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Posts tagged ‘meditation’

Stand Still. Appreciate a Tree.

Wilderness is a powerful teacher. In Alaska, the landscape is sturdy. Rugged. Every day a thousand trees remind me to stand still. Trees teach me tenacity. Trees teach me to grow roots, offer support, move without snapping, let go, and to hold onto myself. I live in a log home built of tree trunks. Burning branches provide wood stove heat, protecting me from bitter cold.

A Jewish friend told me that today is  Tu B’shvat–a holiday called New Year For Trees. I recalled a favorite poem, and want to share it with you. Lost reminds me to pause, be present and embodied in the here and now of time–where ever that may be. Perhaps it will speak to you, too.

Lost
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagoner

Reflection
Please make time to appreciate your outer landscape. Look closely at a tree, go to a park,  take a walk. Then, stand still. Where are you? Really, where are you? Give thanks for life–however it lives in you today.

Please offer your thoughts and comments. What do you discover?

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What’s Your Natural Habitat?


I sit facing my computer screen, inches from a large window. My heart thunks. Outside a shadow moves. A moose peers at me. Vividly tall, she is furry, sturdy, six feet away, eyes glued in stillness. Her nose twitches. I catch my breath, meet her gaze. Seconds pass. Does she comprehend glass? Does it matter? When her shoulder muscles flick, she turns away, hooves crunching tracks through the snow crust. I remain, untangled. My breath is slow and deep.

How can we cultivate compassion when the world we inhabit may be hostile, stressful, aggressive, and painful? It is simple, but not easy, and requires our ongoing commitment. Compassion is not reliant upon ease of circumstance. Some of the most trustworthy, compassionate people I know have suffered profoundly. Paula D’Arcy writes, “How you approach something determines what you will see.” Roshi Joan Halifax tells us, “The world is so tangled, and I need to be somewhat untangled to meet it.” These are good insights. We cannot give what we do not have. What we cultivate is shared with others.

To cultivate compassion we must first show up and be available to place, time, and our embodied self. This prepares us to meet someone or something with integrity and presence. We each live a sacred story with particularities and peculiarities unique to our personality, life experiences, and our decisions of yes, no, and maybe.

Three moose wander in my yard—it is their natural habitat. The two twins were birthed when sun shone for twenty hours a day. Lush green ferns and foliage sheltered their tentative beginnings. Months later, I now sit in silence. Two feet of snow arrived, and neighbors help one another in time of need. I do not live in a wildlife preserve or zoo. Bear tracks across my driveway startle me from complacency. While outdoors, I am calmly alert, with a choice to engage the realness of time and place. I am interwoven in this landscape, a part of it. How will I forge connection and compassion in this climate?

Do you understand my question? Perhaps it needs translation: Where do you live—what is your natural habitat? Who do you encounter with your everyday activity? What causes you to stop in awe and wonder? Where do you rub up against fear and disconnect? These are essential questions in the marketplace or monastery, the inner city, suburbia, or wilderness. Thomas Merton said, “The deepest level of communication is not communication but communion. It is wordless.”

What can your natural habitat teach you? A spiritual director can accompany you when you share your stories of desire, surprise, fear, hope, and despair. Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp reminds us, “The teaching of compassion, the exercise of the soul, will open the heart. And then nothing will be impossible.”

How do you cultivate compassion through the concrete specifics of your life?

–Pegge Bernecker, editor

Excerpt from Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction, Vol. 5.1, “Cultivating Compassion” by Pegge Bernecker, (Spiritual Directors International (c) 2011). Used with the permission of Spiritual Directors International. To order copies or a FREE subscription to Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction call 1-425-455-1565 or go to www.sdiworld.org.

Be Still, Go Fishing

Today I went fishing, unexpectedly.

Hustling aboard a boat, no time to reload coffee & creme into an almost empty mug, my skin prickled a shiver, even beneath three layers and a wool cap. I hadn’t intended to fish, and was merely loading boats–helping out in a fishing derby. Instead, a seat and invitation opened; I jumped in.

After a hello to our fishing guide and two girlfriends,  I turned, lifting my gaze, upstream.

The river caught my pulse.

A  forgotten prayer pattern erupted within me–my old friend, psalm 46:10a:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

“Be still and know that I am.”

“Be still and know”

“Be still”

“Be”

Today, an unexpected fishing pulse catches me, still. Life is prayer. Simply, be.

I’m hooked.

ps: guess what’s for dinner?

What hooks your attention?
Please add your reply


Speaking of Faith: Holding Life Consciously

“Is it possible to be alive, active in the world, and yet have such calm, such kind of inner openness and presence that one can lead a life, at least in part, that is an expression of that quality of meditative quiescence that’s on the one hand quite alert and on the other hand, completely at ease, completely at rest.” –Arthur Zajonc

Krista Tippett, author, producer, and host of the Public Radio show, “Speaking of Faith” writes, “Focused Attention, Open Awareness” – I’m not sure I’d seen the words “physicist” and “contemplative” in the same sentence many times, much less found them together as descriptors of the same person, before I met Arthur Zajonc.”

The opening words in Tippett’s e-mail announcement for the June 24, 2010 show, “Holding Life Consciously” grabbed me. I had not yet listened to the show or podcast on my iPod, but immediately threads of subtle language began to weave in me: Focus. Attention. Open Awareness. Alert. Alive. Stillness.

Gift yourself. Take a minute to read the quotes in this blog post. Or, read the full description I read in the e-mail announcement, and listen to the June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously”

As you read, notice and ask yourself:
What opens in me as I listen to this conversation?
Is my inner knowing affirmed with any insight?
Does a phrase or turn of words evoke an inner smile and affirmation within me?


