flow like water…

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.


Lao Tzu

#water #paradox #LaoTzu #wisdom #Tao #Taoism #FlowLikeWater #Zen #Enso #JMWart

maintain sanity…

I began meditating nearly a decade ago.  Similar to now, my meditation practice was mindfulness of breath as taught by the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh.  Soon after I had started my meditation practice, I had a very valuable friendship fall apart.  At the time, it was quite devastating.  Looking back, it was a pivotal growth moment in my practice.  I didn’t know a lot about meditation or Buddhism at the time, but I did know that the only way I was going to get through that period of time, those moments, was to find a way to BE with what was happening in a balanced way – to not run away from it, but to also not live out the storyline of what was happening over and over again, replaying it in my mind. To hold that person and friendship in love with no ill feelings, but also to completely let them go.

Just sitting with my breathing at times was too painful and overwhelming, so taking the lead from Thich Nhat Hanh who uses “gathas” or verses, I wrote one for myself to use with my breathing.
The verse was:

(breathing in – saying silently in my mind)
May I have the capacity of heart to hold the entire world and all of life
(breathing out – saying silently in my mind)
And the wisdom of mind to let go

I would sit with this verse and for quite some time it was my only practice.  I would sit for 10 mins, 20 mins or a half hour, breathing in and out, repeating this verse.  I would picture the friend, as I thought the first part while breathing in, and then picture them fading off into the horizon as I thought the second half while breathing out.  I wasn’t immediately relieved, but within time, I grew more and more at ease, the burden was lifted and I felt some peace.

Though the anchor of my practice is still simply sitting and breathing, at times when life feels overwhelming, I will come back to this verse and use it.  I have in recent years changed the “I” to “we” understanding that we are all in this together, sharing in suffering, sharing in joy, interdependent as a community.

We seem to be living in a time that is quite chaotic and can feel overwhelming.  I would like to offer this verse to you for practice.  If it’s too wordy, a simple version could be:

(breathing in – saying silently in your mind)
May I hold all of life in love
(breathing out – saying silently in your mind)
And in love, let it go

My gut says we are in for a long haul, my friends.  We need sane people doing good work to counter that which is harmful.  We need bearers of light and healers in love.  We need bodhisattvas. Even as the world spins around you, hold to center, maintain your balance, maintain your sanity.


May all be at ease and free from suffering.


maintain your sanity…

let go enso orange


It doesn’t really work to let go of things in the abstract. Letting go takes place in the chaos of life, knee-deep in the mud, when we feel like we are drowning, with that all too familiar, desperate feeling to cling, to find some security.

So we practice letting go in meditation. Grounded, balanced in our breathing. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, we let go. They arise, we recognize them and let go. They fall away. We do this thousands of times.
It never stops. No real extraordinary effort. We just show up, we stop, we allow space, and we let go.

It’s an act of bravery, it’s an act of generosity, it’s an act of peace.

We still have goals, we still work to benefit, to reduce harm, to end suffering. But we do so, with an openness and non-attachment to the results. It is an act of trust, trusting that the seeds planted – seeds of love, seeds of empathy, seeds of compassion, seeds of justice, seeds of equality, seeds of peace – will come to fruition in their time, when the appropriate conditions arise to support and nurture them.

This will be how we maintain sanity, in this time. Show up, act with love, let go, and get to work again, and again.


hold to the center…

A monk asked Xinghua Cunjiang, “What should one do when things come from every direction?”

The master said, “Hold to the center.”
The monk bowed.

The master then said, ” Yesterday, as I was on my way to a dinner in the village, I was caught in a sudden storm with heavy rain and violent wind, so I headed for an old shrine and found shelter.”

~ Entangling Vines: A Classic Collection of Zen Koans,
trans. Thomas Yuho Kirchner

I read the above story in the latest edition of Tricycle Buddhist Review, from an essay written by Wendy Egyoku Nakao Roshi.  I was moved by this story and inspired to create the artwork above.

Where do you find your center?  What anchors you as the waves crash around and against you?  Where do you find your ease and calm as turbulent winds swirl around knocking you off balance?  How do you keep awareness focused, when distractions vie for your attention?

For me it is my meditation practice, it is nature, it is the tenderness of an open heart, it is love.   It is staying with all that is and bearing witness, anchored in my breath and them from a place of compassion, moving into some sort of action that feels beneficial, that hopefully serves love and light.

I suppose everyone’s center may be different.  It seems increasingly important to know what it is.  There seem to be some who are intent on knocking us off balance repeatedly, wearing us out.  But what they have forgotten, or may not be aware of, is that there is a place for each of us where we can find our balance, our focus, and a calm resolve to stick with it for the long arc.


offer all of it…


today is Teacher Appreciation Day.  there are so many teachers I am grateful for, so many who have influenced my life in small and large ways.  what a gift!

today, though, I would like to highlight Susan Piver.  I trained to be a Meditation Instructor under her guidance and I continue to learn from her practical, grounded practice and teaching.  she is real, direct, humorous, and generous.

below is a teaching I keep going back to.  so beneficial.

“When I’m at my lowest and have no more ideas about what to do, I think, ‘Offer it,’ and something shifts.  Even if only for a moment, I feel lighter.  It’s not a simple offloading into the ether; I intend my feelings as a devotional gift, a kind of mind-Prasad.  Even though I have no idea how my ‘gift’ could be of any value, I offer it anyway…I know not to what or to whom.”  ~Susan Piver

profound.  just “offer it.”  all of it.  the sadness, the anger, the hurt, the confusion, the broken heart.  the swirling chaos, and the shaking ground beneath your feet.  who you are, where you are at, what you are feeling – offer it.  all of it.


dancing between the two…


we have within our hearts
the capacity to

hold all of this.

the tears, the laughter
the noise, the silence
the gain, the loss

the stillness
the love.

we also have within our minds
the wisdom to

let it all go.

and here we are
on this journey together

learning to dance between the two.

this life!
this life!


let the mind stay…

The world is swirling around, a sound over here, a sight over there.
Confusion is an easy companion of distraction.
Where is balance and harmony, when the mind wants to run?
Let the mind stay…


Song of Paldarbom
by Shepa Dorje, the yogi Mila Milarepa

I can contemplate the sky,
But clouds make me uneasy.
Milarepa, tell me how
To meditate on clouds.

“If the sky’s as easy as you say,
Clouds are just the sky’s play.
Let your mind stay
Within the sky.”

I can contemplate the sea,
But waves make me uneasy.
Milarepa, tell me how
To meditate on waves.

“If the sea’s as easy as you say,
Waves are just the sea’s play.
Let your mind stay
Within the sea.”

I can contemplate my mind,
But thoughts make me uneasy.
Milarepa, tell me how
To meditate on thoughts.

“If your mind’s as easy as you say,
Thoughts are just the mind’s play.
Let your mind stay
Within your mind.”