Tag Archives: Buddhism

Casting Off

Standard

mother portrait

A new cycle was beginning.

Jean, our hospice nurse, spent time examining mother. She spoke with confidence and gentleness to my mother. Everything had changed. Since the episode a night earlier, Mother was now too weak to leave her bed. She was confined by her own weakness. Her world began to change. Only days earlier, she had sat in her wheel chair, eaten a normal meal and laughed with us in another room. That was to be her last foray outside of her bedroom and her last burst of energy. Everything was shrinking – her appetite, her mobility, and her own body. But her mind was still quite acute. There was no way I was giving up on her. I still thought she and I could get her through this, despite what the doctors and hospice said.

After Jean took time to get acquainted with Mother, she asked all of us to join her in another room. The mood was sombre as we listened intently. Now we were in the world of hospice, a very foreign country to all of us. Already installed in Mother’s room was the humming oxygen machine to assist her breathing when needed. We had refused bringing in a hospital bed, wanting mother to be in her own usual bed.

Jean explained what it meant to have palliative care. She showed us the powerful drugs, like morphine and lorazepam (for anxiety) that would be available for Mother to help ease her through the process. Luckily, Mom was not in pain, and we were grateful for this. Jean warned us that we should not count on our memory to remember when and how much medication Mother was given. We should have a journal. My brother, the ever organized and with a Navy pilot thoroughness, prepared the journal for us.

I made the decision immediately that I would be the only one to give Mother the heavy drugs. I was still her protector and wanted to prevent her from being drugged unnecessarily. Then we learned of the array of other hospice workers who would be available to help. Ever polite and grateful, we walked Jean to the door, thanking her along the way.

When the door closed, we stood stunned but coping. Bill and Judy would soon be returning back home, but they knew they would never again hear Mother’s cheery voice or see her smile. Each took private time with her, holding back tears as best they could until they left the room. They also knew that this would be difficult for Richard and for me and asked us to call whenever we needed help, no matter the time of day or night.

The four of us talked as Mother rested, still with her ever faithful Siamese cat by her side. We agreed on the plans for the funeral and who would be called in Ann Arbor. This would be the key part bill and Judy would play as we held vigil. As we talked, Judy continued knitting the pretty pink afghan she had been making for Mother as a Christmas gift. The afghan was only partially made.

On the morning that Bill and Judy departed, I stood in the kitchen alone with my brother. He said, “Judy cast off the afghan last night and is leaving it for mother just as it is.” She cast off, a knitting term that was a kind of closure on the item being made. Casting off is also letting the ship or boat be free to go out to sea. Mother was casting off her life as she knew it, and we were with her. The destination seemed certain, but the final journey was not yet charted. That was to be revealed to all of us, along with the ethereal lessons and miracles.

Judy left the afghan draped over Mother’s shoulders as she laid in bed. I tried to keep it there as much as I could, placing it to warm her neck. It was a parting gift made with love. At the time Mom took her last breath, that pink afghan was still warming her. But then, Mother had cast off permanently. She was sailing through clear and vibrant seas, and free at last. Soon she would bring us along.

The 52: Lesson Fifty One — Stop Searching. YOU Are the Destination

Standard

butterflyblueskyGod is a great underground river that

no one can dam up and no one can stop.

                              Meister Eckhart

We search and search.  We study and pray.  We read books and scriptures.  We meditate. We question.  We doubt.  We avoid and negate. We humans are not passive about God, even when we actively deny the existence of some “thing” called God or the Infinite or the Source or the Creator.  Most of the greatest minds in the world — from many disciplines including  science and philosophy — have pondered the quintessential  questions about God.  Are we searching for meaning to our own existence, for something more than the mundane birth to death and day-to-day aspects of our life?  And for those of us who are seekers on the spiritual path, it may seem surprising to finally come to the conclusion that we, ourselves, turn out to be the destination we seek.  That all we had to do was knock on the door and the Light would emerge from within us.  Not from outside.

LESSON FIFTY ONE

WHERE IS GOD?

