Posts Tagged ‘Love’

the longest day of my life

August 30th, 2011    -    8 Comments

It’s the day before the start of middle school. I take my daughter to the campus to pick up her sixth grade class schedule. Half hidden by their summer growth spurts are the kids we’ve always known and yet never seen before.

Georgia gambols over the dusty grounds with a pack of friends while I sit under my hat like a mom perched on the rim of a playground. All the action is inside the circle.

Everything moves in patterns and cycles repeating, repeating.

The temperature cools. The sunset shaves off two minutes of daylight. It’s Tuesday, so I wheel the trash cans to the curb. Standing there I recall another dusk when I carried the baby to the sidewalk, so weary, so done, waiting for Daddy’s car to turn into view so I could end the longest day of my life.

It wasn’t long and it wasn’t over. The morning will come and I will love – I will really love – this day forever.

A sad prayer and promise for my happy friend Joan, on what began as another day and ended as her last.

love stories

August 22nd, 2011    -    38 Comments

I have two books and one story to give away this week. Like all stories, they are love stories.

A few weeks ago I answered an invitation to read and review this acclaimed new book, To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal. Why am I suddenly saying yes to reviewing books? Perhaps because it’s summer; perhaps to avoid my own writing. That’s okay. When it’s time to take your time, a book is as good as a day on the lake. Here the author dips into a favorite well of mine: how we tell old stories to ourselves; how we salvage, refinish, embroider, store, and vainly, always vainly, try to relive the past. The book has a vintage feel to it, like its solid hardcover heft. The characters are old-school and middle-aged; they can ring false to one another and sometimes to the reader as well. But there is a beating heart here that is pure, placid and wide. It is romance: the romance we can only lose, since romance is by definition long gone. And then when I read that the author was 63 years old, with 12 years between his first novel and this, his second, and that he builds homes for a living, and has an orange grove on his California homestead, well, I loved all that even more than the fiction. You know I have a thing about orange trees: they hold the fruit for a long time before they let it go. McNeal clearly knows how to take his time and he knows how to spend it. I’ll gladly send this one to you so you can love time all by yourself.

The publisher sent me a crisp new copy of that book with a chapter of mine in it, Right Here With You: Bringing Mindful Awareness into Our Relationships. It’s got all the Buddhist regulars in it, and a few of us irregulars, and I’m sure it’s good because the Dharma is always good. I haven’t read it because I don’t read the kind of books that have me in them, but be sure to ask if it’s right for you now.

And finally, I’ll send you a second time to the online excerpt from my most recent magazine article, “Waking up Alone,” in the current issue of the Shambhala Sun. The issue focuses on the wisdom of love, and my article is about how we never know what love is until the love story ends.

Leave a comment on this post with the name of either or both books, if you want them. I’ll choose a winner next Monday.

Less than three weeks til The Art of Mindfulness in Houston.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

 

that backward step

August 9th, 2011    -    10 Comments

I remember her voice, her self-introduction, so needless and formal, on the answering machine. “Karen, this is your Mom.” I listened quickly, so I wouldn’t hear what I was hearing. How long had she been announcing herself to me that way? All along? Not to disturb, not to impose, not to assume any rank or power in my all-together independent world? Mother to mother, I could recognize something now in the subtle way she stepped back and let go, even on an answering machine. Just love. — Momma Zen

On Friday my daughter turns 12. These are the days of the backward step. I do a lot of stepping back — out of her way, off of her back, to the other side of a newly closed door — but it’s still not enough. Give me a little more time, baby, to learn to let you go.

Today someone said to me, “It seems like only yesterday.”

“Not really,” I said. “It seems like forever.”

Love.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

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.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

risen

April 24th, 2011    -    16 Comments

My mother had come to me in a dream. Four years dead, she was standing on my front porch. I rushed up and hugged her. Her body was like ash in my arms, crumbling and decayed, but I was not afraid or repulsed. She took me up. We flew into space, into the vast darkness and pulsing light. I felt celestial wind in my face. It was exhilarating.

I asked her, “Is there a heaven?”

She said yes.

“What’s it like?”

Like this, she said, like this.

It was an attribute of her deep faith and her final, modest confusion that my mother believed she was dying on Easter, and it was, for her. But for the rest of us it was in the small hours before Good Friday, the dark night after Maundy Thursday, the day commemorating the Last Supper, when Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment to love one another as he had loved them. read more

p.s. i love you

April 19th, 2011    -    21 Comments

It was the toothbrush that told me. Alone and overlooked in the emptied medicine chest, it was one of the few things my lover had left behind. When I found it, I knew with certainty what I’d been denying to myself for some time.

It was over.

