Posts Tagged ‘Attention’

rules for a mindful garden

December 9th, 2014    -    1 Comment

rules for a mindful garden

Available as a print by visiting here.

4 rules for a mindful garden

September 7th, 2013    -    6 Comments

This is a simple set of instructions that I always give children when they visit my backyard garden. Beginning when she was three years old, we invited Georgia’s class to our garden for a field trip each year. She is now 14, and I am far older, and yet the instructions still apply. Children find them easier to do than adults.

Life is a garden and we are the gardeners. Here are the rules for a mindful garden:

1. Be kind. Every time we are kind to another, we are kind to ourselves, because we have left our stingy self-centeredness behind. It’s important: kindness is the supreme religion. It’s not hard: pure silence is the ultimate kindness. We already know how to do it.

2. Don’t throw rocks. The garden path is paved with stones. For children, it’s tempting to pick one up and loft it into the ponds. For adults, it’s tempting to pick one up and loft it at each other. Consider how very often we blame others, and the circumstances around us, for whatever displeases us. It’s not my fault, we say, it’s you, it’s my job, it’s my parents, it’s my kids, it’s my neighbor that’s causing all the trouble, tossing rocks with wild abandon. To maintain peace in your garden, don’t pick up a rock if you can’t set it down.

3. No running. There’s no hurry and no one chasing you. Running in my backyard is a sure way to fall headfirst into the murky mud beneath you. How much of life do we miss because we are racing headfirst toward some place else? A place we never reach? You have all the time in the world to savor the life you have.

4. Pay attention. Bring all your attention to what is at hand. You’ll wake up to the glorious view before you and realize you’re right at home where you are.

***

It’s Mindfulness Reminder Week on the blog. I’ve reprised some of my most popular posts on mindfulness at home and work. To learn how to put the preaching into practice, come to the Plunge Retreat in Boise on Saturday, Oct. 5.

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8 reminders for mindful parents

September 2nd, 2013    -    11 Comments

A cozy set of practical guidelines for parents who practice mindfulness:

1. Practice in plain sight. Place your zafu, or meditation cushion, in a conspicuous place in your home, such as on your bedroom floor. As you pass by, let it invite you to practice meditation daily. Even five minutes morning or night can turn your life around.

2. Live by routine. Take the needless guesswork out of meals and bedtimes. Let everyone relax into the predictable flow of a healthy and secure life.

3. Elevate the small. And overlook the large. Want to change the world? Forget the philosophical lessons. Instruct your child in how to brush his teeth, and then do it, together, twice a day.

4. Turn off the engines. Discipline TV and computer usage and reduce artificial distraction, escapism, and stimulation. This begins with you.

5. Give more attention. And less of everything else. Devote one hour a day to giving undistracted attention to your children. Not in activities driven by your agenda, but according to their terms. Use a timer to keep yourself honest. Undivided attention is the most concrete expression of love you can give.

6. Take a break. Before you break in two. Designate a chair in your home as a “quiet chair,” where you can retreat to decelerate conflicts. Or walk around the block and see how quickly your own two feet can stamp out the fire on your head.

7. Be the first to apologize. Practice the miracle of atonement and instantly restore household harmony. By your doing, your children will learn how.

8. Be the last to know. Refrain from making judgments and foregone conclusions about your children. Watch their lives unfold, and be surprised. The show is splendid, and yours is the best seat in the house.

***

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a beautiful day

June 22nd, 2013    -    13 Comments

Nowadays I spend most of my time sitting in a chair pounding into a keyboard. It’s long and silent work, and I lose myself in it, but I know where to go for a kick of adrenaline. I click over to a social media site where I’ll find a new skirmish gathering speed, inciting the community’s opinion, anger, and rebuke. I understand why we do that—I, too, can be self-righteous—but I am battle fatigued. The world cries for compassion. It craves acceptance and belonging. It needs our attention, a kind word, a smile, a wave, a handshake, or a hug. Are we against everything? Angry at everyone? Sometimes it seems the only thing we’ll speak up for is a fight.

