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Category Archives: 21 Days of Sitting

Daily Practice – Day 15

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Day 15 – Today I sat for 10 minutes.  It felt like a natural progression to increase my sitting time by a few minutes.

The picture above I took just minutes ago.  I find it illustrates beautifully the great challenge of life.  What is the great challenge you ask?  From what I can tell, the great challenge is grasping.  Interwoven with grasping is attachment and interwoven with attachment is delusion.  Every difficulty we encounter or create in our daily lives can be linked to grasping, attachment, and delusion.

The daffodil above is a vision of loveliness.  Its golden petals are in delicate balance.  It is beautifully unfolding and its vibrance is set up magnificently against the cobalt blue of the bottle.  Yet soon it will wither and die.  The flower will not last long in its current brilliant state of being.  If we are caught in grasping its form, as it exists today, we will be saddened and disappointed when it starts to wither.  Looking deeply we can see that when we are caught up in grasping we are also attached to something.  In this case we would be grasping its beauty and attached to how it existed in the past.  The delusion is that the flower is of a permanent, unchanging nature.

This is a simple example that may be easy to understand.  However, this is also how we interact with many things and experiences in our daily life.  We often grasp at thoughts, views, emotions, events, people, places, and things.  We often get attached to how things used to be or are supposed to be.  And we often get stuck in our delusion that life is permanent, unchanging, and separated into realms of right and wrong.

It is not the unfolding of life that causes upset and difficulty to arise, it is how we relate to it and move forward.

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Posted by on April 7, 2013 in 21 Days of Sitting

 

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Daily Practice – Day 14

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Day 14 – Today was a day of rest for me.  After a long, active week I took today to rest and stay in bed.  And while it would’ve been easy to pass up on my meditation time, I didn’t consider that as an option for even a moment.

Today I read the Discourse on Taking Refuge in Oneself.  Here’s a passage taken from it (the words spoken are that of the buddha):

“All phenomena that are born, exist, and are subject to the influence of other phenomena, in other words, all phenomena that are composite, must abide by the law of impermanence and eventually cease to exist.  They cannot exist eternally, without some day being destroyed.  Everything we cherish and hold dear today, we will have to let go of and be separated from in the future.  In not too long a time, I will also pass away.  Therefore, I urge you to practice being an island unto yourself, knowing how to take refuge in yourself, and not taking refuge in anyone or anything else.

“Practice taking refuge in the island of the Dharma.  Know how to take refuge in the Dharma, and do not take refuge in any other island or person.  Meditate on the body in the body, nourishing Right Understanding and mindfulness to master and transform your cravings and anxieties.  Observe the elements outside the body in the elements outside the body, nourishing Right Understanding and mindfulness to master and transform your cravings and anxieties.  That is the way to take refuge in the island of self, to return to yourself in order to take refuge in the Dharma, and not to take refuge in any other island or thing.”

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It is easy to take refuge in something or someone outside of ourselves.  To hang out happiness onto someone’s behavior or certain conditions or the weather.  One of the largest teachings I’ve been given through this practice is learning that the state of my relationship to my own health and well being is a choice I make (whether consciously or unconsciously).  And it’s something I continue to work on everyday.  Some days are easier than others.  There is a great responsibility and a great freedom that come along with knowing that my life is up to me and no one else.

 

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Daily Practice – Day 13

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Day 13 – I did my sitting this morning before heading out the door for the day and then just tonight read the Discourse on the Dharma Seal from my Plum Village Chanting Book.  In reading some of the buddha’s teachings in the discourses I’ve been finding that a majority of it is confusing to me but there are a few words or a few sentences that I absorb.  In the beginning of my practice when listening to a dharma talk or reading a book I would put pressure on myself to understand it all right away but now I see the benefit of simply taking in a teaching and allowing the rain of the dharma to fall over me.  And sometimes I take something tangible away and sometimes I don’t.  And sometimes understanding unfolds over time.

Here’s a passage from the discourse I read tonight:

“Bhikshus (fully ordained monk), find a quiet place to meditate, such as a forest under a tree.  There you can see that form is painful, empty, and impermanent, and as a result, you will not be attached to form.”  (First Door of Liberation)

“Bhikshus, dwelling in concentration, see the dissolution of form, and be free from the illusory nature of perception vis-a-vis form.”  (Second Door of Liberation)

“Bhikshus, once you are free from the view ‘I am,’ you no longer consider what you see, hear, feel, and perceive as realities independent of your own consciousness.  Why?  Because you know that consciousness also arises from conditions and is impermanent.  Because of its impermanent nature, it cannot be grasped either.”  (Third Door of Liberation)

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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in 21 Days of Sitting

 

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Daily Practice – Day 12

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Alley outside the window of the Missoula Art Museum

Day 12 – Before setting out for the day I practiced my sitting meditation in the dark stillness of my small bedroom while sitting on the floor as my husband slept.  I am now to the point where each morning when I wake up one of my first thoughts is of sitting meditation.

