Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Heart of Sadness

Lately I've been able to really understand the term "genuine heart of sadness." It's a phrase I've heard in teachings before, but didn't fully grasp.

The etymology of the word "sad" was also recently brought to my attention. Full, overwhelmed, sated, and steadfast are all there. Look it up.

And as for the other, here's an excerpt from one Shambhala teaching:

"...But when you sit upright but relaxed in the posture of meditation, your heart is naked. Your entire being is exposed-to yourself, first of all, but to others as well. So through the practice of sitting still and following your breath as it goes out and dissolves, you are connecting with your heart. By simply letting yourself be, as you are, you develop genuine sympathy towards yourself.

When you awaken your heart in this way, you find, to your surprise, that your heart is empty. You find that you are looking into outer space. What are you, who are you, where is your heart? If you really look, you won't find anything tangible and solid. Of course, you might find something very solid if you have a grudge against someone or you have fallen possessively in love. But that is not awakened heart. If you search for awakened heart, if you put your hand through your rib cage and feel for it, there is nothing there except for tenderness. You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the rest of the world, you feel tremendous sadness. This kind of sadness doesn't come from being mistreated. You don't feel sad because someone has insulted you or because you feel impoverished. Rather, this experience of sadness is unconditioned. It occurs because your heart is completely exposed. There is no skin or tissue covering it; it is pure raw meat. Even if a tiny mosquito lands on it, you feel so touched. Your experience is raw and tender and so personal.

The genuine heart of sadness comes from feeling that your nonexistent heart is full. You would like to spill your heart's blood, give your heart to others. For the warrior, this experience of sad and tender heart is what gives birth to fearlessness. Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that, if someone hits you, you will hit him back. However, we are not talking about that street-fighter level of fearlessness. Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gratitude Sunday

Today, I'm joining Taryn over at Wooly Moss Roots for Gratitude Sunday.

G r a t i t u d e  *  S u n d a y
{Sunday's heartfelt tradition. A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful. A list of gratitudes.} 
If you would like to join us, see below. 
Our gratefulness feeds one another. 
- Finding some amazing books at the library this week, like Thich Nhat Hanh's Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children.

- Watching my plants grow and thrive- lavender, basil, and calendula are all swooning in the sun.
- Some beautiful weather this week, with the crispy hint of autumn tickling my heart.
- Being able to buy some fresh produce from a farmer at his roadside stand today.
- An afternoon at the beach. Much needed. Toes in sand, cold water invigorating and numbing my calves, waves washing my soul. 
- A morning of tea and genuine people.
- A teacher who shed some insight on an experience I was having. Her words, "Soft front; Strong back."
- A yoga practice that gave some energy and detoxification to my body which was fighting some sort of bug.
- A glass of fresh juice in the middle of the day- carrot, celery, apple, ginger, and coconut water.

- A conversation that had been happening over and over with no comprehension or resolution, which was finally fully engaged in, understood, and is now coming to fruition.

- A chance to share in gratitude with so many others of you!

Gratitude Sunday

Friday, August 24, 2012


"Because you are alive, everything is possible." 
-Thich Nhat Hanh 

My calendula happily sunning

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Intimacy is one of those words that pops up in all sorts of contexts. Whenever you read things about creating good relationships, that's the keyword. So intimacy with others is something we want, sure. Emotional, physical, spiritual, whatever.

But what about intimacy with ourselves? Most of us have no idea what that means. But I think it's the most important aspect of living full lives.

Webster defines intimate as


adj \ˈin-tə-mət\
a : intrinsic, essential b : belonging to or characterizing one's deepest nature
: marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity <intimate knowledge of the law>
a : marked by a warm friendship developing through long association <intimate friends> b : suggesting informal warmth or privacy <intimate clubs>
: of a very personal or private nature <intimate secrets>
in·ti·mate·ly adverb
in·ti·mate·ness noun

So, thinking of intimacy with self, we make friends with ourselves. We listen and love and find compassion for our own experience. We learn about how our minds work, how we react. We recognize our patterns of behavior. We get to know ourselves on a personal level.

This requires turning off the TV and the iPod, dropping the facades, and opening our hearts... to our hearts. It requires quiet and space. And most of all, acceptance. It means we can see ourselves without creating judgements of how good or bad we are. It means we can touch our own worthiness. Our own gentleness.

Becoming familiar with our essential being, our deepest nature, opens up freedom in the rest of our lives.

Through this practice, we are our utmost selves. 

