Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Contemplating Water

“Water is the driving force in nature.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Breathing in, I see myself as still water.
Breathing out, I reflect things as they are.
— Thich Nhat Hahn

How is your nature allowing you to reflect reality and drive change? Just something to contemplate….

Thanks, Patti, for inviting us to share thoughts and photos on Water!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beneath Our Feet

Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hahn

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.

 

 

Print on Earth your love and happiness.  On the land, on the water, for yourselves, for your children.  Peace is the walk. 

Beneath Your Feet

Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit

Habit might be the enemy of Awareness or Mindfulness.  Doing things routinely without thinking is a practice that allows our mind to wander into the past or the future or the make believe without really being present.  Sometimes, this is just what I want to do!  Yes, I admit to blowing up Mah Jong tiles and Free Cell rows when I want to veg out.  But if I want to be truly alive, I try to pay attention to each present moment.  Thich Nhat Hahn gives a wonderful lesson to Oprah Winfrey on drinking tea mindfully in this clip.  Oprah, out of habit, takes a sip of her tea before the meditation even begins.  I smile, thinking, “how embarrassing!” and noting that I probably would have done the same thing if I wasn’t careful.  Habits can be comforting…and they can lull us to sleep.  Do you want to be awake?  Do you feel like there will be plenty of time to be dead – later on?  I do.  Except when I don’t.  It takes a lot of psychic energy to be alive!  Think about all that’s involved when you do a simple thing like climb up a short flight of stairs.  Your weight is shifting, balancing, your muscles are contracting, your toes are gripping, your hand may reach out to the banister, your eyes are measuring the height of each step, you’re breathing with the exertion, and all while trying to remember what you’re going upstairs for!  Walking meditation, tea meditation, stairs meditation…it’s all the same practice of mindfulness.  This picture adds another aspect: Steve meditation.  I see him every day.  I want to be mindful of that miracle.  He’s alive, different, changing, dynamic, and important.  So am I (but I have a long way to go on that one…appreciating myself is the hardest practice for me!).

Habit

Happy New Year 2013

The bottle of champagne remains unopened. 

New Year's 2013

Steve had a headache; I have a head cold.  We talked about celebration and seriousness, listened to Medieval motets and re-read John Keats’ The Eve of St. Agnes.  We watched The Apartment again, and fell asleep shortly after midnight, listening to music.  Thich Nhat Hahn talks of birthdays and other milestones simply as “continuations”.  Life goes on; time is our own invention.  There will be another occasion for champagne.  Today we slept and listened to our bodies healing.

NYE table

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

from In Memoriam A.H.H. by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
blogged by thousandfold echo

Too Darn Hot

I have been given the day off from my job at Old World Wisconsin.  When the heat index is over 100 degrees, we expect few visitors to the outdoor living history museum.  With my time, I imagine accomplishing all kinds of things, but in truth, I am simply sitting in front of a fan in the living room, drinking cold water.  I am surrounded by books.  “Savor” by Thich Nhat Hahn is right at hand, bringing mindfulness into my view, but what I am mindful of is the sun beating down on the roof next door, angling through the windows despite the mini-blinds, heating the air so that any breeze coming in feels like the blow-dryer set on High.  I imagine all the sweet corn that I want to be eating next month shriveling up in the fields.  The loss of that treat – roasted in the husk, dripping in fresh butter and seasoned with salt and pepper – is probably not as devastating as the loss of an entire crop to a farmer.  Dust Bowl conditions may be just around the corner at this rate.  We are all connected to the changes and conditions on this planet.  How can we be mindful and act compassionately as a community?  How can we become “solid, peaceful, whole, and well” and improve the well-being of the world through collective compassion?  And can we cause a sea change on the planet before our brains are so baked that we can’t think at all?  I retreat into distraction and immediately think of this song…

Drops of sweat tap dance down my trunk…

Conscientiousness melts into individual survival…

When will the healing rain fall?

Peace Walk

Yesterday, I blogged several quotes from Thich Nhat Hahn.  Last night, I came across a passage in Living Buddha, Living Christ that illuminated my journey through widowhood, change, and doubt.

