Ringing in the New Year with the Bonsho Bell…2018!

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Bonshō, also known as tsurigane or ōgane are large bells found in Buddhist temples throughout Japan, used to summon the monks to prayer and to demarcate periods of time. Also used before entering a temple or ceremony.

This Bonsho bell resides at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center in Santa Rosa, CA and on New Years Eve was rung 108 times by guests, students, children and teachers to let go of  2017 and mark the beginning of this year, 2018, celebrating the year of the ‘DOG’.

What are you releasing from 2017? And what are your ringing in for 2018?

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LOVE IS THICKER THEN SMOKE

I wake again to the glow in the too near hills not far from my home.  I have packed and unpacked, each time taking some different and leaving more.  I have not written here for a long long time as the day to day took over and now, what matters most is more important then ever!  I do not have the words to describe the way we are living now in my beloved Sonoma County.  I stopped counting my dearest friends, colleagues, clients, businesses, buildings, wineries, estates, ranches, farms, animals….the list goes on and on for the total losses, the fires leaving nothing but ash.

What is surfacing is community building, those that can help are in droves. Emergency services, food, clothing, animal shelters, evacuations centers and then the amazing FIREFIGHTERS! This I am blessed and for the respite that does come in a power nap, a good night sleep, a comforting word, the kindness of a stranger and the many restaurants that are serving us.

This is what I know:  Our stuff doesn’t matter, our connections due. Each of us respond in our own individual way and sometimes outwardly show stress and others do not.  This is not a time to be alone, a stranger or heroic.  Asked for hugs on a regular basis and everyone, even those far away are connected feel afraid, grief-stricken and helpless.

What matters most right now is to be grateful that you/we are safe and someone knows or many people know where we are.  Seek out comfort however you can and if you are really able, volunteer!

I plan on writing right from the heart these days cuz it is all we got now!

 

 

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We ain’t alone!

I have been MIA for awhile…like many of us, the busyness of life caught me along with the desire to go idle, meaning that sometimes the inner process has to go into the dark.  I have had an unusual amount of beloved ones leave this planet and at the same time an ability to feel supported by not just those in my community but by what is unseen, yet felt.  Sometimes we call it ancestors and sometimes we call it spirits, but for now, I will name it that which lives in the mystery of our connections.  So, I am learning again that all is impermanent, every thought, feeling, and our beloved body too. The moment is always unfolding and this poem is my ‘what matters’ for how we are strung together like beads, straight through the heart.

Where Is God?

It’s as if what is unbreakable –

the very pulse of life – waits for

everything else to be torn away,

and then in the bareness that

only silence and suffering and

great love can expose, it dares

to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,

hold on to nothing. If you want

to know love, let in everything.

If you want to feel the presence

of everything, stop counting the

things that break along the way.

– Mark Nepo

Quan Yin

The Journey of Breast Cancer: How Myth and Archetypes Support Healing in Contemporary Times

In honor of those that have taught me the depth of this journey!

what matters most

I was recently walking on the beach and chose a route that took me to a seemingly solid sand bar. But when I arrived, I realized that when I stood there the waves were lapping around my ankles and I was sinking! The waves were helping the sand to dissolve underneath me, leaving me suddenly gasping and darting as fast as I could for solid ground.

When a woman hangs up the receiver from a phone call, or is sitting face to face with her medical doctor who conveys her worst fear–a breast cancer diagnosis–her life is no longer on solid ground. When each woman waits for this news, she begins a journey that will take her through a descent and ascent that is deeply personal and life changing.

Our ancestors as well as our cultural icons have lessons for us. Each of us remembers a favorite fairy tale, a…

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RETREAT AND RENEWAL

While parking my car recently, I looked up to see a new day spa being completed. Amazed at the proliferation of these day and away spas, I began to reflect on the notion of retreat, a well-respected and ancient practice recognized by most cultures as a way to renew and sustain personal well-being. I recently returned from a poetry retreat in Baja, California, where, nestled in a sleepy coastal village within walking distance of the ocean, my room was filled with a cacophony of bird song. Yes, the sound of poetry and word play I came for soothed me, but I found the sounds of nature a balm as well for the internal chatter of my busy mind.

What is so important about taking time away from our daily lives? While women are well skilled at juggling many plates simultaneously, there is also a debilitating cost. We end up craving opportunities to rest our brains and souls. Neuroscience tells us shifting our brain activity strengthens our long-term health. Periods of rest, right-brain activity and lack of constant stimulation create a sense of balance and well-being.

