Erasing the Blackboard

I remember being so excited in elementary school when it was my turn to erase the blackboard at the end of the day. Making all the learning and thinking disappear, almost without a trace. It was rhythmic and calming pushing the felted eraser across the board. Or up and down. Or in big circular swirls. Words and numbers, assignments, messages and mistakes blurred into little specks of powdery chalk. Maybe what was there would be remembered. But maybe not. It was important at the time of writing it on the board. If the teacher used colored chalk it was really important. Or maybe even something to be anticipated with excitement! Whatever was written there was erased at the end of the day and the slate was left clean for a new day and new things.

At the end of the day I often find myself sitting quietly going through everything that my brain held onto during the day. Kind of like looking at that school day filled blackboard. There is much I can easily dismiss, erase. Some of what was written there is a little harder to completely erase. I have to go through those things by steps, gradually sifting through the layers till it can be blown away with by a thought. Some things seem to have been written there with non-erasable chalk. These things can almost be completely erased, but not quite. Just enough shadow writing remains that I can always read exactly what is there.

In the process of my daily attempt to sort through things I have been hanging on to, I feel as if I am becoming lighter, less bogged down. I sort, compartmentalize and throw out millions of little things. Like the process of erasing a school blackboard the background becomes mostly clean, uncluttered, receptive, fresh.

As this happens I make room for the thoughts, feelings, ideas, “things” that do seem important for me to write down and look at again free of the clutter of daily hording of unneeded and unwanted information and emotions.

Gratitude. Appreciation. Thankfulness. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Courage. Resolve……

In Buddhism the most important of these are referred to as the Four Radiant Abodes. These are human qualities that, upon reflection, are sublimely simple. Universal expressions of a heart that is open to the world and all living things. We know them as:

LOVE    COMPASSION    JOY    PEACE

I see these qualities daily in the faces and expressions of young children. We feel it in the embrace of a loved one. We see it in the eyes of others.  Something lights up when we are in the presence of someone who is filled with these qualities. These qualities shine outward from the heart. We see, experience how these things can transform others. And when we are touched by them we are transformed too.

These are a few of the things that are permanently written on my blackboard. But, sometimes, during the day they get written over. Lost. Hidden. Sometimes maybe even forgotten about. I erase the blackboard each day to bring them back into my consciousness in a more prominent light. Hoping not to write over them so much the following day. Because that does happen when frustration or anger surfaces. When disappointment or tiredness takes hold. When there is stress or worry. When things in life make me feel rushed and I become frayed around the edges. When I feel let down or uncared for. Lots of things get written on my blackboard, pushing other things to the background.

In their shadow purpose, love, compassion, joy and peace can cause me to form a lot of attachments to people and things. So equanimity is there along side them in counterbalance. To let some things go. To let the thoughts and emotions pass over me and not so much through me. Caution ever the reminder, equanimity can lead to excessive detachment, so it is held into balance by love, compassion, joy and peace.

With the blackboard erased and the mind at rest we are peaceful and our hearts are open. In this space of equanimity we meet others in peace and we are filled with love. When this love meets others in pain and suffering it transforms into compassion. When this love meets happiness it becomes joy. Equanimity and love, compassion, joy and peace in balance. We become transformed into our highest state of being.

At the end of the day I try to take the time to erase my blackboard and find renewal. The I feel as if I have come home to the dwelling place where I can rest, residing in the abode of immeasurable love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity.

crazy garden

one garden at my physical home!! 

There is no faith, religion, culture, class or race that owns these qualities. They are in each one of us as human beings. We all carry within us the seeds of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. It is however, up to us to nurture and tend them with understanding, patience, tolerance, acceptance, humility, acceptance, respect…..supporting and caring for their growth.

On my blackboard, the slate of my being, never to be fully erased, are the life driving qualities of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. They are the pillars of the place where I dwell in my heart. Sometimes, the goings on of daily life write over them, obscuring them, dimming their clarity, but they remain the foundation of my human-ness. As I take time to let go of unwanted, unneeded clutter caused by longing, desire, uncertainty, anger, fear, jealousy……so many things, erasing them away, I come face to face with what is the true foundation of who I want to be, who I can be, who I am.

