December 31, 2020

There are Many Ways to Heal

Individual spiritual retreats are interesting phenomena. The time away is meant to be a break from everyday life to immerse ourselves into a space where we can discover and reflect on what is most important to us. The details of what happens during a retreat vary depending on you and your retreat guide (the person who organizes the experience). It’s not a vacation, though outsiders often think that it is, and scoff at any other consideration. The retreat guide offers spiritual practices, a shoulder to cry on, or a boot to the rear (called encouragement) when needed. Often, the guide provides a perspective on what may be happening in your spiritual and life experiences. Oh yes, the guide arranges for your meals and accommodations too—unless the retreat is done online which is becoming more common these days. The settings vary as well. Many people think that these retreats are in a glorious natural setting, in a cave in the mountains, or in a monastery in a bare cell (room) with a hard bed, chair, desk, and a meditation cushion. For me, my favorite retreats were in an attic in a suburban home. I had access to good food, a shower, musical instruments, books, recorded music, some nature nearby, and a great view of an urban skyline that was inspiring to me. My second favorite retreats were in a hut with access to nature but also to residential city streets where I could walk (and walk, and walk, and walk). Though universal Sufism, integrated with other approaches, is my primary spiritual path, long gone are the days of the ancient Sufi who hung upside down in a well (only during the day!) for 40 days. Thanks be to God! I was on a 12-day individual spiritual retreat at the beginning of... View Article

View Full Post

December 21, 2020

Awake in the Night

Once again, as more times lately than I like to remember, I am awake in the small hours of the morning. Tired, yet awake. The first blush of sleep wore itself out and seems unwilling to return. I once was a champion sleeper:  fell out in seconds, and slept through to the alarm. Three fire engines could come to the neighborhood and I would sleep through it. When I had my baby, I feared I wouldn’t wake up to take care of him, but soon discovered that if he squeaked, I woke instantly to nurse and comfort him. The craziness that is the year 2020 has invaded my dreams. Last night, I dreamt that we went out to eat and had to take off our masks. Even in the dream-state, I knew this was deviant, something we should not be doing, even though the Al Pacino’s were just leaving and our drug money was contaminated. Enough anxiety? No, there’s still room for more. The economy is stalled, unemployment is high (including one of my sons), the pandemic is out of control, and the current occupant of the Oval Office is focused on threatening the foundations of democracy. What, me worry? We are not “food insecure.” We do not face eviction. I own more clothes than I can wear, and the heat is on. I’m working from home, even though I am retired, filling the days with Zoom meetings for social justice actions and four exercise routines. The hospitals are filling with the sick and dying, and there’s a 9/11 toll of loss of human life every day. A young black man was shot and killed by a veteran U.S. Marshall looking for someone else, this crushing violence repeating and repeating. If it is always the darkest before dawn, I hope... View Article

View Full Post

October 28, 2020

So Much Beauty

Every day I walk for about an hour in my neighborhood if it isn’t icy, below zero, or raining cats and dogs. I say my practices as I go. Sometimes I pick up trash along the side of the road. When I am awake to the beauty of the world, I see it shining in its essence. If I am absorbed in thoughts about some problem or preoccupation, I miss the beauty that sings out to me, in the sounds the birds make, and in the branches waving in the breeze. I am especially susceptible to loving the color of the sky when it is clear and blue. How fortunate we are to live on a planet where the atmosphere appears in this incredibly beautiful shade of blue, punctuated by clouds of infinite shapes and colors. How we miss it when smoke and fire turn the sky red and orange. The light guilds the blades of grass and leaves of the trees, their green color standing against the blue sky. Gentle motions are graceful as dancing figures. Dogs bark and wag their tails, anxious to alert me that I am passing their domains. Birds crisscross the view, their arc of flight tantalizing the air. Homes are painted colors contrasting with trim and shutters, each one emblematic of its current owners who mow their lawns in diagonal patterns and cultivate flowers, bushes, and trees. Tiny chipmunks dart across the road into the weeds where they have their little homes. Everywhere, light dapples patterns on surfaces smooth and coarse, shifting with the passing clouds. All of this is invisible when I am caught up in worry, fear, and mental dullness, trudging through my walk as if it is a penance. With a bit of luck, a moment of perception will awaken me... View Article

