Courage. I’ve contemplated, wrote and signed off with Courage for so many years now- certainly it is available to be drawn from the ‘bank account’ of practice. I feel simultaneously up to the task and so very inadequate. Courage—from the French cour and sage—or at least that is how I like to think of it, courage as ‘wisdom of the heart.’ The marriage of intellect and highest compassion coupled with the capacity to confront and in that, access whatever skill held to act in accordance with the heart’s deepest desire.
The Heart here defined as Consciousness writ large, the source of all creative impulse and manifestation and also its dissolution. To borrow from Abraham Lincoln, it is the home of “our better angels.” How can we listen? How can we invite this wisdom? We must go there, experience must be had, there is no other way.
I have spent many years forging a clearer path to the Heart; I have steeped and continue to do so daily, in its dynamic throb. I have soaked in the light of Consciousness and take great comfort from its unending source and I feel the pain of challenge not less, but oh so much more potently! How can this be? Meditation makes you stronger and also weaker; weaker to do that which is deleterious to cultivating our higher circumstance. Perhaps this is why I cannot look away from the terror that is all around now in the time of Covid 19, and feel it more acutely.
My inadequacy to the task at hand has me grieving. Yes, I fear for myself and those I love but it is so much deeper than that. Truly I am not worried about myself. I will move through with grace as cultivation of grace is ongoing. But how can I assist and ease the suffering I feel mounting? It is hard to separate the personal from the public here and I am not sure it is even warranted.
So, I continue to nurture courage and the heightened capacity to act with skill and compassion. In communicating with our various groupings, we fertilize the seed of desire. The incipient sprout needs tender care to blossom. It matters. What we do matters even if it is simply to add a drop of courage to the collective bucket of light, the scale is tipped.
Tend Your Garden March 11, 2020
When you wake up one morning and the air smells fresh and clean, the sun pulsing a bit warmer, the harsh breeze of winter now softening, something stirs in the heart and we instinctively know, it’s time to plant! We yearn to get outside and put our hands in the dirt. For some, this is literal, we really do want to plant our garden; plan out the vegetables and flowers that will bring nourishment and beauty to both the body and soul. Regardless of whether this vision calls to you, all humans have an inbuilt mechanism, a cyclic clock that signals that it is time to begin anew.
Spring is synonymous with beginning but in truth we can begin at any time, even right this moment. We reap what we sow, say the scriptures. What are you planting? What is the condition of the soil in which you place the tender seed? How do you nourish it?
When one wishes to plant a garden, they look at pictures of what the seeds will become. Choosing what speaks to our desire, we purchase the necessary items that will support the project and off we go. We cannot leave the seeds in the packet and hope they will somehow magically grow. There is work to be done, we must make the soil ready.
Meditation is both the tilling of the soil and the planting of the seed. It is up to each individual to daily nourish the ground of their being so that naturally life burgeons. Whatever we wish to do on the surface of life flourishes. Even if we are not quite sure what that something is, in time it will show itself. Think of this simple teaching from the Upanishads, “water the roots." For a plant to blossom the roots must be watered. We can sprinkle water on the leaves and flowers and they may look good for a while, but this is really window dressing, and ultimately, it will not grow. The same holds true for humans. We want not to just survive but to thrive! Take awareness to source, “water the root of attention” and then anywhere you place attention life blossoms. It is cumulative in effect, refining the body-mind and heightening the senses which is, after all, the way we perceive, take the world in and offer our gifts back.
The world needs you it needs me it needs all of us. It is tempting to think one person cannot make much of a difference but this is incorrect. Yes, our meditation practice is personal, it is for us and in knowing the source of who we truly are, we understand, we experience authentically, that we are all already and always connected. Raise the consciousness of one being and effect those they touch. This effect ripples out into the world. It’s not magic, but it is mysterious and it is real.
So, on this day, I am sending you love, light and perpetual encouragement to dive deep and water your roots. Tend to your garden, meditate. The world needs you.
Ah, the sweet recognition that what you seek has been yours all along. Love the one you’re with. Another name for self-love. Truly love the one you’re with, not in some solipsistic or surface animation- but truly, madly, deeply, love the one you’re with. This is the love the ecstatic poets speak of. This is the message of yoga. Devotion in the highest most powerful sense. This is the gift of deep meditation.