I strive to do this every day. It is a goal. Always a learning process. Always humbling and grounding.

 

Listening to Grandmother

This blog is called Songs The Sunrise Sings because I often wake up before or as the sun rises. I find a great comfort and sense of peace in watching the dawn of a new day: of hearing the sleeping world wake up. I spend several minutes in stillness, just listening. Even in winter, with doors and windows closed, the sounds of songs and greetings for the new morning can be heard.

I take the time to center myself for the new day. Some days I feel tired, or perhaps unwell, and it is difficult to find this centering. I am too attached to my body and my worries or fears. Other days it is as if a song flows from my heart and with great ease I send out love and wishes for all beings to be safe, healthy, free from fear and worry, happy and at ease.

“Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…..
humans, animals, even birds….
they all need happiness.”
~Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong,
International Council of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers

I have such strong, passionate thoughts and feelings about this. Yesterday a news reporter coined what may be a new word, “othering”. As in when we begin to refer to people we do not agree with, dislike, mistrust, fear and or doubt. We think about them as, or refer to them as, the “others”.

“Othering”

Grandmother Tsering says “NO” to “othering”. She teaches us, perhaps reminds us, that ALL need our love, our prayers, our effort to help ensure their happiness. Not wishing them punishment, incarceration, revenge, harm, to be invisible, to be irrelevant or insignificant, not calling for them to be oppressed or repressed. But, for each one to have and experience happiness. She calls for us, as we wake up in the morning, to send our prayers and wishes for happiness to all. And that is a tall order when we live in a world that is so full of fear and greed, misinformation, arrogance. A world where bombs become a solution, violence a means to an end, incarceration as solution rather than education and rehabilitation, where one religion strives to reign over others. In a world that judges by clothing, gender, sex, race, age, mistakes, status and beliefs. A world where we take and take and take.

…we, they, all deserve, and need, happiness….

prayergreenI have my own routine at night and in the morning. I follow a set of words and change who I am directing the thoughts towards. First to myself, then to someone I love deeply, then to someone who plays a significant role in my life as mentor or such. Next I think of someone who is an “acquaintance”, then to someone who is a challenging presence in my life. At the end, the prayer/ thoughts go out to ALL people and living things. ALL. Known, unknown, feared or revered. It’s just what I do. It grounds me. It reminds me of what I hold dear and value.

I know something like this isn’t for everyone. This isn’t something I have always done. I had to be ready to embrace this, to work at it, to allow it to become part of who I am. It wasn’t always possible for me to do this. But…it has changed me. So I offer it forward in hopes that more thoughts and prayers for the happiness and well being of all sentient beings can be put out there in a world where there is so much suffering and pain.

Readings This Week

“Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…humans, animals, even birds– they all need hap

Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…humans, animals, even birds– they all need happiness.

Dewdrops

For many years, at great cost, I traveled through many countries,
saw the high mountains, the oceans.
The only things I did not see
were the sparkling dewdrops in the grass just outside my door.

~Rabindranath Tagore

I have been very fortunate in my life to have traveled to many places all over the world. I was blessed to be able to actually live in a few. Each country opened my heart and eyes in a new way. There were wonderful, joyful, carefree times, and more difficult, very uncomfortable times. There was fear and worry. There was celebration and excitement. I grew in ways I would never have been able to do had I not traveled.

And yet, coming “home” was the real lesson. When I left Ithaca I felt I had been liberated from many things: parents, American culture, high school cliques, peer pressure, boredom, a broken heart. Parts of life felt stagnant and mundane. I did not want to be only an American. I was going to become a world citizen.

