Posts Tagged ‘Attention’

seeing joan

September 8th, 2011    -    7 Comments

On a weekend when we’re being called to have a reckoning with the memory of unspeakable ruin, I won’t say one word. I only offer this light to memorialize a friend who left last week. By this, may you see.

It was a shock, yes, the news. From nowhere, it was a wave, a blast, a shimmer. It was the sun, exploding.

It was Joan.

In the days that followed, that’s how I would recall her. That’s what I would say, “I never saw a shadow darken her face.” Joan was pure radiance, and I think she still is.

She made you think it was all about you: her pure delight at the sight of you. You might have thought you were special, even gifted. But any gift you had was what Joan had first given you. She gave you her presence and she gave you her joy. It wasn’t a pretense. She could not pretend. The fact is, you never once disappointed her.

Joan was full in the way the sun is always full. And I imagine she still is, her arms full of the whole of us, her heart wide open, her face beaming. There are so many who are sad in her absence and so she keeps shining, shining through the shadow that darkens us, the vacancy, the disbelief, until we look up and see the light, the light that is vast and uninterrupted.

It is Joan. I see her still.

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the rolls of a lifetime

July 16th, 2011    -    5 Comments

The role of a parent in the life of a child: Patience
The role of a child in the life of a parent: Impatience
The role of a partner in the life of a relationship: Acceptance
The role of a relationship in the life of a partner: Irritation
The role of a teacher in the life of a student: Demonstration
The role of a student in the life of a teacher: Attention
The role of toil, trouble, disappointment and inconvenience: Service
The role of anger: Equanimity
The role of hatred: Love
The role of enemies: Harmony
The role of community: Solitude
The role of light, food, shelter and air: Generosity
The role of the self:  None*

*Which means replace the empty roll while you’re at it.

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goes well with chocolates

January 19th, 2011    -    3 Comments

Some of the most profound truths come from the simplest minds and mouths.

The movie character Forrest Gump immortalized his mother’s homespun wisdom in the line, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The saying is so pervasively repeated and unarguably true that my 11-year-old daughter, although she’s never seen the movie, quotes it to me regularly. Surrounded lately by the tasty snack buffets of holiday parties and bowl games, I arrived at my own recipe for sagacious living.

Life is like a five layer been dip. You always get out what you put in.

Everything you do well requires these five ingredients. Together, they deliver irresistible goodness and lasting satisfaction . . .

Taste and share the goodness! Continue reading this recipe for a tasty life and leave your comment at the Huffington Post.

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things I learned on twitter

October 22nd, 2010    -    7 Comments

1. Everyone seems to be selling something.
2. No one seems to be buying anything.
3. It’s easy for anybody to be quoted. And I mean your average ordinary nobody.
4. Mistaking quotations for wisdom is like mistaking fruitcake for dessert.
5. Twitter seems awfully noisy until you realize that what you hear is nothing at all.
6. A lot of tweets read like air kisses.
7. If you think air kissing is like kissing, you might like fruitcake for dessert.
8. Here, take my fruitcake. _/|\_
9. You can have stacks of fruitcake and you still don’t have anything to eat.
10. Personally speaking, no one seems to be as interested in what I have to say as I am.
11. Tweet this: Things I Learned on Twitter http://bit.ly/d9rbGF
12. RT this: RT @kmaezenmiller Things I Learned on Twitter http://bit.ly/d9rbGF
13. Quote me. – Karen Maezen Miller

If you liked this, you might like: Things I Learned on Facebook.

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turning life into love

August 23rd, 2010    -    7 Comments

When I was at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral this spring, I asked the audience what they thought turned the inside of the church into a sanctuary. Was it the concrete walls?

When I was leading walking meditation in the chapel at Seattle’s Bastyr University in June, I asked the people with me what turned the ground under their feet into a pathway. Was it the terrazzo tile?

When I was at a yoga studio in suburban Milwaukee last Saturday, I asked the group in front of me to notice the change that occurred in the room from the time we convened at 2 p.m. until the hour we dispersed at 4 p.m. What turned the mildly restless, self-conscious discomfort at the start of our time together into the vast, settled calm at the end? Into a still and quiet ease so deep that no one cared to move? So satisfying that no one rose to leave?

The answer is you. The secret is yours. The power of your own nonjudgmental attention is what transforms space into spaciousness. It turns your wandering into the way. It transforms your life into love.

And now we’ll do the same in Boston when we gather for the Mother’s Plunge on Saturday, Sept. 18.  I’m so pleased that we’ll be meeting at the Seaport Academy, a therapeutic day school for adolescents who need extra attention to navigate the perils of growing up. The students will not be there the day we are, but your attention will, and your attention will transform our humble gathering into the spaciousness of infinite potential. Come see for yourself what the power of your love can do. We’ll leave some of it behind, and you can take the rest home with you.

