Friday, November 26, 2021

inviting you to be generous

Wonder, as the child of mystery, is a natural source of prayer.  
One of the most beautiful forms of prayer is the prayer of appreciation.
  This prayer arises out of the recognition of the gracious kindness of creation.
  We have been given so much.  We could never have merited or earned it.
  When you appreciate all you are and all you have, 
you can celebrate and enjoy it. 

 You realize how fortunate you are. 
 Providence is blessing you and inviting you to be generous with your gifts.
  You are able to bless life and give thanks to God. 
 The prayer of appreciation has no agenda but gracious thanks.
  Nothing is given to you for yourself alone.  
When you receive some blessing or gift, 
you do it in the name of others;
 through you, they, too, will come to share
 in the kindness of Providence.

~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes

the only time you are alive

You think you will never forget any of this, 
you will remember it always just the way it was. 

But you can't remember it the way it was.
 To know it, you have to be living in the presence of it 
right as it is happening. It can return only by surprise. 

Speaking of these things tells you that there are no words for them
 that are equal to them or that can restore them to your mind. 
And so you have a life that you are living only now, now
 and now and now, gone before you can speak of it,
 and you must be thankful for living day by day,
 moment by moment, in this presence.

But you have a life too that you remember. It stays with you.
 You have lived a life in the breath and pulse and living light of the present,
 and your memories of it, remember now, are of a different life 
in a different world and time. When you remember the past,
 you are not remembering it as it was. You are remembering it as it is.
 It is a vision or a dream, present with you in the present,
 alive with you in the only time you are alive.

~ Wendell Berry
from Hannah Coulter

Sunday, November 14, 2021

amazing grace


~ Kraig Kenning

every precious moment


~ Kraig Kenning

lucky mud

God made mud. 
God got lonesome. 
So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up!" 
"See all I've made," said God, "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."

And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around. 
Lucky me, lucky mud.

I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done. 
Nice going, God. 
Nobody but you could have done it, God! I certainly couldn't have. 
I feel very unimportant compared to You. 
The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud
that didn't even get to sit up and look around. 
I got so much, and most mud got so little. 
Thank you for the honor!

Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep. 
What memories for mud to have! 
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met! 
I loved everything I saw! 
Good night. 

~ Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
(Cat's Cradle)


Friday, November 12, 2021



A day so happy.
Fog lifted early I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no man worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man didn’t embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
On straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.
~ Czeslaw Milosz
from New & Collected Poems
 with thanks to poetry chaikhana


see the purity of your being



In parting, I would like to give you one small piece of advice to keep in your heart. 
You may have heard me say this before, but it is the key point of the entire path,
 so it bears repeating: All that we are looking for in life—all the happiness, 
contentment, and peace of mind—is right here in the present moment. 
Our very own awareness is itself fundamentally pure and good. 
The only problem is that we get so caught up in the ups and downs of life 
that we don’t take the time to pause and notice what we already have.

Don’t forget to make space in your life to recognize the richness of your basic nature, 
to see the purity of your being and let its innate qualities of love, compassion,
 and wisdom naturally emerge. Nurture this recognition as you would a small seedling.
 Allow it to grow and flourish. . . .Keep this teaching at the heart of your practice.
 Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, pause from time to time
 and relax your mind. You don’t have to change anything about your experience.
You can let thoughts and feelings come and go freely, and leave your senses wide open.
 Make friends with your experience and see if you can notice the spacious awareness
 that is with you all the time. Everything you ever wanted is right here 
in this present moment of awareness.
~  Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
from  a letter he left for his students 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

loneliness and a Grandmother’s wisdom


“Sabishii ne.”

At my last dinner before leaving home to live in Tokyo, these words unexpectedly came out of my mouth. In Japan, they’re a common way of expressing feelings of loneliness. Early the next morning I would leave and Grandmother would be alone again. I was sad at the thought of her being by herself, and thought that she might feel as lonely as I did.