As spring break comes soon to a close my son and I dusted off our bikes from a long winter’s rest in the garage/wood shop/messy dumping ground for my husband’s roofing business and cycled downtown with some friends.  We went to lunch and then to our free local art museum.  It was a quiet day amongst the art and for the most part we had the museum all to ourselves.  As we walked around I was aware of how all beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Just as there is no one right beauty there is also no one right way to do anything.  We like to think there is only one right way to live and be (our way of course) but in reality this is simply not true.

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The following excerpt is from the MAM’s (Missoula Art Museum) website (pertains to pictures above and below):

MAM is pleased to host the exhibit Blindsided, designed and installed by Molt, MT artist Tracy Linder. Blindsided addresses the artist’s deep rooted connection to the land and her belief in the sanctity of our food sources. Linder states, “For over twenty years, I have been exploring the cultural significance of agriculture and agribusiness along with the integral roles of science, humanity and philosophy.” The word “blindsided” brings to mind a phenomenon that catches us unawares, especially with a harmful or detrimental result. In the same way, we are often blindsided by information which addresses the artificial manipulation of agriculture and the food supply, sometimes very unexpectedly. Linder goes on to state, “My works are derived from living a life close to the land as I transform remnants of animal, plant, human, and machine into visceral hybrids that reveal the reciprocal relationships necessary to sustain life. I grew up on a farm and now live on the vast windswept prairie of south central Montana. It is a place where the life-cycle is revalent and death is commonplace. I prefer to consider the mass of these circumstances by looking at the individual; the source.”

The presence of nearly identical cow heads communicates multiplicity, reproduction, and identity. Constructed from cast cotton paper, fescue grass, and metal ear bands, Blindsided masterfully communicates a sense of cloning and the manipulation of nature. We are reminded that when everything is identical, we lose uniqueness. Linder continues, “The cyclical patterns embedded in time are inherent to my process. I create unique handmade multiples to emphasize timelessness. The survival instinct is a resource. It is true ‘all flesh is grass’ and I am always seeking to reveal the intermingled and interdependent relationships necessary to the survival of both the grass and the flesh.”

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The rows of casted paper cow heads spoke of gentleness and grace.  A soft texture and chalk white color delicately decorated each sweet bovine depiction of Montana’s prairie dwellers.  Each was equipped with two blades of grass which added an element of depth and beauty to a perhaps otherwise sterile installment.  When I showed the pictures I took of this exhibit to my husband he said they were a little creepy.  Ah, beauty to one can be creepy to another.  There is no right way to look at a paper cow head.  Just as there is no right way to look upon life.  Which means perfection is but another illusion that we have to train ourselves to get out of.

 

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Daily Practice – Day 11

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Day 11 – Once again I opted to lay down for my six minutes of meditation instead of sitting.  I’ve been enjoying my daily practice and am finding it beneficial in regards to my relationship with myself – I feel more at ease even in the midst of stressful happenings and am more confident in my ability to meet the present moment on its own terms rather than my own expectations of how things should be, even when it’s challenging.  I’m also finding that I am becoming more motivated and skilled at not getting caught and stuck in my unskillful thought patterns and habit energies.  Of course there are other things at play here as well other than my daily sitting practice but I see clearly that it is of great support and benefit and for that I am grateful.  After my sitting I read the Discourse on the Eight Realizations of the Great Beings, which are as follows:

“The First Realization is the awareness that the world is impermanent…The Second Realization is the awareness that more desire brings more suffering…The Third Realization is the awareness that the human mind is always searching outside itself and never feels fulfilled…The Fourth Realization is the awareness that indolence (laziness) is an obstacle to practice…The Fifth Realization is the awareness that ignorance is the cause of the endless round of birth and death…The Sixth Realization is the awareness that poverty creates hatred and anger, which creates a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and actions…The Seventh Realization is the awareness that the five categories of sensual desire – money, sex, fame, overeating and oversleeping – lead to problems…The Eighth Realization is the awareness that the fire of birth and death is raging,  causing endless suffering everywhere…”

Buddhist-inspirationIn all but the Sixth Realization I see the same root which leads to the sufferings mentioned in the discourse: illusion.  Having false impressions about ourselves, other people and the world colors everything we do in body, speech and mind.  If we were able to see life clearly, unimpeded by the vast and varying array of our misperceptions, there would be no more suffering to be created.  Not only do we exist almost entirely in the realm of illusions but we cling desperately to them and don’t realize it.  We think, in fact we KNOW, that our thoughts are right, our way is right, our view is right, our perceptions are right.  When in reality our limited perspective about any given subject, person or experience is just that – very very limited, incomplete, oftentimes incorrect and bound up in our self-absorbed nature (a sea of illusion).

