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.

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

let it begin with me…


early morning #Christmas #meditation?let’s do this…
let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, indeed.
Merry Christmas, dearest friends to you and your families! May the Love that is celebrated today be manifest in our hearts and lives. May we be the hands, the feet, the voice and the heart of this Love for a world thirsty for love, healing, and peace ~j
“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” — Steve Maraboli
#Christmas #Christmas2015 #meditation #peace #love #healing

calling all healers…

Medicine Buddha, Fall Leaves by JMW

calling all the healers, it is your time…
to those willing to pause before reacting, to breathe before speaking, it is your time…

to those willing to lay down their weapons whether they be guns or words, it is your time…

to those willing to keep their hearts open to vulnerability and their eyes open to pain, it is your time…
this call is for you, the healers – the willing.

those willing to do and embody what is needed now to heal and not further perpetuate suffering. those who are willing to stand in the face of fear, confusion and anger to transform them, rather than be ruled by them.
even as we may understand that there are at times specific needs for military or law enforcement, let us also bring a counter balance to those who call for more guns, more violence, more anger, and more fear. 
may we bring healing through our work, through our art, our words, our every breath. 

“We’ve entered this new era, and we have to be planning for healing just as carefully as others are planning for destruction.” – Omid Safi

Friends keep asking me where we find hope in these turbulent times. We don’t. We don’t find hope. We generate it.
Hope is like sanctity and community. Hope doesn’t descend down to us from heaven. It rises to heaven from right here on Earth.
As Warsan Shire says, it hurts everywhere, everywhere. As Parker Palmer says, even the healers are wounded healers.
We need to have a national and global conversation about faith that prepares us to carry on the work of healing so that we can be prepared when these atrocities hit us. This is the new normal. There are going to be Paris attacks, Beirut attacks, Baghdad attacks, Nigeria attacks, and more in the months and years to come. The work of healing is needed now, more than ever.
The atrocities are “events.” The healing has to be an ongoing, everyday journey. This healing work actually has to come before the atrocities, through the atrocities, and after the atrocities.
We’ve entered this new era, and we have to be planning for healing just as carefully as others are planning for destruction.
We’re simply, by necessity, now in an era of global processes of healing. As others have said, we’re all wounded, so we’re wounded healers now.
Everyone hurts — though not all hurt in the same way. Everyone has a role in healing — though not everyone is ready to heal.
 turn, as I do so often, to the very heart of our faith traditions for hope. I remember the Qur’an saying that the ease, the healing, comes not after the difficulty but with it.
We cannot wait to be wounded before we turn to heal. We have to anticipate the healing, generate the healing, raise up the healing.
I remember Rumi’s words:
The wound is where the light enters you.
I see wounds. I see the wounded. And I see the wounders (who often carry their own wounds).
In an age when violence is broadcast widely, when the quickest way to fame is to say something vacuous and pungent How do we make the healing visible? How do we recover love as a public virtue? In the midst of this tragedy, I keep searching for hope, still my own heart to keep generating hope For myself For my children For all of us Where do we find hope? Mostly hope, courage, resistance are invisible. Hope’s never linear, rarely public, usually tender and private. Every now and then, we see examples of hope that become visible.

I want to shine a light on these moments — to remember, to rejuvenate, to recall — when the goodness shines on through, and reminds us of the need to keep generating hope.
Let me share one such moment from Paris. The moment of light is from a husband, Antoine Leiris, whose wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, was killed in the attacks. In his response, there is grace and dignity. It reminded me of Mamie Till, holding an open-casket funeral for her son Emmett, both for the world to see her suffering become public, and also to say that she had no time to hate, and would devote herself steadfast to seeking justice.
The husband released a statement to the ISIS terrorists: You have taken away the love of my life, a beautiful woman. You seek to get me to hate you, but I will not give you that satisfaction. I will not give you the satisfaction of having your hatred be mirrored in my heart. You, and your action, will not determine the kind of human being I will strive to be.
Here’s the transcript of the message from the husband, posted on Facebook. The original message was in French, here is an English translation:
“On Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you won’t have my hatred.
I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know — you are dead souls. If this God for which you kill indiscriminately made us in his own image, every bullet in the body of my wife will have been a wound in his heart.
So no, I don’t give you the gift of hating you. You are asking for it but responding to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.
You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have lost.
I saw her this morning. Finally, after many nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago.
Of course I’m devastated with grief, I admit this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will accompany us every day and that we will find ourselves in this paradise of free souls to which you’ll never have access.
We are two, my son and I, but we are stronger than all the armies of the world.
I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.”
Here is what we often do not understand about the power of nonviolence in an uber-violent world. Nonviolence is not so much about “turning the other cheek” or responding to violence with a refusal to return violent action. That is simply the start. It is, simply, the minimum. It is actually more profound, as the widower husband says:
“So no, I don’t give you the gift of hating you. You are asking for it but responding to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.”
Real nonviolence is the adamant insistence that we will choose to live a life of dignity, beauty, and meaning. That we will not get drowned in a whirlpool of hatred and violence.
The father ends by saying that he would say more, but that he has to go take care of his toddler, a toddler that now only has one parent to raise him.
Yes, we have children to raise,