But Grandmother surprised me by saying, “That’s okay. I like loneliness.” I thought she was just acting brave. I knew that she had been devastated when we—her daughter, who was her only child, her three grandchildren, including me, and my dad—all left her behind to go to America. But she was fifty years old then; now she was nearly eighty. My American upbringing had deprived me of understanding how Grandmother had learned to find happiness and live a good life in Japan, alone.
One way we embrace loneliness is by internalizing lost loved ones.

The word sabishii means “lonely,” but my grandmother’s way of using it seemed to have a deeper meaning. Perhaps to her it was the human condition to be lonely. So being mindful in moments of loneliness connected her to others, because we all experience this sadness that is part of life. Grandmother’s way of living was based on a mature acceptance of loneliness, of the suffering in existence, and of the impermanent nature of human experience.

Loneliness reminds us that we know love. I saw there was dignity, sacrifice, and service in my grandmother’s way of parting, which freed me to pursue my path.

In the word sabishii, “sabi” represents the loss of what sparkles in us, and the fleeting nature of beauty. Like my grandmother herself, sabi things carry the burden of aging with dignity and grace. Although I didn’t understand her feelings at the time, they made sense to me when I realized that in English the word “sad” comes from the same root as the words “sated” and “satisfied.” This means sadness may actually be a kind of fullness—a fullness of the heart. We feel sad when our heart is full, tender, and alive, as opposed to the frozen state of depression that comes from pushing away our sadness rather than opening to it.

In searching for a deeper understanding of the Japanese sense of loneliness, I discovered its relation to nirvana, the state of perfect quietude, freedom, and happiness. Sabishii expresses not only loneliness, but also mellow stillness. Combined with horobiru, meaning “termination,” it expresses the enlightened state of nirvana in which one is liberated from the repeating cycle of birth, life, and death.

In Japanese, the phrase mono no aware expresses compassion and sadness in our awareness of the transience of all things, which in turn deepens our appreciation of their truth and beauty and elicits a gentle sadness after their passing. The love of the glorious, ephemeral beauty of cherry blossoms is characterized by mono no aware. This compassionate sensitivity is perhaps what my grandmother was describing.
Not alone in the delusion of separateness, I go about my day remembering that I too am living and dying, no different from the way they once were on this earth.

In my twenties I couldn’t see what I see now in my sixties: that loneliness is an inevitable part of the human condition. We try to escape it in so many ways, but when we face and embrace loneliness, our relationship to it shifts. If we engage and befriend loneliness, it can be a natural part of life. If we tell ourselves, don’t be afraid, don’t run from it, there’s too much beauty there, engaging with loneliness can bring us freedom.

One way we embrace loneliness is by internalizing lost loved ones. In a touching scene in The Lion King, the young lion grieving his dead father is told, “He lives in you.” I often have this feeling when I say or do something and it reminds me of my father, grandmother, or some other departed loved one. I have the sense that they live on in me. I’m reminded how my grandmother told me that we would never be apart because she would be in my heart.

We are not alone, but deeply interconnected with others, past and present. And yet we are alone. We are both not alone and alone. Though we search for the magical solution to ending this aloneness, we never find it. Grandmother taught me that acceptance of our pain makes it possible to convert weakness into strength, and we can offer our experience as a source of healing to others lost in the darkness of their own sufferings.

Grandma passed away on February 22 of 2015, and to this day whenever I see the time is 2:22, I imagine Grandma is here. She was 111 and when I see 1:11, I remember her as well. In these moments, I feel the presence of those who have left us. “I am here, for you,” they are telling me. Not alone in the delusion of separateness, I go about my day remembering that I too am living and dying, no different from the way they once were on this earth.

That’s what we’re all doing—loving and losing, coming and going, living and dying. We do what we’re called to do here and then are called away, leaving those left behind with the challenge of making meaning of it all. Though I don’t understand it, I draw strength in trusting the departed are well, still by my side, living on in me. And that I am well too.
~ Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu
 from Lion's Roar 11/09/2021

 Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu received a doctorate in psychology from Harvard University and trained in traditional medicine in Japan. He designs "heartfulness" learning programs at Stanford University and is the author of eleven books in English and Japanese.