From Awakening

Alphonse Osbert (1857-1939), "Silence of the Water," 1895

Be an Island

“Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves….” As he lay dying, the Buddha gave this advice to his beloved disciple Ananda. Death reveals the true value and meaning of life, which can be summed up in two words: it passes. Life goes on with us or without us. When the Buddha spoke of…

Image from a Japanese scroll which describes the realm of the hungry ghosts and how to placate them. Currently housed at the Kyoto National Museum, artist unknown.

Angry Ghosts

One night when my mother was a little girl growing up in the panhandle of western Nebraska, she was driving with her father when she saw, far off in the plains, a cross burning in the middle of a circle of Klu Klux Klansmen. The sight filled her with terror. Her parents came from Denmark…

Ivan Aivazovsky, Between the Waves, 1898

On Being Nobody…and No One

How deeply we fear being nobody. One way to think of the ego is as a defense against pain, particularly the pain of being no one. It shores us up, reminding us that we are somebody. We update our internal resumes and narratives constantly. We seek new skills and go on self-improvement regimes of all…

Oda Krohg, "By the Oslofjord," 1886 (Detail)

Be Straw

Once a poor miller was summoned to meet with a king. The summons itself must have filled him with terror. Evolutionary biologists tell us that we fear public speaking and other ways of being on the spot because we are all wired to link survival with acceptance by the tribe. And this king was the…

Let it Be

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. Paul McCartney wrote this famous song about his own mother Mary, who died when…

Holy Swiss

Anything can happen at any time. This is the truth of impermanence. Last Sunday, some of us experienced this in a delightful way. Swiss, a one-year-old Service Dog in training, came to sit with us as we meditated. Recently, I was talking about dogs and there she stood, a one-year-old half Golden, half Labrador Retriever.…

Spring as a Practice

“The trees are coming into leaf /Like something almost being said,” writes the poet Philip Larkin. Spring really does spring, doesn’t it? Walking outside these days is like walking into a big green, murmuring party. This can bring a twist of longing. We want to be part of the conversation but we can’t quite hear…

Holy Week

This is Holy Week, a good time to reflect on what it can mean to be part of a greater wholeness. It is also Passover, celebrating liberation from bondage. Strange as it may sound, being still is also a way of coming to a new wholeness, a way of feasting on your life, realizing that…

Snow Day Reflection

There are different kinds of realizations. They are not always lightening bolts but sometimes soft and slow, as if snow were quietly falling and settling. Softly and slowly, as we relax into our practice and our life, we can come to see and feel the way we habitually treat life as an enemy to be…