From June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously:
“Zajonc’s own life experience has been recently reshaped by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. He has seen the progression of this illness in other members of his family, and so has some understanding of what is ahead. This is at one and the same time a source of grief and a continuation of the adventure Arthur Zajonc has long been on — to explore what holding life consciously means, now with a progressively debilitating condition. He tells me: “There are two main types of meditation and both of them are part of my life, which one is a concentration and the other is what I call open awareness. It’s a very open presence.” In the concentration phase, tremors actually worsened.

You have a line of poetry or from scripture or an image and you bring your full undivided single-pointed attention to that content. But as we’re straining mentally to do that, the hand begins to tremor more. And then when you release the image and become very still and quiet and open yourself wide, the hand slowly calms to the point where indeed your whole body feels at ease and the tremor disappears. Interesting…

I can see that the mind and the body are so delicately attuned to one another that these practices affect the Parkinson’s state itself. … So here’s the question I pose to myself.

“Is it possible to be alive, active in the world, and yet have such calm, such kind of inner openness and presence that one can lead a life, at least in part, that is an expression of that quality of meditative quiescence that’s on the one hand quite alert and on the other hand, completely at ease, completely at rest.”

June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously.

This post first appeared June 28, 2010, in my Spiritual Directors International blog post. http://www.sdiworld.org.

What do you think? Is it possible to hold life consciously? What spiritual practices help you cultivate an alive, active, calm?

Do Meditation and Prayer Include Tears?

Do you think that meditation and prayer eventually encompasses all of our emotions, thoughts, experiences, and patterns of being in the world? Do you believe that prayer can simply begin when we yearn, notice, or respond in some way, to someone, or something? What does this thought evoke in you:

“If you haven’t cried deeply a number of times, your meditation hasn’t really begun.” – Ajahn Chah

When we bubble with joy, ripple with grief, wrestle with angst, or shower care, forgiveness, and concern, we pray. When we notice what grabs our heart and won’t let go, listen and respond to an invitation toward love, healing and forgiveness, we pray. When we encounter our self, another person, or a world concern with vulnerability and compassion, we pray. When we put skin on our inner conviction and choose loving actions, we pray with our life. When we celebrate each other, prayer can erupt!

Prayer is an opening and an encounter that brings us to truly love our selves and one another, even in times of inner aridity, uncertainty, and darkness. Meditation and prayer have the possibility to become a gift for the world, binding us together, creating community, hope and transformation. Prayer can offer a sheltering embrace, a joyful surrender, a passionate conviction.

About those tears…
Tears can erupt in us when we are deeply moved, inspired, or even surprised. Tears show us our angst, radical joy, overwhelming empathy, gratefulness. Tears are tender. Tears teach us how and where we may need to respond. Let us give thanks for our tears, for the clues they offer about what we value, for our caring hearts, for listening to our life and the world we inhabit.

Five minute pause
Pause for five minutes and breathe deeply. Listen to your heartbeat. Be in the present time of now. Allow your inner spirit to connect to what you know to be Sacred, and to the world around you. What do you notice? What bubbles up in you?

Be still. Be grateful. Listen. Then, give thanks for life, no matter what condition it is, on this day, in present time.

  • What tears rise in you–will you give your tears permission to speak your truth?
  • Do you believe that your tears can be a powerful prayer?

Please share.

Lent Dance: A Turning Back, A Turning Toward

Wednesday, 17 February, marks Ash Wednesday, when the Season of Lent begins for Christians. What makes Ash Wednesday and Lent significant, year after year?

A Christian Response

I engage in daily prayer and meditation. Over dozens of years, a variety of spiritual practices have, at one time or another, given life, been shed, and occasionally re-embraced. A consistent thread is to make deliberate time periods for intentional reflection and turning toward God. Why is this important? In this time of my life I want to be a whole person, delightfully alive, and hallowed into radical authenticity and vivid presence. I know that God unabashedly loves me—and everyone who I desire to serve with mutuality, friendship, and compassionate care. I want to participate as fully as I can in God’s ongoing love affair with humanity and all of the cosmos.

Spirituality is not a separate part of who I am every day—it is embodied and experienced through my senses and life particulars. I welcome the defined time period of Lent to turn to God with my whole self. This turning is ultimately toward the world.

An Olympic Story

Tonight I watched Olympic figure skating, pondered Lent, and allowed the Hebrew Scripture, “Return to me with your whole heart” (Jl 2:12) to glide within me. I looked at ice dancers become grace in motion—turning, spinning, twirling, arching, moving towards, away, tucking and reaching. I visually experienced the spiritual journey. Surely it encompasses all these moves. We are not meant to be spectators in life! We are invited to engage, participate, train, fall, glide, spin, embrace, and turn towards one another and God. Music dances through our soul, as rhythm glides into expression in our body and daily life.

Spiritual Guidance

Ash Wednesday and Lent invite a fresh turning—or return—to God’s embrace. As much as each of us is on a solitary journey, it is also communal. Meeting with a spiritual director can encourage genuine seeking and conversion. During spiritual direction we are accompanied in our turning to God with our whole heart, broken heart, or dancing heart.

Will you join me in turning toward spiritual practice, a daily discipline, and a radical acceptance of wholeness and connection with all of creation? Lent can spring the frozen places in our heart and actions, thaw our resistance to compassionate love, and grow our sacred dance with the Beloved.

If you are seeking a spiritual director to accompany you, click here to discover good questions and spiritual directors to interview through the online, searchable: Seek and Find: A Worldwide Resource Guide of Available Spiritual Directors.

Note: I wrote this post for my work with Spiritual Directors International. It is on the SDI blog, and titled Lent Dance: A Turning Back, A Turning Toward by Pegge Bernecker.

Spring Growth During Lent

If you were given forty days, or even fourteen days to practice "springing" something new in your life, what would that be?

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