Summer Sun (7)

Welcome back to SunnyRoomStudio and the Summer Sun series — this is the final post in this series, ending with Lucky 7, of course.  We’ve covered some interesting ground since June 8th: summer as a kid (how to rekindle that feeling); focusing on your spiritual dimension when dealing with people from your past; the seasons of life, their fleeting nature; the Eckhart Tolle retreat at the Omega Institute; celebrating the heart of summer; and the beauty of a Zen rock garden.

Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill,
Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.
~ Rupert Brooke, “The Hill”

In Dakota, we enjoy plenty of beautiful prairie grass this time of year — its wheat-colored tassels wave in a summer breeze in a resourceful kind of way.  I even planted some this year along a fence to the north.  And of course it comes in many varieties, colors, and so on.  Its extremely hardy and often used as an ornamental touch.  This site Prairie Grasses features a short video you might enjoy called “Tallgrass Sights and Sounds.”

Previously in SunnyRoomStudio I focused on aspects of prairie wisdom from my book: Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie.

  • Wisdom does flow from our surroundings, and growing up with far-reaching landscapes, fields of prairie grass, and the heritage of Dakota at my side was influential, to say the least.  And, thus, my spiritual path was launched well before I was even aware of that concept, per se.  The simplicity of a wide open vista is compelling, and as a young girl, my grandmother taught me to appreciate the quiet stature of nature in all it many guises.

Sometimes I wish she was still here.  What would she think of our world today?  I wonder.

Although a quiet woman, Anna seemed to understand all the things in life I knew I would want to understand someday.  If the day was hot, sunny … wear a hat.  If the weeds were growing in the garden … get our your hoe.  If the walnuts had dropped to the ground … pick them up.  If the apples were ripe, bag a few to share with your neighbors.  If the fan was broken (no AC in her home) … take a nap or read some Tennyson.  Maybe make a glass of lemonade or find some ice cream in the freezer.  One of her favorite sayings was, “keep the peace.”  It was wonderful advice, one our world could certainly take to heart.  Anna was the ultimate Zen master … in retrospect.

  • What are you doing this summer to “keep the peace?”
  •  Who is still alive in your memory … still giving you advice even though he or she is gone in the physical sense?

Special memories reveal our values, our hearts, our souls.

Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean. ~ David Searls

Blog posts by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

Summer Sun (6)

Welcome back to SunnyRoomStudio and my summer series — brief, inspirational posts for your spiritual musings.  Great to have you here in this sunny space for kindred spirits.

Given the exceptionally hot, dry conditions in many parts of the country, I’m wondering if we all shouldn’t be planning to create a Zen rock garden.  They are beautiful in their simplicity, compelling in their tranquility.

As I understand it, this kind of dry garden is made primarily of sand and rock, but cultivated to look like a landscape or an ocean.  The sand is raked into soothing patterns that can also be conducive to meditation.  Stones of different sizes and shapes are integrated into the Zen garden — some with different meanings or symbolism.  The sand (or pebbles) are meant to represent water, while the larger stones are symbolic of mountains, hills, and so on.  And if you can’t make a large outdoor garden, there are small desk size kits that even include a small rake for creating new designs in the sand.

 Zen lives in the present.  The Whole teaching is: how to be in the present; how to get out of the past which is no more and how not to get involved in the future which is not yet, and just to be rooted, centered, in that which is.  ~ OSHO, Zen: The Path of Paradox

I have been reading some books about Zen this summer, in fact, and enjoying them a great deal.  One point, about enlightenment, I found especially interesting.  In a book called Now Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck, she points out how the enlightened state is pure experiencing.  We become the experience, in other words, so we don’t think of ourselves as separate from the experience.  “Practice is about moving from experiences to experiencing.”  Beck also talks about how change is continual … how change is who we are.

Zen taught me how to pay attention, how to delve, how to question and enter, how to stay with — or at least want to try to stay with — whatever is going on.  ~ Jane Hirshfield

If you were to become a Zen master where would you begin?

What would you most want to learn? 

I would want to become deeply familiar (and content) with this idea: Just This.  It seems to me that this attitude, this orientation, has great potential to change our world.

Blog posts by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

Summer Sun (5)

Thanks so much everyone for letting me know how much you’re enjoying this summer series — brief, inspirational posts for your spiritual musings.  How has your summer been going?  If you turn on the television it’s all about weather, gas prices, and politics — so it seems.  I hope SunnyRoomStudio continues to be a respite from the zaniness of the world.  Or at least a pleasant break in a busy summer day!

The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers. ~Basho

In many parts of the country it’s already mid-summer … students may even be thinking about the next academic year.  So how do you catch something that is already melding into the next season?  When we walk our dogs we notice early yellow leaves, drying grass, flowers that have bloomed and gone quiet now.

The burst of spring and early summer are behind us.  Some would call this time of year “deep summer” or maybe just another point of transition.  Nature’s ceaseless activity and continual change; its seamless movement forward.

I sometimes think of mid-July as the heart of summer.

The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods.
~ Robert Frost, Summer Woods

But lest we get ahead of ourselves, this can be a good time to simply stand still.  To allow this summer season to become part of us … to acknowledge its presence in a deeper, more meditative kind of way.  Maybe some early morning you’ll wander outside with a sketch pad or your journal — maybe you’ll finally pick up that book that was on your summer reading list.  Or perhaps you’ll simply study a few neighborhood birds a bit more closely.

Whatever you choose to do to slow things down a bit and not rush forward with the crowd, I hope you find a way to make it meaningful, even memorable.

Nurture your creative side.

Read some poetry.

Write a letter.

Take a walk.

Create a new recipe.

Read a short story.

Allow yourself time to connect with nature.

Call an old friend.

Sleep in.

Create spiritual space with time for silence.

