we know the heart before we know the self

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How can you follow the course of your life

if you do not let it flow?

….Lao Tzu

so many little trickeries along the way….riddles and koans and mysteries and frustrations….and we rarely feel clear in choosing a path….the great sages seem to taunt us sometimes…..making it all seem so necessary and filled with ‘if only we had the key’…..how is it that it all keeps moving?….how do we put one foot in front of the other with grace and the vulnerability of our not-knowing?……

there is no path
that goes all the way,

one conversation
leads to another,

one breath to the next
until

there’s no breath at all,
just
the inevitable
final release
of the burden.

And then,

wouldn’t your life
have to start
all over again
for you to know
even a little
of who you had been?

….David Whyte

peak trajectories….

There is no greater mystery than this,

that we keep seeking reality

though in fact we are reality.

…Ramana Maharshi

a measure of complete harmony

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When Henry Thoreau went into retreat at Walden Pond, he and his friend Ralph Emerson had been studying Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist texts. He wrote: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” He understood that conscious life was a gift for which the highest form of gratitude was to know it in all its depths.

This grace of conscious life, of having a mind that can know “this moment is like this,” is the root of all wonder, from which gratitude flows. The wonder, the mystery, is that you, like everyone else, are given this short, precious time of conscious embodiment in which you can directly know life for yourself. However you find life to be-cruel or kind, sorrowful or joyous, bland or stimulating, indifferent or filled with love-you get the privilege of knowing it firsthand.

Gratitude for the grace of conscious embodiment evolves into the practice of selfless gratitude, in which your concerns slowly but surely shift from being mostly about yourself and those close to you to being about all living beings. As this occurs, you need less and less in the way of good fortune. It becomes enough that there are those who are happy, who are receiving love, who are safe, and who have a promising future. It is not that you would not prefer good things for yourself, but your sense of well-being is no longer contingent on external circumstances. You are able to rejoice that amidst all life’s suffering there exists joy. You realize that pain and joy are part of a mysterious whole. When this state of selfless gratitude starts to blossom, your mind becomes more spacious, quieter, and your heart receives its first taste of the long-sought release from fear and wanting. This is grace……Phillip Moffitt

this ancient release into a practice that heals, no matter the culture, religion or era……as powerful as forgiveness and more humbling than mercy…..may we live in the heart of gratitude…..beauty abides…..

Oryoki, the Japanese word for a begging bowl, means “just enough.” The Irish word “go leor” (Westernized galore) also meant “sufficiency,” at least at first, sufficiency being a synonym for plenty. But over time, “plenty,” has metastasized into “more than enough,” and finally into “too much.” There is nothing wrong with having “too much of a good thing” on a feast day, or for a celebration. But when one comes to take that more for granted, requiring excess on every ordinary day, then its celebratory aspect is destroyed. “Slow down a little,” we remind each other. “You’ve got to take the time to smell the roses.” Beauty is transient; here, and swiftly gone. “I don’t know anything about consciousness,” said the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki. “I just try to teach my students to hear the birds sing.” As we know, however, this is more easily said than done. In ancient Greece, the beautiful and the good were seen as almost indistinguishable: ethics and aesthetics not contradictory, but matching values. “Choose beauty,” I told myself repeatedly. “Pay attention.” The cloudscapes were tremendous, sunsets especially. Again and again they caught me by surprise: pale turquoise washed with green, scored with coral and soft gold, a spill of egg-yellow against steely gray. They came to me “gratis,” free- a grace, a daily blessing- and I felt for them tremendous gratitude. This etymological trail, in which grace opens into gratitude, and gratitude flowers into praise, is a humanly accurate one, perhaps especially for artists, for it is precisely this readiness to be moved, this interest and curiosity, that draws us towards making of whatever kind: poetry or songwriting, dance or music, photography or art…….Christian McEwen

find the heart of choice

Unexpected intrusions of beauty.
This is what life is.
…..Saul Bellow

beyond estrangement

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We are all journeying through the night with plans, breathing in and out this mysterious life. And, the more we can learn to pay attention to others, and truly see them as “real,” just like us, the more we can allow the “tender gravity of kindness” to naturally awaken and bloom……Tara

how do we call ourselves out as more than what we see? more than our small senses stifle us into believing? more than the smallness we see in others? and then how do we realize the sacredness in each of us? maybe absolutely all of it is sacred…..

We must awaken to our natural state: who we really are. First we have to see that our normal state of egoic consciousness is a state where we tend to struggle. But you can’t just tell somebody to stop struggling. We must next understand why it is that we struggle, why it is that we fight against what is. The reason that we struggle to maintain the egoic state is because it allows us to live our lives as if we are in control and separate from the world around us. It’s the struggle of trying to be who we wish we were. Even if your ego is struggling, even if you’re trying to figure this out and “do it right,” if you really look, you might just see that struggle is happening within a greater context of peace, within an inner stillness. But if you try to make stillness happen, you’ll miss it. The process is therefore one of recognition…..Adyashanti

finding “it”…..