Monday, August 20, 2012


Lately, T.S. Eliot has been on my mind. Specifically, "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock." The words of this poem kept coming into my mind during meditation this weekend. And re-reading it in light of mindfulness brings it alive in a different way for me. (This poem has always been dear to my heart.)

The experience of this poem is oh so human. It is, in fact, raw. And there are lines that stand out to me:

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

If we observe our minds- this truth is resounding. The things we go through in a minute's time. The doubts and fears and plans and reversals of plans- the judgements and emotions, etc. It can be exhausting. 

And the "Do I dare" is a line that has always been meaningful to me, in different ways over different parts of my life. Most recently, I can connect it to how we all question our own worthiness. But what right do we have to do that? We question our goodness and whether or not we deserve some thing or another. Even our own love. So do I dare disturb the universe with this mind of mine? And these silly questions? And this existence I'm not so sure of? Well, of course I dare. Because I am here. 

The main voice speaks of his life and his fear. Of what he is not, and what he deserves. He questions his own worthiness. And the words of the poem are populated with the nitty gritty details of life- the hair on the arms of the women, the collar mounting to the chin, etc. And in the space between- the question. The overwhelming question, no less. And the one that is never outrightly asked.

The speaker is afraid to ask it, though it rests there ripe in his mouth. And the best line,

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

I love this image. The moment at its crisis. And don't we all wonder? Do we dare to meet the moment at its crisis? Right there, raw, exactly as it is, full of our fear or discomfort or questions or doubts? Do we have the strength to truly be present? To allow ourselves the space of being where nothing must be done? Where we do not hide from that raw reality?

I've learned a lot lately about Freedom from Reluctance. The reluctance we all have to meet the moment. There are so many excuses and so many distractions. But we can find that strength and bravery (because it takes an awful lot of it) to be present. With ourselves and with others, and finally in the world.

We can let go of fear, and of what others may think (as Eliot illustrates so wonderfully in this poem- it always goes back to someone else saying, "that is not it at all"). We have this freedom to simply be.

And this is a lovesong to ourselves. Our most authentic selves. Our true beings.

If you want to be moved, listen to Eliot read this aloud. His voice and manner of speaking are so wonderful.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gratitude Sunday

 Today, I'm joining Taryn at Wooly Moss Roots for Gratitude Sunday.

G r a t i t u d e  *  S u n d a y
{Sunday's heartfelt tradition. A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful. A list of gratitudes.} 

What I am grateful for:

Meeting a person whose gentleness of being moved me so much, it restored my confidence in my own gentleness.

A weekend spent with people who are committed to a path of authenticity, and the inspiration that comes with being amongst such people.

Some space inside my being- moments that open up around things we've been so constricted around.

Authentic Bangladeshi meals, prepared with so much love by friends.

Good news for a dear friend- seeing her get a chance to realize her dreams.

A loving man who takes care of things when I'm away so I won't have to do it myself later.

Doing artwork with children, and the openness and joy it brings to all of us.

What are you grateful for this week?

Gratitude Sunday

Friday, August 17, 2012


I've been thinking about discomfort lately. Well, I've always thought about it , really, but my understanding is gaining more depth.

I've always had this love/hate relationship with comfort. At first, it was physical comfort that I related to: what kind of house I lived in, whether the kitchen had the right appliances to be able to make my favorite foods, whether or not I had a car. I would crave these things, and then once I had them become so overwhelmed with the monotony of the life it took to sustain them, that I would let them go (sometimes some other times more) and move on.  And it would happen all over again.

I understand that the reason I've lived in so many different places is in some attempt to stave off that routine, mundane existence that seems to show up without fail after a few months of being in a place. I'd play house for a while, find a job, stick to a schedule- all in an attempt to create stability. And as soon as it was there, I'd be sick of it already.

And during these times, I'd more or less been oblivious to whether or not I was experiencing internal discomfort. Or I wouldn't think of it like that, anyway. I just thought I had gypsy blood- or something more poetic than an inability to cope.

These past two years or so, however, have been sobering. Literally and otherwise. I actually began to look inside with openness. It's not that I'd never looked inside (I spent most of my time in there). It's that I was looking at stories that led to stories that led to stories. There was hardly a moment of present reality. I didn't know what was going on "here" or "now".

Beginning a regular yoga practice was the first thing that brought me to the present. It taught me to pay more attention to my body. To breathe (what in the world did I do before I learned about my breath?). To stay there, in a pose, in the pain or discomfort of it, and to experience what it felt like. What were the sensations? What was it like to breathe into that space? To open up some space around the discomfort? To accept my experience as it was without judgement?

