Sunday, March 23, 2008


Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Supple as a newborn child

Last fall, at the Ojai Yoga Crib, I had the great good fortune to listen to the author, Stephen Mitchell speak and read from several of his books. Afterwards, while browsing a table set up by a local bookseller, I realized I owned most of them already except the Tao te Ching which is one of my favorites. I came across this lovely piece in the notes on the text.

"Can you let your body become

supple as a newborn child's?"

Stephen say it literally means "can you concentrate your chi (prana, vital energy) until..."

He adds this from Emilie Conrad-Da'oud...

"There is no self-consciousness in the newborn child. Later on, the mind wanders into self-images, starts to think Should I do this? Is the movement right? and loses the immediacy of the moment. As self-consciousness develops, the muscles become less supple, less like the world. But the young child is pure fluidity. It isn't aware of any separation, so all its movements are spontaneous and alive and whole and perfect.

If an adult body becomes truly supple, though, there's a quality to its movement that the child's doesn't have, a texture of experience, a fourth dimension of time. When we watch a seventy-year-old hand move, we feel, 'Yes, that hand has lived.' All the bodies it has touched, all the weights it has lifted, all the heads it has cradled are present in the movement. It is resonant with experience, the fingers curve with a sense of having been there. Whereas in a child's hand there's a sense of just arriving. The child's movement is pristine and innocent and delightful, but a truly supple adult movement is awesome because all life is included in it."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Baking and Cleaning

Well this has never happened to me before. I was making bread this morning. I'm trying out the New York Times No-Knead updated by America's Test Kitchen (Almost No Knead Bread). Anyway, I was putting a tablespoon of plain white vinegar into the mix when I had to smile. You see, I've been trying to reduce the toxic load around the house these days. So for cleaning I've been using mostly baking soda and white vinegar. So when was the last time you used the same ingredient in your baking that you use to clean the shower? Like never?


Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.

" 'Breathing in, I calm my body.' This line is like drinking a glass of ice water-you feel the cold, the freshness, permeate your body. When I breathe in and recite this line, I actually feel the breathing calming my body, calming my mind.

" 'Breathing out, I smile.' You know the effect of a smile. A smile can relax hundreds of muscles in your face, and relax your nervous system. A smile makes you master of yourself. That is why the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas are always smiling. When you smile, you realize the wonder of the smile.

" 'Dwelling in the present moment.' While I sit here, I don't think of somewhere else, of the future or the past. I sit here, and I know where I am. This is very important. We tend be alive in the future, not now. We say, 'Wait until I finish school and get my Ph.D. degree, and then I will be really alive.' When we have it, and it's not easy to get, we say to ourselves, 'I have to wait until I have a job in order to be really alive.' And then after the job, a car. After the car, a house. We are not capable of being alive in the present moment. We tend to postpone being alive to the future, the distant future, we don't know when. Now is not the moment to be alive. We may never be alive at all in our entire life. Therefore the technique, if we have to speak of a technique, is to be in the present moment, to be aware that we are here and now, and the only moment to be alive is the present moment.

" 'I know this is a wonderful moment.' This is the only moment that is real. To be here and now, and enjoy the present moment is our most wonderful task. 'Calming, Smiling, Present moment, Wonderful moment.' I hope you will try it."

Thich Nhat Hanh from "Being Peace"

This morning as I sat in meditation, I realized that my facial posture was one of such seriousness. It wasn't scrunched up or tense, in fact it was pretty relaxed. But I felt this "attitude" of "this is serious stuff". And then I smiled. Not a grin...just a little smile. And everything got softer and more peaceful.

Friday, March 7, 2008


"...when is the last time that you had a great conversation, a conversation which wasn't just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversation a lot in this culture. But when had you last a great conversation, in which you over heard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew. That you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you thought you had lost and a sense of an event of a conversation that brought the two of you on to a different plane. And then fourthly, a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterwards, you know? And I've — I've had some of them recently, and it's just absolutely amazing, like, as we would say at home, they are food and drink for the soul, you know? "

From an interview with the late John O'Donohue on Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett
I feel so fortunate in the fact that conversations immediately came to mind...with my husband, my friend Daron (check out his blog) and others. Food and drink for the soul indeed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Waking up in the morning




Waking up in the morning
I vow with all beings
to listen to those whom I love,
especially to things they don't say.

Lighting a candle for Buddha
I vow with all beings
to honor your clear affirmation:
'Forget yourself and you're free.

When I stroll around in the city
I vow with all beings
to notice how lichen and grasses
never give up in despair .

Watching a spider at work
I vow with all beings
to cherish the web of the universe:
touch one point and everything moves.

When the racket can't be avoided
I vow with all beings
to close my eyes for a moment
and find my treasure right here.

With tropical forests in danger
I vow with all beings
to raise hell with the people responsible
and slash my consumption of trees.

Watching gardeners label their plants
I vow with all beings
to practice the old horticulture
and let plants identify me.

On reading the words of Thoreau
I vow with all beings
to cherish our home-grown sages
who discern the perennial Way.

Falling asleep at last
I vow with all beings
to enjoy the dark and the silence
and rest in the vast unknown.”

The Morning Star: New and Selected Zen Writings by Robert Aitken

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Erich Schiffmann on "The Big Picture"

"Far too many people get distracted by the complexities of their various techniques and lose sight of what the overall "big picture" is. Don't lose sight of the big picture. Don't lose sight of what the practices are all about. The big picture, the reason for doing yoga is...(dramatic pause)...The big reason for doing yoga is to have the experience of yoga. The reason to do yoga is to have the experience. Keep that in the forefront of your mind. Now the word "Yoga" is a really interesting word. It comes from the Sanskrit root word "Yug" which means "yoke". And what they're talking about is the small mind, personal mind, personal self...merging with, yoking with, joining with Infinity. In easy words...small mind joining with Big Mind. Once you even have a taste of that for even a split nanosecond, it wipes out your previous convictions about the way you thought things were. There's no such thing as small mind, is what you discover. There's Big Mind only, infinitely expressed."

Sunday, March 2, 2008


The way of experience begins with a breath
such as the breath you are breathing now.
Awakening into the luminous reality
may dawn in the momentary throb
between any two breaths.
The breath flows in and just before it turns
to flow out,
there is a flash of pure joy -
life is renewed.
Awaken into that.

-- The Radiance Sutras

translated by Lorin Roche