Friday, December 21, 2012

Movement(s) (or) The Thrasher

Each spring the thrasher, with her restless tufts of finch feather,
considers her nest anew.
Whether she should build it from the fallen limbs
of a late March thunderstorm that rides on the heels of winter,
or pick apart the outworn shreds
of fluff and feather, disgarding tiny twigs in favor
of something more sturdy, with gold-crested leaves
that shimmer in the sun and wind.

There beneath the cypress and oak
we spread our ivory bedsheet, uncovering
last night's left overs, sprawling
our branched-out bodies spritzed with the light sweat
of an early spring bike ride.

I read to you from my favorite collection - The Fish -
waiting eagerly for your thoughts - impaled impressions -
a little scrap of something from the fieldscapes of your heart.
I look up and your eyes are cast downwards - reading,
and listening, but mostly reading.

I think of another far away time, a moment's snippet
from the scrapbook of our springtime picnics,
when I once read to you from this very same book,
and waited with this very same breath, abated,
for some word from your heart, and only heard the squaking
of the thrasher as she tossed about in the brush,
whisking pineneedles here, an unruly stick there,
purposefully rebuidling to her own, unspoken wishes.

I remember how, back then, I wanted for you to be
(so badly, so blindly), someone
and something - else -
which I had once loved.
And I remember how you beat your tail
against the bark of the tree
in protest! And tightened up the strong muscle
of your wing blades, anxious and defiant.
"You cannot shape me," your shoulders said.

The thrasher finds among the thin needles of a tall
and slender pine, new leaves for the taking.
I put down my book and watch her quietly
as you kiss my ankle -
and listening.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Paying attention to our dreams can be so interesting and fulfilling. I've always been a noticer of the night life. Lately my dreams have been alive and electric, profound and awakening.

My best friend and I went for a girl's overnight camping trip on the Appalachian trail. It was beautiful and arduous, a very tough hike full of gorgeous views and mysterious blankets of fog. We hiked 10 miles to a sweet little valley area where we set up camp for the night. After a delicious campfire meal of tofu sausage, rice, and vegetables, sleep was not too far from our grasp. As dusk settled upon us we tucked ourselves into our cozy tent and shut our tired eyes.

I fell asleep gradually, perhaps in the most gradual way possible. I closed my eyes, quieted my mind, and listened to the sounds of the night. The chirping and beeping and whizzing and whining all around us grew louder and louder as I let it all in. The sounds of the forest grew so loud and encompassing that I felt as if they were vibrating within and through me, my self melting into the great wholeness. At some point the image of the tent above me fell away and I found myself staring into the dark night of the forest. Then I began to see a light emerging from behind and slightly above the treetops. It grew brighter and brighter, as if it were moving from the sky and descending down towards me. I watched as this light moved in and shone down, reaching and extending itself right into my belly, and I joyfully exclaimed, 'my daughter is here!'

I awoke immediatley after. I cannot tell you exactly what time it was, but I imagine it to have been somewhere around 4am. A storm had kicked up and the rain was now pelting and pounding against our tent, pools of water swirling around us as we laid wide-eyed with wonder in our refuge. Lightening was dancing everywhere in the sky but we could not pinpoint where, but only saw flashes through the veil of our tent and shuddered as the thunder rumbled around us.

An all-too-short day later, I confirm there is indeed a little light growing inside my belly. It feels different than it has ever felt before. I am scared and careful, somewhat over-vigilant, and remarkably drawn inward. I'm not glowing with elation or beaming with happiness... but this is not to say that I'm neither excited nor happy. I am both, of course. I'm just taking it all in, quietly, with some snipits of nostalgia here and there, tiny forgotten sorrows, images of dreams that have left me and new ones that have arrived.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Practicing Harmlessness

A monk recently spoke about the importance of joyous effort and the three obstacles to joyous effort: (1) laziness (2) busyness (3) self-defeating attitude/self-doubt. I thought a lot about these three obstacles and investigated how they are each at work in my own practice in both gross and subtle ways. The more I reflect on these obstacles, the more it seems to me that they, too, have roots and causes. As I looked deeper, I started to see that for my own path, the root obstacle which has been generating these three obstacles to joyous effort is purpose. Why do I practice? No really, why?

What purpose might I have that could really, truly, sustain the practice? I went through many things, even trying to get the answer boiled down to one key word, such as 'gratitude.' But nothing seemed to fit quite as perfectly as this: practicing harmlessness.

