with each breath i am reborn…

  

we often think and say that, with the New Year, we have a fresh start – a clean slate to make choices that are more beneficial to our lives and the lives of others.
but the truth is, it is even better than that!

a fresh start is available with each breath we take – every breath we take is an opportunity to begin anew. every breath is a new lease on life, a confirmation that we still have the opportunity to benefit ourselves and others as we continue this journey.
each new breath is a new opportunity to let go, to choose life, to choose love, to choose nonaggression and nonviolence, to speak words of encouragement, to bear witness to our suffering and the suffering of others, to act with compassion and kindness, to live generously and with grace, to laugh, to smile, to be brave in the middle of our sadness, to dive into this experience fully opening our hearts more and more, choosing to be healers to the suffering we see.
may 2016, and every breath you take, remind you that there is beauty and there is love – and that you are both of these things.
namaste

~j
#NewYears2016 #NYE2016 #HappyNewYear #change #transition #opportunity #life #love #compassion #kindness #generosity #courage #nonaggression #nonviolence #laugh #healing #healers #mindfulness #meditation #zen  

2015, a year for Love…

dearest friends ~

i write to you this New Year’s Eve with a heart full of gratitude for the year that has past and abundant optimism and faith in our ability to grow in Love in the year ahead…impermanence is a good thing.  so much potential ready to manifest given the right circumstances.  and i feel like the circumstances are chomping at the bit – ready – waiting – for us to open and surrender to Love.  to let go, to let be into Love.

on one hand Love can and will do what Love can and will do…but Love is all about relationship and Love is extending a hand to a dance partner willing to dance.  are we willing to take that hand?

i feel like this past year, i have had this growing aspiration to extend my hand in return.  and this year i plan on honoring that more fully.  for me this means, to do so in my art and writing – to be more disciplined and generous with my time to those areas of my life.  for me this means, to do so with my meditation practice – getting up earlier (which means going to bed earlier) to secure that time for such devotion and practice.  for you, it may mean something else entirely.  perhaps based in your religious tradition or practice, or perhaps not if you do not have one.  perhaps your practice in opening to Love will be through your work, or your family.

Love is calling us to dance.  we may not be the ones to find a cure for cancer or some other disease – but we may hear Love call us to the bedside of a loved one, friend, or even a stranger.  we may not be the one to save a life through some epic act of heroism, but we may hear Love call us to smile at a stranger, share a kind word with someone who is hurting, to open our hearts towards those outside of the majority – those targeted, those rejected by religion, state, or other powers.  we may not be the ones to put an end to war, but we may hear Love call us to end our own battles and wars within our own hearts.  we may hear Love call us to embody peace with our patience, our calm, our gentleness and capacity to allow life to simply be.

and it can change day to day…

a couple of days ago, it was connecting with my friend Mario who answering Love’s call shared with us the Love Button campaign to spread Love.  it is such a simple, yet awesome idea.  please read all about it, by clicking on the link.

Love Button

and sometimes the call can surprise us.  today i woke up to snow – for those that don’t know, i live in a little rural area north of San Diego, called Hidden Meadows.  this area hasn’t seen snow in 47 years.  i’m not talking about a light dusting – i’m talking about full on snow…for us, anyway.

IMG_6024

this was exciting and when it calmed down a bit and some had melted away under the midday sun, i decided to take advantage of the opportunity to practice what i mentioned above and i began some walking meditation.  the walking meditation out in the cold crisp air, while i was all bundled up, was exquisite and peaceful.  as i walked, feeling my feet kiss the ground (as Thich Nhat Hanh has said), feeling the air fill my lungs and hearing the distant laughter of children playing in the snow, i decided to begin with some metta (or loving-kindness meditation)

may all beings be happy, be peaceful and at ease
may all beings be free from fear, from anger, from attachment, from suffering

which led into some chanting under my breath of the Tibetan compassion mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.

