Friday, December 30, 2011

Dear New Year...

For all that has been, thanks. 

For all that will be, yes.

~Dag Hammarskjold

Monday, December 26, 2011

here, now, this is enough

Every Christmas during dinner we each write a Christmas Wish and put it in these cute little silver ball ornaments (I got them at Red Envelope). The following Christmas, during dinner, we open the ornaments to see if our Christmas Wish came true. Last year I wished for adventure and travel in Spain.
This year I hesitated... what do I want? There's the standard: good health, love, family, peace, happiness?

What's your Wish?

As the New Year approaches, have you considered - What has gone well for you in 2011? What do you hope for in 2012?

I think my wish for 2012 will be... letting go, striving can be exhausting.

Here, now, is beautiful and I'm grateful for it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

santa meditation...

Silent Mind 
(sung to the tune of Silent Night)
Silent mind, holy mind,
All is calm, all is bright,
Deep Vipassanna, thoughts rise and fall,
With clear insight detached from them all,
Sit in heavenly peace, sit and contemplate.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I see joy as a sustained sense of well-being... 
an internal peace. 
Joy is a connection to what matters.

Wishing you joy this holiday.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

to the wonderful world...

I've traveled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners.
I've been where no one's been before.
Learned secrets from writers and cooks;
All with one library ticket...
To the wonderful world of books.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

practicing peace

I'm reading a beautiful little gift of a book,
Practicing Peace in Times of War, by Pema Chödrön. 

“A solid reinforcement on how to stop the reflexive and habitual emotional reaction to perceived hostility through patience, pausing, and breathing. It’s not easy, but it is simple.”—Publishers Weekly

"War and peace begin in the hearts of individuals," declares Pema Chödrön at the opening of this inspiring and accessible book. She goes on to offer practical techniques any of us can use to be peace in our own lives. We can soften our habits of thought and action. It's never too late, she tells us, to look within and discover a new way of living and transform not only our personal lives but our whole world.

The journey toward peace in the world begins with peace in our own lives. War begins when we harden our hearts, and we harden them easily... at first in minor ways and then in quite serious, major ways... such as judgement, hatred and prejudice.

Peace is softening what is ridged in our hearts. It's not easy, but it's simple.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

looking at the stars

We are all in the gutter, 
but some of us are looking at the stars. 
~ Oscar Wilde

  "His mom smiled, and pointed to a bulletin board next to her desk. Unlike the refrigerator at home, it had just one quote taped to it.
   Ben read it out loud: "'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.'"
   Because his mom was the town librarian, Ben was used to being surrounded by quotes from books, many of which he didn't fully understand. But this one struck him as particularly strange.
   He thought about it for a moment, came up with nothing, then said, "What does that mean?"
   His mom smiled and shrugged.
   He was sure she knew exactly what it meant, but she liked him to figure out things for himself."
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

It is one of those weeks when I notice that I have stumbled into the gutter further than usual. And yet, once I notice that fact, I can simply look up and there they are... the stars. They are still there; and they always have been.

Sometimes clouds come and cover it, but the moon is always behind them. Clouds go away, then the moon shines brightly. So don't worry about clear mind: it is always there. When thinking comes, behind it is clear mind. When thinking goes, there is only clear mind. Thinking comes and goes, comes and goes, You must not be attached to the coming or the going.

— Zen Master Seung Sahn

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

beautiful repetition

Our first week back, we get up, share a little time at breakfast, then into the car. On the walk from the car to school, one holding my hand quietly and one full of conversation and excitement.  Then we go our separate ways. Throughout the day, I still become disoriented when I don't hear or see them around me... until I remember about school.

I keep mental lists all day long, of things to remember to tell each of them. I'm glad for the productivity I have on my own. But, still...

After school I cook, while they do their homework. I set the table for dinner, we play, then reading, and lights out.

Tomorrow we'll get up and repeat some version of it, again.

And I am so thankful for the beautiful repetition.

Monday, November 28, 2011

think twice

Black Friday has come and gone. How did you fare?

Friends of mine went both ways. Some arose early (or stayed up late) to brave crowds and secure deals. Others spoke out against our addiction to consumerism. Both sides of the debate became quite heated.

My thoughts on Black Friday boil down to a question...
What does it say about a country when one day is a holiday for giving thanks and expressing gratitude, and the very next day is an all-out race to buy more? 

Is Cyber Monday any better?

Today I came across this ad by Patagonia:

"Don't buy what you don't need.
Think twice before you buy anything."
Thank you, Patagonia. Those are words to live by.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

present actions

I've always wanted an oracle. Some kind of divine truth to let me know what my role in life is to be. I've had my cards read, my charts studied, seen sooth sayers and mediums - Always looking for my fortune to be told. I've imagined that some oracle exists out there, that somehow knows me better than I know myself. 

However, the magical oracle we seek lives within us, if we can quiet our minds and listen. The present moment can tell us all we wish to know. There is a Buddhist saying that goes... "If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions."  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

departing question

"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, 
I will tell you, 
I came to live out loud."
~ Emile Zola

What have I learned from living in Barcelona, Spain for three months? That's my departing question. What new insights do I want to take home with me?