What we seek is seeking us.

So spoke the great Sufi poet/saint, Rumi.  He got it.  So did Jesus.  He said in Luke 17:21 (KJV):

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Yes!  Within you right now, just where God has always been.  Not in some throne up in the sky, sending out judgements that reflect only our own ego needs about judging and approval and sin and death.  After years of separating myself from a God belief that was based on a child’s view of God, I now see only the Eternal Light of Love springing from the one I care to call God.  It does not matter whether or not you agree with me.  I don’t seek to argue the logic of it.  For years, I postured and felt smug in my arguments against God. Now my belief system has left logic behind a long time ago.  Why? Because I had the experience of God, and the joy was so immense, there was no turning back.  It is odd that it does not matter what you believe.  The Divine is within all of us, no matter who we are, whatever our religion or lack of it. That is how immeasurable that Love is.

Swami Vivekananada wrote:

The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, 

the moment I stand before every human being and see God in him —

that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.

For those of us who wish to explore and look inward, this becomes both a great freedom and a change that alters our perception of the world.  How can we look upon another, seeing God’s Light equally in them, and still practice violence and prejudice and hatred?  They are us!  And we are all equal in this great Love from God.

We are not some unworthy, soiled piece of cloth.  The expectation of all true spiritual paths is that we transform our thinking, that we abandon notions that we are unforgivable and lacking and not the embodiment of love.  Most of us have wallowed in the pains of our own constructed world, not realizing that it is nothing more than a “play,” and, we, as actors in this play, still sit in the audience and extend love to our own false identity as the player.

As The 52 draws to a close, I believe that the suggestions in this lesson are among the most valued of all I have learned over twenty-five years of study, teaching, mystical experiences, and communion with the Divine.  While it took a little while for me to completely embrace and understand the relevance of what I write here, I can only say that peace has come and fear has diminished.  This can be true for you too.

Out beyond the ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

Rumi

Shall we make it a date?  I will look forward to meeting you there.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to http://www.deannemincer.com

The52: Lesson Forty Two — Do You Include Yourself in Compassionate Thinking?

Standard

butterflybluesky

If your compassion doesn’t include yourself,

it is incomplete.

                                   Jack Kornfield

What about you?  Can you be sensitive, caring, and extend kindnesses to others while ignoring yourself completely?  Are you able to look with understanding on the “failings” and sad situations of others in their struggles, yet hold back the same level of compassion for yourself?  It seems that some of us “buy into” the notion that expressing compassion for our selves is egotistical and inappropriate.  How dare we make the same allowances for ourselves as we might convey to others in pain!

Compassion must begin at home, in ourselves.  If we do not consider ourselves worthy and deserving of this self-care, then how can we legitimately pass it on to others?  Compassion must grow from a sense of self-love and from our own open hearts.

LESSON FORTY TWO

COMPASSION

Compassion!  I have written on many subjects that relate to this issue of compassion — kindness, forgiveness, gratitude, and love — but not directly focusing on compassion.  Yet compassion, for others and for ourselves, offers us spiritual insights that the other topics do not.  It engages a sense of empathy that allows us to enter into a special place with another.  We “walk in their shoes.”

Can you, on a constant level, use the practice of compassion to alter how you see yourself and others in the world?  Can you bring compassion into your awareness even at times when your anger has been activated and your impatience has risen too high?  I have often found this to be a challenge.  I can easily site chapter and verse when I lacked compassion for myself and for others.  Until I learned to practice forgiveness in all ways, (which may not happen instantaneously but is a process), I allowed myself to be tortured in this unhealthy state.

