Fall is the best time to plant a tree

Just added this quote to my Favorite Quotes page:

The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil. ~George Orwell

How are your trees doing, the ones you planted?

If you haven’t planted any, time to get busy! Fall planting gives the roots time to get established before winter, ensuring stability and adequate nutrients for growth in the spring.

Even low-water trees need regular deep watering in the summer for the first few years, especially where summers are hot and dry (like here in Texas).

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Ginkgo biloba leaves, courtesy of ScienceDaily.com
I’ve planted several trees at my place. I’ve lost a few, mostly ones that can’t tolerate a cold Austin winter. These have survived a few years:
  • Montezuma cypress
  • ginkgo
  • redbud
  • loquat
  • arroyo sweetwood
  • Shumard oak
  • Canby oak
  • fig
  • moringa (foliage dies with first freeze, comes back from roots in late spring)
  • Mexican buckeye
  • kidneywood

When your children are grown, let trees become your babies. Plant them, tend them, enjoy them, and they will outlive you, reminding those who knew you of you, and after everyone who knew you has passed, they will provide for posterity.

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Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher: quotes from Joko Beck

I posted this originally on June 16, 2011. Needing to remind myself of her wisdom, I thought you might want to (re)read her words and appreciate her wisdom too.

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Charlotte Joko Beck died yesterday, very peacefully, at the age of 94. She was a Zen teacher who made a major impact on American Buddhism.

Here’s a quote from article that puts her work into perspective (no longer available):

The Ordinary Mind School was among the first Zen communities to consciously engage the emotional life and the shadows of the human mind as Zen practice. The late Charlotte Joko Beck and her dharma heirs adapted elements of the vipassana tradition — a relentless inquiry into the contours of the human mind — as unambiguous Zen discipline.

Here are some quotes from her:

With unfailing kindness, your life always presents what you need to learn. Whether you stay home or work in an office or whatever, the next teacher is going to pop right up.

Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering;
holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream;
each moment, life as it is, the only teacher;
being just this moment, compassion’s way.

Enlightenment is not something you achieve. It is the absence of something. All your life you have been going forward after something, pursuing some goal. Enlightenment is dropping all that.

Wisdom is to see that there is nothing to search for. If you live with a difficult person, that’s nirvana. Perfect. If you’re miserable, that’s it. And I’m not saying to be passive, not to take action; then you would be trying to hold nirvana as a fixed state. It’s never fixed, but always changing. There is no implication of ‘doing nothing.’ But deeds done that are born of this understanding are free of anger and judgment. No expectation, just pure and compassionate action.

Practice is just hearing, just seeing, just feeling. This is what Christians call the face of God: simply taking in this world as it manifests. We feel our body; we hear the cars and birds. That’s all there is.

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru.

So a relationship is a great gift, not because it makes us happy — it often doesn’t — but because any intimate relationship, if we view it as practice, is the clearest mirror we can find.

Practice can be stated very simply. It is moving from a life of hurting myself and others to a life of not hurting myself and others. That seems so simple — except when we substitute for real practice some idea that we should be different or better than we are, or that our lives should be different from the way they are. When we substitute our ideas about what should be (such notions as “I should not be angry or confused or unwilling”) for our life as it truly is, then we’re off base and our practice is barren.

We have to face the pain we have been running from. In fact, we need to learn to rest in it and let its searing power transform us.

We learn in our guts, not just in our brain, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply being the circumstances of our life as they are; not in fulfilling personal wants, but in fulfilling the needs of life.

Meditation is not about some state, it is about the meditator.

Zen practice isn’t about a special place or a special peace, or something other than being with our life just as it is. It’s one of the hardest things for people to get: that my very difficulties in this very moment are the perfection… When we are attached to the way we think we should be or the way we think anyone else should be, we can have very little appreciation of life as it is…whether or not we commit physical suicide, if our attachment to our dream remains unquestioned and untouched, we are killing ourselves, because our true life goes by almost unnoticed.

