminder along the path, to let form change. Don’t fear changing forms. We can let things be, without pushing away or grasping and clinging.

I leave you with this wisdom of the Tao: “Rushing into action, you fail. Trying to grasp things, you lose them. Therefore the master takes action by letting things take their course. She remains as calm at the end as at the beginning.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where is our Sangha?

When I was in Maui I stayed for a week with my dear friend who used to be a Buddhist monk. I loved the energy in the house as he would do his practices in the morning for hours. I would sit in my room and meditate, write, pray and just feel the energy of peace present. It made me so happy to be near someone practicing with such dedication. It was so clear his practice benefited not only him, but me, and all beings everywhere.

In Buddhism they talk about taking refuge in the three jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Sangha is so important. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we focus our energies on building a community that dwells in mindfulness, harmony and peace. It is our spiritual community. And sometimes it’s just the presence of another person striving towards enlightenment, towards embodying greater love, compassion and insight.

Thich Nhat Hanh says “Sangha is the community of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, as well as the other elements that support our practice – our cushion, our walking meditation path, the trees, the sky, and the flowers. Practicing with a Sangha is essential; it can be difficult to continue without the support of friends. When members of a Sangha live in harmony, their sangha is holy. When a community sits, breathes, walks, and eats together in mindfulness, holiness is there.”

This kind of support is as simple as walking on the beach mindfully with a dear friend who is aware of her breathing, her steps, her surroundings, and emanating peace. It is as simple as silently watching the sun set and the moon rise with a friend and being totally present and in awe of creation. It is simple as discussing the teachings of emptiness and inherent existence and feeling closer to the truth. It is as simple as melting into a song about letting go and feeling the heart’s liberation. It is as simple as breathing in peace and the wonder of this snow swirling wildly outside my window right now.

I realize when I give programs that one of the things people seem to be so hungry for, and grateful for, is the reflection of another person striving to be awake, to deepen in love and understanding. To deepen in living a life of beauty, wakefulness and goodness. And I realize how grateful I am for the reflection of this anywhere I go. Just someone being kind, loving and considerate to me, it gives me strength, support and energy to keep going.

I look forward to graduating this June from this Interfaith Seminary I am in. It has been a deepening and educational two years. I look forward to stepping into a spiritual community as the spiritual leader and shifting my service in the world from serving sanghas in many places, to focusing on serving one sangha regularly. I will still travel but perhaps less. I will trust I will be guided to the perfect place to step into this new chapter.

I leave you with this reminder of three jewels in our life that we must keep our eye on:

Taking refuge in the Buddha in myself, I aspire to help all people recognize their own awakened nature and realize the mind of love.
Taking refuge in the Dharma in myself, I aspire to help all people grasp the way of practice and walk together on the path of liberation.
Taking refuge in the Sangha in myself, I aspire to help all people build communities and encourage the transformation of all beings.

(from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching ~ Thich Nhat Hanh)

Posted in spiritual experience | 1 Comment