Blessed be the long, slow slide into desire. The swift plunging wound to the heart. The bleeding out onto the kitchen floor.

Blessed be the fierce of want and the howl of despair and the swan dive of surrender.

Blessed be the indignation of right and the never more naked of wrong.

Blessed be your strong smooth body and your roadmap of scars and brittle bones that give way under the weight of lives unlived.

Blessed be the unmet passion, the relentless boredom, the absolute certainty of regret.

Blessed be the restless seeker. The relentless urgency. The unanswered call.

Blessed be the giving up. The hope unraveled. The void at the end. The clenched fists and the desperate grasping and the way it all slides away when the time comes.

Blessed be your slaughtered dreams and your cynical projection. Blessed be your fire of initiation and your ritual of comfort. Blessed be your secret shame. Blessed be your whispered confession. Blessed be your primal roar.

Blessed be the rejection. The hollowed out, disregarded heart. Blessed be the end of the rope, the absence of expectation, the way it all gives way eventually.

Blessed be our free fall into destiny. Our slow burn. Our consuming fire. Blessed be the breaking and becoming. Blessed be the ugly. Blessed be the sweet sin. Blessed be the rage. Blessed be the grace.

Blessed be. Blessed be. Blessed be.

In the end, all words are just another way to say Amen.

….Jeanette LeBlanc

the basics of mercy

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If we see the world as sacred,

which is an expression of the spiritual life,

then gratitude follows immediately and naturally.

…..Jack Kornfield

to pray for the compassion of the world is a call to our drained and weakened heart…..restless need settles into a promise of understanding…..a gracious potential….we fall into a new way of seeing…..at once, we are healed…..

In the name of daybreak
And the eyelids of morning
And the wayfaring moon
And the night when it departs,
I swear I will not dishonor
My soul with hatred
But offer myself humbly
As a guardian of nature,
As a healer of misery,
As a messenger of wonder
As an architect of peace.
In the name of the sun and its mirrors…
And the uttermost night
And the crowning seasons
Of the firefly and the apple

I will honor all life -
Wherever and in whatever form
It may dwell- on Earth my home.
And in the mansions of the stars

….Diane Ackerman

real sanctuary

Whenever we feel held by a caring presence, by something larger than our small frightened self, we too can begin to find room in our own heart for the fragments of our life, and for the lives of others. The suffering that might have seemed “too much” can now awaken us to the sweetness of compassion…..Tara Brach

healing from the inside

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Being grateful for not only life’s blessing but also its suffering is a key component of living a spiritual life — and more broadly, to a fulfilling and meaningful life. Don’t take life so seriously, or get so wrapped up in your own everyday dramas that you forgot to see the beauty that is constantly surrounding you. This life is a test — it is only a test. If it had been an actual life, you would have received further instructions on where to go and what to do. Remember, this life is only a test. If we see the world as sacred, which is an expression of the spiritual life, then gratitude follows immediately and naturally. We’ve been given the extraordinary privilege of incarnating as human beings — and of course the human incarnation entails the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, as it says in the Tao Te Ching — but with it we have the privilege of the lavender color at sunset, the taste of a tangerine in our mouth, and the almost unbearable beauty of life around us, along with its troubles. It keeps recreating itself. We can either be lost in a smaller state of consciousness — what in Buddhist psychology is called the “body of fear,” which brings suffering to us and to others — or we can bring the quality of love and appreciation, which I would call gratitude, to life. With it comes a kind of trust. The poet Pablo Neruda writes, “You can pick all the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring.” Life keeps recreating itself and presenting us with miracles every day. In fact, it allows us to become agents of change because we are actually attentive and present for what is without being overwhelmed by it and without distracting ourselves. In that way, mindfulness is actually one of the necessary components of making a real transformation in whatever field or dimension of society we would choose. Mahatma Gandhi took one day a week in silence, even in the midst of marches of thousands and the ending of the British colonial empire. When everything was in the middle of this huge transformation, he would say, “I’m sorry, this is my day of silence.” And he would sit and quiet himself and try to listen to what was the most compassionate and skillful and powerful response he could make, coming from that deep center of wisdom. So rather than removing us from the world, it allows us to affect the world in a different and in many cases more profound way…..Jack Kornfield

can we know gratitude? know the ease of holding all that mercy and unexpected kindness created from heart to hand? slow, languid knowing is a lifetime’s generative work…..

