Posts Tagged ‘Love’

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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just one life

August 18th, 2010    -    9 Comments

We were side by side in the spinning class this morning when she turned to me and spoke over the pounding pulse of the imaginary road beneath us. We got into it last night. I nodded, and knew. After I made my plans and sent out the invitations, he won’t take the kids that weekend. The lonely long stretch of it, the gaping ache of betrayal. You just can’t do that! At every turn, the shock and sudden crumble. I know what he’s doing. He’s taking her and her kids on vacation. Another raging tremble. It’s more than we ever think we can bear. And I thought to myself “she should read my book.”
We rode.
We all ride.
Sometimes it’s steep.
We sweat and cry.
A slope, and then it’s harder yet.
Farther still and finally
The last gasp.

Class over, we slide off the bikes and she says to me “I should read your book.”
I wish you would, I say, because there’s just one life and I want you to know.
It’s not over yet.

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forget what you call it

July 21st, 2010    -    43 Comments

OK friends. I am officially now part of the problem. In Zen we call this kind of talk “going into the weeds” and I caution you not to get entangled in the vines. Here are my worthless opinions on the meanings of some commonly misunderstood Buddhist terms and why I think they are so easily misjudged.

DISCLAIMER: Notice that I just used the words problem, opinion, meaning, misunderstood, why, think and misjudge at the same time. Watch your step, and don’t take my word for any of this.

Glossary of Misconceptions

Attachment – Oooh la la. We think attachment means loving devotion, as in “attached at the hip.” But sometimes that isn’t love, is it? When we’re intoxicated by romance (or just intoxicated) we might want to stay attached forever. Don’t leave me! I can’t live without you! But attachment becomes uncomfortable and confining, suffocating and debilitating. And it doesn’t only mean clinging to what we like, it also means rejecting what we don’t like. Attachments are desires and aversions that we can’t let go of; the places we get emotionally, physically and mentally stuck. Life itself never sticks. So when an attachment gets ripped from our grasp by the ebb and sway of life as it is, we hurt. Attachments are the source of our suffering and unfulfillment. Can we ever let ourselves stop hurting? Can we ever be satisfied and happy with life as it is? The dark truth is that we are often attached to our suffering. We relive it over and over in our minds and reignite familiar, painful feelings. Sometimes we’re not quite sure who we would be if we didn’t have our unfulfillment to fill us up. The funny thing is, when we drop an attachment we find out that we’ve lost nothing at all.

Non-attachment – Boo hiss! Who wants non-attachment? That sounds downright sinister and at the very least indifferent. But non-attachment isn’t inhumane, unconcerned or indifferent. It simply means that when the ebb and sway of life carries us along, we can let go because we see all of it in a different way. It doesn’t create the absence of feeling or smug disregard. It allows instead the complete acceptance of all feelings and circumstances as they are, empty and impermanent. We hurt, and then we stop hurting. We grieve, and then we stop grieving. We are free. When we truly love someone or something, we grant them freedom from our own preferences. We neither clutch nor reject. Non-attachment is the nature of life itself: it keeps going. Non-attachment allows us to love one another and life as it is regardless of whether we like it right now or not. It gives rise to trust and cultivates faith in something far greater than what we wish: life as it is. Non-attachment is selfless compassion.

Ego – Uh-oh. Now the party’s over. Who invited the deadly sins? Envy, anger, greed, pride and all the rest are sure signs of ego. Thankfully I don’t have any of those symptoms if I do say so myself! There: that’s ego too. Ego is you when you are talking to yourself. “I like this; I don’t like that. I think so; I don’t think so. I agree; I disagree.” Ego is the voice of the thinking mind, the mind that conceives, perceives, measures, judges, evaluates, picks and chooses, likes and dislikes, clutches and rejects from the standpoint of a separate “I.” There is nothing wrong with ego, or thinking. Only most of your thoughts are not pleasant, and egoism is by nature self-serving and fearful. The attachment to ego is our most pernicious attachment. Still, we do not aim to destroy ego, just suspend its driving privileges! read more

sitting quietly doing nothing

June 28th, 2010    -    14 Comments

Last week my daughter finished fourth grade.

At the beginning of the year her teacher asked the students to make a time capsule from a cardboard cylinder and fill it with artifacts. Inside went a self-portrait; a hand print; names of favorite foods, movies and books; and a list of goals for the year ahead. She opened it on the last day of school, and this was what it said:

What I would like to learn this year:
1. Pi
2.More long division
3.More multiplication
4.To type

What I would like to accomplish in school this year:
1. Math Field Day
2. Student Council

What I would like to accomplish at home this year:
1. Middle split
2. Back handspring

What I would like to do to become a better person:
1. Volunteer at the aquarium

I record these things here not for her, but for me. I had not one thing to do with anything on this list, and she did them all. I no longer know what pi is or does, and any handsprings I do are mere metaphors. I post it to remind myself that her life is her own, and to make space for it to grow in every direction. To trust her able hands, agile mind, limber legs and passionate heart. To delight in the scenery and to marvel at the change. To keep company with her – silent, loving, loyal company – and to leave her off my list.

