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If trees could talk

I live in a land of timber. How could a simple tree impress a Canadian? But many times on our recent trip to England we stopped to marvel at the wonder of a tree.

Like this giant one at Winston Churchill’s Chartwell estate.

Giant Japanese cedar at Chartwell

We asked the gardener to repeat the name of this tree several times. She stuck with the Latin, which we think was Cryptomeria japonica. (Would it have been too much to ask for her to say simply Japanese cedar?)

And this scenic one at Hampstead Heath.

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But my favourite was this one. This tree could begin talking to me at any second and impart to me grand wisdom about life. I think this tree is telling me to stay rooted in what’s important because I already have everything I need, and to breathe.

What do you think?

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Evidence of the benefits of mindfulness: 60 Minutes

This short clip from 60 Minutes serves as a fitting follow-up to my Tuesday post about thinking. 

Anderson Cooper wires up his brain to show visual evidence of the calming effects of meditation. When Cooper drops into meditation after thinking about a stressful event, his brain responds immediately. His brain leaves behind the red stress zone and enters a “blue mindfulness zone.”

For centuries, meditation practitioners have touted the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional benefits of meditation, but naysayers dismissed the claims as a bunch of unscientific hooey. Scientific evidence gives such naysayers permission to trust in the unseen.

The next time stress-inducing thoughts pop into your head, remember Anderson Cooper’s brain, focus on your breath and find your own blue mindfulness zone.

Click on the link below to watch the video: 60 Minutes

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/preview-mindfulness/

Time to think: The power of quiet time

My friend, Jennifer, thought of me when she read a New York Times article last week: “No Time to Think” by Kate Murphy. Jennifer thought of me because I am not like the people described in the article—people who are so afraid of being alone with their thoughts they actually administer electric shocks to themselves if left alone with nothing but their thoughts for as little as 6 minutes.

postcard poem ArleneJennifer is the friend who coined the “Laughing Thinker” phrase I use as part of my bio; I take it as a compliment that she sees me as both profound and happy. I love to think. During the day when I am at home, I never turn on radios or TVs. I live in silent contemplation all day, and I love it.

During the Christmas season I work part-time at a bookstore in a shopping mall. Many of the younger solo shoppers enter our store with ear buds in both ears. I think, “They can’t even go shopping without some din in their ears?” Are they really so afraid of their own thoughts? Apparently so.

Why is this a problem? What does it matter if people shut themselves down? According to researchers, the main reason people don’t want to think too much is they don’t want to dwell on the negative or ruminate on their problems. But if we don’t allow ourselves the time to sort ourselves out, it hampers ability to empathize with others. 

Lost creativity is another cost. Murphy writes, “. . . an idle mind is a crucible for creativity.” Thinking about problems outside of reality adds new dimensions to the issue and allows for novel solutions to challenges.

Empathy and creativity melt away so many negative issues. At this time of year, it’s tempting to rush, rush, rush and party, party, party. At this time, some of the negative family, friends and financial stuff we suppress the rest of the year raises its unavoidable ugly head for us to deal with. So, at this time of year it’s more important than ever to foster thinking time.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger were onto something: Think, think, think, and laugh a little too.

Laughing Thinkers

Laughing Thinkers

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/sunday-review/no-time-to-think.html?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits&_r=0

 

Eating the Sun Meditation

I am on a March Break vacation, “eating the sun” as much as I can. I thought I would share this beautiful meditation from the Cauldrons and Cupcakes blog. If you live in the northern hemisphere, as I do, you will be craving the sunshine after a long winter. Click on the link below to visit her page:

Eating the Sun Meditation.

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In-AccuWeather and “Be Here Now”

Lake-LouiseWhen you can’t plan, you must accept.

This is the lesson from our week in the Rocky Mountains.

Weather forecasting here, we have to assume, comes with challenges. We’ve never experienced such changeable and unpredictable weather forecasts. We live in Ontario, Canada where we see weather systems moving in from a long way off, undisturbed by geological formations or mountain ranges. Here? Every weather forecast should read: “Honestly, we have no idea what’s going to happen.”

More than once we checked the weather in the evenings and made plans for the next day. The next morning, we awoke to a completely different forecast, exactly the opposite of what was said only 12 hours before. In the evenings, as gentle snow fell outside our window, we visited AccuWeather sites that told us it was currently sunny. We started called them In-AccuWeather sites.

We had to give up planning our outings and just wake up in the mornings and accept.

It returned us all to the ancient meditative practice of living in the present moment, which just might be the most valuable gift we received out of our vacation time.

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Christmas traditions and why you may, or may not, need a cat

 Are you trapped in your traditions? Do they serve you, or do you serve them?

I pondered this question after reading a Paulo Coelho blog piece about an ancient Japanese story, which I will paraphrase here:

A great Zen Buddhist master had a cat. The cat was his constant companion even during the meditation classes he led. When the old master passed away, another disciple took his place and continued to allow the cat to join in meditation. When the original cat died, the disciples missed its presence, so they found another.

Disciples from other regions heard about the cat who attended meditation classes, and spread the story around to others. These disciples believed that the cat was the reason for the greatness of the Zen Buddhist master. Other temples began to bring cats to class.

Eventually, writings began to appear about the importance of cats during meditation. A university professor studied the issue and wrote a thesis about the effects of cats on concentration and energy. Disciples began to believe that cats were essential to meditation.

Soon, an instructor who was allergic to cats decided to remove the animal from his daily classes. Other disciples were aghast and reacted negatively, believing the cat to be essential to their success. But his students made the same progress even without the cat.

Generations passed and, one by one, monasteries began removing cats from meditation. After all, it was a burden feeding all those cats. In fact, students began to study the benefits of meditating without animals.  More time passed until “cat,” or “no cat” was no longer a matter of consideration. But it took many years for the full cycle, because “during all this time, no one asked why the cat was there.”

Christmas is one of the most tradition-bound times of the year. Christmas trees, shortbread, gifts, overspending on gifts, turkey, family gatherings, family fights, church services, candles, crèches, Santa, pageants, parties with too much rum eggnog, carols . . . These things have been part of our current version of the holidays for so long we have started to believe that Christmas is not Christmas without them. If we were to suggest not including them, people would react with aghast negativity.

Why are those “cats” in the room? Is feeding them becoming a burden?

Christmas means different things to different people. For me, it recalls the birth of a compassionate movement toward “all is one.” It recalls the birth of a man, an activist, who sought social justice and lived the idea that every person contains the divine spark. 

As I meditate my way toward Christmas this year, whether I invite some of those “cats” to join me or not, the movement toward “all is one” by those of us lit with the divine spark continues regardless.

 

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