To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is one of the privileges and the prime conceits of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath. The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door…….David Whyte

to grasp at the slippery heart

In a night full of suffering and Darkness,

Be a candle spreading light till dawn.

…..Rumi

faith in the exquisite flow

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The only true place of calm in a storm is the very center. So the only thing to do, once in the storm, is to make our way to the center of it, hard as that may seem……Mark Nepo

gratitude may be one of the most powerful practices……nothing moves stuckness quite like the humble reassurance in the grace found in this life….with that comes some hard reality as well…..a direct invitation to make the choices of our lives……may we continue to find the divine within our courage….

I want to know where gratitude lives. I want to knock politely on its door. I want to be invited into its house. Gratitude does not live in the transactional or the manipulative or the bargaining or the negotiating. I know it does not, because that is where I live, and I never brush shoulders with gratitude, as I am wending my way around and through obstacles and navigating my trajectory from here to that place we used to call safe in our game of tag when we were kids — that one designated spot we could just touch with a foot or even a finger and be impervious to being tagged and made it. When we were touching safe, we could relax our bodies and breathe for a moment. When we were touching safe, we could look around the yard and hear a bird sing, or we could laugh about something or even just not be worried for one infinitesimal moment about the consequences of being caught……..Sarah Rosenberg

courage to know the soft places…..

Life emerges out of the silence of our inner being. The life that we have in our mind, the life that is a reflection of our planning, the life that has been constructed out of bits and pieces in our environment—external conditioning, things we have observed in other people, things that influential people have told us—is actually not who we are. That pre-planned life is rigid. It’s artificial. It’s unresponsive. It doesn’t reflect the life that we were born to live. Magic is actually very down to earth. It’s a part of our lives. It’s going on all the time, we just don’t see it. But when you actually take care of yourself, work with yourself and create openness in your life, life will respond by cooperating. And when you are unwilling to relate with yourself at the beginning of your day, your life is going to give you a hard time……Reggie Ray

angels of Christmas magic

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It’s imperative for us to understand that spiritual practice is not just something we do when we’re sitting in meditation or when we’re on retreat. Failing to see everything as an opportunity for practice is a setup for frustration and disappointment, keeping us stuck where we are and limiting our possibilities for inner growth. The more we include in our practice, the more satisfying our life can be. ……..Ezra Bayda

may you show your love in this exquisite moment of peace…..may you know your deepest gratitude on this holy day…..may you sweeten your peace with being peace……may your heart shine this Christmas…..

A Spirit that lives in this World and
Does not wear the shirt of Love,
Such an existence is a deep disgrace.
…..Rumi

with the quiet of prayer

We are most open to and connected with our surroundings when we feel sincere gratitude. This is about more than just being grateful, it’s about how we show it. It’s about finding our individual expressions of gratitude in a way that makes our hearts burst with that warm tingling sensation of love. For me, it’s letting myself feel wildly passionate about the things that make me tick. I smile with my whole body, enough that it exposes my heart. People want to tell me everything and I let them; I listen and I respond. I love them. Feel your gratitude bubbling up in a way that can’t be suppressed. Let it move you from the core, giving you an unspeakable strength to do things you never imagined doing. Tell people how much you love them—with words and with actions. The world will see your heart; those who are lucky enough to know you will sense your openness to giving and receiving the love you exude…..Sara Rodriguez

mingling in the halls of gratitude & longing

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The supreme purpose & goal for human life

is to cultivate love.

…..Ramakrishna

as we nurture and tend to the heart, we harvest our blessings, come clean with our grievances and soften our sufferings…..may you know abundance as you know love…

Gratitude deflates the barriers to love, and evokes happiness, which is itself a powerfully healing and beneficial emotion. Gratitude is a gift to everyone. While forgiveness heals the heart of old hurts, gratitude opens it to present love. Love does no flower in a vacuum, but rather is nourished by supportive attitudes such as gratitude. Love is also the essence of emotional wisdom. Reducing the barriers to love and cultivating attitudes that support is smooth the way for our hearts to open……Roger Walsh

a feel good moment

The month of the harvest is an important milestone on our journey to loving in gratitude. The lessons of living and being human- of harvest, of letting be, and of letting go- surface in the fall as we prepare for winter and the close of the new year. What did not come to fruition, or what did not hold our interest, may reveal where we ‘tricked’ ourselves, and it shows us that it did not truly matter. We learn that what has heart and meaning for us comes into being, and that in contrast, any ambivalence or doubt we may feel often produces inconsistent results. Consider what you are harvesting in this light. Whatever we have accepted both internally and externally, we can let be. The questions to help you go deeper in the portals of gratitude…..What is strengthening? What is opening? What is softening? What is deepening?…..Angeles Arrien

digging deep in earth to find sky

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Happily may I walk. Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk. Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk. Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk. Happily, on a trail of pollen, may I walk. With beauty before me, may I walk. With beauty behind me, may I walk. With beauty above me, may I walk. With beauty below me, may I walk. With beauty all around me, may I walk. Wandering on a trail of beauty, lively I walk……Navajo Chant

to be reconciled to our capacities, our negligence, our character, our insights requires a gratitude unlike any other superficial goodness……this deep gift shapes our hearts, flaws, madnesses, and despair into a beautiful offering…..something we’ve made of blood and bone and earth and can share….this is the gratitude of real beauty….