Quote: Finding your spiritual home

From Martha Beck’s Daily Inspirations:

Many people take umbrage when someone sets out to find his or her spiritual home. If you embark on a similar journey, you should expect some people to be shocked, to be angry, to tell you you’re breaking the rules. That has certainly been my experience. However, the rewards are inexpressibly wonderful. Heading towards that inner home will take you places—both inside yourself and in the external world—which your heart will recognize as its native environment, even though you have never been there before. I would go so far as to say that this may be the purpose for human life; that we are set free into a lonely universe like homing pigeons meant to find our way back to joy.

I just love this lady. She’s incredibly wise and insightful.

Leaning into 2013: how to make meditation a near-daily pleasure.

I’ve been thinking a lot this December about what changes I’d like to make in 2013.

In the past, I usually didn’t think much about it at all, and when I did, my thoughts on the matter all took place in the last week of the year, after Christmas.

Unfortunately, my New Year resolutions were usually short-lived.

I’d like to change that. I’d like to become more disciplined, and I’d like to be realistic about what that means so I can actually make lasting changes in my life.

The problem is, I like to rebel against “the rules”, so when I set up strict rules for myself, I am setting myself up to break them. It’s counterproductive.

I spent a year meditating for 30 minutes nearly every day, and when that year was up, I rebelled and didn’t meditate every day any more. My sitting practice became sporadic.

I’d like to figure out a way to make meditation a pleasure.

One possibility: Instead of creating a rule to meditate for 30 minutes every day, I can meditate for at least 15 minutes 5 out of 7 days.

I like that flexibility. However, it still sounds like a chore. Why am I making meditation such a joyless task to be done somewhat regularly and checked off a list?

Looking at what keeps me from meditating: I often allow myself to get sucked into reading email and checking Facebook, my online massage booking site, Twitter, Tumblr, blog stats, and so on in the morning, and before I know it, it’s time to get ready for work, and I haven’t meditated.

And…if I don’t meditate in the morning, it usually doesn’t happen.

I don’t know why this is, except perhaps that it takes more effort to do nothing than you’d think, to tear myself away from my laptop and sit myself down on the cushion.

Once I start sitting, I actually love meditation. I love getting really present with myself, breathing, hearing, seeing (if my eyes are open), feeling my body, witnessing my thoughts, noticing my chakras open, experiencing the silent stillness that contains everything, even just feeling the little aches, pains, and tensions as I sit.

To experience this is a joy that keeps on giving throughout the day, somehow connecting me with resources that help me meet life with more equanimity and love, including self-love, than I could otherwise summon.

How can I make this a pleasure? It’s so much more rewarding than being online in terms of enhancing my well-being and the quality of my life, relationships, activities, decisions!

What if…I stay offline until I’ve meditated, and I make it my goal to meditate no longer than an hour, except when I really want to (and have time) to go longer? I can set the timer for an hour, end it then or when it seems complete, and be happy about it all.

Now we’re cooking!

What is it going to take?

I wish everyone would really take this in: Yet again, there has been a mass shooting in the United States of America, and this time it was at a grade school, and children and teachers were shot and killed, and apparently a family member of the extremely disturbed young shooter.

I haven’t been able to read, hear, or look at the news since seeing a few posts about it on Facebook yesterday and hearing a little more on the radio as I drove to work. The big picture is enough.

It is tragic when children die. It is gut-twisting horrifying when children die violently.

The children who survived have lost their carefree innocence forever. I pray they can rediscover joy within themselves when it’s time.

I wish everyone would really absorb this and think of what we as a nation need to do to ensure this does not happen again.

That no mass shooting ever takes place again.

That people who are seriously disturbed get referred to the most excellent help possible.

That we become a peaceful nation without the need for so many guns.

That the politicians just shut up and do the right thing because people’s lives real trump your theoretical principles.

I wish that every single politician and lobbyist who wants to jabber on about “protecting our right to bear arms” had to spend 15 minutes alone in a room with the parents of one of those children who died.

Amen.

Wise words about loss and presence, joy and gratitude

My young, wise Facebook friend Arpita Rose shared this quote. I thought it was so amazing, I wanted to share. I added to my Favorite quotes page too.

You will lose everything. Your money, your power, your fame, your success, perhaps even your memories. Your looks will go. Loved ones will die. Your body will fall apart. Everything that seems permanent is impermanent and will be smashed. Experience will gradually, or not so gradually, strip away everything that it can strip away. Waking up means facing this reality with open eyes and no longer turning away.

