The other day, while walking along our neighborhood creek, I found myself overjoyed by the late summer wildflowers! I picked a few, and upon coming home, put them in a glass on our dining room table. The colors, scents, freshness… all bring such joy to me! My heart feels full with these gifts from the earth and these riches of my neighborhood.

Later in the evening, while on a winding-down-the-day stroll, my 4 1/2 year old son surprised me with a handful of wildly growing Mexican Daisies! “These flowers are for you, Mommy!” he announced. Handful after handful, he placed the blooms in my
happy hand. Joy. Pure joy again, this time gifted by my son.

My challenge to you is to find joy. I am in a joyful practice, so I thought I would share this idea. I am noticing that joy is different from gratitude. It is also different from noticing when the universe is kind. Although both of these sacred sorts of moments, gratitude and universal kindness, can give joy, the experience of joy seems to come upon a person so uniquely and spontaneously that it is valuable to notice what brings joy for our own personal heart and soul, body and mind. Flowers bring me joy! This almost never fails. What brings you joy? I invite you to notice everyday. Then share this joy with someone you appreciate, admire, love, trust… share your joy with me! Share joy wherever and however you would like, but first notice. What brings you joy today?

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Poetry is a wonderful accompaniment to meditation, especially when the poet speaks of a deep spiritual, human truth through skillful use of words. Naomi Shihab Nye is such a poet, and I first found her through her popular poem, Kindness. Here, I share a poem I read at a meditation group recently. I was guest teaching for Heart of Light Meditation in Berkeley, California. At the end of a silent sit, I read aloud these words. 

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Naomi Shihab Nye

The Music Box

I don’t know who gave me this instrument,

what happened to the box that once housed

this now-bare motor … I turn the knob,

again, again, till the thing is tightly wound,

then watch the intricate wheels spin against one another

clicking out tiny metallic notes.

It is a familiar song but I couldn’t name it.

It repeats over and over, a miniature anthem

vibrating in my hand.

I feel there is something I should remember,

at least who gave it to me, but this memory has fallen away

like so many others. Sometimes I feel the mind’s

thin shavings scattering the minute they fall,

like the notes of this music-box disappearing into Monday,

even the ones that play together, the highest note,

even the pause.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, Words Under The Words

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Trust is the feeling of the ego dissolving. 

 

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Storm: Mama, you love me everyday.
Me: Yes, I do! (I kiss him on his blond head.)
Storm: Mama, you love me everyday SO MUCH!!! 
Me: Yes, I love you so much everyday! (I’m smiling.)
Storm: Mama, you love Daddy so much everyday too!
Me: Yes, you’re right! I love you and Daddy so much everyday.
Storm: Mama, you love turtles so much too!
Me: Turtles?!
Storm: Yes! You love turtles so much everyday!!!
Me: Yes, I love turtles everyday too! (I’m pretty much cracking up.)
Storm: Mama, I love turtles everyday too… so much.

(In honor of my 2 1/2 year old son.) 

One of my very favorite stories….

A new flute was invented in China. A Japanese master musician discovered the subtle beauties of its tone and brought it back home, where he gave concerts all around the country. One evening he played with a community of musicians and music lovers who lived in a certain town. At the end of the concert, his name was called. He took out the new flute and played one piece. When he was finished, there was a silence in the room for a long moment. Then the voice of the oldest man was heard from the back of the room: “Like a god!”

The next day, as this master was packing to leave, the musicians approached him and asked how long it would take a skilled player to learn the new flute. “Years,” he said. They asked if he would take a pupil, and he agreed. After he left, they decided among themselves to send a young man, a brilliantly talented flautist, sensitive to beauty, diligent and trustworthy. They gave him money for his living expenses and for the master’s tuition, and sent him on his way to the capital, where the master lived.

The student arrived and was accepted by his teacher, who assigned him a single, simple tune. At first he received systematic instruction, but he easily mastered all the technical problems. Now he arrived for his daily lesson, sat down, and played his tune — and all the master could say was, “Something lacking.” The student exerted himself in every possible way; he practiced for endless hours; yet day after day, week after week, all the master said was, “Something lacking.” He begged the master to change the tune, but the master said no. The daily playing, the daily “something lacking” continued for months on end. The student’s hope of success and fear of failure became ever magnified, and he swung from agitation to despondency. 

Finally the frustration became too much for him. One night he packed his bag and slinked out. He continued to live in the capital city for some time longer, until his money ran dry. He began drinking. Finally, impoverished, he drifted back to his own part of the country. Ashamed to show his face to his former colleagues, he found a hut far out in the countryside. He still possessed his flutes, still played, but found no new inspiration in music. Passing farmers heard him play and sent their children to him for beginner’s lessons. He lived this way for years. 

One morning there was a knock at his door. It was the oldest past-master from his town, along with the youngest student. They told him that tonight they were going to have a concert, and they had all decided it would not take place without him. With some effort they overcame his feelings of fear and shame, and almost in a trance he picked up a flute and went with them. The concert began. As he waited behind the stage, no one intruded on his inner silence. Finally, at the end of the concert, his name was called. He stepped out onto the stage in his rags. He looked down at his hands, and realized that he had chosen the new flute. 

