Stepping Stones and the Zen Master

I kept walking in the great expanse of old broken sticks, fallen trees, dead fern and dried up riverbeds. There was nothing left to this side. It was dead, and with each step came a deep sadness. I shuffled along the dry earth looking for a way to escape it. I walked for several hours, head bowed and heart broken before I reached the churning clean river.

The river fought with gusto as it danced fast over rocks and banks. The water was clear and I drank from it. Pure and clean its taste was sweet. I found a clearing on the banks and looked to the other side. I sat and observed the green on the other side. I remembered the cliche, “it’s always greener on the other side.” In this case it appeared to be true.

I heard steps gently breaking the fallen branches as they moved towards me. There in front of me was a Zen Master. Quietly he took a spot next to me and just sat.

“Breathe into the freshness of what is around you. It’s wonderful and sweet. Are you aware of it as it fills your lungs and lightens you?”

Surprised that he appeared next me and was directing me, I was at a loss of words. I did as he said and breathed in the sweet smell of green and felt my lungs fill with life.

“Energy flows where the attention goes. To awaken is to become who we are,” said the Zen Master. “What is your intention?”

I told him that I dreamed of getting to the other side, but didn’t know how to escape the deadness I was in.

“Then why don’t you do it? If you have clarity and awareness of your intention, you could cross to the other side. Look around you. What do you see?”

I saw large smooth stones that crossed in a path to the other side. Why hadn’t I noticed them before. They must not have been there before, I thought. As if he read my thoughts, he nodded and smiled.

“They were there all along. You were blinded to their possibilities, and open only to the prospect of staying stuck in this dead space. Awareness of the present moment, of being part of something much greater inside you, has and will always bring you clarity of your intention. It is not hard. Just breathe the sweet air of possibility rather than focusing on the lack of movement. This stream is pure and clean because it moves, changes, and rushes over every obstacle. It’s alive and free-flowing. You can be like this stream.”

I reached over to touch him and thank him for his wisdom, but he was gone. I looked around me and he was nowhere to be found. I sat there for many minutes in awe of what I had just experienced. Perhaps he was actually my inner voice. I got up and stepped down to embankment into the cold stream. As I looked closely at the rocks, I saw words of wisdom on each surface as I took my steps.

Clarity…..Awareness…….Intention……Manifest……POSSIBILITIES and ABUNDANCE

“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? what could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
Eckhart Tolle

Please comment and let me know your thoughts!

Persistance, Surrender, and Finding Your Cheese

“Nothing ever happens in the past that can prevent you from being present now, and if the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?”
Eckhart Tolle

I did myself a favor today. I took a walk to the beach to clear my head. Persistence and surrender came to mind as I sat on the bench looking across the water. Persistence is both a good and bad thing. In my case, persistence has been both a burden and a blessing. I was persistent in staying in a past that no longer existed– that was the burden. Persistence in living in the present moment is the blessing.

Surrender is the savior. It reduces the persistent gnawing that I have had about the past. I hate to admit it, but I am the worst at letting go of memories and seem to be persistent in forgetting the worst times. I know when I’m doing it. I recognize this weakness in myself. I know I have to surrender the past and move forward in the future. Surrendering my past, has been the blessing. In surrender comes freedom to explore new possibilities and new life changes in the present moment. Life is so good when the past is put away and a new road awaits.

The Mouse, The Zen Master and the Cheese

The Zen Master was taking his afternoon walk. As he looked down, he saw his rodent friend the mouse, and reached down to pick him up. ” Still looking in the same places I see. You look troubled and so unhappy.”

The little mouse sighed. “I want the cheese I used to get. I keep remembering how good it tasted, and how beautiful it was to look at. Now all I get is dull looking cheese with holes in it. Nothing satisfies me like the cheese I once got.”