But right now, we stand on sacred and holy ground, for that which will be lost has not yet been lost, and realising this is the key to unspeakable joy. Whoever or whatever is in your life right now has not yet been taken away from you. This may sound trivial, obvious, like nothing, but really it is the key to everything, the why and how and wherefore of existence. Impermanence has already rendered everything and everyone around you so deeply holy and significant and worthy of your heartbreaking gratitude.

Loss has already transfigured your life into an altar. ~ Jeff Foster

In remembrance of Gabrielle Roth: freedom is our holy work

One of the significant teachers in my life died yesterday, and I’ve struggled with writing about it. I find myself getting too heady, and yet this loss is actually so profound that when I took a nap yesterday, I dreamed I was balancing upside down on my head on a dance floor, surrounded by lively, active children.

When I woke, I could feel the pressure on the crown of my head.

Headstand is definitely about changing perspective.

I stumbled into ecstatic dance 18 years ago, first encountering the 5 rhythms of Gabrielle Roth and Sweat Your Prayers after I left church as something I could no longer take part in with integrity.

I found a tribe, a practice, and a way of experiencing myself and the world as energy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that the latter is the change in perspective that I’m integrating with this shock of loss and review of Gabrielle’s influence on my life, that it’s all just energy all the time, and it’s always changing, always dancing. The best I can ever do is to be centered, grounded, embodied, and ready to meet it. What’s solid is awareness.

I’ve had issues and struggles at times with that tribe, practice, and worldview, and they have deeply shaped me. I keep coming back.

Here’s what ecstatic dance is to me: being free, feeling joy, being embodied, clearing, cleansing, breathing, sweating, extending myself, being aware, taking care of my body, pushing to my edge and beyond, being in the moment, sharing, delighting, inquiring, discovering, connecting, having compassion, being inspired, seeing, allowing, playing, surrendering, breaking myself open, feeling what comes up, being danced, letting go, grieving, dancing with other versions of me, dancing with the entire room including the space, letting life and everything flow through me, being totally and completely alive, being fully present, blowing all the blocks out of my energy channels.

I feel so grateful to have found this and that I am able to do this.

Thank you, Gabrielle Roth, for your life’s work. Thank you, dancing tribe.

Here’s Gabrielle in her own words.

I became a mapmaker for others to follow, but not in my footsteps, in their own. Many of us are looking for a beat, something solid and rooted where we can take refuge and begin to explore the fluidity of being alive, to investigate why we often feel stuck, numb, spaced-out, tense, inert, and unable to stand up or sit down or unscramble the screens that reflect our collective insanity.

The question I ask myself and everyone else is, “Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit?” Can we be free of all that binds and bends us into a shape of consciousness that has nothing to do with who we are from moment to moment, from breath to breath?

Dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth — not some big truth that belongs to everybody, but the get down and personal kind, the what’s-happening-in-me-right-now kind of truth. We dance to reclaim our brilliant ability to disappear in something bigger, something safe, a space without a critic or a judge or an analyst.

New blog milestones and best massage ever given

Sometime this weekend when I wasn’t looking, my blog passed 60,000 views! This is a labor of love, and I can’t measure my “success” in monetary terms. Blog views, likes, and comments are my currency.

Thank you for reading me.

And…yesterday I had my best single day ever with 426 views! That’s pretty astonishing, considering the average number of views per day in 2012 (so far) has been 182.

I took the whole weekend off, spending a good chunk of it out in the country at a friend’s remote ranch. Clean air, water, cattle, a river, lots of trees, big sky, silence (compared to the city), a sweet porch on which I did a couple of great yoga sequences, soaking in a metal tub filled with well water, and lots of laughter were just the ticket for rest and relaxation.

I didn’t do a stroke of bodywork all weekend (except a little self-massage on my shoulders and arms). This morning I gave what felt to me like the best massage I’ve ever given, a 90-minute full body massage combining Swedish, deep, pressure points, rocking, reflexology, and lots of attention to her neck, shoulders, and hips. My client really appreciated it. Her week started extremely well.