I push back from the fray and step out into the garden where the leaves rustle and bend in gentle rhythm with the wind. The air is fresh. The sky is blue. It’s an amazing place we live in when we’re not at odds with it. Who can contain the love that this one life brings with it? It is boundless.

On the street outside the gate, a woman walks a dog. I’ve glimpsed them nearly every day for what must be years. Her dog is old and the woman goes slow, the two now inseparable on the steepest part of the hill.

“It’s a beautiful day,” I say.
“It sure is.”

Someone once asked Maezumi Roshi why he practiced.
“To make my heart tender.”

– from Paradise in Plain Sight, coming next spring.

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the long way

June 4th, 2013    -    12 Comments

IMG_6002“Great words of inspiration. I really admire you for embracing your life as it is.”

She wrote it by hand in a card and then mailed it to the publisher named on the copyright page and then someone at the office tucked it into another envelope and mailed it to me and I opened it on Saturday evening when my husband handed me the day’s forgotten mail while I was sitting in the green chair in the living room, and what struck me was not the words, although they did make up in small part for the last jaw shattering one-star review on Amazon, “self-centered drivel, not worth my time.” No, it wasn’t what she said in the card with the picture of a yellow bird sitting on a blossoming branch, it was the faith and patience, the few minutes of time and trouble, the paper, the pen, the flowing stroke of the letters, the tenderness expended in doing a little something the long way and sending it straight into my heart.

I’m slowly gathering materials and supplies, robes, pillows, bells, things remembered and nearly missed, for a long drive north on Friday to sit with folks for two days in lightness and dark at the ocean’s edge. Honestly, I don’t much like this part. The packing and organizing, listing, thinking, all the thinking, the miles, the money, the time. But I do it. I do things the long way. Because when I finally get to that place in the room where the silence rolls in my heart fills with the fullness of peace and I come to rest on the good ground of forever.

The long way is the straight way to the human heart.

For anyone who ever wondered if I saved the card you sent. Yes, I saved it in a woven basket of forever.

rise and shine

May 20th, 2013    -    1 Comment

Buddha wakes at 5 amShawn Ledington Fink was one of my first readers and online friends. It’s nice to watch her twin girls grow up and play. Since I’m in the thick of writing a book, I asked her to pop in and have some fun. This is a guest post.

We sat in a circle in the lovely, peaceful home of Lil Omm Yoga Studio in Washington, DC.

I listened as Maezen’s voice soothed me. It sounded just as I had remembered from the year before when she led a workshop for mothers.

“Buddha means awake,” she said to a group of dozens of mamas like me.

My eyes lit up.

I had no idea.

***

I’ve been on a quest to wake up and stay awake for years—becoming a mother only intensified those feelings.

And though since becoming a mother all I feel like I want to do is sleep, the reality is that my daughters are my little Buddhas—as Maezen gently pointed out to me in her book Momma Zen.

Buddha wakes at 5 a.m. sometimes at my house. Or in the middle of the night with a bad dream.

Buddha has a temper tantrum over not getting her way sometimes.

Buddha thinks God is in all of us.

Buddha likes to dance and sing silly songs.

Buddha likes to solve fourth grade math problems even though she’s only in first.

Buddha is everywhere at my house, waking me up in each pile of clutter, each handmade masterpiece, each random sock strayed on the kitchen floor and each, “Mommy, watch this.”

My daughters are the reasons I am awake—the reasons I can walk a curvy path of a nature trail and see a whole new world of tiny details I never would have noticed before they came along—like a tiny seed or a wiggly worm or a spotted leaf that’s been brunch for a caterpillar.

Wake up, that’s what my children say to me each day.

They say it when they tell me about their dreams at night.

They say it when they use words like “Mommy is the best,” and when they call me loving and caring and, my favorite, “She takes care of me.”

