Posts Tagged ‘Fulfillment’

petals

July 23rd, 2017    -    8 Comments

When my daughter was three years old she was asked to be the flower girl in a family wedding. I’d never been a flower girl, so I felt as though all my aspirations for her had been fulfilled. We’d get the fancy dress, the shiny shoes, the crown of flowers: it would be perfect. But as the date approached I was stressed. She was three, for heaven’s sake. How could I could keep her awake, good-humored, and adorable at an evening wedding past her bedtime without a nap? (I thought like this quite a bit.)

The doors of the hotel ballroom opened and the wedding guests turned to see a tiny girl enter with a basket. She walked forward all by herself, dropping handfuls of petals with great seriousness until she stopped abruptly just halfway down the aisle. Then she tore out running the rest of the way to the front until she could hide herself on my lap. Her basket had emptied, you see, and she couldn’t keep going without petals to throw. It was precious, but for years after she would say that she ruined the wedding.

This summer my daughter is 17, and she is spending a month in New York City taking classes before her last year of high school. The night she moved into the dorm, she texted me: “miss you.”

I responded immediately as if she needed me to. But she didn’t need me that night, or any other.

Over the weeks, her messages have been scant and short.

I love it.
I love my roommate.
I love my teachers.
I love NYU.
I love the city.
I love you.

They are petals, dropped on the far side of the aisle, from a full basket.

dare small things

March 31st, 2015    -    12 Comments

Become the least grain of sand on the beach. —Maezumi Roshi

I’ve had this quote on my mind lately, because it’s so easy to be distracted by the waves.

A few years ago I spent considerable time running the streets around my neighborhood. I told myself I was training to do a great and worthwhile thing: a marathon. I didn’t yet know that the truly great thing was taking even one tiny step.

Since I ran in the mornings, I would often cross a major intersection at commuting time, and lope through the crosswalk as the cars idled beside me. I had a startlingly intimate view of the solitary drivers, which is a rare and beautiful thing. We sit behind our wheels as if cocooned in invisibility. No one looked back at me. No one noticed the small, stooped lady striding past, smiling at them.

I might have said people looked grim, but that wasn’t quite true. They had no expression. They were unaware. It was going to be a day like any other. Not a single one of them would have thought they’d achieved greatness.

But they had. They had punched the alarm and gotten out of bed. Made the coffee and turned off the pot. Packed a sack lunch. Fed the pets, scratched the sweet spot under the dog’s chin. Smeared a smudge of butter across a slab of toast. And here they were, on time or late, calm or impatient, angry or bored, feeling utterly insignificant in the scheme of things.

My heart would swell at the sight of these great people answering the noble call: to do small things, and do them everyday. That’s why I smiled, but they didn’t see.

***

My dear husband was part of a recent space landing that bore as its slogan “Dare Mighty Things,” a snippet from a stirring Teddy Roosevelt quote:

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Teddy could rally soldiers to their doom.

The space project was daring, its landing sequence worked, and it brought a wave of relief and pride to a group of people whose careers are continually being foreshortened and whose intelligence, frankly, is a bit of a cultural liability. (At least in this country.) The landing of the mission, though, was not the mighty thing. I had an up-close look at this endeavor, so I know.

What was mighty is that thousands of people woke up each workday for many, many years in several countries to log onto their computers and answer emails, stand in security lines at airports, eat crackers at their desks, tell jokes and ask about each other’s kids.

We must not lose sight of this everyday greatness, or we might as well live on Mars.

***

My teacher tells the story of hearing firsthand Maezumi’s instruction, “Become the least grain of sand on the beach.” He thought at first the old guy was telling him he wouldn’t amount to much. Aim low. Give up. Settle for less. And then he realized that not amounting to much was amounting to everything.

Become the least grain of sand and you’ve become inseparable from the whole beach. Big, mighty, or great doesn’t begin to measure what you already are. All you have to do is see it, and then, keep doing the small things. The universe depends on it.

Two more little things you might want to look into:

Beginner’s Mind Meditation Retreat April 17-19 in West Hartford, CT

Prairie Bloom: A Zen Retreat Aug. 6-9 in Madison, WI

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a bite or a banquet

January 14th, 2014    -    5 Comments

Pindapata – ALMS Companion from Edward A. Burger on Vimeo.

In a certain sense, you could say that Buddha was homeless. He made a home wherever he went. He and his disciples were itinerants, each possessing nothing but a robe and a bowl to beg for meals along the way. In some Buddhist countries today, this practice has been ritualized into a monastic tradition. Monks pass through the monastery gates each morning and into the “real” world where strangers fill their bowls with offerings. The lesson is not one of poverty or humility. The purpose is not to instill charity or even gratitude. Buddhist rituals have no secret or special meaning, except to point directly to the true nature of our minds.

Each of us walks along a path with no sign of where we’ve been, and no knowledge of where we’ll end up. The earth rises to meet the soles of our feet, and out of nowhere comes a gift to support and sustain our awareness, which is our life. Some days the gift is a bite, and some days it’s a banquet. Either way, it’s enough.