Maybe some of these suggestions will be helpful to you:

  • Engage the silent witness practice, which I have written about previously.  Stand aside from yourself and look with compassion and great kindness on yourself no matter what you have done in the present or past.  See yourself through the eyes of one who is all forgiving and loving.  It could be represented by a deity, an angel, a loving parent, a spirit guide, God, but, ultimately, it is YOU.  It is always the heart connection within yourself.
  • Look all around you – in the present and into the past.  Are there other fellow human beings you have cut out of your circle of acceptance due to disagreements, political persuasion, class lines, or anything else.  You can take a try at engaging acceptance and compassion by seeing them through impartial eyes or as they may see the world.  Aren’t you doing more damage to yourself than to them by seeing yourself as superior or self-righteous in your attitude?  Maybe those assessments are covers for your own damaged self that could use some healing.
  • Now take a moment to think about other co-habitants in the world – the animals, plants, the whole of ecology.  We humans have so often wantonly destroyed our own home, decimating animal populations and forests, for example.  Everything is part of the same energy system.  Just maybe that tree you just chopped down and that deer you just shot is related to your own soul – especially if these acts were for personal gain and not necessity.
  • Remember, as is the philosophy in The 52, that you use none of these lessons in such a way that you feel less loving to yourself.  Everything unfolds with Divine Consciousness in this play of the world.  Every practice you use is meant to increase the Love you feel for yourself.

As the Dalai Lama has observed:

It is lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion towards others.  

If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others.

Whenever there is a choice, choose Love, for yourself and others.  It is an easy choice and always the right one.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to http://www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Forty One — You Travel but in Dreams while Safe at HOMe

Standard

butterflybluesky

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

                     William Shakespeare

Do you remember the last time you had a vivid dream and, when you awakened from it, you said this to yourself –” Oh, thank God that was just a dream.”  You were relieved that what had seemed so completely real, so true, while you were dreaming, what troubled or frightened you was not real  at all. You were dreaming it and now, no longer sleeping, you can take solace in knowing that it was all illusion.  How many times has this happened to you?  For me, it is more times than I could ever count.

But here is another thought.  What if this happens?  You are at your moment of death, perhaps on your “death-bed,” you breathe the last breath of your life, and now, according to the measurements we use to designate when someone has officially died, you are technically “dead.”  That’s how it appears to the world, but something else happens to you.  Something you might not have expected.  maybe even something outside of whatever  belief system you may have embraced in life.  Instead of dropping into nothingness, into a dark blankness, a void, you actually “wake up.”  This time you really wake up, into a reality bigger and better than anything you could have conceived.  You wake up to Eternal Life and Love.  You have never felt more alive and joyous.  You say to yourself, “Oh my, all of that stuff before this was only a dream. ”  Maybe what you took to be your life all those years was only a dream.

You have just been introduced to maya, the Sanskrit word that denotes illusion or “that which is not.”

It is not surprising that I have waited until the last months of lessons to introduce this idea.  It is for most of us too radical, too crazy, too impossible to consider.  We are taught to believe that the only “reality” is the one we think of as the material, left brain, Newtonian universe.  We often cling to this belief, yet there is much to the contrary.  There is much that is not explainable by science and the experiences of the five senses. I believe this to the core of my being.  the world, as we experience it, is nothing more than maya, an illusion, beyond time and space.  And yet,, ironically, this allows us to love without conditions and to witness ourselves with acceptance in this play, this life on the stage of maya.

LESSON FORTY ONE

MAYA — THE ILLUSION

i am fully aware that this topic, this lesson, will feel totally implausible to many of you.  It surely did to me when i first heard of it.  Illusion?  More like  delusion, I thought.  If you already discount near death experiences, after death communications, communication with other realms, and the credible information shared by many hospice workers, then this will be a stretch.  And if you believe that all the spiritual writings of antiquity and today, as well as belief systems in many religions, are all bunk, then you have probably already stopped reading this.  I get it!  I used to share your incredulity, but I don’t anymore.

If you happen to be steeped in science, it might interest you to know that great physicists like Einstein, Niels Bohr, Steven Hawking, and David Bohm have weighed in with the findings of quantum physics.  Who would have thought that science is coming around, at last, to the ideas that were conveyed thousands of years ago in spiritual texts.  How about this?  The physical world that most people take to be real and solid is nothing more than illusion. Or this? Space and time and causality are purely mental bonds.  We created all this ourselves.