They say it when we’re struggling and I don’t know what I’m doing.

They say it when I’m spending too much time in my head and all I hear is, “Mommy … Mommy … Mommy.”

Wake up.

Wake up.

Wake up.

Their whispers and murmurs and screams and tears and belly laughs and silly antics are the bell, chiming all day, every day.

***

All this talk about waking up, it’s everywhere. We all want to feel more in the moment and more connected and more engaged.

But I’m left to wonder if we’re more awake than we realize, us mothers?

There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not up before dawn, and waiting.

Alert.

Ready at a moment’s notice.

Pouncing at the slightest sound of pain or hurt or difficulty.

Five or 500 steps ahead of a negotiation about what to consume or not to consume.

Ready to point out another wonder or to be cracked open wide to the awe of just simply being alive.

Perhaps this is the hardest part of being a mother?

Always on. Always alert. Always awake. Always ready.

And yet … and yet that’s exactly how I want to be and how I want to feel and how I want to live.

I had no idea. 

If you have a Buddha that wakes at 5 a.m.—or later—perhaps you are interested in signing up for Shawn’s latest offering, The Playful Family Adventure—an e-course this summer that will inspire you, motivate you and encourage you to be present, peaceful and playful. Register now!  The course begins June 24.

LOGO for PFA Summer 2013

ABOUT SHAWN: Shawn Ledington Fink is the author of The Playful Family and the Thinking Mama behind Awesomely Awake, a project inspiring families to find their happy place. She is a peace and kindness spreader and has led more than 300 Mamas through her e-course The Abundant Mama Project, which leads mothers through an intense gratitude practice to help them develop an attitude of abundance. You can follow Shawn on her Blog or find her on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

a piece of paradise

May 3rd, 2013    -    17 Comments

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

The blue sky and bright day,
No more searching around!
Mumon’s Verse, Gateless Gate, Case 30

And then I saw the garden.

I’m going to slow down and choose my words carefully. Not because the garden is hard to describe, but because I want you to see.

Sometimes people come to the garden and say, “It’s so much smaller than I thought.” Or “It’s so much bigger than I thought.” Or “It’s not at all what I thought.” They have created a picture in their minds of what the garden would look like, or what it should look like, and when they see the real thing they aren’t seeing it at all, but comparing it to the picture in their minds. We cherish the pictures in our minds. We prize our fantasies or they wouldn’t be our fantasies, perfected with every wish. Nearly everything we cherish is just a picture: our ambitions and ideals, size 4 or 6 or 8; our notions of what happy families and their homes should look like (not this); the past, the future; our vision of love, lovers, and life ever after. The picture might even be a nightmare—frightening and forlorn—but we cherish it just the same.

Sometimes people come to the garden and say, “I had no idea.” Then they don’t say anything else, because they are actually seeing the garden. They are actually seeing what is right in front of them, and experiencing it. Then nothing needs to be said.

I had no idea what to expect when my husband called me to the kitchen. By this time we’d entered the house, and because it was empty, we did not take offense at what we saw. Empty rooms are full of possibilities. Possibility is full of love.

“You should see this,” he said.

I stepped into the kitchen where he stood at a plate glass window, looking out.

And then I saw the garden.

I saw a multitude of greens, iridescent greens. The glint of rocks and sunbleached stones. Red bark and burnished branches. The sheen on still water. The light on a hill. A foreground, a background: the seamless whole of three dimensions. Colors with no names because I wasn’t naming them. Beauty beyond measure because I wasn’t measuring it. A view unspoiled because I wasn’t judging it. The shine of the sky making everything visible, everything vivid, even the shadows, with the radiance of being alive.

This was not a picture of a garden. This was not a picture that I could ever conjure from memory or make-believe. This was true life, so unexpected it made me cry.

Now do you see? When you see your life, you bring it to life. When you don’t see your life, it is lifeless.

