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Listening. Deep, still listening. I was reminded in the last few days that energy/prayer/intention is not just about directing heart and mind, it’s also about deep, still listening. As I was contemplating Morro Rock, surrounded by an ocean that was being pretty feisty (high surf advisory), I got the message to quiet down. To just enjoy with no expectation or concern about how to connect. A 25 million year old rock is the epitome of patience and stillness and may have some wisdom if all one’s listening centers were open! If I’m quiet and trust and can remain comfortable in silence, connection happens and the gift of inspiration may be part of that.
One of my ocean musings/inspirations is that we humans (and maybe all of life) are little pods of Mother Ocean (Mama Cocha in Quecha), brought to this form to walk the solid part of this planet, much of which was once water as well. It’s as though we are ambassadors from the waters to the land. In qigong, one of the things we do when we practice is to visualize and notice flow. Qi/energy flows in our blood, in our bodily fluids. …the water movement of the body is the home of the yuan qi, or “original qi”. Yuan qi is the movement of life in its natural tract, in harmony, and represents an inherent wisdom that makes itself clear in the kind of quiet that you find in a forest’s deep winter, the sound of every snow flake falling clear and steady (Winter Renewal with Mingmen, Gate of Destiny).
So when you can, sit in stillness and quiet with nature and your own nature and open to the inherent wisdom of the universe. Those of you who know and/or practice the Zhineng Qigong essence mantra, Hun Yuan Ling Tong (HYLT), know that when we move into silence right after chanting, the mind stays quiet for awhile as the vibration of the sound and mantra flow through the body. HYLT means that the true self connects to the Hunyuan Qi of the Universe and thus manifests “wonderful” things, such as self-healing or other good intentions. These “miracles” can be explained by the “Hun Yuan Ling Tong” theory. In a state of “Hun Yuan Ling Tong,” when consciousness is connected with Hunyuan energy and information, things can transform immediately through this information (HunYuanChi Therapy).
Or you can simply connect with the energy of nature, with a flower in your garden, a tree, a frog, an ant, or a 25 million year old grandmother volcanic plug reaching up to the sky from the ocean…take some moments, allow your brain to sink in to the quiet essence of nature, and listen.
For more on listening…Guru Singh’s Morning Prayer.
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It’s been a long time coming, but our next In The Beginning podcast is with Vivienne Verdon-Roe. Vivian is a long time activist, Academy Award winner, and a Wisdom Healing Qigong teacher and healer. She is a gift to all who know her and have experienced her teachings.
From her website: Since getting her life back and so much more, Vivienne’s passion is sharing the great gift of Wisdom Healing Qigong. She believes the physical healing she has experienced and the inner joy regardless of life’s circumstances are bi-products of the ultimate path of this amazing technology — which is waking up to the fullness and magnificence of what we truly are — beings of infinite possibilities and infinite love, who can co-create with the universe a healthy, caring world that works for everyone.
New Podcast series! I’ll be recording a new series of podcasts called Weavers & Healers, 20–30 minute conversations with inspiring teachers and healers who are weaving traditions and lineages into powerful healing modalities for our times. Check out and subscribe to Weavers & Healers here. The first episode (if all goes well) will be published by June 1, 2020. If you would like to be interviewed for this podcast or know of someone you’d like me to step into conversation with, please let me know.
The Inner Smile meditation has its roots in Daoist tradition. It is said it was a secret practice because it’s so powerful…and so simple! Inner smile acts like a homage to this form we have on earth, this beautiful body of ours. It acknowledges the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our organ systems and infuses these amazing forms with love, light, smiles and gratitude. The day I acquired the habit of consciously pronouncing the words thank you, I felt I had gained possession of a magic wand capable of transforming everything. Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov
As we practice Inner Smile, we become more and more acquainted with and then intimate with our organs and cells. We can then communicate more effectively when we need their help with healing. They know our voice when we call to them to send white blood cells to fend off an infection, for example. I let my organ systems know when I’m about to plunge into an ice cold mountain lake, that all is well, just enjoy, don’t panic. It works!
The physical aspects of this practice are not separate from the emotional and spiritual aspects. Even if you have to “fake it til you make it”, smiling causes powerful chemical releases in our bodies. For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress. Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, or excited. The feel-good neurotransmitters—dopamine, endorphins and serotonin—are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well. This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Psychology Today
I recorded a 6.5 minute Inner Smile Morning Meditation for you. Please feel free to share. It includes a Thich Nhat Hanh quote and breathing practice as well as smiling to our organ systems. I recommend using this upon awakening, before getting out of bed, but it’s good at any time. Haola, Smile! All is well and getting better.
