Posts Tagged ‘Retreat’

secret message

August 29th, 2011    -    5 Comments

I am being cautious here, mindful of what I say and don’t say, because of how earnestly we all seek and how easily we misunderstand.

I am not telling you how to live, how to improve yourself, how to make the right decisions, or what the right decisions are. I am not suggesting you live like me, think like me, or choose what I have chosen. It is easy to elevate what appears to be the sage or guru, the expert, the coach, the one “who has it together.”

In my long career as a consultant, I came to realize, after the first years of doubt and pretense, that I didn’t have to know any answers. All I had to do to be successful was tell people what to do. I could even make it up on the spot! Because everyone – no matter what their station or status or position – wants to be told what to do. Regardless of whether we do it or not – and we usually don’t – we think there is some secret message we’re missing. But every message is the one you already carry. It’s only a secret if you haven’t yet noticed what you have in your hands. read more

easy rest inn

August 6th, 2011    -    4 Comments

When I was growing up we used to snicker about my dad and his hankering for road trips. He would plan for days or weeks, map alternate routes, fill the tires, top the tank, load the car, and wake us in the dark to start the drive so we could get there – wherever that was – ahead of schedule. And then he would be perfectly miserable in the place and with the people we had come to see. These trips always ended the way they began: uncomfortably early.

Near the end of his life, he made one last road trip across country to visit me. He never made it. He stopped at a hotel an hour from my home and called, asking me to come up and meet him for lunch. After a hamburger and a side of fries, he hugged me in the parking lot, turned around, and drove back the twelve hundred miles he’d come. His affliction was no longer a quirk. His sickness had prevailed and overtaken him, and he was utterly without a single square inch of home.

I ache to think of his lonely exile, but I don’t think he was so different than anyone else. His curse is mine and yours, too. The road is pitiless when the company you can neither keep nor avoid is your own. And yet, by degrees of habit, this is how we all live. We are all lost in the dark until we see the light up ahead and aim for it. There is always a light ahead. read more

read this sign

July 31st, 2011    -    20 Comments

From time to time someone writes to me with a question that silences me. They put their heart on the page, and I know there is nothing I can say or do for them. Although I’m not ever able to provide the answers someone is looking for, these missives always help me to articulate something that speaks to people where they are instead of where I am. I sent this reply to someone today, and looking it over I realized it could help me and others take a hard look at where we are.

Where are you?

Readers are almost never where I am, sitting side-by-side with me in a Zen retreat, using the medicine for human ills prescribed by Buddha 2500 years ago. But the distance between us still compels me to try.

I am not a bestselling author, and I don’t have the first idea how people become a success. I don’t know how to fix a relationship, manufacture happiness, or realize one’s passion. I don’t know the alchemy that turns fiction into fact or pain into pleasure.  If I did know how to do that, I would be doing things the easy way. But I’m not. I am doing things the hard way. We are all doing things the hard way, as best as we can.

In short, I am not in the manifesting-your-dream business. I am in the waking-up-from-your dream business. The former is more popular and lucrative than the latter. I’m sure it is more temporarily uplifting, inspiring and entertaining. What it entertains is fantasy. I don’t put my faith in fantasy. I put my faith in the path you least desire, the path you most avoid, and the option of having no other option. read more

sitting

July 25th, 2011    -    2 Comments

meet me in the middle

June 20th, 2011    -    4 Comments

Sometimes people ask me when I’m going to come to their town. That’s a reasonable question. The answer is, it beats me. I never go anywhere unless someone else takes the first step. And then the step after, and then another step. Everything I say and do is for the sole purpose of encouraging people to take the next step.

The only place we can meet is in the middle.

That’s where I hope you’ll meet me this fall, as I have this incredible patchwork of visits set up, none of which was my idea to begin with. Neither do I have any idea earthly how they will turn out. But they usually turn out quite lovely, in their own artful way. You can see all of these programs detailed on my Retreats page, but I’m hanging them out here in the middle of the open road for you to bump into, in case you thought you were on your way somewhere else. See if you can stitch together a way to make it. I would be so happy to see you.

The Art of Mindfulness retreat in Houston, Sat., Sept. 10. Just announced and open for registration. Do you hear me Texas? I’m coming home.*

The Practice of Everyday Life weekend retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center outside Fort Collins, CO, Fri., Sept. 16-Sun. Sept. 18. This is as midwesterly as I can maneuver this year. If it makes a difference, apply for a scholarship on the SMC site!

The Plunge one-day retreat Sat., Oct. 1 in Pittsburgh. The absolutely farthest northeast I can make it for the foreseeable future, and Pittsburgh figures so keenly in my past that I’m delighted to see it again.

*Pssst: plug in the discount code MAEZEN at check out for a special give-back on the Houston event.

Red & Indigo Quilt by Jean Hall Painting.

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Zen isn’t

March 28th, 2011    -    23 Comments


Zen is a special transmission outside the scriptures with no reliance on words or letters.

I’d like to topple the tower of babel about Zen.

Zen isn’t a habit. It is the absence of all habits and conditioning. There are no habits in Zen, because everything, everywhere, everytime is altogether new.

Zen isn’t simplifying your life. Zen is simply life. When we don’t fuss with it, life simplifies itself.

Zen isn’t cleaning up your house so you have a calm and orderly mind. Zen is cleaning up your mind so you have a calm and orderly house.

Zen isn’t waking up so you can get out of bed. Zen is getting out of bed so you can wake up.

Zen isn’t eating less, spending less, talking less or working less. It’s wanting less, fearing less, worrying less and striving less. The latter takes care of the former.