So I traveled. With eyes wide open. My senses were like a sponge. My brain rewired as I learned and experienced new things, had new thoughts and gained new perspectives. My body changed from new foods, less four wheel transportation. I sat next to sheep on buses, and stepped over dead bodies. I ate eyeballs and other balls, intestines and stomachs. I learned how having a cup of tea can be a three hour silent event. I discovered weaving silk is very hard and that I don’t like salted goat milk. I was jostled in religious parades and sat in stillness and silence in Japanese gardens. I was followed by herds of children begging for money and food. I found myself surrounded by groups of men because I had blue eyes.  I was invited into homes and slept on floors literally crawling with scorpions. I was awakened by earthquakes and “trapped” by a declaration of martial law. I traveled by plane, boat, train, bus, trolley, subway, cart, truck, helicopter, elephant and foot.

I ran out of money and sold my blood. I got very sick and had to go to a hospital every day for testing. I experienced altitude sickness, fainting, food poisoning, acupuncture and cupping.

I grew up.

And then I came home and looked out the window and saw the “dewdrops.” All the beauty, mystery, hope, sorrow, sadness, pain, possibility and wonder right outside my window. I hadn’t seen all that ever before as clearly as I could now.

dew1mh

Redbud leaf, by me

I did have to travel in order to come home and be able to see the dewdrops….right out my own window. I don’t think the meaning and message would be as clear as it is now without all those experiences in my life. I learned to look through different lenses. The experiences from the world provided a means for observing, assessing, evaluating and synthesizing information and experiences, challenging beliefs and even personal opinions.

What’s outside your window? Your living room window, your car window, your bus window, your office window and the restaurant window? The window to your thoughts, biases, perspectives, your heart, your education and religious background? The window that showcases the planet, the environment, the universe? The window that shows you the life of others, their struggles and joys?

What do you see?

What I’ve been reading, and watching, this week : This Week

A Wave

Hokusai_-_Eljudo_-_The_Great_Wave_at_Kanagawa.tiff

Hokusai, The Great Wave (Wikicommons)

You may have seen this print before. It is famous. It is called “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.” The artist was Katsushika Hokusai, October 31, 1760 – May 10, 1849.

Roger Keyes, art historian and consultant, wrote for an exhibition in 2006: “For Hokusai, transmission was what art was all about. It’s what he got out of art, and it’s what he hoped to accomplish through art. It was about transmitting the conviction of what he knew through his experience to others.”

Transmitting the conviction of what he knew through his experience to others.

With obvious respect and gratitude, Keyes wrote the following poem. For his wife!! I think it is very moving. What do you think?

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child, every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive –shells, buildings, people, fish,mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your verandah
or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is Life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

Check out what I’ve been reading This Week

Drifting

Saturday morning the sunrise was soft. It made me think of cotton candy.two2a

Later in the morning we went to yoga. It was not as calming and grounding as it usually is. The room was too hot. The sequence felt disjointed. I kept feeling like I was drifting away. Like a cloud. Untethered. Might seem like a nice feeling, but it was disconcerting.

When I got home I re-read something that had caught my attention earlier in the morning:

“We are participants in a vast communion of being,
and if we open ourselves to its guidance,
we can learn anew how to live in this great and gracious community of truth.”
~Parker J. Palmer

I believe this very deeply. No matter who we are, where we live, what we believe, what our name is, the color of our skin, our gender or sexual orientation, our “good-ness” or our “bad-ness”, the religion we follow, the job we have, the amount of wealth we have, the level of poverty we live with, we are, all of us, in a

vast communion of being.

Rather than being open to the vulnerability, intimacy and trust achievable within this communion with one another, it seems some of us doubt the possibility and hope offered by the sharing and exchanging of intellectual and spiritual ideas. Instead, the doors are closed. Some of us turn away from possibility, clinging to old, familiar, comforting thoughts and beliefs. Instead of walking together in fellowship, there are those who find themselves wincing at the unfamiliarity of that which is different and turn away.

No matter our level of openness or hesitancy, we will have to learn how to live in this great and gracious community of Truth. The Truth is there is only one human species. There is only one Earth. There is only so much food and water. There is only so much…..of so many things.