and then i saw it.  a worm.  a worm struggling on the drying cement driveway under the warming midday sun.  are you rolling your eyes?  well, hold off, this story gets more worthy of eye rolling.  it was instantly clear to me, and convincingly so, that i could not pass the worm and ignore its perilous situation.  it was clear on a profoundly simple yet concrete level that i was the worm and the worm was me (go ahead roll ’em).  so…i found a little blade of dried grass to assist me in grasping the worm who would have otherwise been further tortured by my fumbling fingers.  i scooped up the little me and found a shady area under a bush with some soft muddied dirt.

there.  my work was done and kind of felt good about it all.

then, i saw another worm in a similar predicament, though this one looked a little worse for wear.  but it isn’t my place to judge whether it was close to death or not.  this new little me had movement and well, at least it could die in the shade of that bush next to the first little me, if that was its destiny.  why leave it to bake?  so, i followed the same protocol as i chanted Om Mani Padme Hum.

and i have to say at this point, that what happened next gave me pause.  as i turned from rescuing the second little me, i saw oh so many more worms.  at least a dozen.  now my eyes were open.  and now with my eyes open i could not close them to the suffering in front of me.  are these worms any less divine?  is their life any less sacred?  probably not, but my hands were freezing at this point – so i got to work.  slipping the blade of grass beneath the wiggly, if not writhing body, into my hand and onto the muddied dirt.  then i would dip my hands under the drainage pipe for a scoop of water to keep the dirt moist…eventually covering all these little “me”s with some watery mud, giving them what i hope was a second chance at life.  here are a couple of pics of a few of them partway through this effort.

saving worms 1saving worms 2

i wonder what the neighbors were thinking as i walked around, up and down the driveway and road, back and forth.  but it doesn’t really matter.  we don’t know how, when, where, or why Love will call – and it very well may seem insignificant or silly.  our only choice really is whether we answer the call or not.  answering the call is honoring the soft spot in your heart, the seed of love – bodhicitta.  devoting yourself to answering is the act of a Bodhisattva – one who devotes their practice, and their life (even over many lifetimes as some believe) to ending suffering.

my aspiration for 2015 is that i learn to stop, to open, and to listen a bit better. compassion is Love in action.  to have compassion is to suffer with – even if the one who is suffering is a little worm, a little Buddha to be.

here below are some wonderful tools for opening up and practicing a compassionate life, from the wonderful Pema Chödrön:

THE SIX WAYS OF COMPASSIONATE LIVING

~Generosity. Giving as a path of learning to let go.
~Discipline. Training in not causing harm in a way that is daring and flexible.
~Patience. Training in abiding with the restlessness of our energy and letting things evolve at their own speed. If waking up takes forever, still we go moment by moment, giving up all hope of fruition and enjoying the process.
~Joyful enthusiasm. Letting go of our perfectionism and connecting with the living quality of every moment.
~Meditation. Training in coming back to being right here with gentleness and precision.
~Prajna (or transcendent wisdom). Cultivating an open, inquiring mind.

wishing you all a year filled with growth in Love.  may your year be surrounded in friendship and peace as we journey forth together practicing compassion in this ever-changing, always beautiful life.

bows of gratitude for your friendship and for being – Happy New Year!
~j
12.31.14

Me Snow Meditation

saying “yes”…

Solidarity Thursdays
Thursday, January 3rd 2013

saying “yes”…

YesEnso

Happy New Year friends and welcome to my first blog for 2013 and the first coordinated blog of 2013 as part of our continuing series, Solidarity Thursdays.  I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to share space with Ben, Esther, and Zachary.

This week’s blog topic, appropriately, is “New Beginnings”.  Ironically, I have had quite a bit of difficulty…beginning.