What ideas do you have for slowing down during the heart of summer? 

Blog posts by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

Summer Sun (4)

Welcome back to the Summer Sun series — brief, spiritual passages for a relaxed summer agenda.  I hope you’re enjoying this approach to staying connected with each other.  You can always find all posts in this series by going to Categories (on the sidebar) and clicking on Summer Sun Series.  This post is Number 4, and I would like to share some highlights from a 4-day spiritual retreat I recently watched via live stream from the Omega Institute — its 195-acre campus in Rhinebeck, New York.

Omega, since 1977, has been dedicated to “awakening the best in the human spirit” via creativity workshops, yoga retreats, conferences, educational programs on meditation, spiritual retreats, and so on.  When I learned that Eckhart Tolle would be holding a spiritual retreat there in June, I immediately wanted to tune in.

Tolle’s retreat consisted of six sessions, several that included Q & A sessions.  And even though I was watching on my computer screen, it was a wonderful experience.  He has a keen sense of humor and is quite animated before a live audience.  At the end of most sessions, Tolle offered a period of silence.  And the good thing about live stream is that each session can be watched again via video or downloaded for future reference.

  • Empathy

Tolle talked about the importance of empathy and how it is connected to our ability to be spiritually present.  When empathy is lacking, people become less real, and relationships are based on heavily subjective mental images we have created for each other.  He pointed out how this dynamic feeds dysfunctional societies and prevents authentic connections based on “being.”  The goal is to see the inherent spirituality of others and to offer compassion and empathy instead of quick judgment based on a purely mind-based reality.

When you don’t cover up the world with words and labels, a sense of the miraculous returns to your
life that was lost a long time ago when humanity, instead of using thought, became possessed by thought. 
~Eckhart Tolle

I would add to this the importance of consistency.  As a society, we often laugh at questionable behavior — movies, comedy shows, daily life.  Humor is good, yes, but it can also be used to sidestep the reality of situations that are less than humane or kind.

  • Have you witnessed this dynamic on television or otherwise?  How did it make you feel?

It seems that children and youth, in particular, could be misled by this kind of inconsistency.  They hear adults laughing about an unfortunate situation, perhaps, and yet, they are told not to behave in that fashion.  What can result?

Confusion.  Mixed messages.  Experimental or destructive behavior.

  • What do you think?

Being spiritual has nothing to do with what you believe and everything to do with your state of consciousness.  ~ Eckhart Tolle

But getting back to the Omega retreat …

Eckhart covered a good deal of material from his books, especially, The Power of Now — A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment and A New Earth — Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

I enjoyed reading both of these books.

But you will probably want to read them more than once.  Each sentence connects to the overall message in a way I’ve rarely witnessed.  In fact, each idea builds on the next almost poetically.  After reading his books, I wanted to know more about the man behind the powerful message.

If you get a chance, look for his biography or watch an interview with him.  Tolle’s life has been anything but traditional.  Something in him always seemed to want to find the deeper story behind humanity’s journey.

As I understand it, in his late 20’s he suffered greatly from serious depression, felt on the verge of suicide, when an “awakening” transformed his life.

The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but thoughts about it.  Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking.  Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral. It is as it is.  ~Eckhart Tolle

During the retreat, Tolle seemed very moved at times, as though tears were near the surface.  He obviously feels deeply about his beliefs and I, for one, find him to be an incredible gift to the world.  There is something genuine about him that is almost impossible to overlook, and even if you are not tuned into “spiritual thought and inquiry,” his books might give you pause.  After all, who can afford to overlook their own spirituality as unnecessary or impossible?

I’ve met people over the years who actually seem closed to spiritual discussion.  Content to believe whatever they believe, it’s as if they have closed the door on personal growth and exploration.  But why?  I’ve never been able to answer that question.

Blog posts by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

Summer Sun (3)

Welcome back to the Summer Sun series — brief, spiritual passages for a relaxed summer agenda.  I hope you’re enjoying this approach to staying connected without a major time investment.  After all, the flowers are blooming, and simply gazing at them can be a full-time occupation.

Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities.
~Dalai Lama

Flower-gazing, bird-gazing, tree-gazing … such pursuits can feel compelling during the summer months.  The flowers will be gone before we know it, we remind ourselves.  The abundant green of summer will fade into hues of gold, brown, and red.  So we look.  And then look again, taking one more picture.  Just one more.

Were the lilies quite as beautiful last year?  Were the brilliant blooms as exquisite?  Or was it all a dream, in fact?

It seems this dance of time is highlighted by the seasons, as though we are always being prepared for things that ultimately come and go.  Human life, no different.  Here for a few days (so it seems), then our form also dissolves.  Impermanent, like the gracious lilies.

You must hear the bird’s song without attempting to render it into nouns and verbs.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

One approach is to let ourselves get locked into the concepts of life and death, forever questioning each, forever uncomfortable with the demands and mysteries of each.  But at some point, as our spirituality takes root, we look beyond these definitions, these ideas, for something far more peaceful and lasting.

And with luck, we discover that our brief expression as individuals is a “flowering” of something we really can not identify.  Only its sacred dimension can be perceived.  Yet, perhaps that is enough.  Perhaps that is all we need to know.  Perhaps we can let go of limiting definitions, artificial time frames, and just surrender to “today.”

Sometimes you hear a voice through
the door calling you, as fish out of
water hear the waves, or a hunting
falcon hears the drum’s come back.
This turning toward what you deeply
love saves you.  ~Rumi

We are graced by those we have loved.

Whether they are still here in the physical sense is one thing, but if they have been swept away by eternal forces, our minds want answers.  Yet, there are none.  So, again, we must look to our spiritual sense of knowing to grasp the deeper story — the one without divisions like life and death.

Blog posts by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.