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face time

February 28th, 2013    -    11 Comments

blog-wilted-house-plantNext time you want to grow a plant, set it in front of a screensaver of the sun and see what happens.

Excuse me for pointing out the obvious. The sun is not a picture of the sun. An internet connection is not the same as a living connection. Life is not a picture of life. It is the transmission of living energy and not the transmission of digital data.

Or as an old Zen fogey said in far fewer words, “A rice cake is not a picture of a rice cake.” Which one will satisfy your hunger?

There were a couple of events that brought this to mind this week. One was the decision by the CEO of Yahoo to suspend the struggling company’s work-from-home policy. The stated reason turned out to be controversial: people who work together benefit from actual face time. And I do mean “face time,” not the phone app FaceTime for video chats, another example of a digital surrogacy that has brought living proximity to near-extinction. When I read the arguments against the new (old) policy on my computer, I said to my husband, “That CEO is right.”

He sat at his desk looking into his own computer and said, “Yes she is.” This spoken exchange is called “having a conversation.” From time to time we sit in the same room and speak to one another. Granted, not often, but stringing together these occasional proximities is what used to be called “a relationship.” He travels quite a bit in his job to have one-day meetings with his co-workers around the world because it makes quicker work of their complicated labor. Something happens in the space between living things—something visible as well as invisible. Something shared: a force, a bond; the circulation of energy, thoughts, feelings, sound, motion. Get it?

Few do. Not long ago I heard a young couple talking about their communication style. The fellow preferred texting; he said phone calls were inefficient and exasperating because “talking wastes time” when data can be conveyed instantly. I smiled and had a sense of where that non-conversation would be taking them in the next few years.

We all know better, really we do. That’s why we call that kind of disengagement “phoning it in.” I know doing things in person isn’t always convenient, but do we really have to argue the merits? I guess we do.

Last weekend at a beginner’s meditation retreat I was asked how many students I have. “That’s a good question,” I responded. “Lots of people ask me if I’ll teach them online, but I don’t do that.” It’s wonderfully clarifying for me that I practice in a line of teachers who have carried the living Dharma down from antiquity as an oral tradition. Teachers and students practice in living proximity: in the same room, two people sitting together having conversation, sharing sound, motion, breath. Get it?

Few do. Just about anything that looks like what we do in a meditation hall can now be done online via email, downloads, Skype, discussion boards, even meditation apps. Do it in your own home (where you won’t do it)! As an e-course! I don’t get it. This is not the Dharma I practice. Not the Dharma I teach. Whether you can see it or not, something happens in the space between us. Something intimate, wise, and generous. Something real.

You have to experience the light and warmth of the sun to stay alive.

This fascinating video called “Finding the Visible in the Invisible” will give you a look at the face time I’m talking about. But don’t mistake the video for the magic of real life. The video may pique your interest but it will not satisfy your hunger.

eclipsed

December 9th, 2012    -    20 Comments

Georgia as Little Fan in A Christmas Carol.

When they induced labor that morning of the emergency, nothing happened. I would not dilate. My baby wouldn’t come. The doctor said we’d try again tomorrow. Sitting up in the bed that evening poking at my hospital dinner, I suddenly knew why. The man on TV said there had been a total eclipse of the sun that day, the last of the 20th century.

The moon had passed between the earth and the sun, turning day to night. I was certain that when the sun rose unobstructed the next day, it would happen. It did happen, faster than anyone predicted, and Georgia was born by 10 a.m.

She is pure light, and although what passes between us has always been so radiant, I have not always been able to look straight into it. I have not been able to understand.

And now she is a young woman loving womanly things, going her own way, illumining new ground. This transit, lately, has been difficult. There is tension in the approach; there is resistance and confusion. She does not rely on me but for the slightest reminders: a gentle glow of approval, trust, encouragement. Transport here or there. Showing up on schedule. Saying nothing.

Isn’t there more to a mother? Am I not the earth?

