Monday, April 26, 2010

It's not tacky, it's my new meditation tool...

My new meditation tool sitting next to
one of my many mermaid muses...

Okay, you go on ahead and laugh. I have been meditating for decades and done quiet sitting meditation (zazen) on a cushion, meditated gazing at a soft glowing candle, done a number of meditation techniques that I have created and taught to help those who just can't get into meditation in any formal way, but I have never, I'm telling you never, found anything that would keep my mind quiet and my focus absolutely one-pointed than sitting here staring at my purple lava lamp that I bought at my next door neighbor's yard sale on Saturday for $1. I am googly-eyed watching it burble, great purple globules floating up and down in the water, and I now believe that lava lamps were perhaps the greatest invention of the 20th century. Why, I think I'm going to go to yard sales everywhere and look for them in all different colors and have them all over the house. I'm just the kind of person who would do something that peculiar.

I'm going back to meditate. I just wanted to dazzle you with my lava lamp. I'm sorry the mermaid isn't dressed, but they don't come out of the sea that way. I believe in mermaids like I believe in lava lamps, and there are mermaids everywhere here. Her name is Melisandra (I made that up, don't you just love it? I wrote, about 15 years ago, a little story about Goddesses and Mermaids and illustrated it and I named the main mermaid Melisandra. I've no idea why, it just came to me. One of those strokes of genius, you know...). I think all the other mermaids are jealous. Yes, I'm on the hunt for lava lamps. You can never have too many.

(Looking intensely at lava lamp, eyes going slightly out of focus...)

Om... Om... Om...

Ssssshhh, I'm meditating here...


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thoughts of the Day: e.e. cummings has my heart, and leaping with the greenly spirits of trees...

"I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes."

~ e.e. cummings ~

My beautiful borage, blue
flowered magical herb...

The borage photo above was from my last garden before I moved here in mid-winter. I have planted much more, and am out in the garden most of the these days. I'm not sure how people get by without a garden, for in a garden, as nowhere else, I can commune with nature, with God, with the blue stars of the borage, and the banana tree I am about to plant, currently having been transplanted from a small plant ordered through the mail, one of my favorite trees, more fragrant than is possible to describe. Botanical name: Michelia Figo, it is an ever green shrub that can grow into a 15' tall tree. I once walked into an old-fashioned Southern garden center, and the many year old banana tree was so huge and so full of blossoms I nearly swooned to the ground parked half a block away because the scent was so strong and the butter yellow blossoms filled the air with it's sweet and intense perfume.

I plant for color and fragrance, mainly flowers and herbs, but am just getting into planting more vegetables, heirloom varieties. I want to be more self-sufficient as the years go along. My property comes with a complex sprinkling system that I will not use for the waste of water. I water with my hose just enough to get the plants, seeds, bulbs, and bushes going and growing and then water as seldom as possible to keep things lively and abundant. My gardens have always been, as this one is, lushly planted, old-fashioned cottage gardens, and I take great delight in the whole process from planting seeds, bulbs, and a few tiny perennials as well as cuttings and watching them grow into a magical paradise. I don't mind waiting. Gardeners must be patient. True gardeners are. Few are the plants I will buy, more bulbs and mostly seeds. And on this old property the leaping greenly spirit of trees are everywhere. I keep encountering long planted perennials, shrubs, and more in utter amazement, currently gorgeous irises, roses, an enormous patch of of Verbena Canadensis, also called Rose Verbena or "Creeping Vervain." It is simply stunning.

I plant with pugs and Big Dog Moe wandering all around the garden, safely fenced in with a 6' privacy fence, and have a sketchbook always at the ready. In the next few years I plan to create a garden that goes round and round, a labyrinth design, with many little pockets of secret gardens, and at the center a huge pond with koi and water plants, beautiful lotus flowers, water hyacinths and more. That will be a few years down the road and each stage will be glorious, and fill me with a sense of wonder.

And so here I am, wet, muddy, with, heaven forbid, and though I hosed off well before coming in, a few tiny ants roving about on me. Time to take a shower, put the parrots to bed, and plan for tomorrow when a dozen dahlia, 3 confederate roses, four brugmansia in different colors, or "Angel's Trumpets," with their long, fragrant, pendulous bells perfuming the whole garden and stunning to look at, not to mention the 3 giant bulbs, the crinums, my favorite variety, the "Milk and Wine" white and pink striped stunning old fashioned lilies.

