The Kingdom is Here for Us, Are We Here for It?

Tree has got its Zen on ~d nelson

You don’t need to die in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, you have to be truly alive in order to do so. It’s not too difficult. Just breathe in and bring your mind back to your body. That is the practice of mindfulness.

When we breathe peacefully, the peace of our breath will penetrate into our body and into our mind. Then very soon, in no time at all, body, mind, and breath will become one in concentration, and we get the energy of stability, solidity, and freedom generated by every step we make. “I have arrived. I am home.” That is not a statement. That is a practice, and you will know whether you have arrived or not in the here and the now. You don’t need another person to tell you.

The address of the pure land, the address of the kingdom of God, the address of peace and brotherhood is here and now. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

remembering Buzz & others, departed, at Shunryu Suzuki Roshi shrine

With your support, dear friend
I am able to come face-to-face
with the reality of existence.
Sitting quietly together with what is,
sharing deeply our inner truths.
Beautiful conditions of happiness,
refreshing thoughts of kindness
towards myself and all others.

With your example, dear teachers
I can live mindfully every day
walking in the pure land,
in the kingdom, confidently,
with gentle steps which heal me
and intend to heal the earth.

100 years from now
may our peaceful steps
taken together as friends on the path
be reborn as wonder and amazement
in descendants’ consciousness, hearts and bones.

Friends @ sonoma mtn zen center; NCal Order of Interbeing retreat

 Spring Morning on Zen Mountain

zen master's illustration & calligraphy

zen master’s illustration & calligraphy

At dawn fog caresses the mountain
and flows into the valley below.
Amorous birds twitter among the trees.
Floorboards creak as we step to our cushions.
The sound of a bell penetrates the cosmos.
Voices blend in a morning chant,
as the sun of wisdom is rising.
The fog will lift soon enough.
~Robert Speer

Paddling the River Back to Ask Why

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors.  All of them are alive in this moment.  Each is present in your body.  You are the continuation of each of these people.  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

river house ~d nelson

river house ~d nelson

So mighty stand stone dwellings within sandstone cliffs of what we now call Cedar Mesa.
What did you call it, dear ancestors?
We might call you Anasazi, ancient peoples what did you call yourselves?
Perhaps answers are present among the thousands of petroglyphs that adorn the mesa.
Stories of your community living in harsh desert heat and wind
protected by solid rock comforted by San Juan River’s life-giving waters,
expressed in simple imagery surviving ravages of time.

proud desert big horn ram

proud desert big horn ram

We paddled downstream into strong head-winds
making our way to your snake house to ask advice.
Help us re-weave our broken connections to all our relations,
our blood ancestors, animal ancestors, plant and mineral ancestors.
Help us remember from where we came so that we may stop living in forgetfulness.
How can we re-connect with what matters -the source of our being?
To have most gratitude for the air, soil, water and earth
that sustains us and all life.

Our curiosity is heartfelt and humble.
All that visibly remains of your ancient village are these piled rocks,
drawings and small artifacts of small dried corn and pottery.
Some say you disappeared when the environment no longer supported your existence.
Hopi’s and other pueblo tribes say you are their ancestors.
Petroglyphs and artwork on their Reservations support their being your descendants.

Butler Wash petroglyph

Butler Wash petroglyph

What can you advice to us, we who have paved over the world,
consuming it with great appetite
and suffer greatly from having severed our roots?
I will continue to listen in the wind and silence
for your dear blessings as I’m certain your compassion is rock solid
for the continuation and survival of your descendants and all living things.

Oowhee Baby, Love is Real


Thoughts of love for myself for you, & others, as I’m just returning from a whitewater river
paddling communion in nature :-)


Originally posted on smilecalm:

Do not be afraid to love. Without love, life is impossible. We have to learn the art of loving. Love by the way you walk, the way you sit, the way you eat. Learn to love yourself and others properly. ~Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh

Decided I’d treat myself to a pizza the other day not knowing that thoughts of love would be a surprise ingredient. Cycled to the nearby Papa Murphy’s which prepares pizzas (veggie supreme), then it comes home for extras (added garlic, hot chili) and baking. During the few minutes of waiting I sat and watched ingredients tossed into colorful patterns on dough. Out from the young worker’s boom box was a hip hopping pop song with strong beats. Best I could tell the words were something like, “ooowhee my baby girl, my earth, my sky, my world, you’re everything to me, I’ve got everything you need.” Eyes closed I…

View original 1,071 more words

Mr. SmileCalm Goes To Washington

To practice Right Livelihood, you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

capitol hill's best use: sledding!

capitol hill’s best use: sledding!