To share love, we must first know love. Love is light, the source of everything that naturally calls to us, because it is who we truly are. As much as we may try, we cannot convince ourselves of this from the surface of life. First, says yoga, go in, know your heart, steep in the love found there. Let it pervade the body/mind, flowing into all the nooks and crannies, gross and subtle. Then, naturally bring the light of love out in all you do. The more we root in that love, the more we stabilize our home in the heart, the more naturally, what will spill out, is love. To be self-less one must first be Self-full. Love the one you're with.
Welcome the Great Light 12.24.19
Winter Solstice celebrates the growing return of the light. As the earth spins on her axis, she tilts and the light always present begins to show itself more and more each day. We welcome this yearly ritual and, in its honoring, we symbolically welcome the light that is always present in each heart to blossom more fully.
I understand it is the darkness that lends the light a stage upon which to present her glory. It is the dark that brings rest and a sweet sort of silence that the sound of light may trumpet her arrival.
Of course, I don’t always remember or embrace this when darkness seems unending and often cruel. Still, they are partners darkness and light. They pulse and dance in unison, in an embrace so close it is often hard to tell which is leading.
So, I close my eyes each day and rest in the darkness, in the sweet silence of source that I may hear her secrets; know her truth, find steadiness and love in the core of my being, the core of each being. The darkness in a way births the light, and the light rests in darkness.
No matter where our physical body stands, always we meet in the great heart. Upon opening my eyes then, once more the world looks new as the light of my individual awareness illuminates the objects of the world and I astonishingly see, hear, smell, touch and taste the light as though it were for the first time.
This is the gift of contrast. The experience in which one, permits the other a moment of glory, be it sound or silence, darkness or light. The gift of meditation is one that keeps this experience alive. And it is more than fleeting experience, it is the gift of knowledge that permits one to embrace both dark and light in each life and in doing so, move closer to the living experience of light as source, anchor and home.
In this blessed season as many celebrate the return of light in the physical world and in the heart of humans as represented by the loving words holy beings shouted from the hillsides and temples, churches and ashrams, mosques and basement rooms, I wish you peace.
May you know the light of your own sweet heart. May it swell and spill out into the world in all you do, big and small, each day, in potent forms of love.
Sva Mahāprakāśa! Welcome the Great Light.
There is a gap between what is and what might be. Creativity, the creative act, is the universal human need to bridge that gap say the experts.
For some that gap is so large that the imagination cannot begin to conjure a bridge of any sort let alone one that carries the self forward.
The fundamental human urge to create holds infinite possibility. Nourish the soil. Be astonished at what blossoms even as you meet the challenge of tending. Love, found in the heart of each being, is the fertilizer that feeds the soil. This is why I meditate. To nourish myself, to have access to that nourishment and share it in whatever manner each meeting of person, place or thing allows; to be astonished, camatkāra, at what is manifested. The infinite creativity of consciousness writ large exists in each one.
From the perspective of knowledge and experience there is also a gap. A gap between what we intuit, feel, experience in the deepest part of ourselves and what the mind can grasp and understand. This is also why I meditate. I long to bridge that gap, to possess the power to share the intimacy of that experience as an offering to the world in all I do. Can you imagine what that might look like? To infuse each thing you do in the power of love? I spend some part of each day, twice a day steeping in it.
Love is not visible and yet we continually seek to possess it. Love does exist in tangible form as beauty, as object of affection. This may bring joy or misery but is dependent on relationship with other. Regardless, it will morph, it will end, as all on the surface does. This ending does not diminish our desire to know love in life, only to be more skillful at welcoming and engaging. The potent, endless source of love is within. Know your deepest self, build a bridge between what is and what might be.
Be astonished. Meditate.
Only someone who is very, very strong can be truly, tenderlysensitive. How do we change the world? It’s not going to happen over night but it must begin and it starts with the individual. It begins with me. This is why I practice; why I am devoted to my practice. I have experienced its effects in my own life and as I continue to cultivate and stabilize this power, I want with all my heart, for all to heal, for the world to heal and expand. We can no longer lean back and simply hope. We must look forward and expand. To do so, we must first look within to expand individual awareness.