“One day when you are plunged into the dark night of doubt, the images and notions that were helpful in the beginning no longer help.  They only cover up the anguish and suffering that have begun to surface.  Thomas Merton wrote, ‘The most crucial aspect of this experience is precisely the temptation to doubt God Himself.’  This is a genuine risk.  If you stick to an idea or an image of God and if you do not touch the reality of God, one day you will be plunged into doubt.  According to Merton, ‘Here we are advancing beyond the stage where God made Himself accessible to our mind in simple and primitive images.’  Simple and primitive images may have been the object of our faith in God in the beginning, but as we advance, He becomes present without any image, beyond any satisfactory mental representation.  We come to a point where any notion we had can no longer represent God.”

“The reality of God”…beyond any notion or representation, there is a reality, an experience.  Returning regularly to this experience is what Thich Nhat Hahn refers to as “deep practice”.  It requires awareness, mindfulness, being awake and paying attention.  What is the experience of being in this living world?

I went for a walk yesterday in a strong wind and looked up to the trees.  They were all swaying in their own way, in different directions, at different levels, different speeds.  They have no notion that is “wind”.  They have an experience.

The river touches the stones and mud in the river bed, it touches the banks, it touches the wind with its surface and reflects the trees that rise high above it.  It inhabits its course without a concept or an image of anything.

I enjoy images.  I become attached to them.  Their primitive simplicity appeals to my limited brain and feels comfortable.  I wonder now if that’s why I often become “stuck”.  It’s as if I become unable to see the forest because I look so constantly at the trees.  The experience of ‘forest’ is so much more.

Every time I take a photo, I put my experience into a frame.  Would a frameless view of reality take me beyond my doubts?  Beyond my fears?

When I was a cantor at my church, I’d sing a refrain during Vespers, framing the prayers that people offered up in the pews: “Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my doubts, wants, fears, images, and notions…from death into Life.

Meditation

I got myself into a mood last night while Steve was gone. We had mailed out job applications earlier that day for Old World Wisconsin, a seasonal living history museum, and gradually my anxieties about my life and work began escalating.  I searched the internet like a magic 8 ball, and the best advice I found was a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

What is “work worth doing”?  How do I want to spend my life’s energy?  What is worth it?  Am I even worthy of my life if I don’t do something worth doing with it?  Steve came home to find me sitting in the dark, staring out the window.  “Are you okay?” he asked tentatively.  Fortunately, we both have the ability to laugh at our moods, acknowledge them and joke about them and pay attention to them without getting too attached to them.  I did some doodling and some stream-of-consciousness writing and played my sopranino recorder a bit to loosen up and allow something to emerge.  I fell asleep with this phrase in my head: “Teach peace”.

This morning my thoughts turned to flowers and Thich Nhat Hahn.  He is one of the greatest teachers of peace, in my opinion.  If you’ve never heard of him, I urge you to do a little research.  Reading his books helped me through pivotal stages of grief and anger and crises of faith after my husband died.  I got a very personal message from his words, but his vision is for the entire world as well.  Peace begins internally and has consequences on a global scale.  I do believe that.  Today, I invite you to a meditation using Thich Nhat Hahn’s words and photos I took last summer of peonies from our garden.  I hope it nudges you awake to the happiness in you…as it did for me!

“If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.”
– Thich Nhat Hahn, Being Peace

“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

“Each moment is a chance for us to make peace with the world, to make peace possible for the world, to make happiness possible for the world.”
Teachings on Love

“Our notions about happiness entrap us. We forget that they are just ideas. Our idea of happiness can prevent us from actually being happy. We fail to see the opportunity for joy that is right in front of us when we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form.”

‎”The earth is so beautiful. We are beautiful also. We can allow ourselves to walk mindfully, touching the earth, our wonderful mother, with each step. We don’t need to wish our friends, ‘Peace be with you.’ Peace is already with them. We only need to help them cultivate the habit of touching peace in each moment.”

WALKING MEDITATION

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.

– from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”