Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

Please join me with your comments and make this a dialogue . . . and visit Susan's Poetry!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

PART THREE: The home stretch of Amanda Kemp's 30-day Challenge

Yesterday I tried three times to meditate but my mind was on what I had to do--not that I was about to do it!  Today, I must--or it was a gesture and undeserved publicity about my activities and depth.  I repeat a promise to myself that I will not play on Face book until and unless I am meditating.  I hope that meditation will still my mind too much to spend time there at all, too much to be happy with such fake news and fake community.  

So now, I am looking for a guide to help me--
I picked one randomly from the internet: 

Meditation for Inner Peace

It took about ten minutes, and had me do it for the purpose of developing good qualities for benefiting myself and others.  So on the inhale I allowed myself to think "for self"  and on the exhale "for others.  I alternated this with "inhale" or "ocean" and "exhale" or "shore."  I kept pulling myself back from the chore list, from associations.

I think it helped that I wrote the poem "Natural Order" first, working with inspiration from Richard Rohr's meditation that I read every morning.  

I feel great. I will keep the idea of benefiting myself and others all day long.

Friday 9/25: Decided to use the same meditation helper today as yesterday, and then see if I can keep it all day.  I should ask Amanda if one of the goals is to do this without aids.  Earlier this month I worked a few days like that.  

Oh--I also want to note that I've now had 2 days of not using Facebook first!  Bravo me!  It's sort of like quitting smoking.

Saturday 9/26--Meditated this morning to 

10 minute Lovingkindness Meditation with Trudy Goodman

and I LOVED it!  

But I have to admit that I spends a few minutes before finding a meditation looking for that 5-minute Loving Kindness Meditation that Amanda loves.  She sent it out again in an email this morning:  
P.S.  My Insight Timer Favorites:
Development of Lovingkindness (27 min)5 minute lovingkindness meditation (5 min)I LOVE Bodhipaksa's voice, his accent, and of course the invitation to practice lovingkindness toward myself, difficult people and the world. 
I may have found it once, but I cannot find it again.  I'll have to ask Amanda for the Link.  

I loved getting a morning email from AManda reminding me to meditate, and:  As we approach our auspicious end point, which occurs on a Super Moon & Lunar Eclipse, take a few minutes to send me an email or a recording (audio or video) about your experiences so far.  So I will.  She also asks how we might continue to stay connected in meditation.  I admit what I want is a 5 minute meditation tape in HER VOICE.  We have all those minute ones from her--how about a meditation in her voice and whatever embellishments she might like to add.

9/27--Again started with a search and found this for busy people:

I liked it--but it was a woman's voice not the Bodhipaksa's voice.  I liked it's attention to the breath and its guidance from body to mind to center and then to tell self what I need to hear.  

I also found this that I have not tried yet:

I think I did this one once before:

So:  Have I made a change in my life?  I note that when I do this my day goes better--just like if I do my physical therapy (and don't eat after 9 pm) at night my sleep goes better.  Will I do it?  Yes. And even, maybe, more and more during the day as a preparation for stopping and seeing and being mindful of God guiding me at all levels and inside and outside.

What do I mean by God?  My connectedness to everything--but not as I usually feel it--so swift and busy.  More awash in a gentle pool and discovering I can breathe underwater after all.

I like this in Bodhipaksa's voice, as it feels that he knows what goes on with me in this peripheral vision exercise:  

I love that I did this 30-day challenge as part of my year of retreat--indeed--at the very beginning of it as a way to assist everything else I do from now on.

Monday 9/28--The Day After.
I did the River Meditation above, and didn't realize it had ended--kept right on going!!  Perhaps not for long, but still. I like that it has no bells at the end and that eyes and all senses are open.  What a way to walk in the woods.  What a way to walk outside at all! Love.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

PART TWO: What A Difference Meditating in Amanda Kemp's 30-day Challenge Makes

PART ONE is 2 posts earlier than this one.

Amanda's Voice is so Bright!  

"Hey, everybody!  It's Day 15 of our 30 Day Challenge.
Have you noticed any differences within yourself?
Just for fun start a list of 3 things/incidents where you noticed a change."

  1. Getting milk or bread and doing laundry ceased being urgent "do now" affairs.  I need help to get the laundry downstairs, but can wait for when a friend has time.
  2. I did not lose my temper when a truck delivering meat products blocked me in my parking spot.  I felt the urge and the impatience but did not let them infect the interaction with the driver.
  3. I am making time to meditate and exploring the resources.  I am doing this daily even when I cannot, and not judging myself.  So the doing is more important than perfection.