You see, I find myself – my heart and mind – still bound up in 2012, at least where it has bled into 2013.  Try as I might, sitting in meditation, chanting “let go, let go”, I have discovered that even as I sit on that cushion I am harboring anger, frustration, and sadness over recent events.  I am grieving in empathy with the families of the numerous children so tragically taken from life.  I am grieving the ever increasing reaction we have to greet such horrific violence, with preparation to impart even more violence as a means to end violence.  And in this, I am not speaking of the families who were directly affected.  I would expect and understand such a reaction from such pain and suffering.  Ironically, most victims are not calling for what is being set forth.  A peripheral audience of opportunists, along with those guided by fear seems to be framing the discussion. I am grieving that politics can seemingly – so callously – ignore violence towards women or victims of Hurricane Sandy by not renewing The Violence Against Women Act or securing funds for these destitute people still without homes, still without assistance so long after the event.  I am grieving for our over-consumption of resources resulting in an increasingly fragile environment and increasing poor.  I am grieving that there is such continued imbalance of power, not through legitimate means, but instead through manipulation and dishonesty.  I am grieving that this is so often a cause for celebration, rather than a wake up call to compassionate change.

And in this grieving and attachment, I feel disconnected.  I feel disconnected to this world, where life is seen as so fragmented – where people entertain the idea of the “other” – where violence is seen as normal and in some cases even morally right and even a “necessary evil” – where for a matter of convenience we can look the other way, even as so many unnecessarily starve to death.  I grieve that I have played a part in this just as anyone else has.  I grieve, because Life itself is grieving. I grieve, because I am, indeed, connected to this world.  I grieve, because I so love the people in this world.  I grieve, because I long for people to stop and remember their nobility, their Divine Heritage as children of God, of Life, of Love – however you want to define or frame it.  We are better than the violence, we are better than the overconsumption, we are better than the indifference, and we are better than fear.

I remember, I read quite some time ago when I began my meditation practice – specifically Metta, or loving-kindness meditation and with it a practice called Tonglen – that it isn’t unusual for a practitioner to become more aware and in touch with sadness…because even in its joy and beauty, life is always tinged with what I would call a sacred sadness.  It isn’t just in Buddhism where this is recognized, just look to the artwork of Christianity where Jesus is depicted pointing to his exposed and Sacred Heart.  Or even to the story of the crucifixion itself, where it is implied that it wasn’t just the wounds but the great burden of carrying within himself the brokenness of life that extinguished his.  Loving until the heart itself breaks.  As our heart opens to the world, we begin to see and connect to the pain of the world – pain we have participated in and pain we have been victims of.  This coming of age to pain, this befriending of sadness, is an opportunity for compassion.

So I sat on the meditation cushion this very day, my breath interrupted by the thoughts listed above.  I sat, with my heart heavy, my emotions ready and raw.  And all I could do was what my practice continues to teach, what the Buddha taught 2500 years ago, and what Jesus encouraged with every person he encountered – begin anew.  Beginning anew – coming back to my breathing, connecting my mind with my body, and in doing so reminding myself to live as a Whole being, a being of compassion, a partner to Life, a child of Love.

And I was reminded what it means to begin anew.  It is our way of saying “yes” to Life with our life.  It is our way of aligning ourselves with Life itself, of saying we are not separate, rather we are partners.  It is our way of living Love, of acting with compassion.

It is a given that we need Life…but have you ever thought that Life, in fact, needs you?  That this may bring meaning to why you are still breathing?  That this may bring inspiration and motivation to why you are still here, to say in continuance – Yes, yes, and again, yes.

YESensos

We fall, we rise.  This is the pattern.  The New Year is a wonderful way to ritualize this, but then again, so is each breath that we take.

May this New Year be blessed with many new beginnings as our hearts continue to open to Life and in service to compassion.  Here is the blessing I shared on Facebook for New Years, may it be so:

“May you know your own beauty and sacredness just as you are. May you feel understood and valued. May you continue to learn, grow and open to all of what Life offers you. May you still experience peace when troubled, healing when wounded, patience when angered, and joy after sadness. And most of all, may you know that you are loved.”

Namasté

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: Ben at The Horizontalist, Esther at Church in the Canyon, and with a unique perspective, Triskaidekapod.