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.

For an up-close view of what I mean, see what my friend Pixie saw in my patch of paradise. The photo credit is hers.

A rose colored carpet

January 21st, 2010    -    No Comments

Flowers fall with our longing, and weeds spring up with our aversion – Dogen

I read a book this week that was really a good book, a memoir about how much a daughter loves her father, warts and all, and about how that love transcends age, sickness and time. In the story, the author recalls meeting up with a Buddhist family in Nepal during a bit of youthful wandering, and although she can’t reconcile herself to faith, she dismisses Buddhism in a single gust over that one prickly word we hold so dear: attachment. read more

Love itself

January 15th, 2010    -    4 Comments

Can’t think of anything worth leaving but this.

The light came through the window,
Straight from the sun above,
And so inside my little room
There plunged the rays of Love.

In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

The hummingbird and the fire

January 13th, 2010    -    5 Comments

A terrible forest fire broke out one day, and all the animals fled their homes. But one hummingbird zipped over to a stream, got some water in its beak, and rushed back to the raging fire. The little hummingbird tried to douse the flames with a few drops of water, then back to the stream it flew to retrieve more water. The other animals watched in disbelief. They asked the hummingbird what it was doing – one tiny bird would not make a bit of difference. The hummingbird replied, “I’m doing the best I can.”

I’m getting ready to go to Scottsdale for this weekend’s Mother’s Plunge and by getting ready I mean I’m not getting ready. I’m slouching around in my pjs, drinking coffee, resetting the clocks after last night’s power outage. Making beds, unloading the dishwasher, groaning over the shopping list that means I’ll have to go to Target before I leave.

Last night at bedtime I had a scary thought: What will I tell these women? Oh, for sure I have a general idea, but I don’t do anything based on a general idea. Those of us who gather will have never come together before and likely won’t ever again. Our once-in-a-lifetime meeting, like every moment of our lives, is the culmination of a vast and unknowable past and the seed of an infinite and unimaginable future. It’s magic, I tell you. There’s nothing general about it.

There are more women attending this Plunge on scholarship than any one before. When I asked for donors, there was such an outpouring of unselfish generosity, met by an equal torrent of unabashed need, that I stand in pure amazement. Pure amazement, I tell you. Aid comes not because any of us is lacking, but because all of us are rich. So rich in love that it pours out of us.

Prepare to be doused.

If you’re anywhere near our little fire, come for water. If you’re not, choose a bigger one to quench and do the best you can. It’s impossible to do otherwise.

***

The hummingbird and the fire is a Japanese folktale, but you might like to hear it told or read about the kind of inspiring people who believe it here.

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How to make a baby

November 15th, 2009    -    13 Comments

Add baby.
Dispose of birth plan.
Put all cashmere out of reach.
Abandon eurostyle.
Abandon style.
Piss on style.
Shop Wal-Mart in haste and desperation.
Beg for hand-me-downs.
Wear husband’s sweatpants.
Every day.
Leave room for baby weight, flat feet, worry lines and permanent scars.
Resemble your grandmother.
Forget bathing.
Luxuriate in a hot shower for 7 seconds one day.
Forget that day.
Chop off your hair.
Lose your head.
Soak all stains overnight in salty tears.
(The stains remain and the tears return.)
Simmer in fatigue.
Whisk in exhaustion.
Churn the night into the day.
Let surface harden until brittle.
Scrape the bottom.
Let time evaporate.
Give up completely.
Make nothing.
Except mac and cheese microwaved for 3.5 minutes on High.
Love without doubt.
Forever.

If you have a minute, stop by here and give Theresa an attagirl.

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Madonna of the magnificat

November 12th, 2009    -    8 Comments

I cannot let this day pass without a hallelujah! Without a scream! Without a dance! Without wonder and awe! Without immensity of love and gratitude everlasting!

Sylvia Marie Olson
8 lbs, 8 oz
20 inches
Lots of red hair!
Born 5:56 a.m. on November 12, 2009

Perhaps you met this family in my backyard about eighteen months ago. Perhaps you met my friend Jen at the first Mother’s Plunge. Perhaps you know everything I’m about to show you. And if so, you know it bears repeating again and again. The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.

Monkey love

October 27th, 2009    -    9 Comments

First, I want to thank all the commentators on my last post, even those who told me off. I will let you off the hook for not liking me. It’s easy enough to let us someone off the hook, since there is no hook except the one I invent with my judgment and expectations.

What I want to explore is where we get the sense that we are so inept at parenting. Where does that judgment come from? It’s a fascinating piece of self-inquiry.

Once I gave what I judged to be a good talk at my Zen Center about the extraordinary challenges of parenting. The parents in the room nodded in solidarity. Why, oh why, was it so hard to do it well, to do it right? Ours was the most difficult job in the world! The discussion wound on and on, going nowhere, until my teacher gave a harrumph.

“Even monkeys can raise their young!” he said.