How do you want this life to feel?
One of my teachers, Celia Blackwood, produces a moon teaching every 3 days (Playing Along with the Moon.) Today, September 3, 2019, the moon is a waxing moon in Scorpio, a water moon. It’s a time to meditate, journey and ritual on the deep questions and to clarify our intentions. I love this question she posed with the teaching: How do you want this life to feel?
Often we strive and do things in order to achieve this feeling, but we haven’t actually clarified that it’s the feeling we desire. Our desires often manifest as what we want to DO, rather than how we want to feel. So this question gets us back to the essence. How do we want this life to feel?
I pondered this question on a bench outside this morning, sipping my tea, surrounded by the beautiful Sierra to the west and the White Mountains to the east. My answer to this question is that I want to feel more joy, to embrace more moments. My gaze fell upon a young Pinyon Pine in our yard. I spent a bit of time dropping into my heart, acknowledging and connecting with this tree that I’ve appreciated some, but never spent time with. After a few minutes, I began to feel communion. And I felt that communion as deep, lasting joy, beyond the moment, easily accessible by simply being in the moment and having the intention of connecting. And then staying, staying a bit past when I got the urge to move on to the next thing. Pema Chodron’s teaching of “remaining like a log” came in handy! This is a practice, this communion!
People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.―
One of my commitments to this communion practice is to notice one thing every day that brings me delight. And then spend time with that one thing–in silence, and then journaling, drawing, singing, writing poetry, etc. One thing. Five + minutes. It is my belief that this ritual is one way to cultivate communion, this deep joy that I would like more of in my life.
Krista Tippett has a lovely interview with Ross Gay about delight on her podcast On Being. This uplifting interview continues to inspire me to notice and cultivate and immerse in delight.
I intend to delight. I intend to cultivate joy and communion. I write this because there is power in intention, and even more power in sharing our intentions. Thank you for being my witness!
“Remember Unity until you forget separation.” From The Diwan of Shams i Tabriz, by Sufi poet Rumi. (From Desert Wisdom, Neil Douglas Klotz).
Wholeness. Unity. Divine Source. Oneness. Pure Consciousness. God.
Are we seeking, or are we being? The glory of the universe, of the divine, is in front of us and inside of us at every moment. We are inspired by teachers, by books, by courses, by poetry but at some point in time, with intention for allowing, for opening, we come into stillness, into the moment, and allow connection. Allow connection.
Yes, we need tools to get there. Yes, we often need teachers, and for sure we need teachings. But even then, at some point, we even then drop the teachings. The teachings create the boat to cross us to the other shore. But we need to know when to get out of the boat and walk onto that other shore.
Put down your books and blogs, your courses and communication devices, and go out.
Find a place that calls to you and allow the Earth and the Divine, the Oneness, the Wholeness, the Unity to hold you and tell you that you are not a seeker, you are a practitioner of life on a path to Unity. That path begins with stepping out of the boat and onto the shore. You may tie the boat, and return for provisions and navigation materials, those teachings that will help you find your way. But take that step, be on that other shore. Trust. Be.
Transform doing to being.
Remember Unity, until you forget separation.
I am still floating on a cloud of gratitude, amazement, and inner smiles. At the temple where Thich Nhat Hanh is staying, his root temple, I ran into Sister Chan Khong. She was surrounded by a few young lay women getting their pictures taken with her. I recognized her instantly as I had just finished reading her book about her life as an activist for children, families, and peace for Vietnam. She and Thich Nhat Hanh (along with many others) worked tirelessly for peace and freedom of religion. My eyes met hers for a moment, and they were so kind and knowing, it was like being greeted by an old friend. A few moments later our driver asked if I could have my picture taken with her. She asked me “you know who I am?” I said “yes! I just finished reading your book!” “Learning True Love?” she said. Yes…I thanked her for her profound work–for me, she is the total rock star of engaged Buddhism. Sister’s face is peaceful, sweet, and oh so beautiful! I am still in awe that this moment in time was gifted to me. This was such a chance encounter, I had no idea she was even in Vietnam.