The Zen Master stroked the mouse’s head and looked deep into the little mouse’s eyes. “I can see you are hurting, but not to worry. It’s all about attitude and surrender. What you had was good cheese, but there are so many other wonderful things to taste. You have forgotten that even the best cheese can go bad. If you persist in looking for what you once had, all the rest that is here in front of you goes unnoticed and never to be savored. You will miss the best to come! You cannot be like your cousin the hampster on a wheel just working and working and going nowhere. It isn’t in you to stay in one place.” The Zen Master reached down and saw some crumbs of bread on the ground. “Did you see this? It is full of yummy things for you. Taste it for a new flavor. Touch it for its new feel. Smell it for its sweetness.” He passed it to the mouse who did what he was told.

The mouse’s little nose sniffed at its sweet smell. Umm, it’s a good smell, he thought. His little paws placed the bread in his mouth. He closed his eyes and chewed. “Umm, it tastes as good as it smells, ” he said to the Zen Master. “Now I get what you are trying to tell me. If I hadn’t been open to surrender, I would have missed this experience.”

The Zen Master smiled as he saw the look of pleasure and happiness on the mouse’s face. He placed the mouse back on the ground, and said, “now go and be happy with what is waiting for you now. I guarantee you will be happy with all the new joys life has to offer.” The little mouse scurried off to find what else was waiting for him, and the Zen Master smiled as he watched his little friend run off to new happiness.

What ways have you had to surrender to your past? Please comment in the comment section. I am most interested in sharing.

Yoga, Pain and Growth

This morning I looked  in the mirror and  saw a woman staring back at me. Who is  that woman?,  I thought. Just yesterday I didn’t have this flaw on my arm and on my neck.  Oh my goodness, another surprise that wasn’t there before!  God blesses me these days with all kinds of new things that stare back at me in the mirror. Last week it was what my mother calls a “cherry”, a small mole like thing that appears out of nowhere.  Mine is right on my ribcage where the skin was flawless before.

Life does throw us some curves, but there is no way to handle it other than just smile.  Tonight I went to yoga to regain my youthful flexible body. I used to be able to put my feet on my neck.  I thought,  Surely I could do that again with a bit of practice and fortitude. I need the exercise no matter how long it takes.

“No you can’t”, a faint voice whispered in my ear.” My damn ego-self doesn’t leave me alone at times like this. It’s always yaking and picking on my self-esteem. I took a deep breath and expelled Mr. Ego into the breeze.

With my mat under my arm and a strong sense of self and purpose, I found my way through the maze of hallways to the appointed yoga class. It was dark with just a faint lamp lit in the front of the room. I decided to sit in the back so I could make a quick break of it if my body decided it wasn’t limber enough to even touch my toes.

Laying on my back and hearing the soft voice of the teacher, and the slow tones of the background music, I felt at peace. “Now, if you hurt, don’t do it.” the instructor says as I lay there waiting for the real work to begin.

Ten minutes into it, I was stretching and bending slowly. My ears were stretching too as they tried to take in the step by step instructions being given. Seems my hearing is going as well. Giving up, I opened my eyes to mimic what the others in the class were doing.  “Mam, close your eyes and don’t look at the others. Everyone has their own pace here.”  Oh geeze, I feel like an idiot now that I have been pointed out.  Hopefully everyone had their eyes closed and couldn’t see me squirm.

           

Twenty minutes and the body was weakening. The ego voice spoke again- this time with much rejoicing and rancor.  I could just picture this little thing jumping up and down in my head laughing and saying in a mantra.  “You can’t do it.  You can’t do it.”

By thirty minutes I was on a roll to prove to myself that I’m not a quitter and no matter what, I would finish this session without quitting or sniveling.  I’ll show myself that I can do this!

Forty minutes, the bones began to make some horrendous sounds as I had to bend in ways that are really unspeakable to talk about. I’m sure if a dirty old man were behind me he might get excited seeing me take my position with my butt in the air, but thankfully there was only the wall staring at me.