For our mothers, going to a spa or simply getting a massage might well have been out of the question; today, however, self care is increasingly accepted in our culture as valid and necessary rather than as mere indulgence. It is no surprise we participate in exercise and stress reduction programs, meditation, yoga, spiritual practice and community building—all ways to feel less overwhelmed by a myriad of activities. Such time is as necessary as diet, exercise, work, family and community involvement.While parking my car recently, I looked up to see a new day spa being completed. Amazed at the proliferation of these day and away spas, I began to reflect on the notion of retreat, a well-respected and ancient practice recognized by most cultures as a way to renew and sustain personal well-being. I recently returned from a poetry retreat in Baja, California, where, nestled in a sleepy coastal village within walking distance of the ocean, my room was filled with a cacophony of bird song. Yes, the sound of poetry and word play I came for soothed me, but I found the sounds of nature a balm as well for the internal chatter of my busy mi

Living longer lives and no longer circumscribed by family obligations, women are seeking more ways to contribute on a significant scale. Not surprisingly, one of the biggest questions I hear in my practice from women of all ages is, “What shall I do that will both bring me a sense of satisfaction and make a difference?” Many women are realizing that such introspection requires time away from their day-to-day lives.

A retreat is useful in removing us from ordinary routine, allowing natural rhythms to reassert themselves and surprise to enter. We can seek this through a walk, a drive in the country, a day at a spa, or lunch out with a friend. Even participation in such communal activities as a book club or poetry group can lead to insight. There seems to be an upsurge lately in the domestic arts, thoughtful activities that slow us down. One day I had three women—strangers who had never met—in my waiting room talking about picking out yarns for knitting! This ancient craft has returned with a fervor, not just because it is cool, but because it is restful and enjoyable.

If you have been putting off that need to retreat, whether for several days or just a few hours, don’t wait. You will get back more than you might imagine in terms of self-nourishment, surprise and insight.

IMG_1297“The rest-note, unwritten, hinged between worlds, that precedes change and allows it.”

from “The Door,” by Jane Hirschfield.

How about a gratitude buddy?

Last fall, when life seemed to be deep in pressures of all kind and I seemed to be lost in others suffering, I reached out to a dear friend to inquire about being a gratitude buddy?  We have known each other through studying spiritual disciplines together over the years, share a common thread of our work and raising children about the same age.  I said, ‘what the heck’ she can say no.  But that is not what turned out to be the case.  This daily practice of sending an email to one another to say just what we are grateful for and about has proven to be a bedrock practice that reminds both of us to see to good in our lives and that of others.

It really is simple, I heard the suggestion on a pod cast of one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Tara Brach and it hit home or my heart.  It is rather simple, just say yes to someone, write as often as you can (cuz life happens).  It takes about five minutes really, just say one or two things that you are grateful about, even if it seems like nothing…find one little thing.  And send it off!

Here is a favorite poem of mine that I believe inspired me to just keep going, to find just one thing, one good thing, one thing to be grateful about, to say ‘Thank you’ and mean it!

Arms Full of Wildflowers

Gratitude means showing up on life’s doorstep,

love’s threshold, dressed in a clown suit,

rubber-nosed, gunboat shoes flapping.

Gratitude shows up with arms full of wildflowers,

reciting McKuen or the worst of Neruda.

To talk of gratitude is to be

the fool in a cynic’s world.

Gratitude is pride’s nightmare,

the admission of humility before something

given without expectation or attachment.

Gratitude tears open the shirt

of self importance, scatters buttons

across the polished floors of feigned indifference,

ignores the obvious and laughs out loud.

Even more, gratitude bares her breasts, rips open

her ribs to show the naked heart, the holy heart.

What if that sacred heart is not, after all, about sacrifice?

Imagine it is about joy, barefoot and foolhardy,

something unasked for, something unearned.

What if the beat we hear, when we are finally quiet

is simply this:

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

– Rebecca del Rio

Threads of Connection

‘To be the change we seek’ Gandhi

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While this has been a week of many losses,  family members of friends, a cancer patient of mine, Nelson Mandela, those that are suddenly ill….I will not tire of being present to what it takes to be human. I recently heard a question on a dharma talk…
‘What stands in the way of love, unconditional love?’
I come to that answer with two things, fear and unprocessed grief. Life does not afford us the leisure to grieve or feel things in an ongoing way it seems. My meditation practice is what keeps me at least in my body to feel and stay awake to naming what does come to the surface or even sit undigested.

‘What stands in your way of love?’

During these days of watching, listening, reading of Nelson’s contributions and great suffering, I was reminded of how we truly are all connected. I felt for awhile the world stood still in silence for more then a few moments. Have you taken a few yourself?

‘There is an endless net of threads throughout the universe. The horizontal threads are in space. The vertical threads are in time. At every crossing of the threads, there is an individual, and every individual is a crystal bead. And every crystal bead reflects not only the light from every other crystal in the net, but also every other reflection throughout the entire universe.’

Rig Veda