There is a song…

song
There’s a song that wants to sing itself through us.
We just got to be available.
Maybe the song that is to be sung through us, is
the most beautiful requiem for an irreplaceable
planet or maybe it’s a song of joyous rebirth
as we create a new culture
that doesn’t destroy its world.
But in any case, there’s absolutely no excuse
for our making our passionate love for our world
dependent on what we think of its degree of health,
whether we think it’s going to go on forever.
Those are just thoughts anyway.
But this moment you’re alive,
so you can just dial up
the magic of that
at any time.

– Joanna Macy

The final straw

Blog post by Jane Negrych for the Weekly Challenge blog from the Mindfulness Association

A few days ago, I was speaking with my dear friend and colleague Kristine Janson about straws. Yes, you read that right: straws. Kristine had asked me if I used straws and I didn’t think that I used straws, but then when I really thought about it, I realised that I actually use straws all the time.

Whenever I go to my local coffee shop and order a smoothie, I am given a straw. Or when my children order slushes (which in the summer is ALL the time), they get the fattest straws possible. And lately on my drive home from teaching, I have been stopping for a chocolate milkshake and I drink that milkshake with a STRAW. In my head this is my weekly act of self kindness 😉

However, while this is an act of self-kindness for Jane, is it an act of kindness for the planet?

Well, my conversation with Kristine reminded me that it’s not. In fact, in the U.S. alone, there are 500 million straws used per DAY!!! And what happens to those straws? They just sit there and pollute. They do not biodegrade. In fact, according to Jackie Nunez who wrote “The Sipping Point”, every piece of plastic ever made is still in our environment in some capacity (for full article click here).

ac9f0b6d-straws-for-blog

When I thought about this, I felt a bit overwhelmed. I mean we are talking about straws. If this one teeny tiny item could cause so much havoc for our earth, what other mindless consumption habits do I have?

Kristine and I spoke about this overwhelm and of ways in which we can engage and act to counter mindless consumption in ways that do not feel like we are being completely engulfed and dragged down by the enormity of the issue: the destruction of our environment at the hands of humans. How can we move forward in a way that is helpful, but also in a way that one can maintain a sense of hope?

One thing that Kristine has taken on is some advice from the late Akong Rinpoche, past Abbot and Founder of Samye Ling. In the film ‘Akong – a Remarkable Life’, Akong Rinpoche talks about the importance of not just practising for ourselves and our own benefit, but also of acting in society. He calls this acting in society ‘outer’ practice, to complement our ‘inner’ practice of meditation. Akong Rinpoche did much charity work with one of his project being ROKPA, an international relief organisation that is represented in 17 countries world wide! His ‘outer’ practice was robust.

Kristine has been focusing her ‘outer’ practice of environmental issues. She’s been inspired by the work of Joanna Macy, the eco philosopher and author of “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy”, as well as Thich Nhat Hanh, who considers and encourages mindful consumption in a way that honours all generations. His teachings stress the interconnection between all living beings, and in his book “For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life”, he states that “[w]e have to eat, drink, consume, but if we do it unmindfully, we may destroy our bodies and our consciousness, showing ingratitude toward our ancestors, our parents, and future generations”. Therefore, it is no surprise that these principles have come together to shape and influence Kristine’s teaching practice; and in 2018, she will be co- leading (with Fay Adams) a course on Engaged Mindfulness, or a course that helps mindfulness practitioners really develop their own ‘outer’ practice in a way that does not overwhelm, rather nurtures and supports well-being (for more information on the Engaged Mindfulness course, please click here).

In the meantime, I have decided to give up using plastic straws and I have pledged to continue to find small ways in which I continue to transform my consumption from mindless to mindful. So this week’s challenge is to find your own small modification to your consumption habits that might help nourish rather than deplete, not only you but this planet!

Come, all you unloved creatures

wavesCome, all you unloved creatures,
All you homeless waves in life’s vast ocean,
Pain, doubt, shame, guilt,
All you frightened orphans of light,
Crawl out of your hiding places,
Shuffle out of the darkness,
You are invited to a great feast.

Come, uncertainty, sit by my side,
Come, despair, drink from my cup,
Come, fear, do not be afraid of me,
I will not turn away from you,
I will not deny you a place at this table,
Now that I know the truth of myself.

– Jeff Foster

Where everything is music

music-notes

Don’t worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
It doesn’t matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.
The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world’s harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can’t see.

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the centre of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.

– RUMI

Song for the Salmon

stones-river
For too many days now I have not
written of the sea, nor the rivers,
nor the shifting currents
we find between the islands.

For too many nights now I have not
imagined the salmon
threading the dark streams
of reflected stars,
nor have I dreamt of his longing
nor the lithe swing of his tail toward dawn.