Oh-Oh-Oh.... and I have to tell you, when you work in a garden in a new yard you have no idea what treasures that you've never heard of might come up. Between the Magic Ship and the lime green and pink garden shed, in what I call "The Flamingo Woods," I found the most dazzling flowers all over the ground. They are tulip shaped, a gorgeous yellow, and on each petal it looked like a painter had whisked a brushstroke of bright orange. I spent a full hour searching for trees indigenous to North Carolina and finally I found it. I have been in such a state over these flowers and that they are in my very own yard that I gently washed two flowers and have them floating in a wine glass. I can't stop looking at them. The tree is Liriodendron tulipifera ... commonly called a Tulip Tree, tulip poplar, yellow poplar or whitewood. Just look at these flowers! I'm telling you, you need to get out in your own back yard if you haven't and really study the trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and anything that grows where you are. It's part of the magic of nature. The greenly spirit of one of my trees has gorgeous yellow flowers. I can't wait to discover other wonders out there.

Now you know why I don't have much time to write here just now. I'm out scrounging around in the overgrowth and the woods searching for new discoveries and nature's wonders. I feel so blessed.

Happy Nature Hunting to one and all,

Maitri with yellow tulip tree blossoms sitting right next to me, glowing under the light...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tiny Little Thoughts ~ Reverence...

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."

~ John Milton ~

Since my last entry I have received a number of dear e-mails saying, "You're not going to quit blogging are you?" I was touched that what I wrote meant something to some, and I want to assure you that no, I am not going to stop blogging, and I am not only going to write a post once in a blue moon, but my way since I've had this blog was to wait until I had something, for the most part, that moved me profoundly, or delighted me so much that I wanted to share it, and these would be long entries, and just now I don't have the energy or the space in my mind and life to do that. And so I have been giving it a lot of thought...

It's funny how we set all these parameters around us in our world about the way things are supposed to be so that we end up boxing ourselves in and don't know how to do anything any other way. I can write a brief entry, like this one, and probably like most of them in the weeks and maybe months ahead, where I can share little moments, epiphanies, tiny revelations, winding meanderings of the mind, and they can mean as much or more than long, sometimes ponderous philosophical ramblings that I'm sure were too long for some people to stay with anyway, but even in saying that I can't write for other people, worry what they think to the extent that I am not true to my own inner imperative about what is necessary and right for me. And so I will be scattering these tiny little thoughts, breadcrumbs along the path, as they arise, on no particular time-table.

Such enormous changes are happening in my life right now that I was crashing into walls and falling in heaps in every direction trying to do too much too fast too soon. I have been told, "You need to take 30 days and do nothing." Of course one has to do the business of life -- feeding and caring for the animals and myself, working a little each day in my garden and on my book even if it's just staring at the blank page and typing one word. It's a word, on a page, it's something, and there's a humbling reverence around the great effort, the space inside oneself, that it can take to write one word.

"O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!"

~ Haiku by Issa ~

Japanese Poet and Buddhist Monk
Translated by Robert Blyth

My words are like a snail on the page, they will move slowly, and with reverence for the word and the whole world around it. My dogs, my dinner, my parrots, my laundry, the seedlings sprouting in the garden, tiny baby chicks in a friend's hand, a postage stamp on an envelope.

Reverence. Today's word is reverence. I am going to live inside this word for awhile. I lay it gently down here on "the page" for you to consider. And now I go on about my day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Absorbing My Life...

"I was not looking for my dreams to interpret my life,
but rather for my life to interpret my dreams."

~ Susan Sontag ~

I have been having what Douglas Adams called "A Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul." I have realized that I was my own worst enemy when it came to creating the life of my dreams. The poet Mary Oliver wrote, "What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" I have been spending such a bulk of my time on the internet that I have not been able to shovel my way down into that space inside of me that could create that wild and precious life where my dreams could come true. Like a spelunker I am going down into that cave and bringing my dreams back into life, and I am doing it by stepping away, to a large extent, from the internet.

Now, I will answer e-mail, I am taking an absolutely wonderful course from the famous artist-writer-creativity maven, SARK, and I will spend time online doing that, and I will make little notes on Twitter and Facebook to let people know about the work I am doing, updates to the blog, etc. But I will not spend hours online. I have a very large garden to make, a new house to live my way into, 11 animals to care for, and a long put off book to write. I've spent so much time online that I barely know who I am anymore outside of my online life.

I adore this blog and will keep up doing it, but only this one blog. No website, no frills, no lists, no discussion groups except which come with the one class I am taking and I am limiting my participation in that, in other words, I am taking time, from now and on into the future, to live my life more completely in the real world. You have to live a life to have something to write about.