Profound transformative ordeals are stirring, individually and planet wide. Some are beautiful and ease-full almost magical; others are quite painful but no less transformative. This is the what the Śaiva Tantra tradition refers to playfully as the “maha-śakti house-cleaning service” at work removing the debris, the garbage of life. It sounds good natured, and indeed is benevolent in intent, but without understanding can be torturous. The daily practice of mediation is what supports and carries us through when we are making those big leaps in life. Whether we like it or not, want it or not, change happens. We are changing, the world is changing. Participate.
What we need is the proper instruction and knowledge that supports not only practice, but the living of life This is the crux of what is missing for so many, the theory that supports practice. The recognition of what is occurring deep within, not just interesting in some philosophical manner, but the very creative impulse that feeds what shows up on the surface of life.
Poverty consciousness is not speaking of just the bank account. There is a wealth of knowledge found within but we have forgotten its existence. This is the wealth that supports the attainment of every sort. Once this is recovered, we may entertain on a deep profound level how we apply and share our wealth of knowledge, wisdom, insight; our power and yes our material wealth too. Skillfully life is fully lived.
Meditate, say the wise sages, a treasure is within. Cultivate the wealth of consciousness from which all wealth arises.
Nowhere Everywhere Home
We found a home. Our seventh house, this one in the city of water, feminine creative energy flowing through an enclave of muscular tech power.
Once again I set about to bring order and create a new place to call sanctuary. Once again, I open myself and hope to find community.
It dawns on me that I, who yearn for place, belong nowhere and yet have not quite made the leap to belonging everywhere. How I wish this were the truth of my experience! One cannot prematurely announce a wish or hope as truth yet space must be made for it to be born.
I listen to a lot of pod casts. There are so many wonderful intelligent well-meaning beings out there offering perspective. While it is new in its chosen manner of announcement, the message is as old as human kind. How to live a good purposeful life; one that brings meaning to the individual and adds to the universal; one that acknowledges the truth of both our aloneness and connectivity.
I hear the word surrender, in fact I contemplate it a lot, daily. Surrender, even as you tune your senses to what is possible, what is burgeoning instead of what is dissolving. The universe “has your back” for you are meant to flourish. Pray for grace in whatever manner suits your belief of existence. Listen.
Wise words. Inspiring, touching, yet they always leave me wondering how? None of these voices are actually recommending passivity but rather acknowledgement that we cannot do it from the stance of control or will power. Ah, what is my attempt at control if not desire to bring order, to contribute? Yes, but if this comes from the present mind alone then it rests in soil not fully prepared, not properly nourished. Who was it that said ‘one cannot solve a problem with the same mind that conceived it’? Was it Einstein? No matter, the truth is self-evident. Refinement is necessary.
This brings me back to all those well-meaning words. Are we to force ourselves into believing their truth even as we attempt to surrender? This strikes me as of illogical; it is unreasonable.
These words and what they represent are powerful and inspiring but what then is the method? How does one authentically come to know them? This is why practice and the theory that supports it is so important. It is vital.
I belong nowhere this much is true, but I have found the practice that offers the path to belonging more fully to myself, my most whole self and in that, I rest in the space of the Great Heart and merge, at least for a time, in the source of everything. There are glimmers of this belonging on the surface. Little by little, as in drops of water on the thirsty plant, or the removal of grime from my window of view, I feel, I see, I intuit signs.
Find one thing each day for which to give thanks. And rest in the knowledge that this is a kind of belonging. Practice. Merge individual will into the potent source of all Will. The space of creativity that both flows forth what is made manifest, be it thought, word or deed, and receives what is dissolved. Align with the power of Will, icchāśakti, and then little by little, as refinement of the senses, the entire prakritic body/mind unfolds, we come to find that our will power is formidable because it is directly linked to, and a potent reflection of, its oceanic source. Come home.
Life can be bittersweet. Loss is the partner of profit. The loss of job, and with this relocation, the loss of home and the community built up around roots planted and nurtured in a certain place; the death of loved ones.
But within this stirring, as always, the preciousness of what remains is acute. As it tugs at the heart, the balance of acknowledging what sorrow brings, and the gratitude and joy at what remains, what might be opened, is a dance on the Upanishadic Razor’s Edge. One side heaven, the other hell. Knowing it is in large degree of our own making is unhelpful and at times, down right cruel. That is unless we have the strength and self-knowledge to do something about it.