parents to love,

friends to hug,

neighbors to reach out to,

inner-cities to heal,

and refugees to shelter.
There is real work to be done, genuine healing, which we have to generate.
The truth is actually much harder, and more beautiful than a simple refusal to return violence for violence. That would be akin to cursing a dark night already devoid of stars.
To curse the darkness, to bring more anger and rage into this world, is to let the terrorists win. It is to let the terror inside our own hearts win.
Healing begins by a commitment to letting light shine. We have to generate this light, this hope this healing and mirror it to each other. Let your light shine. Let’s heal each other, fellow wounded healers. We are in this together.

this, your very heart…

this, your very heart.

broken open, heals the world.

dam breaks, water flows.


“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” ~ Zelda Fitzgerald
“O, that my monk’s robe were wide enough to gather up all the suffering people in this floating world.” ~ Zen poet-monk Ryōkan
“The practice is never for ourselves alone.” ~ Joseph Goldstein
#heart #HeartBrokenOpen #healing #suffering #love #CapacityToLove #interdependence #community #sangha #practice #meditation #compassion #metta #LovingKindness #Zen #haiku #quotes #JMW #TheMettaGarden 

Nepal Earthquake, prayers…

prayers for Nepal for rescue, aid, relief, fresh water, generosity, healing and peace. 

more than 1400 lives lost. many many injured. many with whereabouts unknown, many possibly buried with nightfall, rain, cold and aftershocks complicating the situation. hold them in your heart and prayers and give as you are able. peace ~j

#Nepal #NepalEarthquake 

11.24.14…11.26.14 ~ days of waiting

battered heart large

i have been waiting.  allowing myself to feel this discomfort, this sadness and disappointment, this anger.  giving space to what is heated within, finding its balance with what is sane and centered in the heart – compassion, kindness.  waiting to respond with thoughtfulness – choosing to act rather than react.  this is my practice after all, the practice of Buddhism.  to keep the heart open in the face of what is uncomfortable, painful, ugly.  to be with it.  allowing it to teach and reveal.

this has been difficult, not reacting, not feeding the fire as i have read comment after comment these past few days on social media.  most of these comments from friends.  so many quick to react with declarations which at their least harmful are only minimally informed, are over-generalized, and over-simplified – and at their most harmful are cynical, dishonest, cruel, bating, aggressive and i’ll say it, racist in some respects and over all bigoted in other respects.  racism referring to discrimination solely based on race and bigotry referring to discrimination based on personal opinion which can include anything from race to gender identity, sexual orientation, class, profession…you get the picture.

you see, racism and bigotry today whether personal or systematic, are like anger – most people don’t want to admit that they angry and aggressive, neither do most people want to admit that they embody racism or bigotry.  that’s part of the problem.  what we are not willing or able to see, we are not willing or able to transform and heal.  it’s insidious in that it barely surfaces in the open…thriving where it can’t be seen.  poverty is insidious as well…perhaps this is why the two make such comfortable companions.

so as i read comment after comment about how this 18 year old deserved to die, got what he had coming to him for breaking the law (“if he had only not robbed that liquor store”), or how rioters didn’t steal any work boots (inferring they are jobless? lazy? not sure), or how all cops are pigs, or how justice was served, or how the Grand Jury was completely fair and just (from people who no doubt didn’t read the evidence – which hadn’t been released yet)…i found myself in a bit of despair.  we have so much work to do as a country – still not having faced fully/willingly the sins of our past…something that desperately needs to be done if we want to be truly healed and transformed – and we are reducing this opportunity to name calling, finger pointing, riots and looting?  when we reduce the dialogue to half-truths and generalizations, to bating and name calling, when we reduce our actions to rioting, looting and causing more harm – we miss the bigger story of what is going on and we miss our opportunity to create change, to transform ignorance and pain, we miss the opportunity to reduce suffering and heal.  let’s not miss this opportunity, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it may be.