And if you’re not on the East Coast on Sept. 18, come to the one-day meditation retreat I’m leading in LA on Sept. 12. We’ll turn our attention onto a bare white wall and unleash the wild blue yonder. You don’t have to believe it; you just have to see it.

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cloudy with a chance

July 27th, 2010    -    11 Comments

On a week when I am at away at a practice retreat, I asked Lindsey Mead of A Design So Vast to write this guest post. She offers her own practice reminder and weather forecast. If you’re in Boston, it looks like you’ll just have to get wet!

I never understood the saying, Our kids are our teachers. Actually, I’d go further.  I rolled my eyes whenever I heard it.  I thought it was one of those trite adages like another one that I love to hate, It is what it is.

Then one day last fall, the universe hit me over the head with the truth of that statement.  Grace, Whit and I were walking to the playground in Harvard Square.  Grace was in the middle of a long-winded story when I glimpsed a friend standing by the gate of the playground.  She waved at me and shouted hello.  “Hi! So glad to see you!” I responded, waving enthusiastically.  When I dropped my hand to recapture Grace’s I found that she had crossed her arms angrily across her chest.  She’d planted her feet in a classic I am NOT happy stance, stubbornly remaining behind as Whit and I kept walking.  I turned back to her.  “Gracie, what’s up?”  She shook her head, screwed up her eyes, and I saw tears rolling down her cheeks. I dropped Whit’s hand to hurry back to her, crouching down in front of her.

“Well, sometimes, when you see an adult and you are excited to see them you stop listening to me. Sometimes I feel like you are not paying attention to me. And you always tell me interrupting is wrong. But then…” she hesitated, “then you do it yourself sometimes?” Her voice wavered and I could tell she was not sure if what she was saying would get her in trouble. I wrapped her in a huge hug as I realized the wisdom of her words.  I whispered that she was right, that I needed to be more careful, that she was a thousand times right and thank you for reminding me. read more

give it the sun

May 4th, 2010    -    9 Comments

Gardens, like children, are forgiving; gardens grow. Love, even clumsy and unrefined, cultivates. Time, unhurried, is never wasted. Plants grow heavenward, strong and true, toward the even and ever-present light.

Right in front of me, in plain sight, I have finally seen what the full sun can do. The sun gives attention, and attention fixes everything. It is up to me to put into practice the larger lesson I’ve been shown.

If I encounter you on my way today, I’ll look at you and say hello.

If the phone rings, I’ll answer. If you send me a message, I’ll respond.

When my husband opens the front door, I’ll stop what I am doing to greet him.

When my daughter comes home from school, I will have nothing to do. We will have no place to run. We will lounge on the floor or linger on the lawn. When she speaks, I will listen, without steering the conversation to a conclusion. If she has a scheme, I’ll go along, and let her pull me off course. We will let the hours lapse and the afternoon drift. When she looks at me, and even when she doesn’t, I will embrace her in the shine of my smile.

Today, for a moment more than I think I can bear, I will give her attention. I will give you attention. I will give this world my complete attention. I will give it the sun.

Chapter 16, Hand Wash Cold

You’re just in time for two, count ’em, two giveaways of Hand Wash Cold this week: at the Wishstudio blog and at Imene’s Journey to a Happy Simple Life. Give them both your complete attention before the winners are named this weekend. Good luck!

For a pictorial reader’s guide to my home and garden, view the photo album on the Facebook Momma Zen fan page. Photos by Chris Bertrand.

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All ears

July 21st, 2009    -    3 Comments

Everyone should listen with his or her eyes open and upon the speaker – in other words, with their whole being – because an impression received only through the hearing is rather shallow, akin to listening to the radio. Each person should listen as though the message was being given to him or her alone. Human nature is such that if two people listen, each feels only half responsible for understanding, and if ten people are listening each feels responsible to be but one tenth. However, since there are so many of you and what I have to say is exactly the same for everybody, I have asked you to come as a group. You must nonetheless listen as though you were entirely alone and hold yourself accountable for everything that is said.

To be continued

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Attention is love

June 29th, 2009    -    13 Comments

Attention is the most concrete expression of love. What you pay attention to thrives. What you do not pay attention to withers and dies.

Quite simply, it bears repeating.

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From a tipi to a tribe

May 27th, 2009    -    2 Comments


Perhaps if this woman had ever been here, she would have had the fearless forethought to stay there. Maybe if more girls could find their own expression, they wouldn’t be lost in translation. It’s not farfetched to imagine the day we’ll have one of our own braves as chief. That would indeed be tribal justice.

My friend Wendy Cook has taken an impossible dream out of her laptop and into her lap with the launch of the Mighty Girl Art empowerment camp starting this summer. It’s for our tweens riding the raging waters between slippery rocks and hard places. (And those aren’t just the frontiers where calls get dropped.) I have a tween, and I hope in the months and years ahead she will learn to trust the voice of her native intelligence above the mindless cacophony of the crowd. But she needs wise mentors and guides beyond her mother’s fleet fingertips. All of our girls do.