In truth, our relationship had been over for longer than I’d wanted to believe, but in beginnings and endings, one party can lag the other on the uptake. If the toothbrush was my messenger, what was his? Perhaps the time I kicked his suitcase to the curb? For years after, I would forget that part in the telling of the story, since we tell stories our own way.

Whether by choice or circumstance, by the fleet seasons of romance or the final curtain of death, love ends. At least the love that is a story ends. And when that happens, what are we left with? A passage we might otherwise never dare to take. A portal through denial, disbelief and despair, through rage and madness, beyond delusive fairytales and melodrama, into a state of wakeful grace that can only be called true love.

True love is what is left behind when love leaves. It only looks like the end. Make it through one ending, and you might change your mind about all endings. That is the miracle cure, the ultimate healing, left behind on an empty shelf.

***

Someone asked me to write an article about love. Specifically, about the ending of love, because nobody needs help with the beginning of love.

So I’ve been thinking about love, and here are some of the things I’ve been thinking. Thinking about love is the opposite of love, because love is never what you think. read more

seeing through

March 23rd, 2011    -    18 Comments

Here’s the thing about your 11-year-old. She has begun to see through the school she tries to like and the teachers she tries to love. See through the endless days and the culminating years. See through the grades and contests, the History Festival, Science Fair, Math Olympics and the Cultural Appreciation Day, all serving a half-hidden agenda. She has begun to see through the false privilege of measured gifts and talents, the flimsy prize of more work and extra credit. She has begun to see through the exaggerated stakes, the badges, and the salesmanship without end. She has begun to see through the unmasked elitism, the hysteria of parents in panic. She has begun to see through anyone and anything that would make a pet or pawn of her. And that empty stare, that wounded glare she brings to you – she’s wondering if you don’t see through it too.

There is that one thing, though, that ignites her pulse and passion, that giant leap beyond reason, a goal that defies the odds. See that through. Just see that through. And scream your fool head off.

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.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my Monterey retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

The long curve of kindness

January 5th, 2011    -    50 Comments

Love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4

There is a lot of talk about love. There is a lot of talk about kindness. There is a lot of talk about something we might think is a high-potency spiritual blend of the two called lovingkindness. Oh, that’s the kind of kindness I want!

Everything we say about these things is one degree removed from the thing itself. But here I go in my infinite unkindness.

Lovingkindness is the absolutely emptied, undisturbed, vast and open state of mind we realize through meditation practice. Here she goes about practice again. I’ll find my brand of kindness somewhere else!

There is nothing else.

At the bottom, beneath it all, without any intention or elaboration, is lovingkindness. It is what we are; it is what everything is, as it is. When you actually experience it, not just talk about it, you find out for yourself. These days some people in the “help” business might sprinkle the mumbo-jumbo of Buddhist lingo on top of their talk to give it a little spiritual flavor. But unless you practice, the language alone is unfulfilling. It is inauthentic. When you serve it, no one can taste the truth. What is true?

Being is love; being is kind.

It is immediate and eternal. It is ever-present, absent the insidious self-centered spin we persist in putting on things.

Kindness is the long, gentle, never-ending curve we walk on.

Kindness is what we breathe. Kindness is what we eat, when we are not swallowing the bitter aftertaste of our own unkindness. The kindness of real food is what nourishes and sustains life, which is an act of love. read more

grief is a mother

October 24th, 2010    -    14 Comments

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva doing deep prajna paramita clearly saw emptiness of all the five conditions. – Heart Sutra

We are on a death watch at my house. Which is to say, we are on a life watch. Redhead, the fantail I once boasted to be the world’s oldest living goldfish, has become the world’s newest dying goldfish. To watch her transit is a powerful and fitting thing at this hour. And although I kept her alive for so long by absurdly arrogant and heroic measures (see How to Keep a Goldfish Alive in 20 Easy Steps) now I am doing what is even more heroic: letting her disappear into her own insurmountable mystery.

Death surrounds at this time of year. It surrounds at all times, but in these dwindling of days we might see it. We might see it in the surrender of the sun and the swift triumph of night. Feel it in the grip of the wind, the cataclysm of leaves, mud, dirty windshields, paw prints, rain-dank rugs and snot: the whole soggy rot of life’s residue.

Yesterday we observed Obon at the Hazy Moon, a ceremony honoring our departed loved ones. The altar was crowded with photos of more people loved and remembered than have ever stood alive before it. Such is the way, and it is always the way, and it is always sad. Grief is our mother, and when we grieve, we taste her tears. We taste eternity, the brimming fullness from which everything rises and to which everything returns.