9/12/2015:  I wrote in the 30-day challenge:  Restless again today, but I have hope.  I'm spending the morning in Marcelle Martin's "Doors to God: A course to explore the many doorways to our relationship with God" at Swarthmore Meeting House.  First I tried this from Richard Rohr's daily meditation:  

Practice The Four Limitless Qualities

Buddhism identifies Four Limitless Qualities: loving kindness (maitri), compassion, joy, and equanimity. Loving kindness and compassion may appear to be the same, but there are subtle differences. In Buddhism, compassion includes a willingness to identify so fully with someone that you would be willing to carry a little of their suffering. Equanimity may be close to what Christians mean by peace. These four qualities are limitless in that they increase with practice and use. If you don't choose daily and deliberately to practice loving kindness, it is unlikely that a year from now you will be any more loving. The qualities are also limitless because they are already within you--which beautifully parallels the Christian theology of the Holy Spirit. There is a place in you that is already kind, compassionate, joyful, and equanimous.
Last week's practice, Tonglen, focused on holding the suffering of self and others. Today I will paraphrase Pema Chödrön's practice for loving kindness, maitri. I invite you to set aside a quiet period to go through these simple steps with intention and openness.

  1. Recognize the place of loving kindness inside yourself. It is there. Honor it, awaken it, and actively draw upon it. 
  1. Drawing upon the source of loving kindness within, bring to mind someone for whom you feel sincere goodwill and tenderness, someone you love very much. From your source, send loving kindness toward this person and bless them. 
  1. Awaken loving kindness for someone who is a casual friend or associate--someone not in your inner circle, but a bit further removed, someone you admire or appreciate. Send love to that individual. 
  1. Now send loving kindness to someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent--for example, a gas station attendant or a cashier. Send your blessing to this person. 
  1. Think of someone who has hurt you, who has talked evil of you, whom you find it difficult to like or you don't enjoy being around. Bless them; send this would-be enemy your love. 
  1. Bring all of the first five individuals into the stream of flowing love, including yourself. Hold them here for a few moments. 
  1. Finally, extend this love to embrace all beings in the universe. It is one piece of love, one love toward all, regardless of religion, race, culture, or likability. 
This practice can help you know--in your mind, heart, and body--that love is not determined by the worthiness of the object. Love is determined by the giver of the love. These steps can be repeated for the other three limitless qualities. Remember, spiritual gifts increase with use. Love, compassion, joy, and equanimity will grow as you let them flow. You are simply an instrument, a conduit for the inflow and outflow of the gifts of the Spirit. You are "inter-are."

And I had a GREAT time, but I am not more mindful in the here and now.

(Later) 9/12/2015  I wrote to Amanda:  
I did a 20 minute walking mindfulness meditation which brought me great joy.
And that was the "I am here" prayer, which along with the other--Gratitude and Help-- brought me in and out of the present.  Marcelle added to that a body prayer and a breath prayer and an invocation and a holy accompaniment.  All of these left me present and also aching from 3 hours of retreat.  I spent time at the end with Barbara Benton from CPMM, and we may get together.  She's depressed, sadly.  And the Small Group Sharing session from the "I am Here" was so intense that I think the three of us--Sally and TRISH?--will be in touch. Jennifer stayed for half before she discerned she had other priorities, that she knew this in and out.  Helene was there until the end and so we had a hug.   This was a good and mindful day.  

Is there a way to be mindful day long without feeling the expenditure of energy? During meditation it feels so relaxing!

9/13/2015  Woke at 5 am.  I'm beginning to like the early waking, even if I only get 4 or 5 hours sleep because of what they allow me a leisure reading time in prep for a 7 am meditation.  Today I listened to "We are Here " at the suggestion of Amanda Kemp.  

Then I turned to "Self-Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises" by Dr. Kristen Neff--again suggested by Amanda Kemp, and started with her
"Self-Compassion Break [7 minutes]"--then ate and came back at 8:30 to do her "Compassionate Body Scan [24 minutes]." I had previously done one by her called "Affectionate Breathing."   Good stuff.  I was able to come back again and again to her voice with the help of my breathing.