Imagining myself a leader (just imagining).
The best leader I could be
offering wisdom and heart.
Elected by the people
my neighbors, colleagues, allies, supporters
maybe even some of the disloyal opposition.
Because I am candid about who I am
and how I live my life.
And had, and continue to sincerely listened to them,
understanding who they are and what is important to them.
Vowing to represent them above all else
speaking for those who feel voiceless
and not succumbing to pressures by other politicians,
lobbyists, citizen united’s bags of money or merchants of power.
In office to serve with dignity and humility
if for only one term.

As a public figure
how can I maintain integrity with those who risk so much,
hoping for their well-being and their children’s future
by casting their vote for me, to represent them?
I should attempt to live a wholesome life
maintaining right livelihood
knowing my income and expenses
leading a balanced life, neither extravagant nor miserly.
Helping others live in professions that do cause death or destruction
not supporting killing of people, animals or the environment.
My life should be an example
in how I am generous with my time and energy,
in how I am faithful in relationships
and help protect other’s relationships and commitments.
Aspiring to speak with words that inspire hope and confidence
inspiring compassion and possibilities, supporting of citizen’s needs.
Not seeking wealth, fame, power or sensual pleasures.

In gratitude I would support school teachers
who nurture compassion, love and understanding in students
the next generation who must endure
the collective karma of all
who have gone before.
Seeing their bright eyes and fresh faces
gives me hope that they will have the tools necessary
to be resilient and stay strong.

Well, perhaps I’m not quite ready to get elected
but I’m glad there are some leaders who try to practice right livelihood.

It’s enjoyable to listen to a Congressman who practices mindfulness, daily
and supports mindfulness and it’s benefits in schools, businesses and other work-sites.
You, too, might enjoy hearing what Tim Ryan from Ohio had to say
in his keynote address for the mindfulness in education conference a couple of weeks ago.

Courageous Schools: Teaching & Leading in Tough Times

teacher's sharing 3

teacher’s sharing 3

Last week I greatly enjoyed & benefited from attending Mindfulness in Education’s 2014 conference, with about 200 others. Besides participating and learning, my task was to film the presenters; fortunately that was successful. At the moment my eyes are a bit tired from hours of editing. Below is a 3 minute mindful ed teaser clip for your enjoyment featuring Congressman Tim Ryan, Miribai Bush, Mark Greenberg, & 3 fun guys from Holistic Life Foundation. Their full presentations are now ready will be on-line at soon. And I’ll write more about the speakers and conference in the next post. In this post I’ll share about Courageous Schools: Teaching and Leading in Tough Times one-day workshop, part of the Courage in Schools Initiative of the Center for Courage & Renewal. This day course introduced educators to approaches for personal and professional renewal and to practical applications that bring reflection and informal mindfulness practices into classrooms and support the building of relational trust in the adult community of school.

It was nourishing for me to be among teachers enhancing interpersonal skills of deeply listening and speaking with clarity and kindness. Studying the 3 R’s: relationship, reflection and renewal. Seeing clearly how all benefit when we take even better care of ourselves through mindfulness and contemplation, while also having aspirations of caring for others, whether colleagues, students, or parents. Starting now, taking a deep, calm breath and relaxing after each paragraph.

I felt a bit shy when getting into my small trust group to share some deeply personal childhood issues. Fortunately the other two went first, which then help me develop ease and trust, thus be open and honest in that moment with two strangers. I paused and reflected on how long does it take to really trust another? How long just to trust myself? This Parker Palmer training program offered useful touchstones which helped guide our interactions, including:

  • Be as present as possible for ourselves and others
  • Receive and extend welcome
  • Believe that it is possible to emerge refreshed, surprised & less burdened than when we came
  • No fixing, no saving, no advising, no correcting each other
  • When the going gets rough, turn to wonder

Later in cafe-style groups of 8 we discussed issues with such underlying themes as injustice and discrimination. The discussion and listening process helped create understanding and empathy towards each other. For me this day watered seeds of trust within, and without, creating hope. Lastly we reflected on 5 Habits of the Heart:

  1. Understanding that we are all in this together.
  2. Appreciation of the value of “otherness.”
  3. Ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.
  4. A sense of personal voice and agency.
  5. A capacity to create community.