Why do I sit every day, training my mind? To be peaceful, to be free from suffering, to cultivate wisdom. Yes, all of those things! But they are not just for me, they are also for you. And you, and you, and you! If I practice only for me, I get all tangled up in self-centeredness, critical of my practice, with unreachable expectations and too much desire for attainment. When I practice in order to take the best kind of care of others that I can -- everything simply settles into place. And the peacefulness, liberation from suffering, and wisdom which the practice naturally generates will also naturally be the qualities in me which takes care of you.

I like this exchange. It is a firm foundation, and makes my effort joyous.

It also contributes in its own way to patience and compassion in the practice. Training the mind is tough work. And it takes a great deal of time. This path is a gradual one, and contrary to our basic intuition which would tell us as much, I find myself having to constantly be reminded. One day we might sit for practice and the mind just wont settle down; it thinks and thinks and thinks and thinks. It's important to immediately tell ourselves that that's okay. That's what the mind naturally does. It's been doing that for a long, long time. Much longer than you've been practicing. It's easy to be aggressive with ourselves in our practice when the mind is so restless and defiant. It's far better to wrap our heart's arms around it and say in a sweet, gentle voice, 'that's okay. just notice the breath again.' And we may have to notice the breath again a thousand times in our little 30 or 40 or 60 minute sit. It's all a part of the practice. Practicing harmlessness must first begin with ourselves. There's simply no escaping that fact.

So, my friends, may you have patience with yourself in order to have patience with others. And may you have peace and compassion within and towards yourself, so that you may have peace and compassion with and towards others.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Being With

A morning meditative thought: Every second that ticks by is another second of your life which you will never have again. I kick myself everytime I catch myself thinking, 'I can't wait until I'm not at work but at home' or 'I just want this unpleasant activity to be over so that I can do something else.' By wishing ourselves into the future and away from the present, we are hurling ourselves towards death and ignoring the gift of our own life. Appreciate every moment of your precious life. Make the most of it, even those moments we don't 'want.'

For Vesak, I journeyed on a 20-mile river hike in the North Georgia mountains. The moon was full but being far down in the mountain valley I never caught a glimpse. Instead, there were snails and snakes, night creatures and bears not far afoot. I took along with me Andy Karr's book Contemplating Reality, studying the teachings in the late afternoon after camp had been set up, and meditating in the evening and morning hours.

Perhaps it was the deep contemplation spurred on by my reading material, perhaps it was the full moon, or being far away from the ordinary, tangled life in the city, but the 'reality' I was accustomed to began to slip away out there on the trail. The sound of the river water at night, with my eyes closed listening to the sound itself so intentely, water became wind. Wind became whispers. The forest awoke with an aliveness of spirits that I could neither see nor name, but only sense and feel all around me. I was visited by the spirit of a fox one early morning hour before the sun had risen, and felt as much protected by it as I felt mystified by its elusive presence and confused by my own simple lack of understanding in the mystery of the universe.

Happy Vesak.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Humble Living

Mulberries are in season down in the hot and dirty south. My more northern and northwestern friends are saying it's far too early! Here in Georgia, though, it's right on time...

Urban picking is one of my favorite joys. The bounty is a blessing and so easily overlooked by other city dwellers! Here I've come home with a solid 6 pounds of mulberries and fresh dandelion greens. The berries have turned out some savory jam and a spring pie in the making! Just in time for mom's visit...

Do you have any mulberry recipes to share?? I would love to get more ideas on how to use these. A dear friend was able to turn her mulberries into a liquore which we happily drizzled into our champagne flutes with proseco. Talk about divine!

The semester has come to a close. I find myself still processing the impact of deep transformations and learning, spurred on by my clients. I've held them all so dear in my heart. They've taught me so much about how to be therapeutic, and what the real gift of therapy is... To witness another's growth is the most profoundly moving and humblig experience. I feel honored to be a part of it, and honored to have been given such unique trust. I know it's not easy to trust a stranger, and one who reveals so little about themselves to you but who will see you in your best and your worst (though more often your worst). It's truly a testimony to the safety I've been able to give some of these people who've stepped into my life in this way, that they have been able to unravel a little and do a bit of healing, and a bit of growing.

It quiets the mind and soothes the heart with warmth, and love. I am more thankful than I've ever been in my life before.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vernal Equinox



Communicating via art. How I see the world; How she sees the world.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Child at Heart

Acorns sprouting their little green seedlings.

A momma and her baby cub.

The most beautiful, joy-filled smile of my favorite little boy.

Children at heart.

The nakedness of love.

If I were to ask my best friend in what ways her children are transforming her, perhaps she might say something along the lines of, 'they bring me most fully into the present moment, where every spec of the earth is filled with the fullness of the universe.'

We are all children at heart. We are all naked at heart. Each of us carries the world within us.