One day in 1976 I accompanied my teacher Kobun Chino Roshi to his weekly evening Dharma talk at the Santa Cruz Zen Center. Afterwards, we drove towards Monterey and Tassajara, the monastery he and Suzuki Roshi had founded. The restaurant we stopped at looked a little dicey, and Kobun said, “It’s OK, we can go anywhere.” When I finished my grilled cheese sandwich, he looked around and said, “This is a kind of strange place. Too strange.” We left.
It’s true that mindfulness can go anywhere. When you begin to practice mindfulness, you’re taking a deep dive into the sea of discursive thinking and constant commentary that you may think of as your inner life. Then as you enter other dimensions of your inner world, your awareness can be filled with wonders: marvelous stories and scary emotions, a teeming variety of images and imagination swimming into consciousness from the vast ocean of emptiness. You discover that mindfulness is not enhanced by connecting with that which is good, and it’s not destroyed or diminished in any way by being aware of that which is not so good. Being mindful of the chaotic racing mind is just as beneficial as being mindful of [...]
In preparation for Lama Surya Das’s visit, I stopped yesterday at Trader Joe’s. I was waiting quietly as a mom and her small daughter came into the big elevator going to the parking lot. The girl climbed on to the back of their shopping cart, her little feet on the lower basket, leaning back, hands hanging on, ready to ride — something you’ve probably done countless times as a child.
Suddenly I was that girl. It was not a memory, just the melting away of thought and individual identity into simple presence, standing there. The scuffed walls of the dark elevator, the shopping carts and grocery bag, her red Tshirt, were vivid and bright as we began our stately glide up to the second floor. The space around us became us, sacred and still. Silent, radiant, loving awareness is all there was — is all there is when we’re truly mindful.
Tears welled up, tears of gratitude for the practices that unlock our innate natural ability to belong to life in this way. This is your birthright, your pabhassara citta, a clear, luminous heart. My deepest wish is for all beings to know this! How can we not cherish and take care [...]
Wonderful update received from Plum Village about Thich Nhat Hanh:
Thây is feeling much better. Instead of using the bell to call his attendant, he’s now using his own voice to holler if anyone was free to drink tea with him. His voice carries energy and joy…His bodyaches and fatigue have improved significantly. His daily activity is essentially back to normal…He’s sending his gratitude to all who have been concerned about his health.
We can learn from his community’s response to Thây’s illness. Last week they asked us to practice mindful sitting and walking and to send our love and compassionate energy his way. They knew what needed to be done to avoid anxiety and fear. When we’re present with life just as it is, resting our hearts in loving awareness of what’s actually happening — even in the face of adversity — we’re doing something so good and important on our path!
Mindfulness helps us steady our hearts and calm our minds, so when we encounter physical or emotional troubles, we can meet them with some measure of patience, stability and confidence. You may have already faced unexpected challenges that arrived in your life.
Patience is my least favorite quality to practice; it doesn’t come [...]
When I was a very young single Mom, I was busy all the time – working, preparing meals, shopping, cleaning our home and the kitty litter, doing the endless care young children require. The earlier I would set the alarm to have a precious slice of time to myself, the earlier I’d hear little feet padding into my room to enjoy some peaceful time with Mommy before we had to get ready to leave. For a smile of encouragement, I tacked up a postcard of cars stuck in traffic that said, “Millions of people leave home every day.”
Then I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s, “The Miracle of Mindfulness.” Thây’s book changed my life. He taught me how time with my child is time with and for myself when I’m truly mindful. The on-going despair I felt about having no time to myself lifted – miraculous! A sense of freedom and possibility drew me ever more deeply into the practice. I was fascinated and grateful.
This morning I read a message from Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s community in France, forwarded by Carol Moss last night: “Our beloved teacher is not well. There is an infection in his lungs. He cannot sleep, and [...]
Before our annual weeklong retreat at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch, I spent a week of personal retreat in the tiny octagonal Hermitage nestled nearby in the Carson National Forest. It’s simple and rustic (has its own little outhouse, no running water or electricity) with big windows overlooking the daisy-filled meadow and Ponderosa pines above the Vallecitos river.
When I first moved to LA, I lamented the light night skies and wondered, why are “Star Maps” sold in a city where nighttime isn’t dark enough for us to see many stars, let alone whole constellations? Each year I forget how beautiful the night sky looks with no electric light anywhere within miles. The Milky Way is a path of glowing moondust strewn across the sparkling velvety night sky among countless shining stars, planets, galaxies. From time to time, I catch sight of a star falling silently through the universe, a sudden streak of light through deep black space, born then vanishing, flashing into existence — just like us.
It takes a couple days to overcome my ancient fear of the outdoors at night. As I fall asleep, I practice lovingkindness. After just three days alone in the tiny cabin, the darkness becomes a mysterious [...]