Live life on purpose, not on default. Make conscious and deliberate choices. When you don't choose, circumstances choose for you. Live deliberately.

Wherever you go there you are. Be here now. Give what you're doing your best and fullest attention.

Get out of your comfort zone. Discover your talent. Create a new habit or break an old one. There is great beauty in 'shaking things up'. When you change, your world will change with you.

Say "no" to things that no longer serve you. 

Keep an open heart. Practice gratitude. Be authentic. Be of service. Be generous. Stop waiting. Be joyful.

Every day set the simple goal of being more awake and less distracted.

I like that I have figured it out and have so much to learn, both at the same time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

that's how

I'm always doing things I can't do.
That's how I get to do them.
~ Pablo Picasso

Sunday, November 20, 2011

through you

Don't worry about what people think of you.
Think about what people experience through you.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

those who look on

The world is a dangerous place. 
Not because of those who do evil, 
but because of those who look on and do nothing." 
- Albert Einstein

In Birmingham in the 60s the actions of the demonstrators were called "wasteful and worthless". Black citizens were told to use the courts and that negotiations should be among leaders and not in the streets. But Dr. King promised to protest every day until "peaceful equality had been assured".

True power lies with a just cause. Power to the Peaceful.

Shepard Fairey...

Difficult things take a long time, 
impossible things a little longer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

today I am grateful for the sea...

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I'll meet you there

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, 
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other 
doesn't make any sense.

~ Rumi

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

enjoy every sandwich

"We are all dying, some sooner, some later. 
The real exception is to truly live."
~ Lee Lipsenthal

I just finished reading Enjoy Every Sandwich by Lee Lipsenthal. It is a great book about humanity, and uncertainty, and gratitude. When you take those three ingredients and mix them all together, you get a life fully lived.

Imagine that you've been told that you have six months to live.
What do you need to do?
Who do you need to talk to?
Where do you need to visit?
How will you spend your remaining time?

It can be a beautiful gift to remember that life has an expiration date. We are all dying, some sooner, some later. Life is unfolding exactly as it is meant to. Stress and suffering are optional; creations of our own minds.

 "What keeps me non-agitated about death is appreciation for the life I've already had."

mediocre minds

"Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition 
from mediocre minds."
~ Albert Einstein

US Democracy has always survived thanks to the mediocre minds of those who'd suppress it.

Marianne Williamson Speaking About the Occupy Movement, Berkeley, CA November 2011 from Marianne Williamson on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

to be happy and well

My kids play an online game called ToonTown. Whenever the other players in the game need help you can give them a "toon up".  You add energy to the other players so they can keep going. One of the ways to give a "toon up" is to sprinkle confetti or glitter on the other players and their "life points" will increase.

We use this idea a lot when we see people on the street who appear down on their luck. Someone sleeping in a doorway or sitting on the sidewalk with a cup for spare change. At times it feels impossible to give to everyone. So, when we walk by we mentally sprinkle a "toon up" over them. I may not always have cash for everyone, but I can wish them peace, success, and a few more "life points".

"The next time you go out in the world, you might try this practice: directing your attention to people - 
in their cars, on the sidewalks, talking on their cell phones - just wish for them all to be happy and well. 
Without knowing anything about them, they can become very real, by regarding each of them personally and rejoicing in the comforts and pleasures that come their way. 
Each of us has this soft spot: a capacity for love and tenderness. But if we don't encourage it, we can get pretty stubborn about remaining sour."
Pema Chödrön 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
~ The Dalai Lama

Kindness has nothing to do with the other person.

Monday, November 7, 2011

the beauty of rereading

I love to read. I read a lot.  As a kid, I didn't read from a sense of advancement or learning; I read because I loved it... and it's still true today. I feel about bookstores the way some people feel about shoe stores. I could spend all day there combing the isles and scanning the tables. A window display of books can stop me in the street.

I just read How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen. 
In this book she says, "For some of us, reading begets rereading, and rereading begets writing. (Although there is no doubt which is first, and supreme; as Alberto Manguel writes in his wonderful A History of Reading, 'I could perhaps live without writing. I don't think I could live without reading.') After a while a story is familiar, the setting known, the characters understood, and there is nothing left to discover but technique. Why that sentence structure and not something simpler, or more complex? Why that way of ordering events instead of something more straightforward, or more experimental? What grabs the reader by the throat? What sags and bags and fails? There are only two ways, really, to become a writer. One is to write. The other is to read."

My daughter is a writer. She reads with a love stronger than my own. She is also a re-reader. She has read pseudonymous bosch so many times that she begins to have his voice, his lilt, his sarcastic wit.

Because of the way I speak, people often ask me if I'm from the south. I think I've just read and reread To Kill a Mockingbird so many times that Harper Lee and Scout (Jean Louise Finch) have become part of me.