Zen isn’t extra time, extra effort or extra attention. Zen is nothing extra.

Zen isn’t running, golfing, archery, flower arranging, gardening, golfing, lying down, sitting up or motorcycle maintenance, although it doesn’t exclude any of that.

Zen is not a second. Zen is not even ten seconds. It is eternal. It is now. Zen never ends.

Zen isn’t about making a change in your life. It is about living the change you already are.

Zen cannot be found, because Zen is never missing.

Now, how do you come to see and believe this for yourself? Certainly not by reading about it, although one or two good books every now and then won’t hurt. (And I’d even sign them for you.)

This post has been republished because a sharp-eyed reader reminded me about it, and another one pointed out that my next one-day meditation retreat was shortsightedly scheduled for Father’s Day. I stand reminded, and I thank everyone for their close attention.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat Sun., June 12 in LA

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a retreat is like this

December 5th, 2010    -    3 Comments

Everything comes out in the wash.

The Plunge at Asilomar
Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove near Monterey, California
Registration $100 per person

Sign up on the Retreats page.

P.S. Gone on retreat. Be back when I’m soaking wet.

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the gifts of ordinary

July 18th, 2010    -    6 Comments

One of my favorite finds this year is Katrina Kenison’s memoir The Gift of an Ordinary Day. And if you still haven’t read this elegiac rendering of a family in transition, I know you’ve cried a tear over this video. I’m spilling over with the news that Katrina will be my special guest at the Mother’s Plunge in Boston on Sat., Sept. 18. Now you really have to come and bring a friend to share a cup with us. Katrina will read and talk and sign books, while I carry on in my blah blah customary manner.

One of my favorite finds this year is Katrina Kenison herself. Our new friendship is a pretty amazing story that Katrina began telling on her own blog. I’ll fill you in on the rest when I see you in Boston. It will be an extraordinary day. Or, if you believe in magic as much as I do, you will find it to be another perfectly ordinary day.

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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.

Barefoot and pregnant with meaning

September 24th, 2009    -    5 Comments

Going to sit a three-day sesshin on this anniversary of September anniversaries.

Details to follow.


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The angel of Assisi

June 16th, 2009    -    24 Comments


Here’s a little story about spiritual pilgrimage for those of you who are traveling to my city of angels this weekend for the Mother’s Plunge – and those of you who aren’t. The extraordinary response to the first splash has me planning a countrywide tour of backward steps. Where should I bring the retreat next? Minnesota? Arizona? Kansas? Tell me.

Even the man at Marshall Field’s who had sold me the yellow travel umbrella had said it: “You must go to Assisi.”

Everyone, it seemed, had said it – You must go to Assisi! – and so the fifth day of a solo trip to Italy became the day for me to go the distance. It would require a car, which I obtained from a rental agency a few blocks from my hotel in Florence. It would require getting out of town, which I accomplished with an angel on the dashboard. And it would require a couple hours’ drive south on the Autostrada, which I high-tailed in the slipstream of the surging traffic.

“You will see it on the hill,” another advisor had told me rapturously. And I did, in a purple haze of trees and tile and imagination. I steered my little vehicle onward in the soldierly direction, ascending the hill and circling the top, passing the marked parking lots with all the beached buses, inching slowly alongside the streams of tourists who had come for the St. Francis experience, motoring up the wrong streets and down again until I mustered my purpose and pulled over on a narrow hillside shoulder. I angled in among the other likeminded pilgrims who were committing, I hoped, the pardonable sin of illegal parking.

I strode upward to the Basilica de San Francisco. It was big, too big, outsized for its namesake, and oddly uninspiring, I thought. Inside to more frescoes, more pews, more people, and decidedly more organization than in the other sacred spots I’d stopped. This, I could see, was a system.

I headed down into the crypts containing St. Francis’ tomb and there uncovered the day’s only treasure. “Scusa, scusa,” the ushers whispered to those, like me, who had barged in to bystand at the wedding ceremony underway in the underground chapel. I lingered in the shadows at the rear, charmed by the elaborate smallness of it. A local couple surrounded by local people, wearing uncomfortable new clothes for the biggest event of their lives.

Leaving, I wandered the winding medieval village. The heat had turned the streets into baking stones.

“You will feel it in the air,” another friend had confided. I felt stifling languor and epidemic disinterest. Wandering into an antique shop, my idle browsing did not disturb the mistress at the back watching American TV soap operas dubbed in Italian.

Then the divine message arrived.

Every place is holy.

It was my departing thought, a conclusion and a comfort, and I headed home, satisfied.

The company of mothers

May 31st, 2009    -    5 Comments


The author Mary the poet Jena the joyful Myriam the faithful Chris the teacher Melinda the peacemaker Janet the mystic Melissa the first responder Nancy the traveler Sheryl the actress Holly the educator Jen the yogi Jill the artist Stacy the columnist Anissa the graceful Kathleen the singer Francie the manager Jody the gardener Amy the athlete Brenda the doctor Cassandra the cheerful Blue the leader Liz the writers the healers the cooks the scientists the coaches the doctors the lawyers the nurses the musicians the songwriters the sandwich-makers the crying the smiling the laughing the sisters the daughters the grandmothers the aunts the mothers the non-mothers the you that you haven’t yet met, just as you are.

Sixty women full of grace coming together at the Mother’s Summer Plunge on Saturday, June 20. The possibilities remain wide open, but registration closes this week. There is room for you; there will always be room for you and time for you in the company of mothers.

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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.

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