Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

2 minutes of grace

February 24th, 2010    -    28 Comments

I’m reading a biography of Grace Kelly right now. Why would I need to do that? I know perfectly well how the story ends: it’s how all stories end. One way or another, each of us drives off a cliff at the foreshortened end of a long and winding road. Still, grace stands in perennial service.

As we do with other earthbound deities, we invested so much in Ms. Kelly. We made her the paragon of the good girl, the icon of good looks and the fairytale princess of the good life. She bore it, needless to say, with grace.

I bring this up because of a message recently received in complete sincerity from a dear friend endeavoring in all ways to be good. She said she was scouring Momma Zen to re-read those parts that might help in her search for courage and patience. I told her to give that up.

Words you read won’t transform your life. Words I write won’t transform my life. Only one thing transforms my life: practice. I mean both my formal practice on a meditation cushion, and my everyday, standing-at-the-sink, emptying-the-hamper practice of giving up my chronic search for something else. The life we are most devoted to is the life we don’t have.

More to the point, I told this friend of mine that if I didn’t have a practice of silencing my inner screams, I would have hurt someone a long time ago. I would have hurt either myself or someone I profess to love. I cringe when people ascribe to me such heavenly virtues as calm, peace, patience and wisdom. They don’t yet realize that I do what I must to keep from destroying my life and everyone in it out of anger, fear, frustration and resentment. read more

300 pieces and counting

December 26th, 2009    -    9 Comments

Perhaps it was
the new game the new speakers the new camera
the boxes the manuals the cords
the plastic the paper the ribbon
the fudge the cookies the cinnamon sugar
the sour cream in the enchiladas
the tres leches
one leche alone wouldn’t do
the coffee the soda the wine
the puzzle on the coffee table
300 pieces
a pair of rat terriers under your skin
27 pieces left and I can’t quit
although I’m done
marinated, roasted and fried
so in this idle between one holiday and the next
I’m ducking out as is my custom
to quietly come undone
because every year is the same and I know it:
happiness is simple
everything we do to find it is complicated.

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Triple strength stainfighting color booster with fragrance crystals

November 8th, 2009    -    6 Comments


If you come to the end of another week feeling as though you’ve missed out on something, this will help.
If you have difficulty relaxing, this will help.
If you think you can’t live without your iPhone, your computer, your TV or your Baby Cry Translator App, this will help.
If you struggle to go to sleep most nights, this will help.
If you are afraid to turn on the news, answer your door, speak to a stranger or knock on your neighbor’s door, this will help.
If the thought of the holidays, and the end of the year, fills you with anxiety and guilt that you have not accomplished enough so far in your life, this will help.
If you are worried about your partner, your children, your parents, your job, your health, your finances, your HDTV signal or anything at all that might fall apart tomorrow, this will help.
If you think you’re not good enough, this will help.
If you think to yourself I’m not getting any younger, this will help
If you think to yourself I’m not getting any wiser either, this will help
If you are afraid, this will help.
If you are angry, this will help.
If you are sad, this will help.
If you are confused, this will help.
If there is no way you have the time to do this, this will help.
If your alternative is to stay at home and scream at the kids, this will help.
If you tried meditation once and didn’t like it, or if you don’t know how to do it, or think you’re doing it wrong, or think that you’ll never be able to do it, this will help.
If you want to know where the truth comes from, where the love comes from, where the words and music come from, this will help.
If you think this is something you’ll get around to doing someday, this will help.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat
Hazy Moon Zen Center
Los Angeles
Sunday, Nov. 15, 9-5
Register here

If you wonder how doing one thing can possibly help in all these ways, it’s because it won’t hurt.

Why will I be there? All of the above.

Chapter and verse

August 20th, 2009    -    4 Comments

Blah blah blah. Meditation is good for you. But I’m bad at it. It’s boring. Who has time for it? It’s hard to do. Too spiritual. Not relevant. Some day soon you’re going to have to stop reading about it.

But when?


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To be continued

July 23rd, 2009    -    3 Comments


Buddhist scriptures, Buddhist doctrine, and Buddhist philosophy are no more than intellectual formulations of zazen, and zazen itself is their practical demonstration. From this vast field I will abstract what is most essential for your practice.

Buddha devoted himself exclusively to zazen for six years and eventually, on the morning of the eighth of December, at the very instant when he glanced at the planet Venus gleaming in the eastern sky, he attained perfect enlightenment. He spontaneously cried out, “Wonder of wonders! Intrinsically all living beings are Buddhas, endowed with wisdom and virtue, but because men’s minds have become inverted through delusive thinking they fail to perceive this.” The first pronouncement of the Buddha seems to have been one of awe and astonishment.

The first declaration of Buddha is also the ultimate conclusion of Buddhism.

I hope to have succeeded in conveying to you the importance of zazen. Let us now talk about practice.

Select a quiet room in which to sit.

This can only be continued by you.
Earlier entries in this series are here, here, and here.

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Note to self: nevermind

July 16th, 2009    -    2 Comments

There must be something in the connotation of the word “being” that makes it seem like the opposite of “doing.” I say that because I’m sometimes asked how, as an avowed meditator, I ever get things done. Perhaps they picture me curled up in a corner.