Meet me for a weekend of practice in Loveland, Ohio March 27-30.

Excerpted from the upcoming book Paradise in Plain Sight ©2014 by Karen Maezen Miller. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com

if you want, give

December 5th, 2013    -    8 Comments

51wgzXg3BgL._SY300_If you want time, give away your preoccupations.
If you want faith, give away your reasons.
If you want peace, give away your ideas.
If you want love, give away your fear.
If you want rest, give away your worry.
If you want a better future, give away your past.
If you want a home, give away your walls.
If you want fame, give away your contentment.
If you want money, give away your happiness.
If you want more, give yourself less.
If you want fulfillment, give everything away. (You’ll never run out.)

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gone weeding

July 19th, 2013    -    5 Comments

arbai-prati11Empty handed, holding a hoe. —Mahasattva Fu

No matter how pretty it might look on a good day, paradise is just a patch of weeds.

What loyal friends, these undesirables that infiltrate the impeccable lawn, insinuate between cracks, and luxuriate in the deep shade of my neglect. Weeds are everywhere, thank heaven, reporting for duty every day. I have quite a bit of help around here but weeds are my most reliable underlings. Where would I be without them? I would run out of reasons to wake up every morning. I would lack motivation and direction. I might consider the job here to be done.

The job here is never done.

As if it isn’t obvious enough, I must confess that in these sixteen years of gardening I have not yet learned how to garden. Oops! By this I mean that I do not know the chemistry of soils or the biology of compost. I have not learned the nomenclature; I do not know the right time or way to prune. My most useful tools are the ones farthest from my hands: sun and water. I have not planted a single thing still standing. In all this time in the yard I have cultivated no worthwhile skills, save one that is decidedly unskilled.

I weed.

I offer this up as a modest qualification because I have noticed how reluctantly most people bring themselves to the task. Weeding is not a popular pastime, even among gardeners. Weeds are the very emblem of aversion. One spring I directed our revered Mr. Isobe to a troublesome spot in the backyard where invasives were spreading through the miniature mondo. He squinted to see what I was pointing to. Subsequently he did not share my alarm, but broke into laughter. “You want me to weed?” I suppose he felt the need to verify that someone of his stature would be asked to stoop to the occasion.  After that, I didn’t ask him again. The weeds were all mine. read more

oak tree in the garden

July 5th, 2013    -    14 Comments

big-oak

This is an excerpt from my next book Paradise in Plain Sight, coming next spring from New World Library.

A monk asked Joshu, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China?” Joshu said, “The oak tree in the garden.” —Gateless Gate, Case 37

From the beginning, I called it a grandfather tree, the oak tree in the garden. The reasons were self-evident. It was tall, broad-shouldered and thick around the middle, like my grandfathers. Plus, I had an album of photos that showed it standing at full height before I was born. Only later did I learn that there wasn’t even such a description in arboriculture. What I called a grandfather tree was instead grandfathered, protected from removal by a village tree ordinance. But that made sense, too. It’s impossible to remove your grandfathers from the line of life you’ve been given. When you’re little, they hold you. You look up to them. They might teach you something useful that no one else has the time or patience for. In time, they slow down, grow feeble, drop things—but you can’t do a damn thing about it.

Even approaching a hundred years old, the oak tree in our garden was a fount of life. It cradled nests of marauding rats and raccoons. Noisy squirrels chased the length of it all day long. Jays shrieked, hawks roosted, and the wind flew through its wide-open arms. Its canopy shaded a teahouse built by a groundskeeper in the 1920s for his kids to play in. That’s a lot of hide-and-seek and games of tag: generations of joy and laughter. Two years after we got here, our daughter Georgia was born. Suddenly, we saw only peril in a yard full of rocks and water, not to mention dirt. If it had been left to me, fear would have kept us locked indoors. But Georgia kept proving that she was born to play in the garden, as we are all born to play in the garden. She watched her step; she knew her place. Before long, the neglected teahouse was crawling with kids for parties and play-acts: revivals of The Wizard of Oz and Little House on the Prairie, stories about making yourself at home wherever you are, stories retold with every generation.

The oak tree in the garden drops more than two thousand acorns a year. Each acorn is both a culmination and a seed; each carries its own ancestral imprint and the full potential to evolve. In California, the principal propagator of oaks is the scrub jay. A jay picks up thousands of acorns and stores them underground in the fall, and when it’s time to eat, remembers where nearly all of them are placed. Nearly all. A few stay undisturbed underground, and those are the ones that sprout. The lineage of the coastal live oak depends on what a bird forgets, and the survival of the Western scrub jay depends on what a live oak leaves behind. It sounds like a willy-nilly proposition, only it isn’t.

One acorn in ten thousand becomes a tree. On the one hand, what a waste. On the other, it works. In the crapshoot of life, you—I mean you—turned up. You rose from the ground of your ancestors, their dust in your bones. Without accomplishing another thing, you are the complete fulfillment of all those who came before you. How can you doubt yourself?