View Full Post

October 7, 2020

Putting on Earrings for an Online Yoga Class

Online yoga classes are a lifeline through the COVID-19 quarantine experience. Bodhi Tree Yoga has been where I have practiced for several years. This beautiful little studio, run by two women teachers with a mostly female membership, has been a supportive home for my yoga practice, which I started by watching a PBS yoga show just after my first baby was born over 36 years ago. The teachers quickly pivoted to an online format and I signed right up. A room in our basement has variously served as an office, bedroom, and storage space. I converted it to a combination yoga studio, martial arts dojo, and art workshop once the shutdown hit.  During the first anxiety filled weeks of quarantine, yoga classes were a dependable haven of relaxation and physical care. Monday and Friday mornings were my studio routine, but once my computer became a portal to the outside world, this expanded to nearly every day.  Seeing my teachers and the other students on Zoom was a vital connection to the normal flow of my previous life, the life where I went outside of my house, got in the car and drove to the studio or the store or the coffee shop. As these outings ceased and options shrank, yoga came to me. Getting dressed for yoga gives shape to the day, even though there’s no audience for my outfits except myself. More than ever before, yoga clothes are all-day clothes, comfortable and flexible for whatever activities come along. Sometimes, I find myself wondering whether to add the usual earrings, without which I never feel “fully” dressed. It seems silly; no one is going to see you, I think to myself, but when I put them on, I feel a little lift of the spirit. A little spark of normalcy twinkles... View Article

View Full Post

September 15, 2020

The Thought That You Know Better

Certain words echo in the heart for years, filtering through the consciousness and developing slowly, like an old-fashioned film in a darkroom.  My spiritual guide would sometimes read aloud to his students from The Tibetan Book of The Great Liberation (Ed., W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Oxford University Press, 1954, 1968).  This is ostensibly a translation of an original text attributed to the legendary Tibetan guru, Padmasambhava, given centuries ago and hidden away to be found during this age.  I have heard these teachings and read them myself, more than once.  On one particular occasion, in a tent on the mountaintop at the Abode of the Message, a Sufi retreat center and community, Shahabuddin read the entire selection aloud to the assembled group. For a flash of a moment, I felt what had been read reverberating in my being at a deep level.  The moment vanished inexplicably and I was left puzzled.  When the session concluded, I approached Shahabuddin and asked him, “What stands between hearing it and getting it?”  He immediately answered, “The thought that you know better.”  I just took this in and walked away, turning the words over in my mind.  It was so simple, yet so much to think about contained in just a few words.  Over the years since, I have reflected this simple yet complex concept.  The thought that I know better shows up in so many ways.  This reaction is a barrier to the deeper understanding I am seeking and causes me to question and open my thinking.  When I believe I know better, I have the chance to stop and ask, what am I preventing myself from learning here?  What makes me think I know better? What goes on here?  The ego stirs itself to assert that it knows something that (probably) it does... View Article

View Full Post

August 15, 2020

Reading The 1619 Project in 2020

The 1619 Project was published in the New York Times Magazine Sunday, August 18, 2019, along with additional material included in the newspaper. The print version sold out quickly, but I was able to obtain a copy after the reprinting. It sat on the table that accumulates papers to be sorted, mail to be dealt with and other detritus of daily life, for months until I thought, it’s time to get busy and read this important work through. The full project can be found online on the New York Times website. I received the standard middle class white suburban school district education, supplemented by my own personal reading list, and there is so much I did not learn in the classroom. Not surprising, given the demographics of my time, but perhaps odd, given my proximity to the 1960s era of civil rights struggles. The Times featured this quote from John Hope Franklin on the cover page of the supplemental section: “We’ve got to tell the unvarnished truth,” followed by a box at the bottom of the page that reads, “Four hundred years after enslaved Africans were first brought to Virgina, most Americans still don’t know the full story of slavery.” Nicole Hannah-Jones, staff writer, conceived of the project that examines the roots of slavery that can be traced through every aspect of modern American society, every institution, every organizational structure, every economic assumption, though multiple essays, painstakingly researched by a team of journalists. It is long past time for all of us to learn, acknowledge and understand the true history of the founding of our nation and the building of immense wealth on the institution of human slavery. The 1619 Project is at times horrifying and enormously painful, but also illuminating and insightful. It takes time to explore and digest,... View Article

View Full Post

August 15, 2020

Why Blog?

Hello everyone! I hope you enjoy our new website (thank you Louise and William and our photographers!) and also sign up for our Instagram and Facebook. But all this activity, re-designing, learning to use social media, and now blogging has made me wonder, "why exactly do we blog?" There are some easy answers.

View Full Post

June 8, 2020

Shoveling Mulch and Thinking About Fashion

Whenever I can during gardening season, I try to get out to the town mulch bins. It takes some time and effort to fill up my containers and load them into the car, which gives me an opportunity to think. Today, I thought about fashion.

View Full Post

January 20, 2020

Creating a Circle of Blessing

Consider creating a circle of blessing in the sphere around you that you carry with you wherever you go. I have long practiced walking around my neighborhood, for fitness and to do my practices in motion.

View Full Post

March 11, 2014

Rhythm Concepts and Practices

Greetings and a warm welcome to all. This practice reviews some basic concepts and practices on rhythm, with perhaps the added feature of suggesting how to experiment with its practical uses in everyday life. We find it intriguing that powerful spiritual practices, experiences and even concepts are sometimes compartmentalized from most aspects of life, as if the spiritual domain is behind some impermeable membrane, divorced from our other more “worldly” and “material” aspects.

View Full Post