Anna Quindlen gives us a wonderful reminder: never discourage rereading. It is from that familiarity that structure can be seen and admired, interpreted and adopted.

"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home." 
~ Anna Quindlen

Saturday, November 5, 2011

an enduring way

As I go through all kinds of feelings and experiences in my journey through life -- delight, surprise, chagrin, dismay -- I hold this question as a guiding light: "What do I really need right now to be happy?" What I come to over and over again is that only qualities as vast and deep as love, connection and kindness will really make me happy in any sort of enduring way.

~ Sharon Salzberg

Friday, November 4, 2011

something bigger

I'm currently reading two books: An Unquenchable Thirst by Mary Johnson and The 29 Gifts by Cami Walker. These two books and the fact that I have spent the past three months living out of a single suitcase has me rethinking most material things. Is it possible that less really is more? Can some possessions actually take more than they give?

The book An Unquenchable Thirst is a memoir by Mary Johnson recording the 20 years she spent as a nun  with Mother Theresa and the Missionaries of Charity. The subtitle: Following Mother Theresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life is, for Mary, a dream realized. In the end, her dream transcends any particular religious belief or religious rules.

A thoughtful excerpt from Unquenchable:

"A plaque in the basement proclaimed Mother's words: Do little things with great love. I understood this to mean that my activity didn't matter as much as my attitude."

In the book The 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, Cami Walker recounts her diagnosis of MS at the age of 31. From depression, addiction, and isolation she opens herself to the idea of giving and in turn changes her life.

One of my favorite quotes from 29 Gifts is:

"No matter how much we have materially, we are often in a place of scarcity: we never think we have enough or that we're good enough. Instead of getting lost in a sense of lack, once we realize we are part of something bigger, it becomes clear we have many gifts to offer the world."

Could you give a gift each day for 29 days?

A gift can be anything: a thank you note, a tip, spare change, holding the door for someone, a prayer, a kind word, bake something for someone, send a friend your scarf that she admired, the list can be endless...

"Gratitude keeps your heart open. When you give with an open heart, you receive the profound gift of humility."

I'm going to give it a try. Write down your gift each day. If you miss a day, start over.

And remember - keep it simple, grand gestures aren't necessary... 
"When you are over-giving, you are not living in abundance, but in scarcity. When you give from a place of service, honesty, and fullness, you are left feeling revitalized. When you give from a place of responsibility and obligation, you negate the gift and nothing changes. You may in fact be left feeling resentful and drained."

Good Luck and Happy Giving!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

you say you want a revolution...

On January 10, 1776, an Englishman and revolutionary self-pulished the pamphlet Common Sense:

"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” 
~ Thomas Paine

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Art is either plagiarism or revolution."
~ Paul Gauguin

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

interesting and true

When the world seems to be shouting, “Why bother?”  Square your shoulders, ground your feet firmly and say, “Because I believe in myself.”
I believe that we all have something special to give the world.
I believe that each vision of life is unique.
There is no substitute for you.
When someone needs you ~ your book, your art, your beauty, your particular brand of truth  ~  no one else will do.
In Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley said,
"What is difficult is not to write something new but to write something interesting and true."
If you’re having a hard time seeing what sets you apart as a creator, take Smiley’s advice and look for what is true and interesting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

your own

I’ve realized that most of the rules that hold me back actually don’t come from the outside. They’re self-imposed. It's time to end that.

Hopefully, you’re living life according to the coolest set of rules ever: your own. Lovingly designed by none other than you.

just be together

Let's trade in all our judging for appreciating.
Let's lay down our righteousness and just be together.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I cut this cartoon out a few days ago so I could remember that, 
"every jerk has a sad human being trapped inside."
Every greedy executive, every thoughtless banker, every 'jerk' needs compassionate energy.

"I send you peace."

Then yesterday I listened to President Obama's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication speech. I was once again inspired to believe that we are 'tied in a single garment of destiny', God resides in each of us. That light in me is also in you.

Here is my favorite excerpt from yesterday's dedication:

And just as we draw strength from Dr. King's struggles, so must we draw inspiration from his constant insistence on the oneness of man; the belief in his words that "we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny." It was that insistence, rooted in his Christian faith, that led him to tell a group of angry young protesters, "I love you as I love my own children," even as one threw a rock that glanced off his neck.

It was that insistence, that belief that God resides in each of us, from the high to the low, in the oppressor and the oppressed, that convinced him that people and systems could change. It fortified his belief in non-violence. It permitted him to place his faith in a government that had fallen short of its ideals.

And so at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King's teachings. He calls on us to stand in the other person's shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain. He tells us that we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are well off; to care about the child in the decrepit school even if our own children are doing fine; to show compassion toward the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of us are only a few generations removed from similar hardships. (Applause.)

To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo. As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as "divisive." They'll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing. Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.

But he also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there must be the possibility of reconciliation; that any social movement has to channel this tension through the spirit of love and mutuality. 

If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there.

Be inspired to believe in the "oughtness" of tomorrow rather than focusing on the "isness" of today.