“Raise them badly,” I thought at the time, taking his comment to be little more than the rude evidence of his unique insensitivity. “He might have been a father,” I reassured myself, “but he was never a mother!” Mothers, I knew firsthand, could be the unrivaled experts at doing difficult things. With an extra degree of difficulty, I might add.

Some of us take at face value the conventional wisdom that “parenting is not intuitive.” It sounds true, since we judge ourselves to be so bad at it. But that would mean that human beings are the only species on the planet without the intuitive capacity to raise their young. That sounds false.

There is something that inhibits us, but I don’t think it’s intuition. After all, we have a boundless store of intuitive wisdom that functions miraculously with no interference from us. That’s what I wrote about in a column that ran yesterday on Shambhala Sunspace. No, what sets us apart from monkeys and all other mothers in the animal kingdom is our intellect. Our higher-order thinking, wherein resides knowledge, comprehension, analysis and judgment. Intellect is useful, but it is limited. Intuition is mysterious, and it is boundless.

Knowledge is acquired, but wisdom is revealed. Each has its place, until we come to the matter of judgment, critical judgment of ourselves and others. This is where the hooks are – the shoulds, the bests, the rights and wrongs, the perfect and imperfect, the not good enoughs. We must be careful when we ensnare ourselves in judgment, because there is no love there, not even monkey love, and that’s the most irresistible kind.

***

Edited to add: This link to a redemptive story in today’s Times for all of us so preoccupied with “how things will turn out.”

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I hate you*

September 22nd, 2009    -    89 Comments


*and other ways to say I love you.

Today I had a: conversation/fight/tantrum/major meltdown.
The fact is, I’m having a tough time with the transition to: going back to work/daycare/no sleep/solids/no nap/the big bed/the twos/the threes/a new sibling/the layoff/the new job/kindergarten/fourth grade.
I’m just so frustrated with: naptime/potty training/bedtime/no time to myself.
I shouted/screamed/slammed the door/broke down/sobbed/made her cry.
I should have: seen it coming/stopped in my tracks/used my words/taken a break/left the room/given myself a timeout.
This is so much harder than: I thought/anyone told me/it was last year.
How can I: learn from my mistakes/do better/raise my child differently?

My friend Kris Laroche sent me a Feeleez game recently to give away on this blog. Because of all of the above, I feel happy to share it with you now.

Kris is one of the founders of Feeleez, which originated tools to teach kids what some folks call emotional intelligence.

Getting along peacefully is what we all want to do. A tool to help our children identify and talk about their feelings helps parents talk about their feelings too. Personally speaking, that has always been a more urgent need in our household, and that’s why I’m so glad to offer you this gift.

Kris was an early adopter of Momma Zen, for which I feel so grateful, and she checked in with me recently to find out how else I was feeling. Frankly, Kris, I’m feeling relieved now that I said all this, and empathize with all the moms who I know are having a rough go of it these days.

I’m giving away a beautifully crafted and packaged Feeleez Empathy Game with 25 matching pairs of Feeleez cards to help you and your children learn to recognize and express feelings in a non-confrontational way. It comes with a guide for several game ideas including memory games and charades. It’s a lovely addition to your home or classroom.

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me how you feel right now, including a way to contact you by blog or email if you win. Seriously, I feel sad when I choose a winner that I can’t contact! The giveaway ends next Monday, Sept. 28. Enter as often as you like whenever the feeling strikes.

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Peek inside my medicine chest

September 18th, 2009    -    26 Comments

It’s the time to reach for a tonic.

For fatigue: Be tired.
For impatience: Be still.
For inflammation: Chill.
For despair: Empty completely.
For fear of getting nothing done: Get nothing done.
For having no time: Take time.
For lack of love: Love.
For disappointment: Dance.
For inadequacy: Give.
For no reason: Be unreasonable.
For others, pray.

For these and all other symptoms, exhale.

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Every bit love

September 15th, 2009    -    12 Comments

The other night I stepped into the living room to deliver the announcement: Timetobrushyourteethwashyourfaceitsbedtime! My husband and daughter were watching an ancient baby video, one of the ones we haven’t watched in, oh, nine years or so, a dozen obsolete formats ago.

We were starstruck.

She was not yet two. We watched her waddle in circles around the lemon tree, and then repeat a circuit around the yard, climbing the steps over and over, little feet sailing, arms flailing, head tucked and hell-bent on a mission called growing up.

She stood in sunken, soggy diapers twirling her goldilocks curls and rubbing her bedtime eyes.

She danced in a loopy bounce to grandpa’s ragtime piano, bathed in a spotlight of self-immersion and propulsion.

She emptied her first Halloween bag piece by piece, cooing a drooling baby talk of approval, chirping a drunken birdsong of eees and opps and umms that we understood perfectly.

I said to my 10-year-old, “Now do you see why we love you so much?”

Everything seen and unseen. Heard and unheard. Known and unknown. The confusion, the fear, the fatigue, the worry, the doubt. The rage, the gulf, the hurt, the tears, lonely sleepless anxious terribleness, all of it, the ugly underside of it, and the unwrapped rosy red yummy of baby’s first bobbypop. It’s all love.

My sweet lord. Every bit love.

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