All of our suffering is self-manifested.  How we relate to life’s experiences and with what approach is how our world unfolds.  When we enjoy creating drama, which many of us do (and don’t know it), drama will manifest.  When we wallow in our physical ailments then a miserable life will ensue and our pain levels will only persist and increase.  When we victimize ourselves and blame others for our troubles and sorrow we live a life of anger and isolation.  When we are overly sensitive or take things too personally or seriously our comfort zone shrinks to the size of a tennis ball and everything and everyone has the potential to throw us off balance.  When we are unable to take responsibility for our own experiences in life we continue our path of suffering – generously watering the seeds of illusion as we tread.

How we view the world is how we live in it.  How we view ourselves in relationship to the present moment is the difference between whether we experience more joy and ease or more pain and suffering.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2013 in 21 Days of Sitting

 

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Daily Practice – Day 10

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Today’s hike to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs in Idaho

Day 10 – This morning I awoke a few minutes before my alarm was to go off.  Knowing I would have a full day of plans I made the quick decision to simply sit up and do my 6 minutes of meditation before my alarm was to sound.  Without a trip to the bathroom, sleepy eyed and all I met the morning straight away by practicing meditation.  I know myself well enough not to delay my sitting until the evening when I can be quick to lay down and rest for the remainder of the night at early hour.

My 13-year old step-son is on spring break this week and so today after breakfast he and I and a young friend of ours took a trip to Jerry Johnson’s (JJ’s) Hot Springs in Idahdo, about an hour and a half from where we live in Montana.  It is one of my very most favorite places to go.  After a wooded 1.5 mile hike beside the Lochsa River a few natural hot pools encircled by rocks sit beautifully in the earth.  Since moving here in 1998 I have frequented JJ’s many dozens of times throughout all four seasons and every time I go I see clearly that I am watering seeds of healing, joy, ease and connection with every hike and soak.

Today at Jerry Johnson's Hot Springs

Today at Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs

Things I noticed or thought about today in the woods:

Cultivating my relationship with the present moment comes effortlessly in the forest

Nature nourishes the widening of my self/world perspective

Getting in touch with the earth, water and air elements helps to ground my thoughts and emotions

Our growing up young people have difficulty knowing what to do with themselves without a computer or cell phone in arm’s reach

Food tastes better when you eat next to a sun drenched river

I often take for granted what I am afforded in life

Beauty doesn’t just exist in certain pockets when the conditions are right, beauty is inherit to life in all things

Connecting with the natural land helps me to connect with myself

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A cairn I made next to the Lochsa River

Breathing in I feel the sun shining through me

Breathing out I feel the river flowing all around me

Breathing in I take refuge in mother earth

Breathing out I smile

My pocket buddha sitting on highway 12 in Idaho

My pocket buddha sitting on highway 12 in Idaho

 

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Daily Practice – Day 9

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Day 9 – I was unable to sit this morning so although I did sit earlier at the center before I led an Open Way Sanghas board meeting and even though in an hour I will be leaving to return back to the center for our weekly Monday night Be Here Now Sangha group I did my six minutes just now in order to keep my daily practice going.  And since I went from doing the laundry at the laundry mat to the board meeting to volunteering with hospice to finishing up our taxes with our tax guy and am worn out I opted to practice laying down meditation instead of sitting meditation.  It was quite lovely.  Ya know, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you can’t lay down and meditate :)

Being in tune with our body and knowing how to listen to its signs of needing rest, food, water, playfulness, exercise, or other forms of nourishment is an important practice.  It is easy to ignore our bodies and to feed it in ways that are not beneficial to our overall health and well being.  Our minds and bodies are not separate but indeed very much connected.  If our physical body is not in harmony and balance our mind will reflect that and vice versa.  Let us take good care of ourselves in body and mind so that they in turn can take good care of us.  Listen carefully, our bodies and minds are telling us everything we need to know in order to care for them.

 

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