And discomfort took on an entirely new meaning to me. Now it was internal. And here and now. It had nothing to do with a juicer. As I began to meditate regularly, I began looking at all the mental and spiritual discomfort as well. And the same questions arose. What did it feel like to open up some space around the fear? To let go of the stories and experience the sensations instead?

So I began to seek out these experiences of discomfort: going to yoga class and meditating regularly- even going on meditation retreats. And I still do this.

Four times a week I go to yoga class. I work or pay to go. I put myself in a hot room for 90 minutes and stay present with my body as it protests, creaks, aches, stretches, thanks me, and any other number of things. I listen to my thoughts, which suggest, after every posture, that I should take child's pose during the next posture because it is too difficult. Yet when the posture changes, I don't rest. I do it. And yes, it is uncomfortable. Sweat gets in my eyes. I sometimes feel nauseated or dizzy. But ultimately, I feel. I feel sensations and thoughts and the present moment. And afterwards, I feel like a million bucks. Stronger, healthier, and more vibrant.

And then I get on the cushion and sit. Willingly. I sit for 30 minutes or an hour. I experience anxiety or fear or anger or happiness or confusion, and I don't get up until the bell rings. I sit with achy hips or legs falling asleep or tired eyes. My thoughts, here too, suggest that I get up. Because it is uncomfortable.  But I stay.

What this is teaching me is to stay. I've always been really good at leaving. At going. At moving on. (Hence what I titled this blog when it first began: Follow the Setting Sun).

In Buddhism, there's something to be said for the rising sun. One explanation elaborates on the beginning of one of the Shambhala chants, "By the confidence of the golden sun of the great east..."

                   Great Eastern Sun:  the primordial dot/now, the present moment  
                   ripe with the possibility of all possible outcomes

And so, I am learning about the value of the rising sun, the present moment. And staying in it. Whether physically or otherwise. 

I realize that if I seek out all of these experiences of discomfort in my life, then why would I shy away when life itself is uncomfortable? Rather, I experience it- all the sensations of life. And I stay here. Because really, where else is there?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open?


Monday, August 13, 2012


I'm reading A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield. It's one of those books where you want to highlight every other sentence. You should all read the whole thing, but until then, I'll share some of the passages.

"Struggle and dictating doesn't work in our inner life either. S we must inquire what aspect of this repeated pattern is asking for acceptance and compassion, and ask ourself, 'Can I touch with love whatever I have closed my heart to?' This doesn't mean solving it or figuring it out- it is simply asking, 'What wants acceptance?' In difficult patterns of thought, emotion, or sensation, we must open to feel their full energy in our body, heart, and mind, however strongly they show themselves. This includes opening to our reactions to this experience as well, noticing the fear, aversion, or contraction that arises and then accepting it all. Only then can it release."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gratitude Sunday

Gratitude Sunday

Today I'm joining Wooly Moss Roots for Gratitude Sunday. I hope to be able to do this every Sunday. Click the image to join in!

What I have felt grateful for this week:

- Opportunities that seem difficult but end up teaching me how to open my heart even more

- An abundance of fresh, local produce

- Meeting other people on a path to authenticity

- My amazing yoga teachers and the smiles they bring to my practice

- A message from a dear friend, reminding me of a place I miss

- Never ending kisses from a beautiful baby boy

- Sunshine and heat (I've missed high summer temperatures)

- Being able to support a friend as she strives for her goals, displaying courage, strength, and joy along the way

- A book that was gifted to me by someone I just met: A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield. It's amazing how books will find their way into your life at the exact right moments.

Fresh Things

You may have noticed. I'm revamping this space. The hope is that I'll utilize it more. I considered starting a new blog entirely, but I like the idea of keeping the old around. When I read some of those first entries, I am amazed at how I have grown and what I have learned. I can appreciate the journey and the beauty of change. By keeping them here, and contributing new things to this space, maybe you can too.

I'd like to transition from mostly a chronicle of travels and activities to a dialogue about life. I'd like to post more about my spiritual journey and not just my physical one. So, thoughts, reflections, meditations, book reviews, and even photographs will be contributed here.

I've recently been engaged in several projects that move me in this direction. One is an article, posted here, by Shambhala SunSpace. This is exciting for me, to be able to share my reflections with so many.

Now, hopefully, I'll be posting more variedly and more frequently. Feel free to contribute thoughts or suggestions.

Eventually, I will change my url to match my title, once I am satisfied with it. :)