9/13, 9/14--Yesterday I did a deeper self-meditation than usual, just counting breaths for a little over 10 minutes.  I was surprised it worked, as my nerve-damaged hand knocked over coffee in teh middle of making it and the grounds and liquid covered the rug in the kitchen and everything.  I felt the anxiety rise but I didn't lose it --except for one little thing--I reached down to grab up the rug and rush it out to the deck.  This little thing hurt my back bid time.  Percoset then prevented me from driving to meeting.  I missed meeting and business meeting, but my kitchen floor is clean.  FAIL!

Today I tried self meditation again and managed only 5 minutes while my mind leapt everywhere, but one very fine thing evolved:  I used Amanda's affirmations and went with changes that happened during my meditation.

May I be well--> May I be part of Wellness; Wellness.
May I be happy--> May I be part of Happiness; Happiness.
May I be free from suffering-->  May I be free from suffering; Freedom.

9/15  I lay down to rest from an over exertion and immediately felt so at one with myself that I decided to extend it into meditation.  The above affirmations changed again, each phrase with a breath--first half in, 2nd half out:
May I be well; may you be well. May I be happy; may all be happy.May I be free from pain; may all be free from pain.
And I'm sure I breathed at least 6 times and then I don't remember.  I didn't sleep, but found myself sitting here to attend to appointments and shopping lists and lightening my purse so I could go shopping more easily. My mind is full now, but it was mindful for a few minutes.  I am sure of it.  I think I'd like to take a class that I actually get up and go to.

9/16 and 9/17  Both days I did "I am here, Here I am, God is here"  and scanned my body to release tension.  And both days, I fell fast asleep!  I needed to nap.

9/18  I've been oversleeping, but I am going to meditate now.
And this one was highly successful!  I started with an Alexander technique laying down alignment and moved right into breath awareness without struggle.  Counting breaths, I kept pulling myself back with a focus on taking in and giving back healing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My response to the Daily Good: One Poem That Saved a Forest, by Jacqueline Suskin

One Poem that Saved a Forest

I like the idea that any art, especially theatre and poetry can affect social change.  In Jacqueline's essay/poem above, she adds a lot to the art: time+acquaintance+ second poem+ friendship+ connections+ relationship, but in the end she helped bring about the change.  Was it her poetry?  Maybe not so much as her willingness to follow through on the connection with her time.  

But I'm thinking about the stories of change in Walter Wink's The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium.  His Chapter 8 "But What If . . .?"  goes beyond hesitation and fear to creatively "provoking a sense of wonder" which is a mode of nonviolent response to violence.  Art can easily fall into this category. Jacqueline's poetry and her being did this and changed a man's approach to destroying environments for timber.  It took time, but it worked.  Did she aim for that change?  Probably not initially, but she rode the impulse when it arose.  I am impressed.

In her story, the perpetrator of violence initiated the contact.  But what if we have to begin by putting our creations in unusual settings or even creating in unusual settings, putting our bodies where the change needs to take place?

I'm thinking that even though I cannot march in protests, I could take my tablet there and sit with my cane and/or walker to write on the spot and give away my attempts whether I think them poor or rich.  Who knows what could happen?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Part One: 30-Day Challenge Meditation Log

I'm in Dr. Amanda Kemp's 30 Day Meditation challenge, trying to meditate really for the first time.  I never took to yoga, so it's pretty new.  I expected to be bored--hey, I'll admit it!  But that is not what's happening.   I'm learning and gaining.  Here I'll put my log and the videos she has suggested for guidance.  
I love her affirmation from the first week:  
Inhale: May I be well; May I be happy; 
 Exhale: May I be free from suffering.

Mindfulness Log

29/8/2015 12:15

Worked for my first meditation … I listened to a lot of voices before this that either irritated or bored me, but JusTime's held me and encouraged me, so depending on Amanda’s instructions I might just stick with Jus Time.
 Wrote this to Amanda: 
Well ... I listened to lots of meditations--or started to, but I didn't feel connected and alert (unbored) until I worked with JusTime. He gave me a yo-yo of coming back to myself. Then I did some constructive rest Alexander which gets you to do a lot of thinking into expansion and thereness. Maybe tomorrow, I will reverse the order. I lay down for the Alexanfder--but on a bed, not the floor.