There is such tenderness in strength. Strength, the very word conjures power, a certain largeness and capacity to withstand. Yet in its most potent form, it is also simultaneously, a very quiet thing. The husband of a dear friend who passed away, defeated and spent in his grief, the howl of pain roaring silently from his entire being, stands open and strong for his five young children. There is such tenderness in true strength.
Where does this deep well of strength arise? From love, from the depths of our very being. We humans love fiercely. And we fiercely embody grief at the object of that love’s loss. So, we lean into our strength. We look to increase it but strength multiplied without tenderness, without connection to our deepest heart is brittle and often results in a kind of bullying.
The strength I speak of is woven with threads of iron that are held together with the nectar we name love. It freely, abundantly abides in each human but must be cultivated.
It is the moments spent in deep meditation, silently communing with the roaring power of source, in the fire pit of birth and dissolution that individual awareness comes home. For a time, the mind settles releasing the boundaries objective reality necessitates; awareness opens permitting fullness to flood the vessel holding individual form. This fullness is of every possible kind- light, courage, strength, compassion, love- are some of the names we give it but it is beyond, it is transcendent. Yet, because this light exists within, it is also immanent. This immanence provides the means to know what is transcendent. First within, and then little by little, over time, we begin to see the light in all its magnificence, without.
This daily practice renders the individual strong but also tender, and also every other expression of humanity possible. It is the search, the journey to reclaim our full humanity, that puts us in direct touch with our divinity. Life itself is a divine mysterious thing. We endeavor to make the most of it and wonder at where we go upon its ending. In this, meditation prepares us for both. It permits a fuller engagement with life; in joy so we may embody it, and in sorrow, so we may positively impact or at the very least, withstand; and it teaches directly of the experience of true release, thus preparation for all our transitions, including the grand one at physical form’s end.
Today, Dear Ali my heart is full of you, you and those who fiercely love you. Closing my eyes, I rest awareness in you. Though your physical form and means of expression will always be missed, you are eternally found in the great heart of home. The tenderness of strength is calling. May we, with sweet innocence, and enthusiastic determination answer.
Weaving a Good Life.
We are all weavers in our way. Taking the strands that make up a day, a week, a year and weaving them into a good life. I often think about what a good life looks like. It changes and yet at heart always contains the elements of purpose, love and connection.
The word tantra can be translated as “to weave” so, the Tantric practitioner, at heart, weaves the twine of life using deep mystical praxis as the tool that binds; the pattern that permits the picture to take its most beautiful shape.
At a certain point in life we long to contribute- each small thing contributes to the whole- each thread contributes to the fabric’s finish. Though we are always pulling out one and looking for just the right color for another, that fabric is forever a work in progress.
Many people, in many ways, in many traditions and disciplines are speaking of this, yogis, writers, artists, plumbers, even the occasional politician. There is a hunger for connection. The truth is we are already connected but for the most part we do not fully recognize the depth of it.
My meditation teacher says people are waking up - something is calling them and they need guides to assist. In my small way, I am such a one. I sometimes struggle with how I can be a guide when I have not finished the project. I have not solved the hunger issue but I have found a way to connect to my fuller self, my more whole self and in that, my better self because I have more resource and infinite support. I have spent the past 11 years studying, practicing, refining; it continues. I am more and more self-reliant. Not in an egotistical solipsistic manner, I yearn for connection and seek the council of experts, but I am able to stand strong in both the fire and joy of life.
Community connection content. We long for direct connection and community with those around us - to serve our community and this is magnificent. But something larger is needed, connection to community of life writ large. This is where meditation serves. It actually serves both- the individual and thus all she/he/they touch and, because it is the knowledge of who we are at source, it serves the community of humanity and so connects us at a deeper level. This root connection not only tolerates diversity on the surface but celebrates it.
It is not sameness that brings unity but rather recognition that we are made of the same threads woven in another pattern. Aligning at source with the building blocks of creative energy naturally assists individual manifestation and also deepens the understanding of other creative endeavors. We come to see in our way, that though different it is also same. This is the beginning of true unity. Not sameness as in beige, but unity as in rainbow. We are not trying to make connection but rather recognize its already and always prior presence.