Without the trust to live in communion with one another and all that is on this pale blue dot twirling through space, we will perish. If not physically, most certainly spiritually and intellectually. All of us.

So, I still feel as if I am drifting today. Soft as this drifting may be, it is an unsettled feeling. I reach out my hand, and offer my heart in fellowship and communion. I see a hand reaching towards mine and it is instinct to reach out to grab hold.  But as I watch others in places of suffering and hurt begin to extend their hand, it often seems instead as if they have to hold their hand up as a shield of protection against hate and fear. I watch and worry that hearts are closing due of lack of understanding and knowledge, because of  anger and mistrust….and hearts and souls are drifting. I see people all over the world looking for a place of community and communion in which to stop drifting, and settle.

I don’t mean to sound doom and gloom-ish, but the tone of the leadership of this country and the voices of ignorance, intolerance, hate and racism that it is sanctioning, does weigh heavily on me…my heart and soul.

There is so much work to be done. There are so many divides and barriers. Only with open hands, open hearts, the spirit of trust and fellowship can we become the gracious community of Truth.

My life is fine. There is much I am deeply grateful for. That is not what this about. It is not about me. It is about the voices we don’t want to hear. Voices we don’t listen to because our lives are okay. Don’t listen to because we don’t want to…we don’t want to risk creating a ripple in the security we depend on and believe in. We don’t want to because the “Others” are not one of “us”. They are different. Can we shoulder all the hurt and suffering alone? No. Together? Hopefully. To tend to and heal one another we have to come together because

“We are participants in a vast communion of being,
…..learning anew how to live in this great and gracious community of truth.”

Be tender. Be compassionate.

Take a hand. Offer a hand.

Listen. Learn.

Wisdom Dreams

I once dreamt I was telling stories and felt someone patting my foot in encouragement.
I looked down and saw that I was standing on the shoulders of an older woman
who was steadying my ankles and smiling up at me.
I said to her, “no no come stand on my shoulders,
For you are old and I am Young.”

“No no” she insisted, “this is the way it is supposed to be.”
I saw that she stood on the shoulders of a woman far older than she,
who stood on the shoulders of a woman even older,
who stood on the shoulders of a woman in robes,
who stood on the shoulders of another soul, who stood on the shoulders…

~Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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sunrise this morning

I admit it. I am a firm believer that some dreams are messages that I need to pay attention to. For me, they can be a processing tool, a problem solving tool, or sometimes, even a window into the future. There are times when my dreams are like an encyclopedia that has blown open to a page of facts, truths, possibilities that I need to know.

Most religions discuss the interpretation of dreams. Theologians, psychologists, therapists, musicians, poets, people who pay attention to dreams, see them as a connection, a nexus between the body, mind and spirit. There is a universal understanding that dreams connect us to something greater than ourselves. They provoke a sense of wonder and awe that by their nature are the essence of mystical experiences.

That which the dream shows is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man,
even if during his waking state he may know nothing about it….
We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things,
and are asleep in regard to that which is real within our self.

~Paracelsus

So, if you’ve been following this blog, you know I am an admirer of Clarissa Pinkola Estés. When I read the above quote the proverbial light bulb of understanding lit up. As a Jungian psychologist and story teller Pinkola Estés’ dream integrated the ideas of messages found in dreams and the importance of each person being a story teller.

In our world today I believe that both of these things are important. I think we have become disoriented and separated from spirituality and our connectedness. We no longer know our own stories of where we came from, who we are, what matters to us, what our connections are, how we are related and connected to each other. We have become impatient or disinterested in hearing the stories others cry out for us to hear. There is a restlessness, an uneasiness in me that worries that we have lost the connection to and understanding of a compelling gift: dreams.

Pinkola Estés not only reminds us to allow and pay attention to the dreams that arise during sleep, but to remember we are standing on, supported by, encouraged and emboldened by those who have come before us. The falterings, the successes, the hopes and dreams of others are the foundation on which we stand.