A regular meditation practice is the last thing that prevents me from totally engaging in activity. It helps me do more even as I think about it less. Hidden in the question is how preoccupied we are with to-doing rather than doing. To-doing or should-be-doing takes up quite a bit of time. It could well be the principal occupation of our lives: imagining scenarios, planning strategies, fretting outcomes, second-guessing choices and then sticking the whole rigamarole back into the familiar rut that’s so hard to get out of.

Emptying the mind of that kind of doing opens it up to a spontaneous and creative undoing that is quite marvelous and, I dare say, breathtaking.

Read the rest and leave a comment on “The Laundry Line”
my blog at Shambhala SunSpace

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How to meditate

July 11th, 2009    -    14 Comments


Practicing Zen is zazen. For zazen a quiet place is suitable. Set aside all involvements and let the myriad things rest. – Dogen Zenji, “Rules for Zazen”

To start, let go of the ideas you may have about what meditation is supposed to look like or what it is supposed to feel like. Let the monkey in your mind go to sleep so that you can wake up and reclaim your rightful home.

Unless you have a meditation cushion, or zafu, do not attempt to sit cross-legged on the floor to meditate. Without adequate support to elevate your buttocks and enable you to anchor your knees on the floor, sitting this way quickly becomes painful. The point of meditation is not pain. Your life is painful enough as it is. The point of meditation is to relieve pain.

What follows are instructions for meditating in a chair. Although you are unlikely to have the perfect chair in your home for meditation, any chair is perfectly okay. So do not delay your practice until your trip to the Furniture Mart.

1. Sit on the forward third of a chair so that your feet rest firmly on the ground. To support your back, place a hard cushion between your spine and the chair back. This will prevent slouching and keep you alert.

2. Space your feet widely apart. Your body is now supported at three points: your two feet and your bottom. In seated meditation, three contact points are essential for endurance and comfort. Your body now evokes the strength of a mountain.

3. Place your hands in the middle of your lap as follows: first, your right hand, palm up; then, your left hand, palm up, resting in your right palm. Lightly touch the tips of your thumbs together. Holding your hands in this way calms agitation and restlessness.

4. To check your posture, align your ears with your shoulders. Align your nose with your navel. Tuck your chin in slightly. Hold your head as though it were supporting the sky, and it will neither hang forward nor fall backward.

5. Relax your belly. A stiff, cinched abdomen restricts your breathing. In meditation, you will try to return to the full, rounded breathing of a baby. Watch your baby breathe and see that the belly rises on inhalation, not the chest. This is a good demonstration for you to learn from.

6. Lower your gaze, but do not close your eyes. If you close your eyes, you will be lulled into daydreaming. Meditation is not practice for sleeping; it is practice for waking up. Look at a spot on the floor or on a wall in front of you. Any spot will do, as long as it is not distracting.

7. Close your teeth and your mouth. Take a breath and exhale completely.

8. On your next inhalation, silently count “one.” When you exhale, silently count “two.” Inhale counting “three.” Count each exhalation and inhalation up to “ten” and then start back at “one.” If you lose the count, begin again at “one.” This meditation practice is called counting your breath.

9. When a thought comes up, let it go away by itself, which it will if you do not pursue it.

10. This is the practice of zazen. Do zazen for up to five minutes. Keep a watch or clock nearby to note the time. As you meditate more often, you may be able to do it for longer. Do not be self-critical or impatient with yourself. Do not push yourself. Do not make meditation one more thing you have to do. If you are gentle, encouraging and consistent with yourself, your meditation practice will naturally deepen and lengthen.

Five minutes is not a long time, but it can take a long time to find five minutes to meditate. Usually, the first five minutes or the last five minutes in the day are the easiest to find. You already have them and they are already quiet.

I will be most happy to answer your questions and encourage you to keep going.

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Just sayin

July 9th, 2009    -    9 Comments


“I often see those who are trying to study Buddhism just use their worldly intelligence to sift among the verbal teachings of the buddhas and ancestral teachers, trying to pick out especially wondrous sayings to use as conversation pieces to display their ability and understanding. This is not the correct view of the matter. You must abandon your worldly mentality and sit quietly with mind silent. Forget entangling causes and investigate with your whole being. When you are thoroughly clear then whatever you bring forth from your own inexhaustible treasure of priceless jewels is sure to be genuine and real.”

Zen Letters: Teaching of Yuanwu (1063-1135)

A practice without a practice is not a practice.

To settle the matter, settle the matter.

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The backward step

May 26th, 2009    -    3 Comments


Take the backward step and turn the light inward. – Dogen Zenji

re•treat
1: an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable; the process of receding from a position or state attained
2: a place of privacy or safety: refuge
3: a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction

Someone asked me to write about how to prepare to go on a meditation retreat. This is a good topic, since the matter of preparation is what often keeps us from going on retreat, whether it is for one day or 100 days.

How do you know if you are prepared to handle the silence, the physical rigors, the discipline, and the mental intensity of a prolonged meditation retreat?