Afterwards, spent some time offering incense at the pagoda, walking the grounds, and then chatting with a monk in the gift shop who had spent a month at the Deer Park monastery in Escondido. H and I meditated for a bit in a little pagoda by a pond, enjoying moments of flowing light on trees reflected off the water. Breathing in I am calm and peaceful, breathing out I smile. Breathing in I am so grateful for sharing a moment with an amazing human spirit, breathing out I know we share and connect through the same source, the same ocean of light. I bow to the light in you that is the same as the light in me.
Grateful for magic, and the privilege of this travel pilgrimage. Thank you for journeying with me!
Last night amidst our sightseeing we happened upon a small temple on a busy street that was clearly under renovation, but inside it was full of people (I just noticed women in light blue robes) doing prostrations. I wondered if the practice was earth-touchings from the Beginning Anew practice of the Thich Nhat Hanh communities. I learned of this and so much more from Sister Chan Khong’s book Learning True Love. I don’t know if I felt the book was so good because I’m immersed in Vietnam, but I gobbled it up like the luscious fresh fruit we get so much of here, so thirst quenching! She was a huge part of Thich Nhat Hahn’s evolution of engaged Buddhism. Very impressive woman!
Here is a link to beautiful readings done before prostrations to honor Mother Earth. The teaching is to choose one to read and then practice. My intention is to use these readings before Qigong practice, and/or as morning and evening prayers. The intention is to honor the Earth with love and being in the moment, in communion, with Her.
So, dragonflies. As we toured the Citadel in Hue the last few days, there have been waves of dragonflies overhead. And today, the cicadas were amazingly loud, almost like those crazy smoke alarms. Nature! Happy Equinox and full moon!
Day 1, SFO. “We should all be grateful for the beauty of this world, but more, we should take the trouble to get off the bus of life and put the soles of our feet to the soul of the world and see those sacred sites with our own eyes.” We are leaving the beauty of our home, the proximity of family and friends, and are heading out to put our feet on the soul of a whole different world on our same planet. My intention is to honor the land, the food, the people, the spirit of place and to sink in and connect with the energy field of healing for that which and those whom still suffer from wars, violence, disrespect, and disenfranchisement. Off to Vietnam!
Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City Day 6: “Breathing in I know I am breathing in. When you do this, the energy of mindfulness embraces your in-breath, just like the sunlight touching the leaves and branches of a tree.” Thich Nhat Hanh. I love this imagery!
Traveling as pilgrimage is not as easy squeezy as I had hoped. One can get swept away in plans, hubbub, excitement and exhaustion. Qigong movements and meditations are always a part of my day, though sometimes abbreviated; thankfully that’s a constant. Beyond that, my intention was to read from TNH you are here each day and to revisit my pilgrim intentions upon arising. But it wasn’t until this morning that I remembered! Goal: Fewer photos, more sinking into moments. Staying with a moment a second or two longer. Small steps, but leading to more living as ceremony. Whilst paying homage to Thich Quang Duc, the Buddhist monk who self-immolated in the 60’s to protest brutal treatment of Buddhists by Diem regime, I set my phone aside for a moment and dropped in to the chi field, connected with my heart, and the moment became a prayer rather than a sight to see. Remembering to drop in more often as we travel will be an overarching intention. Breathing in I know I am breathing in.
I am so honored to bring to you this conversation with Cathy Toldi, Buddhist Priest in the Soto Zen tradition, lover of life, nature, and called by the Earth to speak as Priestess Raven to bridge our understanding of who we are as part of the natural world. Cathy has been practicing Zen at Warm Jewel Temple since 1987. She studied with her root teacher Katherine Thanas for 25 years, receiving the precepts in 1995 and priest ordination in 2005. Vision quests have also been part of her life’s journey, connecting her with Raven, mountains, desert, and the depths of earth spirit.
I met Cathy when she rented a room with us for a few days while she tended to the final chapter of her yet to be published book. She wrote on our front porch until it got too hot (around 11:00 AM), and then continued on indoors. She speaks fondly of being embraced by the Sierra to the West and the Whites to the East, inspired by the grandeur of our little place in Chalfant. It turns out she is also a professional facilitator for non-profit and community groups and has co-authored the book Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making. We prevailed upon her to facilitate a board meeting of our local environmental action group, Inyo350 and it was a memorable and wonderful meeting. We look forward to welcoming her back to the Eastside this year!