It was not, by the way,  a typo in the title of this lesson.  I meant to write hOMe.  The sound “om” from which we derive Shalom, Salaam, Amen, and home is thought to have infinite power within it.  Some say it is the sound of all creation that resonates in each of us, as a memory somewhere in our consciousness.  When my mother was near death, she, who was not overtly a particularly religious person, exclaimed out loud and to no one I could see, “home soon.”  I was stunned at her words.  she knew she was going “home.”  She looked radiant when she said it.

You dwell not here but in eternity.

You travel but in dreams, while safe at home.

A Course in Miracles

While I will write more on this subject in this future, I hope you will consider this:

  • What if you felt safe and at “home” even in the midst of world events, problems, illness? In the midst of the illusion.
  • Could you take a few moments to be quiet and consider that all is “unfolding” in your “play” in a way that you may not understand right now, but that it means something?
  • Can you entertain the notion or even consider the potential that the material world is not all there is?  That there is a place and thinking that is reachable and that transcends this often petty environment?
  • Could you stand aside, even for moments, to become a “witness” to yourself and everything around you?  Would it all still be there without any sensory acknowledgement of it?
  • Could you learn to view the “illusion” in all it grandness and beauty and awesomeness as something to be enjoyed even while knowing it is a play?
  • Maybe “consciousness” is all there is.  How about that?

I wish you bon voyage on your journey beyond the dream and into Truth.  There is nothing more exciting and it is all in your own loving heart.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to http://www.deannemincer.com.

The 52: Lesson Thirty Seven — Forgiveness is Divine

Standard

butterflyblueskyDo you hold grudges?  Do you let resentment and hatred surge through your being?  Do you think that forgiveness implies weakness and steals from you the “right” to be indignant, furious, and angry?  Are you “proud” of your capacity to punish someone by banishing them from your midst or by spreading terrible words about them?  Did it ever occur to you that the one most hurt by all of this is YOU?  That you are “drinking the poison and expecting someone else to die?” Is it possible that lack of forgiveness is really a sign of fear?

It was Alexander Pope who wrote :

To err is human, to forgive divine.

Aren’t we all human?  Don’t we all make mistakes?  Haven’t we all stumbled and failed at some time in our lives?  Isn’t there some dark shadow of guilt or shame lurking in the recesses of our lives?  Is it too radical to consider these possibilities:  From the depth of love that resounds in our hearts, we can — and must — forgive others.  And coupled with that, we can  — and must –forgive ourselves.  What will be the outcome?  Freedom!  True freedom.

Can we be forgiving about our own times of lack of forgiveness?  Are we big enough, strong enough, powerful and loving enough to choose forgiveness? That is the focus of this lesson.

LESSON THIRTY SEVEN

FORGIVING SETS US FREE

 A Course in Miracles is the awe-inspiring book that has the capacity to transform anyone who follows the course.  (Studying it has been one of the most pivotal experiences and best decisions of my life.)  Forgiveness is a key theme.

Fear binds the world.  Forgiveness sets it free.

Lesson 332  A Course in Miracles

Imagine what your life and world would be like if you shed the burdens you have carried by refusing to forgive.  We, as humans, have carried so many foolish notions on this subject.  Not long ago, someone was telling me about a woman who was generally kind and loving, but “if you crossed her once, she never forgave you.”  This was told to me with a hint of admiration for the woman who never forgave, as if she had some stupendous power, like a Mafia Don,  as if it was a sign of merit and strong character.  One mistake with her and — BOOM — banished forever.  I wonder if she would have ever considered these words from George Herbert:

He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.

Forgiveness must go in all directions, passing through all relationships, into what we perceive as the past and the future, from one generation to another and globally as well.  I think of the damage done to families that have held onto angers, like the Hatfields and the McCoys.  This brings to mind political stances (like Democrats never forgiving the Republican politicians for something or other (you can reverse the party title for the same effect) or citizens of one country bearing the blame for “sins” committed long before they were born, such as longstanding anger with anyone from the Mideast or Europe or the United States  or fill in the blank.