What I really want is for Wendy to bring her tipi to my front lawn for a West Coast outpost. Saving that, I want you to look around the camp see how you can add your muscle to the magic. How can we grow this? Spiral it outward? I liken it to my own recent kids’ writing project, which has ricocheted to 70 places all over the world in just the last week. There’s no underestimating the power of getting ink all over your hands, and no one has to make a case for it.

It’s about time, girls, to put our faith in the tipi instead of the WiFi, connect to the sacred circle and not just a cell network, and flex something other than our thumbs.

We have a whole world to rescue and seven generations to serve, starting now.

Whoop!


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After the ecstasy, the ecstasy

May 20th, 2009    -    10 Comments


For the before, click here.

Dear Karen,
Thank you for helping us doing our book. You are a very good author. Yesterday at the book tour I was kind of shy to read it but then I was very excited to do it. The kids asked us how many months did it take to do the book. We said it took us about 2 months. We kind of got like every kid’s question. They loved us and they loved our books a lot. One of the kids said I want to be an author too!

You are the best author ever in the whole wide world!

Love,
Wendy

The last 19 books I didn’t write

May 17th, 2009    -    76 Comments

stock-footage-colorful-books-stack-loop-colorful-books-piled-seamless-loop-with-copy-spaceAbout mid-way through this school year, my daughter started griping, I’m bored. I thought, whatever. She nagged me to volunteer in her class. I thought, no way.

When a four- or five-year-old uses the word, bored, it’s a safe bet they are playing with the word. But when they are eight or nine, it might be time to pay attention. When I did, it changed my life.

I like Georgia’s historic, charming, well-staffed, well-intentioned public school. She does too. This post is not about the shortcomings of her school. It is about the shortcomings of my attention.

My daughter and her classmates are being taught superlatively well how to write to rules and rubrics. But to write freely, for fun and without judgment? That’s a different story.

Stuck in my own nowhere of creative momentum, I plunged instead into a new adventure. I proposed to Georgia’s teacher that I lead a classroom project in something I’d never done, but that amounted to the only thing I could contribute. The magnificent teacher did her part: she said yes. Then, over a four-month period, she and I worked together with 19 third-graders to write their own creative nonfiction (and a bit of fiction) stories.

We tell our children stories. We read books aloud, and prod our kids to read for themselves. So they read about famous people, folk tales and legends, biographies, historical fiction and fantasies. But do they realize that their own lives are stories? That they have the experience and imagination to create and share stories that come entirely from themselves? Based on their own remarkable lives and the future they envision?

Well, of course, they can. Give them tools and attention and you will be amazed. I was amazed. I was encouraged. I was uplifted and transported. I was repaid a million times over, with the only payment that counts or lasts.

I want you to know that wherever your child goes to school, or doesn’t, whatever their age or grade level, they are brilliant. They are geniuses. They are authors. I am convinced already. I am their first fan.

I word-processed and printed out each three-chapter-long book on my computer. They drew illustrations and a cover design that we laminated. They wrote author bios and I snapped their photos and we put that together on the last page. We spiral bound everything together and then they went on book tour reading their stories aloud in classrooms of younger ages. We’re having a book festival next week where the kids will read their stories to their fellow authors and everyone gets a literary prize. An eraser. Oh how I prize my own, because the most important thing about writing is not that you finish. It’s that you start, and then start all over again.

What did they write? To keep it short, I assembled 19 lines from their work into this abridged life story. It gives you an idea of the treasure they handed to me.

My story is unlike any other.
I was born early because I wanted to go places.

My first smile wasn’t a real smile, it was my “about to cry” smile.

It was like being sad and happy at the same time.
When I was little I liked excitement. I put Cheetos in the microwave.

When people asked how many friends I had, I said, “It would take a long time to count them.”
It seems like I have friends all over the world.
Friends are magic, movies are magic and spelling is magic because people can read your writing.
Making people feel happy and safe is the most important thing there is.

Everywhere we went, we went fast.

I thought a lot about growing up, but my parents thought about when I was little.

That’s what parents do.

Sometimes you have to lose something to find something better.

What you love never really goes away.

I used to want to work in an ice cream store, but something tells me life will be more interesting than that.

The day you read this I may be 9 or 90.

Now my energy goes up in the daytime and down in the nighttime.
The funeral lasted three hours.

Somewhere I’ll be watching, and I’ll be happy if you are good citizens.

I could go on forever, but my heart is bursting, and I find I have some writing to do.

***

If you are a parent or teacher and you would like a copy of the lesson plan I created for this project, “My Life Story: A Creative Nonfiction Project for 3rd Graders,” just leave a comment with a way to contact you, or email me and I’ll gladly share.

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Like sand through the hourglass

May 12th, 2009    -    8 Comments

Another spring.
Another carnival.
Another gallon of distilled water every week.
Introducing Zippy and Bubbles.
Newly installed and counting the days in this life everlasting.

A morning memorial.

Photo by Georgia Miller


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