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear.
If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step

Sending My Heart Along with the Sound of the Bell

Some need 8 or 10 years of therapy to find happiness
while many of us can find it within a few breaths ~Thich Nhat Hanh
big bell's reflection

big bell’s reflection

Ahh, to play simply

from one heart to all others’;
a joyous sound of compassion
for ourself, for all.

How wonderful to be a musician
offering vibrations which soothe
align, ease, melt, support
those who stand, sit, lie, or walk.

Tingsha/s reflecting

Tingsha’s reflecting

I send my heart along
with the sound of this bell.
May the hearer’s awaken
from forgetfulness
and transcend the path
of anxiety and sorrow.
~Thich Nhat Hanh

mini bell

mini bell

Here’s a brand new, clear and complete bell master lesson from Jo-ann Rosen I produced to lead meditations for oneself or a group of friends.

While an actual bell is of value,
we can also use any sight, sound or sense
such as a birdsong, sunset, scent of a rose
or flashing, red brake light
as a bell of mindfulness.
Reminding us to stop
enjoy our breath
bringing mind & body together
returning to our true address of life,
happiness and freedom,
this present moment.

I look forward to returning next week and share 
about the annual mindfulness in education conference in Washington, DC.

singing bowl

To Not Behave As A Victim

“My friends, the enemy” ~ Dalai Lama referring to Chinese who occupy & victimize his homeland, Tibet

Thich Nhat Hanh & us, Hanoi 2007

Thich Nhat Hanh & us, Hanoi 2007

Last year I asked Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn a question from my heart. The inquiry stems from a mindfulness training for cultivating communication and community. This training’s last line states, “We will not behave as a victim but be active in finding ways to reconcile and resolve all conflicts however small.” My question was “what actions are examples of not behaving as a victim, even though I, and my Jewish & Native American ancestors have been victimized?”

After a brief pause the teacher said that I should see the suffering in those who have victimized. With this insight compassion towards them grows. Gradually they become less enemy and victimizer, and more understood. Then, instead of turning or running away I will want to stay and help. Compassion goes together with happiness. Energy of compassion can heal both mind and body; something science is increasingly affirming. When we are peaceful and happy we have more energy. And with the extra energy from compassion and happiness I can further heal myself and stay to help others suffer less. And with experience, helping others, even those I feel victimized by, will become more second nature, replacing urges to run away or cause them to suffer. Such wise advice to an U.S. military veteran from a Vietnamese monk who was a victim of the American war, where nearly 6 million of his people died. Then he was exiled from his country by its communist govt, called a CIA agent.

Dalai Lama & Thich Nhat Hanh 2007

Dalai Lama & Thich Nhat Hanh 2007

Over the past months I’ve done my best to stay present for others despite, at times, having desires to turn away. I recognize the energy of fear inside. Comforting it with conscious breathing. Breathing in, I recognize feelings of fear. Breathing out, I comfort and ease uncomfortable feelings in body and heart. Putting a smile on my face and experiencing a calm radiating from my lips, down throughout my body. Without this intention of maintaining peace inside and offering it out to others, it would be easy to become a victim of my own doing; again regretting words and actions taken in anger. Ancestors of mine suffered greatly, and then transmitted mountains & centuries of pain into me. Countless reasons to hate. I perceive having been hurt intentionally or accidentally by family members, young people, old people, women, men, straight, gay, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Caucasian, Black, Asian, Native American…

Oh, to keep heart open to those whom I meet, whether neighbor or stranger, recognizing their humanity, their suffering and wish for safety, satisfaction and connection. With heart open and mind calm I see that others are not separate from me. We miraculously co-exist at this cross-roads of space and time while humans still inhabit the blue, green earth. Some have so many fortunate conditions supporting them, others have so few. Such brief insights experienced give me hope that it’s possible to transcend fear, letting go, even if briefly, of the small sense of self. It feels nourishing and energizing to feed compassion, happiness and joy, rather than the 3 poisons of greed, hatred and delusion. I’m grateful to practice ways of overcoming the normal, almost expected, hateful, vengeful behaviors because I, and my people, are victims. May I shock and awe others, known and unknown, with my compassionate, loving presence and actions. May we all find gentle balance between dark and light energies. I will continue working for justice in my thoughts, words and actions with a light heart filled with gratitude for this precious, short sweet gift of life.