I once held her light inside me, then let it grow. Released, it filled the universe. She covers her own ground now, where I can see her always. Mine is a distant face made beautiful by her reflection.

I am the mother moon, and I have been eclipsed. It is not the end. It is joyous. I will never leave her sky. I love her sky. Here I am complete.

For my mother and my mother’s mother and all mothers in the sky.

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momma time

September 18th, 2012    -    15 Comments

Reprinting this, because it’s about time.

Last week I received this message from a young mother. I asked if I could respond to her via this post so others would benefit. No matter what our stage of parenting, we could all use a little time out to reflect and refresh.

I have two little girls, age 3 1/2 and 1 1/2. They are wonderful and show me what aspects I need to work on as a person and a mother.

Children are indeed wonderful. They are always showing us aspects of ourselves we aren’t familiar with. One aspect, for instance, is happiness. No one has ever made a mother feel as happy as her children do. The other aspect is sadness and despair. We’ve never felt so frustrated, hopeless or inadequate. Every day our children introduce us to a completely new human being: their mother. And although she vaguely resembles someone we used to know, at times we hardly recognize ourselves. When it becomes especially tiresome and difficult, our relationship with our children sounds an alarm. We need rescued.

I have them both at home with me everyday except for four hours each week. Perhaps I’m overwhelmed but lately I’m finding motherhood to be a total drag.

Too much togetherness is too much. Every mother needs more help. The first step is to admit it; the second step is to ask for it; and the third step is to take the help that comes. You never know where help will come from. Not every angel wears wings.

When we have help taking care of our children, it magnifies the love in our lives. When either by circumstance or choice we think we have to do it all by ourselves, we scrimp on love. Everyone suffers for it.

We don’t always have the money to pay for help, so we have to rely on family. We don’t always have family nearby so we have to make friends. We don’t all have friends so we have to be brave. We have to speak up, make calls, trust strangers, invite people over, walk the street, meet, listen and console one another. Last week I called a friend who talked me off a ledge. Just by contacting me you’ve done the same thing for yourself. And look: no one jumped. read more

13 things venus taught me

June 6th, 2012    -    4 Comments

1. That planet is a speck.

2. That speck is the same size as Earth.

3. That means, as my daughter used to say, “I am so yittle.”

4. When you’re yittle, you can see big.

5. That yittle speck made me see the bigger picture.

6. The incomparably brilliant and blazing omnipotence of the sun.

7. The sun, the sun, the sun!

8. Venus takes 105 years.

9. The sun comes around every day.

10. Every day is a spectacle beyond comprehension.

11. Totally new and without repetition.

12. With no hurry, no fanfare, no wait.

13. Attracting no one’s attention.

Except, perhaps—and this is the real teaching—yours.

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spring bloom

April 7th, 2012    -    5 Comments

Seeing her right now reminds me of my mother back then which reminds me to see her as she is right now.

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routine and ritual

March 15th, 2012    -    13 Comments

String enough good days together, like a macaroni necklace, and you’ve made a priceless treasure out of what you already have on hand.

This is a transcript of a talk on parenting wisdom that I gave at the local library. We all live at such a distance from one other I thought I’d just put it all up here. It’s geared to parents of children under age three, but the lessons are forever. Please share.

——

Often we approach our job as parents like this:

“I don’t know what I’m doing!”
“I’m over my head!”
“I’m lost!”
“I’m ruining my kid.”

So we seek more information, come to workshops, and pick up new tips. We want to give our children a solid advantage and even a head start. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I take a different approach. I like to help you find the wisdom you already possess, help you find your own way, and help you feel more secure in your everyday life so that you can say:

“We made it through. We did OK. It was a good day.”

String enough good days together, like a macaroni necklace, and you’ve made a piece of art, a priceless treasure out of what you already have on hand.

They say that children don’t come with instructions, so I’m not going to give you any new instructions. I want to talk about two tools that you already have, but that you may not be using enough. read more

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