i worry for my nephews and nieces – all beautifully diverse in ethnicity and color.  but i worry most for my nephews.  the stares they will receive, the unwarranted fear and suspicion people may have, just because they have dark skin.  it’s true, it already happens…the staring part, just recently at Disneyland.  perhaps they were just staring at me, wondering what this bald white guy was doing holding this beautiful dark skinned toddler.  my bald head was shiny due to sun-block, perhaps they were staring at that.  i don’t know, but on multiple occasions people just looked like they didn’t understand what they were seeing, until they noticed me looking back smiling, which provoked at least a partially cracked – maybe slightly embarrassed smile on their face.

so i keep my heart open, because this is the practice and despite all the ugliness i’ve been reading and seeing these past few days, i still believe that all people without exception – even the most hatefilled, ignorant, angry, and nasty in their words and actions – at their core are good and have the ability to have their hearts open in love, transform their lives, and benefit the world rather than add to its suffering.

i keep my heart open, so that my nieces and nephews see what that looks like in the face of sadness or anger.  i keep my heart open so that compassion can find a home and love can find a way to flow into service for others that they may benefit.

perhaps we all should at some point in our lives, experience a bit of oppression, a bit of bigotry towards us, a bit of feeling marginalized.  perhaps this mud of being on the bottom is fertile ground to grow empathy, understanding and compassion. perhaps then we will see that it is possible to name what is ugly without becoming ugly ourselves.  it is possible to point to what is harmful without adding to it with our words and actions…perhaps then we can be a people joined in our predicament of suffering, learning how to love and heal together.

in closing, below is one of my favorite poems from my teacher, Thay.  Thich Nhat Hanh wrote this poem in 1965 having been surrounded by violence, death and suffering during the Vietnam War.  i share it with all of you and i hope you hear it. but i share it especially for all who have been or are oppressed, victimized and marginalized – all who have suffered and are angry or in despair.  i share it for my nephews and nieces, whom i hope will grow into a world where perhaps they will not experience bigotry or racism, but if so, will find their ground in compassion and love.

on the eve of this 2014 Thanksgiving, even in sadness, i can say i am grateful.  grateful for my beautiful family, for my practice, for our capacity to love and grow, for so many that inspire me to love better and open my heart more, and even to those who challenge that very heart to close up – you are my teachers.  because of you, i grow in compassion and i thank you.


by Thich Nhat Hanh

Promise me,
promise me this day,
promise me now,
while the sun is overhead
exactly at the zenith,
promise me:

Even as they
strike you down
with a mountain of hatred and violence;
even as they step on  you and crush you
like a worm,
even as they dismember and disembowel you,
remember, brother,
man is not our enemy.

The only thing worthy of you is compassion – 
invincible, limitless, unconditional.
Hatred will never let you face
the beast in man.

One day, when you face this beast alone,
with your courage intact, your eyes kind,
(even as no one sees them),
out of your smile
will bloom a flower.
And those who love you
will behold you
across then thousand worlds of birth and dying.

Alone again,
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road,
the sun and the moon
will continue to shine.


windows (shall we dare?)…


September 11, 2013


…still so present

…still so fresh
after all of these years…


eyes frozen on images, pulling at my heart, calling on my soul to…to what?  jump up?  to hide?  to fight?

this chest heavy, this throat tight – choked with emotion.  this heart trying to hold it all…

the fear, the anger, the grief.

do me a favor will you?

let us sit.  together.  let us sit and invite these emotions to be our friends, our teachers, shall we?

before we act out of turn, let us allow time and space to do their work, for the fear, the anger, and the grief to shed their weight and reveal their gifts.  shall we?

even as the door to our heart begins to close under the overwhelming burden of it all, even as our chests tighten again and our tears freely flow, let us allow a window in our heart to open.

a window for fear, a window for anger, a window for grief. 

shall we dare?

even as we feel fear, we can allow a window in our heart to open to all others who feel fear – fear of loss, fear of age and illness, fear of death…

even as we feel anger, we can allow a window in our heart to open to all others who feel anger – anger at loss, anger at injustice, anger at feeling powerless…
even as we feel grief, we can allow a window in our heart to open to all others who feel grief – grief for loved ones gone, grief for dreams not lived, grief for the mortality of life…

shall we dare?

shall we dare Life, even in the most tragic of circumstances, to reveal Her Beauty?

if we dare to open the windows of our hearts
if we dare to allow such nakedness – such vulnerability
if we dare to open our eyes – to see how we all suffer the same fear, the same anger, the same grief…

then, even as the Lotus growing out of the mud, reaches up revealing Life’s Beauty
we, too, can grow from the darkest and most tragic places in life, revealing that we are also capable of Beauty

shall we dare?

~ j