Everyone does their own blogs in their own ways. I am in awe of people who do incredible blogs with daily content that really say something. I do not write here until I have something that feels important for me to share, from my heart, my soul, the center of my being. I can't just chat here. It is not my way. And so if it's 3x a week or every other week, so be it. Essentially, I hope and plan to update the blog once a week.

Also, as has been pointed out to me by one or more close friends, much I have meant to include in the book I am writing I have put on these blogs which lets the air out of my writing balloon and does not give me the time, the energy, or the inclination to write my book at all. I have to write my book. My writing is the most important part of my ability to make money to live on, and I have all but lost it in the last decade when a thirty year marriage ended and my mother started what would be a five year battle with cancer, which ended in December. In an odd way, once those two difficult milestones had passed, I have been able to cross the threshold that I have written about and move into a whole new life. This life is the center of my books. It is the heart of my dreams.

I started this blog some time ago to share my deepest thoughts on things that I felt were important, not just in my life, but in writing about my life as an example, perhaps, of things that I could share that might help others. I will continue to do that. And a bit of my ongoing life here will creep in around the edges because this is my life. But it is time for me to take a deep breath, absorb my own life, and as Sontag put so beautifully, not wait for my dreams to inspire my life, but my to allow my life to interpret my dreams. My dreams, my work, my one wild and precious life. And so I shall.

I will see you here and there and around and about, just from a quieter, slower place. I am not disappearing, I am simply taking time to absorb my own life, so that the real writing that I do will be richer, and the life that I live will be deeper. I need this, I want this, I don't want to miss my one wild and precious life, and I don't plan to.

With the most heartfelt love, admiration, tenderness,


Friday, April 2, 2010

The God Rock, and a Lesson In Mindfulness...

"And life is available only in the present moment.
If you abandon the present moment you cannot

live the moments of your daily life deeply."

"My suggestion is that Jesus is very close, if you
have the kind of eyes that are free from attachment
and you can recognize him at anytime and anywhere.

Both quotes are from the teachings of
Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk...

A couple of days ago I was out watering the garden. My mind was full of a thousand different things, I wasn't living in the present moment, I wasn't being mindful, and I tripped over a tree root that runs above the ground and fell flat on my back. For a minute I saw stars. I was thinking that I probably wouldn't be able to move the next day. I was cursing the tree root, still lying in the dirt. I was afraid to move, I had hit the ground pretty hard, and just as I was about to drag myself up from the dirt I reached out and my hand touched something hard. I looked in amazement at one of the most wondrous rocks I had ever seen. I saw God in that rock, and I got up clinging to it.

No, I was not being mindful. I was not remembering where I was. You see, when I looked at this property one of the things that I loved was that there were huge old trees all around, front and back. All kinds of trees. But the ground is very hard and the tree roots run all over the place near my garden, above ground, and quite solid. I have tripped over them before when I was out walking little Babs, my blind and deaf pug, but this time I really went crashing to the ground, knocking over a big bucket that had rooted cuttings, and little trees I will be planting. It was half full of water and when I fell it washed all over me. I wasn't just lying on the ground, I was wet and muddy and mad. But then, there was that rock. Thich Nhat Hanh's beautiful teaching just fit with my first reaction when I called it The God Rock. Jesus is everywhere, if only we have eyes to see. The holy, the sacred, are in every single thing around us. How beautiful that is, I think now, even if you are lying on the ground in muddy water, you are surrounded by spirit, you are never alone.

I brought the rock in, washed it off, and held it in my hand somewhat amused. It looks very like a misshapen baked potato. It is quite heavy and very smooth. For a few moments I meditated on that rock, letting my eyes drift out of focus and the rock seemed to glow. I felt electrified. I knew I had to always have this rock near me, and it will sit on my altar, I will hold it while I meditate, for it will always remind me of the day I fell because I was a million miles away, not paying attention, not being mindful, the present moment behind the dark clouds of worry, one of those out-of-body times when we don't seem to connect with the earth. Well, I connected with the earth alright, all the way, flat on my back. It was a wake up call, and the rock was right there as a gift for me, to remind me, once again, to live in the present moment. The past is gone, the future not here yet. All we have is this moment, and if we live it fully, our lives open up as wide as the sky and fathoms deep.