Now he realized that he had nothing to gain and nothing to lose. He sat down and played the same tune he had played so many times for his teacher in the past. When he finished, there was silence for a long moment. Then the voice of the oldest man was heard, speaking softly from the back of the room: “Like a god!” 

-Excerpted from Free Play, by Stephen Nachmanovich. This is cited as a story discovered by Trevor Leggett, in Zen and the Ways, 1978.

 

A photo by Mikael Kristenson. unsplash.com/photos/3f4sQIums6k

Meditation is the practice of listening to the truth that is you.

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We all need self care; we all need self love. Whether we are doing great or having challenges, the ability to slow down, stop, and care for ourselves makes all the difference. Here is a simple list of self care practices. Each of us can practice these things, whether we are busy parents, overworked entrepreneurs, stressed out students, starving artists and creatives, or blessed and gifted individuals with all the time, space, and resources needed. We can all use each of these things any and every day of the year… but especially after a healing session, or when we do not have time for someone else to help us, or when we are not able to figure out exactly what it is we need. Anytime, anywhere, try this:

  1. Drink plenty of water.
  2. Eat nourishing food – whatever is most nourishing for you.
  3. Get some good rest.

Vacation is about letting everything be, just as it is… at least for a moment. We know we are on vacation when we are no longer trying to change anything at all. We simply are, and everything is… and we are content. We realize there is nothing left to do except be. In this way, we vacate our professions of trying and trudging up stream. We let go and, finally, float effortlessly down stream. The river takes us where we need to go, and we let it. We get a vacation from any notion that we are in control, because we truly are not. Life is. Surrendering to this is the most peace any of us can ever hope for. Enjoy this; enjoy life exactly as it is right now. This moment is the best gift you can ever give yourself.

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I start my day like this: with tea & poetry. I have to. They work together to pull me out of the tired doldrums comprised of early morning wake-ups and half-dreams. They rock me into the early bright light of wild sunrise wind, happy-playful partner, and son quietly eating applesauce at the table. These sips of tea and words of poetry team up to remind me it is time to begin again, welcome this new day, breathe and go forward with heart and eyes wide open.

Day 11: I was with my son’s feelings for around 20 min or so tonight. I am not sure of the exact timing. It was dark, and we were in his room. Maybe it was a half hour total. My partner helped for some of it. We were trying to make the bedtime – midnight no nursing rule. My little boy has a cough though, and I feel strongly that breast milk is one of the best things for him during this time. The conflict of trying to make a specific weaning goal versus my desire to help him get over this cough in a timely manner stuck with me throughout my time listening to his feelings and helped me pay even more attention to what I witnessed going on with him.

While he was crying, and while there was still enough low light to see, I completely experienced how terrified he was. It was as though he could not find the breast and could not bear to be without it. My partner says this is his first breakup. In some ways, I see how that is true. There is a love affair happening between my son and my breasts. I, as a whole person, am not always totally a part of that. Sometimes, he pushes my face away, so he can have some privacy with my boob! This is recent, but it started long before any weaning efforts. When it happens, it is simultaneously hilarious and offensive. Talk about objectifying!!! Yikes.

Anyway, we are breaking down this attachment slowly. With the terror I saw and heard and felt in my little boy tonight, I imagined him as a newborn in the phototherapy box. He was jaundiced and had enough risk factors that we consciously chose this approach to help him and give him the best start to optimal health. He was mostly happy in there, and he was always attended by a loved one, if not me. But once, when my dad was with him in the ICN (Intensive Care Nursery), he woke up really upset. My dad was able to comfort him, but it took me a while longer than usual to get down there (just down the hall) because I had fallen deeply asleep! I imagine my boy has been re-experiencing that old disconnection, absence, and disorientation.

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I am sure he will make it to midnight now, after his cry earlier. He fell asleep early for bed because he did not have a nap today. It was a long haul for him to sleep from an early bedtime to midnight, especially with a cough. I definitely can say (after some experience), going from on demand to any kind of regulated breastfeeding is rough. It is tough on him and totally different for me. Different than how I used to be around breastfeeding and availability. I am just starting to wonder if I am doing the right thing.

He nursed 7 times today with an 8 hour stretch of not nursing. He has been really excited and happy about life in general. He played great with his friends this morning. He also played well alone at home for little bits of time, and we had a lot of fun together too! One transition around getting into the car was hard, and as I mentioned, he did not nap. Other than those two things, which are normal to happen every now and then, he has been so easy, great, and always excited about life! I just ask to be led in a good way with my son. I want to do the right thing for him, for me, and for all concerned.

Day 12: At this point, it is working pretty well to tell Storm when the next nursing time will be when he asks, and I am not presently available. The night time is still pretty rough – if he wakes between bedtime and midnight expecting to nurse. I can listen to his feelings and stay present with him a little better and a little longer though, so I appreciate us both for this progress.

I realized I am really unattached to him being completely done breastfeeding by my imagesbirthday. I know that is what the Ayurvedic doctor wants, and I know I felt very seen by her, and I do appreciate her perspective on Storm. It is just that, as Storm’s mom, I know he will not always nurse. I know that this is a passing phase – this breastfeeding phase. Our time nursing is so precious, I would be a fool to speed it up too much. All the same, I am enjoying a little more time and space not breastfeeding. I can feel myself a little more clearly. I like this process we are in. Slow, steady, and infused with love.