I have not given myself
to the depth to which he goes,
to the cargoes of crystal water,
cold with salt, nor the enormous plains
of ocean swaying beneath the moon.

I have not felt the lifted arms of the ocean
opening its white hands on the seashore,
nor the salted wind, whole and healthy
filling the chest with living air.

I have not heard those waves
fallen out of heaven onto earth,
nor the tumult of sound and the satisfaction
of a thousand miles of ocean
giving up its strength on the sand.

But now I have spoken of that great sea,
the ocean of longing shifts through me,
the blessed inner star of navigation
moves in the dark sky above
and I am ready like the young salmon
to leave this river, blessed with hunger
for a great journey on the drawing tide.

– David Whyte

How profound grounding can bring experiential interconnectedness with life on earth

A glimpse into the practices we’ll be exploring on the Engaged Mindfulness course led by Kristine Mackenzie and Fay Adams in Samye Ling in January 2018

– By Fay Adams

Profound Grounding

Those who have completed the Mindfulness Practitioner training will be familiar with the concept of grounding. The first stage of grounding is about dropping into the body, which is held by the earth. For many years it never occurred to me that this experience could be deepened, that it wasn’t just something you touch into as a foundation for working with the mindfulness support. Then I tried a practice called Earth Descent (led by Reggie Ray) and I was stunned by an experience of grounding that could only be described as grounding multiplied by a hundred! I realised we can drop our awareness down into the earth itself. This might sound like a strange concept – surely it’s impossible to drop into the earth! However we work with our imagination here. We imagine that our awareness keeps dropping down further and further down. Whereas in basic grounding you feel like a mountain, now you feel like a mountain with a huge foundation merging into the deep, wide and vast expanse of planet earth. This feels to me like a very primordial experience, there’s a sense of reconnecting with an ancient affinity or even unity, with the earth, my home. It can almost feel like I become earth, strange as this may sound.

It can help if we remember a fundamental truth which indigenous societies knew well, but which much of humanity in the contemporary world seems to have forgotten. Human beings are born – are children – of the earth; the archetype of Mother Earth is found in original cultures on every continent.

There is a Native American saying which says: ‘’The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth’’. What a different orientation is required to go from thinking we have dominion over the earth, to feeling our belonging as one small manifestation of the vastness of life on earth! How different does this feel in the body?

Sacred Earth Awareness

It’s only relatively recently that human beings live without an awareness of the inter-dependence with the earth as a sacred reality. The level of disconnection from the beauty, intelligence and formidableness of nature is acute in the modern world. How else would human beings be able to be so destructive of the earth? We see the earth as something we can dredge, use and manipulate, rather than relating to her with wonder, awe and devotion and working in submission to her laws of balance. So these practices are a way of beginning to heal the earth by healing our experiential disconnectedness from her. We are reminded that we are more than individuals in bubbles, we are tiny, tiny life forms amongst the teaming, diverse grandeur of life on earth. If we deeply feel that we are the earth, then we will not exploit our planet and instead we will naturally want to tend, serve and love Mother Earth as an expression of our humanity.

Practicing Earth Descent has, for me, been a way to naturally find this earth connection. It has felt like experientially finding my umbilical cord back to the earth, like coming home to a home I didn’t know I was missing. My heart and body feel more embedded in the interdependence of life supported by our majestic planet. The unexpected response to this is spontaneous love.

 

God speaks to each of us as he makes us

mistymorning

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

 

– Reiner Maria Rilke, transl. Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows
Book of Hours, I 59

When death comes

 

daisy

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world
– Mary Oliver

A Blessing for Equilibrium

bellLike the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the music of laughter break through your soul.

As the wind wants to make everything dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the freedom of the monastery bell,
May clarity of mind make your eyes smile.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May a sense of irony give you perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May fear or worry never put you in chains.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the distance the laughter of God.

John O’Donohue

Letting go

dandelionblow

Letting go, in order to let in
releasing, in order to receive
nature’s coded messages become clearer
the less we try to see.

Trying hard, trying harder and harder
trying so very hard
is not the way.

We need commitment, yes
and focus
and hope and faith and trust
but most of all we need ease
a discipline of ease
not trying too hard at all.

You see “trying hard” has a cell-mate
called “giving up”, admitting defeat
like black and white
like pushing and pulling
no peace there.

“Not yet”, you say
“I’m not ready yet
to take the step beyond.”
I know
I’ve stepped so slow myself,
still do
but love sweet sister,
like death
comes in a moment’s heartbeat
then goes.

There are no ways to hold
except by letting go, and
letting it be a part of you
and you of it.

Stewart Mercer