Stuck with JusTime again at 7am, but did the constructive rest first.  I sat up comfortably and stayed in the present with my breathing in and breathing out more.  This made me happy.  Still stayed with 5 minutes, though I am listening to “JusT  Mindfulness Lesson 1” now.  I like how he explains each thing in terms I understand.  Non-judgement and observing now make more sense to me as do tension and relax in the observation of breathing and not judging the self.  Notice and accept feelings and sensations.  Spend time with yourself.  The me that is more than my emotions and thoughts. . . . . and then take that out into the world.  This world needs me and whatever my gifts are.


Again, JusTime at 7am.  I nearly forgot so I didn’t do the constructive rest alignment of Alexander.  I did his "Mindful Sit for the Sick: Heartful Healing and Mindful Breathing,"  which, I discovered is a little shorter. But I feel GREAT! I like the affirmations: I am healed, whole, healthy, strong .... Staying Mindful. Now a friend is coming over for our Monday Meeting for Worship. This is Good!

Wrote my meditation poem—or finished it, because it took 3 days to ponder.  

Meditation is still rough, but I posted it at our Facebook page anyway.  

Then slept through my meditation time and determined to do it after physical therapy and the nurse.  I didn’t do it, however, until resting at 6pm before the Buddies of Jesus came over.

2 September 2015—started at 6:57.  Using Amanda Kemp’s 

So good!  And then I spent some time lining up some You Tube video on meditation.

I’m going to put this Log on “Susan Continued”!  Then I can access it from any computer.

3 September: I slept til 10:30! And I'm still in morning routines, hoping to meditate before or after dinner. Gosh. I had a cup of coffee last evening and went to a meeting. It was the sleep of recovery. My back is still a little too tender for long meetings sitting in a chair. But time will come . . .

Amanda featured me in her Day 6 Email!  She's very giving:
What's been completely surprising is that for some meditating leads to writing. For example, Susan wrote  "Meditation" which pulls you along on her journey. She writes:  
"But I counted breaths,...and found the sensual embodiment / of awareness I could share from my chair / with tendrils reaching other consciousnesses of next year’s flowers hidden still, colors / that wait to bloom in weeds and autumn leaves now green / and breathing bricks of houses strong as seas." 
Isn't it great?  Read Susan's poem here. 
Have you written anything since starting the challenge?
If there's something that keeps coming up in your meditation, writing out your concern as a story in the third person might help. (Hit me up for more details on this!)
Or if you just want clarity, try listing your judgements about what's troubling you.  This  morning after meditating,  I started a list.  As I wrote, I came up with a completely unexpected question that helped me shift from a blaming mindset to a curious and empowered one.
I did this today, finally, around 1, and may have been successful for about 3 or 4 minutes. But how rested I feel. At the end, I touched my face as Amanda suggested in a video, just to check in. 

I'm a little itchy as I am aware of skin in a new way-or maybe blood vessels in my legs are flowing better? Anyway, I redeemed my day--no judgment, of course!  I used this: 

"Opening to the Sea of Presence" by Tara Brach ~

photo by Tara - misty sunrise at the river

(23 min.)

Quote--my favorite phrase: "become aware of your eyeballs surrounded by (swimming in?) a pool of water ..."

9/4/2015   So tired today!  I lay in bed without sleeping from 11 until 3am and then got up to do some things on my mind--make lists, prepare papers for today's doctor's appointment, take 1/2 of a Percocet (I made it for about 30 hours!)  And the upshot was I slept through my 7 am time again (despite setting an alarm.)

So I counted my breaths while the soup was heating on the stove for 15 minutes (about 10 minutes of this at around 3 pm).  I lay down because I had been upright too many hours with the doctor's appt.  And I didn't sleep.  I enjoyed sound of the wind. I enjoyed the effect of returning to the count over and over again and having no judgement about the failure.  And I enjoyed the success of a few refreshing minutes.

9/5/2015  Started this morning around 6:15 with Amanda's email, and so I listened to laughter, watched a cartoon, and then meditated with Dr. Kristin Neff's Affectionate Breathing [21 minutes] which I liked very much. I didn't have the stamina to meditate that long, however, and came out of it at least 5 minutes early.  I had a nice little smile on my face.

9/6/2015   Started today at 7:15 with Tara Brach's 10 minute “Gateway to Presence” meditation. I feel good, but it wasn't my favorite because her voice overlapped and echoed and came at me with the intent, I think, of preventing the mind from drifting elsewhere--with the intent of gluing it to presence--but I felt that funny and disquieting. And I discovered my throat and head to be full of mucus which is not that conducive to joyfully sitting in the breath. And yet, I feel tall and connected to myself, a joyful way to be awake.