If we are to wipe the slate clean, it has to start somewhere.  How about starting it yourself, with you?

Now take a calming few breaths, quiet your mind and try some or all of these ideas:

  • Are you aware of a long-standing anger you have harbored for someone? Or maybe it is a surge of anger that started just yesterday?  Can you actually see that person through a lens of forgiveness, trying to fathom who they are and what it may feel like in their shoes for a minute or so.
  • Can you entertain the possibility that you are harming, not them, but yourself by holding onto these emotions? That actual physical symptoms, like high blood pressure or depression may be a result of lack of forgiveness.
  • If it helps, you can always write a letter, which you will not send, to the person who has “wronged” you.  Get it off your chest (notice what this phrase means with regard to your heart,) whatever has to be said.  Then let it go!
  • Can you dig into your past and find the place where you began to believe your were unworthy, unloveable and unforgivable?  Can you look at it now, see that the past is over, and let light merge into that spot?  You might visualize the “you” from the past and send love, saying “I love myself completely NOW,” to that person that your were then.
  • Try seeing your long perceived “enemy” in the same light.  Aren’t we all just doing the best we can to get through life?  Aren’t we all capable of mistakes?  What if you chose to spread Love instead?  Do you think this is all silly and a waste of time?  Have you ever tried it? How about setting the ego aside for a little while and making a new choice?  You can do it, you know.
  • Be patient and kind with yourself.  This way of forgiveness may not become a habit overnight.  It may take a little practice.  Give it some time and see how you feel.  Remember to keep loving yourself all the time.

Here is a quote attributed to Mark Twain, the legendary American author and humorist.  I think it expresses a profundity beyond measure.

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more writings, go to http://www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Thirty Six — Be Still and Remember Who You Are!

Standard

butterflyblueskyAre you afraid to be quiet?  Is it too daunting to think of being alone with yourself?  What will happen if you turn off the sounds around you — the iPod, the radio, the TV, the chatting on the phone, the texting — all that surrounds you?  Or maybe, wise you, you don’t live in this kind of noise any more.

Are we so addicted to all this noisy input that we cannot fathom what it is like to see how it feels to be quiet.? Maybe we have become what James Thurber, the great humorist, suggested:

Nowadays most men live lives of noisy desperation.

LESSON THIRTY SIX

BE STILL

Several years ago, when we were living in a quiet, leafy suburb of Chicago, we invited a successful playwright to stay with us as one of his plays was being produced in Chicago.  He lived in the heart of New York City in an apartment surrounded by bustling activity and noise.  After a few hours, sitting on the veranda at our home, with birds chirping, leaves gently rustling in the breeze, and squirrels making their way from one branch to another, he could not stand it any longer.  He blurted out:  “How can you stand it here? It is too quiet!”  My husband and I were so stunned at this statement  that we laughed in response.

The Arctic expresses the sum of all wisdom: silence.

Walter Bauer

Well, most of us will not be going to the Arctic anytime soon.  So what about you?  Can you stand a little silence?  I don’t mean meditating, though that would be even better.  I only suggest being still and turning off the outside chatter.  You might even choose to go somewhere that is relatively quiet — somewhere like a path in the woods or a park or to a museum or library.  In these places you will still have nature and artworks and books to keep you company, but, at least, the noise will be less.  You might, at some point, realize that you (yes, YOU) are pretty good company to keep.  And then your chattering mind might find it pleasant to drop back and relax.

Here are some ideas:

  • Actively notice when you are bombarded with auditory influences and sound, then take note of times when you let these go.  How does it feel?
  • Make a conscious effort to take a little time each day to shut out exterior sound.  Don’t try to find another distraction, like reading or texting.
  • Make those time longer.  Perhaps set a time aside to be still and, each day, make it a priority.
  • You might make it even more positive by adding a statement:  At the beginning of your quiet time say  — I love myself completely now. — or — I enjoy this time to myself. — or any phrase that makes you feel good.
  • You may notice, as time goes on, that YOU can be silent, calm and peaceful, even when surrounded by blaring sounds  and cacophony.