Those pillars of known and unknown persons in the past gently tap us with encouragement and with a reminder that we must give voice to our own story as well as give witness to the stories of others.

We are the dreamers. We are the story tellers. We are the pillars for those still to come.

“Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.”~ Black Elk

“A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.’
~The Talmud

Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.”
~Marsha Norman

“Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language.”
~Gail Godwin

 

 

 

“Into The World”

College seems like a lifetime ago. Ha! It really was! I reminisce with college friends and we laugh as we try to piece together fading memories. There are some beautiful memories that thankfully haven’t faded. They are the ones that were built on the pillars of love, trust, hope, respect.

I met my husband in college. He was building a wooden sailboat. I asked him if he would sail me to Nepal. He said yes. We were not geographically impaired. We were making a commitment of sailing through a lifetime together.

I went to a small Quaker college. It was founded on the idea of experiential learning and being a citizen of the world. I learned weaving in Greece and  Tea Ceremony at the Urasenke School in Kyoto, Japan. I worked at the International School in Kyoto and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete. I worked in Montessori schools and learned from Waldorf teachers.

One required reading was Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere Learn more  I was happy to discover it is still required reading in the field of education.

Heading to Japan I was asked to read The Chrysanthemum and the Sword  Learn more

Books by Lawrence Durrell helped prepare me for life in Corfu and Crete. Learn more here Books by Durrell  The legend of Theseus and Ariadne came to life as Ana Lisa and I walked through Knossos. Ariadne’s Thread by Judith White explored the mythology that ruled ancient Greece, and it translated nicely into the theories of Jungian psychology. Learn more

theseus-and-ariadne

I also discovered Anais Nin, DH Lawrence and Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Along with Nin and Pinkola Estes I read powerful books by Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Tao of Psychology and The Goddess in Every Woman.  Learn more

It’s cliché, but it feels like life was simpler then. Maybe it was as a college student traveling the world, fairly carefree. I saw beautiful places and met wonderful people. I experienced a lot of things that were very uncomfortable, and in hindsight also unsafe. I came to understand what it meant to be a world citizen. Firmly believing in the binding threads of humanity, the power of love, inclusion and respect.

In the crazy world of today it feels as if the Global Citizen, with the ideals of inclusion, respect and interconnectedness is at odds with the fear mongering, hate powered belief that is “Us/We” vs “Others/Them”.

So, I offer this feminist oriented peace poem from Jean Shinoda Bolen with the sometimes dispirited, but mostly fervent belief, that we can live in peace and respect with one another.

Peace Poem

Untappped source of peace,
The only real hope
Is to draw upon the collective wisdom of women. 
Those with direct experience of the cost of war:
The life of child, grandchild, sibling, spouse.
The loss of limb or mind of someone near and dear,
The loss of laughter, the pervasiveness of fear,
The loss of hope for the future.

Untapped source of peace,
Those who know of domestic violence:
Seen the effect of bullying on sons,
Seen daughters become silent, 
Seen light go out in their eyes.
Those who know
That when every child matters,
When none are hungry, abused or discounted
The world will become a kinder place
For us all

Untapped source of peace,
Women with empathy
Who live in a world apart,
Are safe, loved, and fortunate,
Yet can imagine
Being helpless, beaten, and raped,
Then forced to bear a child
Conceived in violence. 
Women who know in their hearts
That what happens to any woman
Anywhere
Could happen to them.

Untapped source of peace,
Women who see loved ones filled with vengeance and hate,
Hypervigilant, fear-ridden, or afraid to sleep
Because of the nightmares.
Husbands, brothers, sons, and now daughters
Home from wars,
Bearing little resemblance to who they could have been
In a peaceful world.

Untapped source of peace,
Women in circles,
Women connecting,
Women together
Bringing the sacred feminine, 
Maternal instinct, sister archetype,
Mother power
Into the world.

~Jean Shinoda Bolen

k-iraklion-port

Heraklion, Crete: a “lifetime ago”