Relax. You can’t know. You don’t need to know. There is no way to prepare. The very notion of preparation traps us in false expectation and self-evaluation. It shows us how often we are paralyzed by the feeling of inadequacy in our lives. We are never inadequate but we are immobilized just the same.

Continue reading and leave a comment to continue
the conversation on “The Laundry Line”
my new blog on Shambhala SunSpace

Take the forward step now. Register this week and you won’t miss the extraordinary company of 45 ordinary women all taking the backward step into an oasis of deep wisdom and empathy at the one day Mother’s Summer Plunge coming up on June 20.

Keep the change

April 27th, 2009    -    5 Comments


I just spent three days finding peace and presence. One afternoon while I was gone I called my husband to check in. He and Georgia were leaving Long Beach, where they had spent four hours touring the Aquarium and taken a long harbor cruise, a memorable first for both of them. Here’s Georgia’s on-the-spot report:

She: Mom, guess what?! I just found a dollar bill on the steps in front of me. And then I crossed the street and found a quarter!

Wherever you go, I hope you find $1.25 today, and keep the change. I hope I do too. Because it’s not ever where you’ve been. It’s where you are.

Getting back to one

April 5th, 2009    -    13 Comments


There is a beginning meditation practice – which is profoundly advanced – called “counting the breath.” Once you have positioned yourself to sit on a cushion, a bench or a chair, you settle the mind in the hara, which is the gut, and you start to count your inhalations and your exhalations. The way I do this is to count an inhalation “one” and an exhalation “two” then an inhalation “three” and an exhalation “four.” The instructions are to continue in this way until you reach ten. Sounds clear and simple enough. The truth is that when you try to do it, you find that you can’t get much beyond four or five before the mind darts across a meadow, over a fence, builds up speed and takes off into the beyond. When that happens, you start back at one, and keep going.

So in this beginning meditation, which becomes even more difficult with the frequency of your practice, you spend a considerable amount of time trying to get to ten. Get to ten, come on, you tell yourself, get to ten! Get somewhere, you dolt!

The thing is, should you ever get to ten, the instructions are to start back at one. The ten and the one have no merit or meaning, you see. But try believing that for yourself.

***
The other day I heard from my sister. She is fortunate enough to live along the beautiful coast near Newport Beach, California. She is doubly fortunate to rent there, because as well-off as she is, she could not afford to buy a home in those environs during the recent run-up in this world’s capital of fantasy-made millionaires.

Two months ago she had to vacate her rented condo when the owners suddenly showed up, out of work and with nowhere else to go but back where they started. She moved just across the road to another complex of lavish new patio homes, and she loves the place she’s leasing from a self-made titan now sleeping on his brother’s couch. Then she noticed that two of the six homes on her cul-de-sac were on the market, and last week another neighbor fled in the cover of night. It is and will yet be more of a ghost town, eerie for its glam appearance as a destination lifestyle with no visible lives. It recalled to me my own shock and shame when my first husband and I naively walked into and then out of a predatory mortgage 25 years ago during one of Houston’s colossal real estate boom-and-bust cycles. In the glow of your self-immolation you see that the castle you’ve built is only made of popsicle sticks.

We were trying to get somewhere. We thought that’s what a go-getting couple was supposed to do. Get somewhere. But the world is always getting back to one.

***
Then I was in a waiting room and I saw the new issue of People magazine, where someone or the other is always revealing the new version of themselves: made up, made over, reborn, relaunched, remarried, rehabbed, reformed and 50 pounds lighter!

And there was Kathy Ireland revealing the new her, just the latest go-getter to tell you her diet gets and her money gets and her happiness gets and success gets. She says she had grown overwhelmed, overstressed, overweight and over-everything before she found some new secret way to get a better body. But wait! Didn’t she already have a do-over? Wasn’t she the SI swimsuit model who remade herself into a billion-dollar design empress? Didn’t she already have a rebirth and a makeover? Hasn’t she been all the way to ten a time or two? And she’s still spinning on that disastrous wheel? Asking us to buy advice from her? I know where she’s headed; we all know where she’s headed.

Maybe she thinks she’s getting somewhere else this time, but the world is always getting back to one.

***
When we sit, we always come back to one. And the more we come back to it, the easier it is to see a way beyond it. There is something beyond one, and we call it one.

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When planets align

March 24th, 2009    -    3 Comments


Some of you are busy thinking about coming to the Mother’s Summer Plunge. I’m busy thinking about it too. I promise that I will soon stop all that needless air traffic. But for today, I’d like you to know that Southwest Airlines really is having a terrific sale on flights in and out of all the airports in Southern California. Click all the way through and see for yourself. Even on Friday flights, ahem.

Pluto has never been closer. Mickey too.

Care instructions for an ordinary life

February 6th, 2009    -    9 Comments
Lather.
Rinse.


Repeating my call for company at a one-day Beginner’s Meditation Retreat on Sunday, Feb. 15 at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles to fill your lonely heart with light. Complete instructions, very short periods of sitting meditation, compassionate talks, a delicious meal, and the basket empties itself.

Register here.

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