My rock, my rock, my God Rock. And this holy rock helped me make a very important decision. As the ground is not only covered with tree roots running everywhere in every direction on the earth's surface, the ground hard as concrete in this particular area, and there are also many dips and concave areas that I could easily twist my ankle and fall in. I was going to have a load of cheap dirt dumped there and the ground graded and smoothed out, covering tree roots and uneven places, but the rock said No. I realized that these tree roots and uneven ground were an opportunity to practice mindfulness, and now when I go outside I thank the tree roots, the hard earth, the leaves coming out now that spring has arrived to lend shade in our hot coastal summers, oh, the many gifts these tree roots bring. They will not be covered up, and I will pay attention and step over them mindfully, thanking each one of them for bringing me back to the present moment.

The past is gone, the rock said, and worrying about the future does no good. Be Here Now, as Ram Dass wrote. Be here with the tree roots, the rocks, the garden, each seed sprouting, the water coming out of my new grey hose, the birds at my many feeders, and my makeshift birdbath, an old bundt pan on a small and very old and rusting wrought iron table. The birds and the squirrels drink out of it and bathe and even Big Dog Moe took a drink out of it yesterday when all the dogs and I were outside. It's not a fancy birdbath which is not in the budget just yet, but it serves it's purpose.

I stood, later, looking out of my kitchen window at that little birdbath and the feeder just outside. I looked past my windowsill filled with little bottles and vases filled with wisteria, a white iris, fragrant narcissus, impatiens cuttings rooting, and my big cobalt blue wine bottles now each holding a stalk of curly bamboo on either side of the sink. I thought my little bottles and flowers on my windowsill were the most beautiful things in the world. I bowed to them. I bowed to the chickadee at the feeder, the blue jay, and then a squirrel drinking water from the old bundt pan, I saw the tree roots running across the ground like snakes and I bowed to them. They are all my teachers. I picked up my God Rock and I said thank you. No worries, no cares, no past, no future, just the present moment.

Just now I have my sleeping, snoring pug Sampson next to me on the arm of my chair where he always is when I am sitting here. This over-sized old chair and huge ottoman are not much to look at, but they are home to Sam and I. The other dogs are lying around me sleeping and my rock is lying on my stomach. I pick it up. It is cool to the touch and it's weight is comforting. I have been getting to know my rock.

It looks and feels very smooth, but on closer examination it has a few tiny pock marks, one dark spot, some kind of hard, rough, white crust the size of the tip of my little finger on it, looking very like an amoeba. It fits in my hand perfectly. I hold it against my cheek and it's cool, smooth surface makes my whole body relax. God is in this rock, and I am so grateful that it was right there amongst the tree roots when I needed it. That rock helped me get up off the ground and not feel sorry for myself. I didn't even feel the pain (until later), I simply felt a sense of wonder, and, dripping with water and mud, covered with dirt, I carefully walked over the tree roots and back into the house.

This rock is a powerful teacher, and it's lessons I will not soon forget. My rock is now a focal point in my life, and when I wander off in my mind to places past and future, the rock brings me back.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a little book called Present Moment, Wonderful Moment. It is small, spare, and very beautiful. I'm going to reread it now, with my rock on my stomach, and even my aching back, shoulder, arm and wrist keep me in the present moment. And there will be no dirt to cover the tree roots and the little valleys in the ground. Without them I would go ambling about in the yard drifting away missing such wonders as a lady bug on a leaf, a wee little pug snuffling in the dead leaves on the ground, a squirrel scurrying away from a feeder as a tufted titmouse lands on another feeder across the way. What a gift that fall turned out to be, and the Universe provided me with a rock to help me live as I should, mindfully, and realizing that God is everywhere, in a tree root, a rock, and the air that I breathe. It is all sacred. All a mystery. All beautiful and magnificent.

I bow once again in gassho, the Buddhist posture one makes to another in greeting, bending over with the palms of the hands pressed together, saying a single word, Namaste. With the word and the gesture you acknowledge the Divine in the person opposite you, and they, in bowing back, acknowledge the same. I bow to the tree roots, to the sky, to the moon, the stars, and to my rock. In the present moment each and every thing around me brings me back to myself, and even the little round bottom and tail of the little pug leaning against me make me realize that I am here, I am alive, I am breathing in and breathing out with a rock on my stomach, and I feel blessed. I will now send this entry off into cyberspace, and I will have a time of meditation and prayer. How full of grace is each moment, if only we have eyes to see.

My rock, my pug, the whirring sound of the fan overhead, as well as the breeze coming in the windows are all part of my present moment. I take a few seconds before I sign off and leave you to bow to you in gassho. Take a deep breath and feel it inside of you. I see the divine in you. As you breathe, slowly, in and out, find your center and feel the divine inside of you. It is always there. Never forget that.

Namaste, dear friends. I thank you for sharing this space with me.