Fifty minutes and I looked at the clock. Ten minutes to go. I’m still here and not drooling or broken.  It won’t be long now,  I secretly thought.  How time flies when one is having fun.

One hour! Time to meditate and wind down. Breathe in, breath out.  Aw this is wonderful.  I feel rejuvenated.  Finally it’s time to go.  I pack up, get home, and take a shower.

Who is that woman in the mirror?  I think I know her.  She’s the one who did it!  “Ha ha Mr. Negative Ego.  Shows how much you know.  This woman is great with her wrinkles, dimples, and all of God’s wonderful gifts.  Take that with you!”

***********

This might be a cute story, but the truth is the truth.  Yoga is hard, and so is learning to bend to new ways and new ways of thinking.  Exercise your body, brain, and heart.  The more you do it, the less it hurts.  And be good to yourself!  No one should love you more than you do.

How have you been doing your exercises of life?

Scissors

The young man walked in torn shattered robes. He wore no sandals or shoes to protect his feet.  The sun blazed on his skin as he walked aimlessly to his next destination.  He didn’t know where he was going, what he was going to do.  So far nothing had worked.  His life was still unfolding in ways he didn’t know or understand.  His robes once bright and colorful now were drained of color. They seemed to lead him on his journey.  They went with him everywhere as he refused to remove them or mend the broken threads.

The young man had visions, nightmares, and so to forget them he drank and drugged to cloud the pictures that came into his mind even in the daylight.  He tired and sat on a hill overlooking the canyon.  There he tried to rest his aching bones, and in the silence he reclaimed memories of his younger years. The abuse  replayed itself over and over in his mind..  He looked at the sun setting and cried tears that dripped down his face on to his robes.  He screamed and yelled hoping the echoes in his mind would be released over the expanse before him.

A whisper came back to him.  “Scissors” the Whisper said.  “It is scissors you need.”

He tried to ignore the Whisper and place it behind him as he turned his back to the canyon.

“Scissors!” the Whisper called- this time in a deeper tone.

“What the f?” the young man thought aloud.

“Take the scissors and cut the robe.”

Now the young man answered the voice that was starting to bellow out of the Whisper.  “What the hell are you talking, man?”

A warm breeze brushed against his face.  “We all wear a robe of textures and patterns. It should keep moving and changing, but in yours I see no movement, no change other than becoming more tattered.  Our robes are our protection, but only if we keep changing the pattern and the pieces over time.  In yours I see nothing new. It’s worn, stagnant with colors that have faded over time.  It is becoming thin, and less protective of you, but yet you do nothing about it.”

The young man looked down at his robe.  He couldn’t change what he had always known.  The Whisper was asking too much.   How could he let go of something that once protected him?  To change it would mean he would have to change himself and who the person he identified himself to be.

Again, the Whisper spoke  to the man.  “The robe no longer fits you.  It is the robe of your past and only a symbol of how you see yourself.  You are not the abuse.  You need not wear it like a shield to keep all good things from your life.  Take the scissors.  Cut out the bad parts and be done with them.  They are of the past and you are of the present. Make your present light.”

The man picked up the scissors.  His hands shook as he began to cut.  He held the tattered piece in his hand. He wiped the tears streaming down his face.

“Now, the Whisper said, ‘ let it fly to the wind.  Release it, and when you do, a new piece will come in its place.  You have only to dream it; see it as a possibility of beauty and happiness ready to piece together your life.”

The young man did as he was told.  As he cut away the old, he felt light, free.

“Now, look at the hem.  Sometimes we trip in its hem and it throws us back, but other times we trip forward.  The trip forward pushes us towards something better or different than we are used to.  You hem is still sewn.  It has stayed in one piece never moving forward or backward.  You can decide what you do with it.  You have the choice.  You are the wearer.  It doesn’t wear you, just like the abuse doesn’t wear you or define you.”