As Care was crossing a shallow river, she picked up some wet clay and began to give it shape, meditating upon what she had created. She took the clay from the body of Earth and asked Jupiter to give it spirit. Care wanted to give this new being her name. But Jupiter and Earth each claimed their right to the name. Saturn, father of Jupiter, settled the dispute by saying the name would be homo since it was made from clay, humus, or earth. At death, Earth would receive the body, and Jupiter the spirit. However, the new being would belong to Care during its lifetime, for it was she who had first shaped it……Roman myth

receive possession in shadows

In innocence abides love. Those traveling along the Way of Beauty have an erotic attitude toward life. Like all true lovers, they do not ask for explanations or impose conditions, but simply embrace life in its mystery. Do not ask them for a formula or theory- that is not their specialty. Look, instead, at the way they face the world. Rather than trying to decipher it, they open themselves to it and perceive beauty in its subtlest and most poignant aspects. In the Way of Beauty, we embrace life’s ambiguities without having to interpret and explain them. We enjoy the mystery and transform its terror into awe. Obscurity and ignorance are positive factors here, because they help us to get rid of cumbersome opinions and relish the enigma. The result is the ability to accept life’s contradictions without feeling we have to resolve them. Keats calls it ‘negative capability, ‘Several things dovetailed in my mind and at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature and which Shakespeare possessed. I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason- with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all considerations…..Piero Ferrucci

born of a stark honesty

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The moment I heard my first story

I started looking for you.

…..Rumi

‘to serve’ sounds wistful and sweet and angelic…….the reality calls us to a depth we are unprepared for….we must live into the truth…stalwart, expressive, prevailing…..complete with a quiet and noble heart…..may you know the vulnerability of truth seeking, so that you may bear witness to truth speaking…..

Yes, you need to open your heart, but you have to have the support and wisdom of your brain and gut- the whole council of your being- rather than just following whichever voice happens to be really loud. Part of Truth Speaking is taking that moment to check in with your internal council. What is my truth right now? What can I say to help this moment of conflict come to resolution? Truth Speaking- speaking from a place of deep honesty and compassion- propels us into a very rich field of feeling. Every time we speak the truth, it shudders through the cobwebs and dimness in our lives, tapping back in to the Beauty in our world, in ourselves, and in each other. How incredibly sweet it is to be able to talk about what’s really important, stepping out from behind our facades and the little stupid conversations that we’re taught are a necessary social lubricant. When we Speak Truth to each other, once we get past the shock, it kindles the desire to hear the truth coming back at us. By speaking the truth, we learn the difference between our authentic self and our facade. If we put our little masked self out there, the horror is that other people might accept and end up making love to it, while we starve and die of neglect behind it. It’s much richer to interact genuinely with the world. When you speak the truth, it feeds and brightens you Spirit. The first step to Truth Speaking is opening our hearts. There’s a difference between an open heart, which can feel, process, and stay steady, versus a stuck-open-window heart, which lets all sorts of crap fly in. I encourage you to develop a Warrior’s Heart- an open heart that is responsive and reflexive, meaning that when something comes in and touches it, the heart responds and bounces right back. When we curl around the pain, that’s when it embeds. A heart has to be healthy to feel, respond, and flex. Empaths- people who feel other people’s feelings- especially need to be able to feel the world without letting its woes root deep within them. Sit with a truth, then ask yourself, ‘What’s the most healing action I can take as a next step?’ ……Ana Forrest

the struggle of everything….

Blue lights on the runway like stars

on the surface of a well

into which I fall each night from the sky,

emerging through the tunnel door

of the jetway, and the black waters

of the night, in the cities of America.

In the lit rooms of glass and steel,

in the still and secret towers,

under the true stars hid by cloud

and the steam shrouded roofs

of the mansions of money and hope,

I come with my quiet voice and

my insistence, and my stories,

and out of that second and

deeper well I see again those other

blue stars and that other darkness,

closer even than the night outside,

the one we refuse to mention,

the darkness we know so well

inside everyone.

I have a few griefs and joys

I can call my own

and through accident it seems

a steadfast faith in each of them

and that’s what I will say

matters when the story ends.

…David Whyte