9/7/2015  Awoke at 10:30!  Totally confused my day!  But my head was a little stuffy.  Lay down to relax around 2 pm and found myself meditating instead--I mean I started with three long breaths and then paid attention to my breath, calling myself back when ever my mind wandered.  Except part of the time it was faces I saw--just like when I work at holding people in the Light--so I let that happen and then breathed in health to me and breathed out health to them.  It must have been between 20 minutes and half an hour.  Stood up refreshed at 3.  So I didn't use a tape by someone else.  This  mix of worship and meditation was really on my own!  Labor day.

9/8/2015  Today I'm going to try  Tara Brach's A Moment of Calm.  I am up early because the cleaners are coming today for the first time and I wanted my coffee.   LOVED IT!!  She shows here how to use simple labeling to help with the letting go.  Hearing the self note IN OUT RISING FALLING THINKING THINKING THINKING IN OUT with the breaths.  And if a distress happens, including it in consciousness  ITCH, ACHE, IN OUT.  Very very neat.  It's 6:48 am.  Soon my alarm will go off.

9/9/2015   It's 7:07 am.  I woke at 6.  Went to bed at two--so I've only had 4 hours sleep.  Wide fluctuations in sleep!  I went back to JusT's breathing and mindfulness meditation but I added love to it in the manner of  Amanda Ann Godwin who wrote a few days back:  

Though I'm hardly posting at all I'm so appreciating just knowing you all are meditating too. What a lovely support. I'm being sporadic time wise, but consistent in it being every day. I thought I'd share what I'm doing.
My favorite way to meditate is what I named The Breath of God meditation.
Here is how it goes:
Choose any quality you are drawn to or think might be helpful for you today.
Imagine it hovering above your head about a foot and a half up.
On the inhale breathe it through the crown of your head and fill all the nooks of your body and spirit with it.
On the exhale breathe it our through the heart center in the center of your chest and give it away to the world.
When you get distracted, begin again.
I call it the Breath of God meditation b/c I imagine the quality I have chosen for the day to be coming to me on God's out breath and then I take it in on MY inbreath.
I hope you enjoy it if you decide to try it.
Yours in Peace,
Thank you, Amanda.  I will move this to a 10 minute meditation tomorrow, because when you add Love, 5 minutes is just too short! 

9/10/2015  I tried.  No judgement.  Managed a little of the visualization, but it was scattered, and I tried more than once diring the day.  Grrr.  No judgement.

9/11/2015  Maybe it's harder when I don't do it at 7am.  Today I went all the way back to MINDFUL BREATHING AND LISTENING With JusTme Because his voice sooths me and it is not demanding to pull myself back to him if not my breath.  I have gas in my stomach that interrupts me with burps--long and loud--that feels stressful and distracting.  I may need more sleep as this worked on me all night.  And today is 9-11.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Foreign Land

After lumbar fusion surgery and 4 weeks in a rehab center, I happily returned home to my 2nd floor apartment, feeling ready for everything, not expecting to find myself exploring a foreign land. Physical therapy had been pretty thorough, but couldn't predict every possibility.  I've had a few accidents, yet LOVE being independent--or almost--again.  Some thoughts from Day 2:

(for Michelle)

Home again, she slides under ceiling fans
to sleep off the travails of rehab-inns—
weak coffees, un-opened windows and air-
conditioning. Treading carefully, she
navigates naked wooden floors, applies
every tip her physical therapists
predicted she'd need not to bend, lift
and twist and she succeeds unless surprised:

Spills, for example. She makes herself Real
Coffee. Ah-ah-ahh! She sets her cup on
a coaster while thinking of her new walker
as parallel bars for leg strengthening
and instantly her coveted drink splats
the floor instead of her throat from dragging
her fingers absentmindedly across
cup top. Shocked still, she invents solutions:

Throws down towels and uses her Reacher
to spread them wide enough to stand upon.
Every minute needs mind control, every
move needs her attention. She drops a pill—
her last Percocet—neither her toes nor
her broom yields it up, and, scared, she holds still
till she decides to sprawl face up in bed
and count breaths until they calm her body:

Pain throbs but quieter so she can hear
herself create steps to solve this surprise.
Surprise! Re-mapping her body evolves
her mind to handle the unexpected
and she begins to trust she can do it,
live alone universe in universe,
if she's vigilant and able to rest
when alertness drains her resources. Peace.

Copyright © 2015  S.L.Chast