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:


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.



Woven Together

“There are moments when the heart is generous,

and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here,

one with one another and with the place and all the living things.”

― Wendell Berry

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(sunrise on new fallen snow Nov. 28, 2014, photo by me)

December, the month of the Winter Solstice. Much, but not all of Nature sleeps or slows down. Nights are longer. The air is cooler. By instinct we move inward. It is a time when quiet and stillness come naturally. On the Wheel of Life, winter is the season of rest and preparation for renewed life, similar to how some animals go into hibernation.

Winter is a time of allowing yourself to be softer, quieter. To listen more, to speak less. A time to observe and see the sparkling stars after the sun has set. To see the absolute beauty of the bare, stark branches of the trees against the azure winter sky. It is a time to remember our lives are intertwined with the rhythms of Nature.

For better or worse, as Wendell Berry writes, our lives are woven together. There is no way to say it is not so. We may forget or try to deny, but when the heart is generous, we know.

Our horizons can shrink and creativity can seem to diminish when we forget our inter-connectedness. The compassion and empathy of our common humanity ebbs when we forget that we are woven together.

With the turning of the seasons, the rebirth of light after the darkness of the Solstice, we do have the ability, with continued disciplined practice, to construct new patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior.

So, let’s do it!! Let’s work with the turning wheel of Nature and life and set out on a quest to see, feel, hear and think differently. Release resentments and regrets. Turn from fear and anger to tolerance and understanding. Grow in empathy and compassion. Let apathy turn towards action. Allow hopelessness and routine to soften and be infiltrated by hope and purpose. It can be in any part of your life. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, as long as it is important to you.

As you prepare for whatever Festival of Light you celebrate, religious or not, maybe just go outside one night and look up at the stars. Or go outside when it is snowing and close your eyes to hear a snow flake land on a soft bed of fresh snowfall. Look at your partner, your child, your friend, sibling, parent, without speaking, and see and hear them. This is a time for reflection and renewal. A time for mending and strengthening our common threads so the weaving of our connected-ness can grow.

“There are moments when the heart is generous,

and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here,

one with one another and with the place and all the living things.”

Let this be the season of the generous heart for all of us.