The young man was beginning to understand.  The scissors cut and cut out the old, and were replaced with new textures and colors.  He was ready to move forward.

The Whisper said, “Very good. Remember the past no longer exists.  Only now, the present is where you are.  You have released the past.  Now you can move forward, one minute at a time, one step at a time, one lovely day at a time.  You have choices to make.  Make your choices shine like the sun on your face. Keep changing your robe when life gives you tattered pieces. Don’t hold on it so tight that you can’t trip on the hem.”

Merry Christmas. Bring on the Light

I watched a movie the other day called The Christmas Cottage.  In the movie the words “even in the darkest night, a small light has something to share.”  These words resonated with me over and over again.   My take on that strong sentence was that everyone no matter how big or small has something to share or give.

A smile, a pat of the back, a nod or a hello to a stranger can mean so much.  You may not know this person really has a need to be acknowledged and actually seen.  Perhaps the person feels unloved or invisible.  Kind gestures  can make a difference in someone’s day or life. Lending a helping hand to someone who is unable, preparing a meal for someone who is hungry, taking an interest in an elderly person who has no one to share with, are just a few examples of things we can do to bring on the light stronger.

We are so caught up in the buying, that we forget that Christmas is not just a holy holiday, but should be a lifestyle.  Its message is giving, sharing with others, with no return required.  It is a feeling of gratitude for what we have, and a chance to share that gratitude with someone who may not be so fortunate.

The world can be just a little more kinder, a little more gentle, if only we remember that WE are the light in the darkness, and it doesn’t take much to brighten the world no matter how small or big our world is.  We are all one in this universe.  We are all connected by spirit and energy.  If we all channel this ideal, what light the world would have!

Merry Christmas everyone!  I would like you to share in the comment section how you share your light throughout the year.

Trash toTreasure

The black sky appeared to roll around itself as the last of the white billowed clouds disappeared in the darkness. It created an eerie setting– black sky high above a mantel of white– looming high, just waiting to swallow it all in. It certainly went along with my mood of the day, and I smiled as I thought to myself that thankfully, something wold be different on this day.

My mood mirrored the darkness in the sky, and the silence that clung on the neighborhood. I had been working hard trying to sweep out the memories left in the garage, basement, and attic. What had once been treasures had become nothing more to me than trash left behind from a bad marriage and broken dreams.

The thunder began to roll and the sirens began to blow. Warnings of bad weather and shelter had been sounded on the neighborhood alarm. The sound was piercing, but I didn’t want to stop my sweeping. I wiped my dirty hands on my apron, and blew a strand of loose hair that hung down my face. Dust flew as I swept away the years of dirt and grime, and I felt some satisfaction to be pushing it into the dust pan where it belonged.

Tools, clothing, pictures and artifacts of a marriage were stored there, and I knew I had to be rid of them in order to rid myself of the pain. I worked hard and endlessly as the storm blew in closer. I had to get it finished. I was obsessed with this task, and the weather could not make me stop.

Move, lift, throw away. I felt lighter with each piece that was dismantled and disposed of. My body ached from the bending and lifting. I could feel sweat trickle between my breasts. The damn sirens wouldn’t stop. “Stop you damn bloody fools! Stop your damn warnings of safety!” I shouted aloud as they bellowed loud in my ears and reverberated in my chest. I moved up to the attic hoping the shrill of the sirens wouldn’t be as loud.

In the darkness of the attic, I lit the flashlight, and there standing alone, was a small chest. I dusted off the mahogany wood and held it close. Inside was the red velvet lining and a small envelope. Hands shaking, I opened it slowly and read, “You will always be my treasure.”– LIFE. There was a poem attached by Jorge Luis Borges. I read:

You Learn
After awhile you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning,
And company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises.

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After awhile you learn….
That even sunshine burns if you get too much,

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…
That you are strong.
And you really do have worth…
And you learn and you learn…
With every goodbye you learn.

In the trash I found a gift. I found myself.