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20 minutes to fill

January 17th, 2013    -    3 Comments

Karen Maezen Miller Interview from Kelly Dahl on Vimeo.

I had this lovely conversation with Kelly Dahl the other day about how to find fulfillment. Give yourself 20 minutes to find out by watching the video. Then pop over to her site and do something good: leave a comment on her post to win a copy of Momma Zen for yourself or to share with someone who really needs it. You will be full in no time.

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unsaid

November 16th, 2012    -    3 Comments

 

I do not want to write what doesn’t need to be written.

I do not want to say what doesn’t need to be said.

This life is purely good.

Be still and know.

 

where is the line

October 22nd, 2012    -    7 Comments

Sometimes I’m asked about a certain line.

Where is the line between my needs and my family’s needs?

Where is the line between time away and time at home?

Where is the line between doing too much and not doing enough?

Where is the line between taking care of myself and taking care of everyone else?

Where is the line between inside and outside?

Between you and me?

Then and now?

Happy and sad?

Laughter and tears?

And I respond:

There is no line.

Look up, look around, see what needs to be done. There is no line, no wall, no gate, no limit, no barrier, no lock or key, and no one stopping you, except that one who has stopped to look for a line.

everyday ingredients

May 12th, 2010    -    2 Comments

I’m so happy to see an excerpt of Hand Wash Cold posted at Shutter Sisters today as part of their May “One Word Project.” Their inspirational word for this month is one I can’t help but love: Everyday. Visit the site and leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of the book. As an enticement, here is a taste of an audio excerpt using the same ingredients. Just click on the link and let the mp3 download and play. Savor and share it!

Ordinary Life – An Audio Excerpt from Hand Wash Cold

Photo by Tracey Clark

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daily bread

March 1st, 2010    -    16 Comments

Banana Bread by Tracey Clark

Give us this day our daily bread.

When I was a little girl and recited that line of the Lord’s Prayer, I always took notice. Suddenly, my religion had given me something I could see, touch and taste. Something I experienced everyday, scuffed with butter and dabbed with jelly. The other things I’d learned to say in church were in a dusty, lost language. For a moment at least, my Wonder Bread filled me with wonder, a gift descended from the invisible heights of heaven.

I was not wrong, as a child. Children do not err or misperceive. Bread is all this and more. It was only later, my sight dimmed by cynicism and self-absorption, when I began to search for more than my daily bread. I began to do what all of us do, and urge one another to do: go someplace else. Dream, lust, wish, follow, journey, uncover, trudge, and wallow. Overlook the bread, and find your bliss. It must be somewhere, the fulfillment we seek, hidden in something bigger than a breadbox.

It seems to me we spend nearly the whole of our lives overlooking the obvious: debasing the ordinary and idealizing the unattainable. I’m damn tired of it, aren’t you? Why don’t you sit down and have a slice of bread? Have a pair of pants and shoes, a blanket, a sky, a blue jay, the back of an envelope. Have your work, and just do it. Have a neighbor, and say hello. Have a night’s rest, and a day after. Have a smile, a cough, a burp. Blow your nose. Pay your bills. Fold the towels and match the socks. read more

My new practice robe

January 3rd, 2010    -    10 Comments

I hung up my priestly things and came home after a week’s retreat.
Inside the door, I said my hellos, reached into the closet and put on my practice robe.
I said, “This is no reflection on you, but this is what I must do.”
He said, “I know. So I did a little bit and then left the rest for you.”
I sorted the laundry to calm the eye.
Ran the vacuum to clear the mind.
Mopped the kitchen free of stubborn stickiness.
Freshened the fish tank. Changed the towels. Emptied the trash.
Tomorrow I think I’ll clean out the rain gutters.
I know my place.
I know the way.
I am home and happy.
Having the good life is simple when you practice the one you have.

What looks like Christmas

December 13th, 2009    -    9 Comments

Purchased the Wii she put #1 on her wish list for the last three years now that it has fallen to #2 behind hamster, the kind of retro hamster that – like the two fish, turtle and dog – requires someone’s mother to clean and feed it.

Encouraged her good dad to buy a little Christmas tree and found out three days later it cost $100.

Coerced my daughter into having a cup of hot cocoa with me at Starbucks despite her protests that, in 70-degree sunshine, she wasn’t very cold right now.

Raided her piggy bank to pay for the cocoa with every intention of repaying it.

Let my husband pick out a computer for her and he chose one that is better than mine.

Spent $160 on gifts at Target and allowed the cashier to sign me up for a store credit card to save 15 percent, a process that took 15 percent of the trouble it will take to cancel the credit card.

Soon realized that 15 percent of $160 isn’t nothing but amounts to less than nothing.

Learned that a plumbing leak requires replacement of the dining room ceiling before our Christmas company comes.

A ceiling over our heads instantly amounted to my greatest wish and blessing.

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