I can see the cycle of things that have lately come near:

A mother quaking in bottomless shock after her baby died at birth.
A friend moored in friendship’s final vigil.
A granddaughter answering the clear call of goodbye.

And right here too, come unexpected calls and emails, late word of swift departures and funerals on Thursday at 3. My daughter’s third-grade teacher was stunned six months into her happy retirement by her husband’s sudden crumbling fall into a mean disease. She walked into the school assembly last week, to see and be seen by the children she last cradled, the ones who will be the last to remember her. She whispered her widowed vacancy to me, “It’s the absence, the absence!”

I know that awful yawning space, that thunderclap after a jagged bolt rends the sky. It is the infinite ache of a mother’s heart, the heart we all have whether we are men or women, mothers or not. It is the absence that contains, curiously, our own presence, the tender fearlessness to watch and weep and let angels sleep.

Edited to add: Leave a comment on this post and I’ll include the name of your departed loved one in memorial services I do this week at my backyard altar.

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is you, the embodiment of infinite compassion.

Subscribe to my newsletter  • Fan me • Follow me.

come here

October 17th, 2010    -    10 Comments

I’m about to leave Portland, and like every place I go, I love it. I love it on sight. I love it without effort. I love it simply because I’m here, and because Portland is too. It reminds me that I love my life every time I actually step foot into it.

When I drove to LAX on Friday morning under clouds and drizzle I thought to myself, This reminds me of Portland. When I got to the Portland airport that afternoon I thought to myself, This reminds me of Milwaukee or Denver. On the windy waterfront later having clam chowder I thought, This reminds me of Boston or San Francisco. At the little church where I spoke I thought This reminds me of Minnesota or Scottsdale. Some women walked in and I recognized them, and they reminded me where we had last met. Seattle.

The real world is like this, when you meet it face to face. It always reminds you that you’re home.

I like to sum things up as simply as possible, so when I give a talk, I say, “Everything I say, the whole point of the teaching, the only reason I’m here is to get you to come here.” Then I stick my index finger out and curl it toward me, “Come here!” And by that I mean come out of the confines of your head and all those thoughts that tell you what you can’t do or where you can’t go and come into the bright wide open field before you. “Make yourself at home here,” I say, “in your life.”

But today I see that’s only half of it. The whole point of the teaching is to get me to come out, to step forward, to keep going, so I can meet you and love you on sight, without effort. Because there’s no place like home, and no place that isn’t already home.

Thank you, all of you, for always encouraging me in my practice.

love is solid ground

September 23rd, 2010    -    6 Comments

A preciously dear friend has lately recalled light once seen and fallen drunkenly in love with eyesight. She sends me poems each day like valentines and I cannot resist sharing them. Yes, yes, love sees everything exactly as it is, and walks on it, barefoot.

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

– David Whyte

Photo of the Portland Japanese Garden. Come meet me on that ground, Oct. 15-16.

hello my name is

September 21st, 2010    -    11 Comments

There exists only the present instant, a Now which always and without end is
itself new. There is no yesterday or any tomorrow, but only Now, as it was a
thousand years ago and as it will be a thousand years hence.
Meister Eckhart

My teacher Nyogen Roshi sent that quote to me in an email recently, suggesting that “you might find it useful in one of your upcoming programs.” Emailing is something we do sparingly, our relationship resting solely on the alchemy of face-to-face proximity. The rarity of his emails ensures that they are highly visible; the fact is, every email I receive is itself rare and highly visible to me, or my practice has lapsed, as Meister Eckhart observes.

On Saturday at the Mother’s Plunge in Boston, I started the way I always start – by introducing myself. “My name is Karen Maezen Miller,” I said, and go on to tell them that “Karen is the name my mother gave me, Maezen is the name my Buddhist teacher gave me, and Miller is the name Mr. Miller gave me.” I use all three names, and in that way I carry forward three streams of wisdom inextricable to every moment of my life and work. My name is not just my name. It is my teaching. When I state my name I am also stating my practice: the realization that no part of my life is more or less important. No part battles with another because there are no parts. It is all one life and all one practice.

Among the many practical aspects of Zen training is the protocol of its form: the way certain customs are prescribed and therefore serve to eradicate self-consciousness and confusion. Zen training tells us where to put our arms and legs, for instance, which is a question of considerable consternation for most of us most of the time. Practical too is the protocol of my formal practice in the dokusan room, the private interview room within which I meet and work with my teacher face-to-face. Although I have practiced with Nyogen Roshi for 10 years, every time I meet with him in dokusan, which is at least once a week (and once a day during retreats) I begin by introducing myself. read more

Pages: Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ... 10 11 12 Next

archives by month

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

twitter bits

stay in touch