This idea of stillness did not always come easy to me, so I can sympathize if this seems hard.  Recently I went to a spiritual retreat center, a kind of summer camp for seekers.  At dinner, i looked for a table marked with a sign that read “silence.” Most ashrams and places of this sort have them so I was disappointed that there was no table to just sit and feel the pleasure of nourishing good food.  On the reverse,  long ago, I was at a social gathering with a group of loquacious, high energy TV producers and others.  Someone had heard of experiments on being silent.  We agreed to try it and see how long we could be together without talking.  It lasted for a while, with none of us used to such a thing.  And guess who was the first to break the silence, to feel compelled to make some joke?  That’s right.  I could not just relax with the quiet. I was the first one to break the silence. But that was long before I had any idea I would begin meditating and go in the direction I took. I was “chatty Cathy” in those days.

Now there is little I relish more than stillness, my mantra and meditation.  Just being, that’s all.

Mother Teresa made this statement:

We need to find God and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  

See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence. 

See the stars, the moon, the sun, how they move in silence…

We need silence in order to touch souls.

Who knows?  In silence you may touch your own soul — and God.

With love and namaste,  Deanne

For more, go to http://www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Thirty Two — Can Your Breathing Heal Your Body?

Standard

butterflyblueskyThich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk observed:

Breathing in, I calm body and mind.  Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment. I know this is the only moment.

Do you think it is important to calm the body and mind?  Do you think doing this and paying attention to your breath can actually, tangibly change your mental and physical health?

For most of us, breathing is just second nature.  We are born and we breathe.  We breathe everyday until we take our last breath and then we don’t breathe anymore.  With that last breath, our body, deprived of oxygen (and the life force), has lost its support system.  It “dies.”

Improper breathing is a common cause of ill health.

Andrew Weil, M. D.

Are you ready to take charge of your breathing, your body, your mind?

LESSON THIRTY TWO

BREATH AND THE BODY

This is not the first lesson in The 52 that has been devoted to the breath.  How we breathe is so important that many of us spend a life time learning the subtle nature of the breath.  The more we know about it, the more we observe how its functioning alters our health, how we think and how we feel.

Take the body first:  If you asked most people, they would tell you that they want a strong and healthy body, one that will take them through-out their lives without illness.  We may say this but do we do what is needed?  Setting aside the obvious — those who smoke or use their nose to knowingly inhale toxic substances — we forget that disease has a step up in a body deprived of oxygen.  Of course we know about lung diseases, but what about cell deprivation in all the cells of your body?  What if you never fully breathe? What if you breathe the wrong way?  What if you voluntarily stop breathing as a habit.

Does the health of your body matter enough to you to spend a little time learning to breathe?

You can learn to improve your breathing.  Try this:

  • Are you breathing all the way down into your belly? Or is your breath up there, high in the chest? Consciously, make yourself breathe more deeply, into the belly.
  • Is the breath fast and choppy instead of slow and steady?  You want it to be long and smooth.  Work on it!
  • Do you stop breathing?  When you do certain things or think certain thoughts or move your body certain ways?  Don’t stop breathing!  Keep it going.  When you “hold” your breath you deprive it of oxygen and throw off the rhythm.  Maybe you are “holding off” your life.
  • Don’t just check your breathing once or twice a day.  Do it a lot.  Give yourself some kind of reminder, a signal, something you see or hear and, each time, you are reminded to check your breath.  It isn’t a chore and won’t take much time.  Just do it!
  • Each time you breathe, take it as a blessing.  Breathe in love, clarity, good health, kindness, and breathe out illness, weakness, anger (or anything you want removed.

My favorite poet, the Sufi master of Divine Love, Rumi, wrote:

There is a way of breathing that’s a shame and a suffocation

And there’s a way of expiring, a love breath,

That lets you open infinitely.

What about you?  Would you like your simple breathing to change the quality of your life?  You have the power, you know!

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to http://www.deannemincer.com