In my small way I offer connection or rather the means to discovering true connection with the Self. Is this the only way? No. Is it a viable practical way? Yes. Is it meant for those living, or desirous of living-full vibrant lives? Yes. Is it easy to learn? Yes. Is it based on belief or any particular set of rules? No. Is it for me? Come and see; experience for yourself. From this place authentic personal value springs.
There is the teaching concept of the nyaya in the Śaiva Tantra Tradition. A nyaya is an axiomatic principle; a tool like a pair of plyers, when applied in the right way, at the right time, with the right amount of pressure yields an opening. The Coconut Nyaya teaches us about protection and layers. We build a hard outer shell - we must for many reasons- but deep within at core lies the sweetness of life we crave; this sweetness is also source. No matter what we wish to do in life this one tool will assist in doing it better. The fruits of our meditation are tender and can be damaged by exposure to the harsh and ignorant surface reactions of the world. We need to construct a protective shell, like the coconut, not for secrecy but to protect the sweetness of the fruit inside.
Then as our strength in that sweetness deepens and self-reliance grows, we are able to dip the threads of life in that ambrosial vat and weave a pleasurable, good life however defined. One that is woven with the fabric of other lives. It is in the true experiential recognition of unity that the celebration of diversity in all its glory is served.
Mother’s Day May 12, 2019
I am 64 years old. It is feasible to think that over these years I have made or bought some 60 Mother’s day cards. This is the first year I did not. My mama passed this year and with her my last, first home.
Mother. Home. The word mother is overflowing with the essence, the very core of home. Mother’s womb, Mother tongue, Mother Earth, the Mother Ship—all as reference points. Here I am always welcome; here I am understood; here is my touch star; here is where I come from. Here is home.
As an adolescent I, as all adolescents, couldn’t wait to get away from home. Then in my twenties and thirties, I couldn’t wait to come back for a home cooked meal, to let my guard down. I couldn’t wait to be met at the door by my parents eager to wrap me in their arms and heap on me all the attention I could hold.
When my father passed, I realized just how much he too ‘mothered’ me. Rubbing Vick’s Vapo Rub on my back and sweeping me in his arms, telling me I was beautiful and strong; how proud he was, in between his worried look that someone was not mothering me while I was out of his sight. Who was changing the oil in my car? But the home In Jersey I grew up in was still there with my mother in place so the illusion held for a while longer.
When we sold that house and moved mom, it was another passing for me and my siblings. But mama was still mama, still firm as beacon even though the place of residence had moved. There were visits to that home and meals still eaten together and offers of pocket money. How does a child answer the perennial parent question—are you ok? Do you need anything? Even if they could not exactly provide what might be needed the offer was balm. The knowledge that someone, in that certain place called home, looked out for you; that home was always there no matter what chaos might be occurring.
Mother and Home. As I sit in a temporary apartment, in a new city looking again for home I am keenly aware that truly I am my own beacon; there is no other light out there pulsing specifically for me. ‘Home is where the heart is’ the saying goes. But now this brings ache not solace. My heart is broken and so pieces of me are strewn across the landscape. Where is home?
Of course there are many levels to this question. I yearn for an actual home, roots. To be rooted in place and community, to be part of some whole. But I know, home truly is where the heart is, and the great heart is within one’s own being. One day, with practice, that knowing becomes so full, that it spills out onto everything, and spontaneously home is wherever the gaze falls. I am grateful for this understanding and the path that permits me to go home. There is great comfort here. I shudder to think how I would be if not for my practice.
Still, I ache for home. I will remember my mama with stories shared with my siblings. I will send flowers to my mother-in-law. I will honor Mother Earth with a silent ceremony taking in her riches. I will continue to search on Redfin and Zillow for home and hope that it shows itself soon. I am not a mother, but I have mothered, and I will continue to offer my services and be ‘as mother’ where I am able to any child of the earth in need. And I will close my eyes, take a few tremulous breaths, settle and go home. Little by little I bring the sweetness of home up to the surface and the world is transformed.
This picture is of my mother, Carmella, Millie, gazing up at my Aunt Emma. I never met my aunt but am told I am just like her. I love looking at this picture and thinking about that.
See you in my dreams mama.