If you’re looking for a great massage, consider booking one in the morning when your massage therapist is feeling refreshed, especially after a couple of days off! If you’re in the Austin area, I’d love your business!

See you later, with the first turnaround of Byron Katie’s Work!

How to create inner peace

This morning I woke early and sensed a shift in my energy.

Without thinking about it, I started happily organizing some accumulated clutter in my bedroom that I’d been procrastinating on. I even fixed a couple of broken things. I cleared some space, found good places for stuff, and created more visual order.

I found a business card I’d been looking for, someone who asked me to contact her once I got my massage license, which I did about a month ago. I’ll call her today. Yay.

I do care about having an orderly home, and yet managing stuff (even living in a trailer!) often gets the better of me.  I make it a low priority. It’s not that I’m a terrible slob, although I’m sure I am in someone’s eyes. I pile things up to deal with later. I start doing things and get distracted and don’t finish. I leave stuff out to remind me that it’s not “done”. Then I notice I have a lot of piles, and clearing them seems like drudgery of the worst kind.

Today I created order and completion without thinking about it, because something opened up. I felt more upbeat. I was observing myself, thinking, “Wow, I am behaving differently. I like this. I feel energized and productive. Something has shifted. What happened?”

This is what I attribute the shift to. (Or perhaps the stars had something to do with it.)

On Tuesday evening, I went to bed aware of how much I mentally obsess about problems. By obsess, I mean they occupy my attention during times when I am not actually communicating with the person I have issues with, or I am imagining how I will handle something in the future. I do this often, usually not making much progress.

This ruminating helps me get clearer about my feelings and what I want, but it also distracts me from being fully present. I’m “in my head”. I’m feeling tense and anxious. I’ve become a slave to my thoughts, especially my fears. I get stuck and then don’t know how to stop. And then I become aware of my state.

It’s a way that I create my own suffering. I’d like to get out of my own way.

I vowed to myself that night that since this habit doesn’t really serve me all that well (except when it does give me insight and direction), that I was going to do something different yesterday.

I decided to dissolve my preoccupation. That is, when I realized that I was not feeling happy and present and content because my mind was rehashing some issue and I was feeling lack of joy in my body, I would take an impression, a snapshot, of my full experience—the images and words in my mind and the feelings in my body representing the person or the problem—and imagine that whatever power gave it substance (Higgs boson?) simply withdrew from it.

I saw, heard, and felt it fall apart. Images of faces and places, my own internal dialogue about it, and the worries, fears, and stuckness I felt in my body all lost coherence, dimensionality, reality. They fell apart into a pile of atoms that were swept away by the solar winds.

If it’s all illusion anyway, you might as well make it work for you. You can dissolve the illusions that don’t bring inner peace, joy, and freedom. It’s like dissolving whatever is within that keeps me from fully occupying and experiencing myself in this moment.

Mind you, I’ve just been doing this for one day, and I only did it a handful of times, but that was enough to create the energy shift I felt this morning.

If you’d like to try this, here you go:

  1. Think of something that’s been worrying, preoccupying, or troubling you, something you feel anxious or disturbed about.
  2. Take a snapshot of your whole internal state, and notice how you represent it. Is it a memory or something you imagine happening in the future? What does it look like? Are you telling yourself about it in an internal dialogue or monologue? What sensation are you feeling and where is it in your body?
  3. Just like a movie scene dissolves or fades so another scene can begin, allow the images to dissolve into pixels, dust, atoms. Turn down the volume of the sounds and words until you hear silence. Tune into your body and the sensations you are actually feeling. Let the feelings drain down into the ground. Note: It’s important to really take your time with this step. First you acknowledge your internal visions, words, and sensations. Then you allow each one to exit in a way that works for you.
  4. Notice the absence of the preoccupation. What are you experiencing? If there’s anything else related to the original state, allow it to fully exit.
  5. Bring back the images, words, and/or feelings. How is this experience different from the first time?
  6. Dissolve them again. How is this different from the first time?
  7. Imagine that any time in the future, when you notice you are not being present/feeling happy/being preoccupied, you have this powerful tool to create inner peace at your disposal.

The 12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening

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The 12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening

Making the rounds on Facebook, worth sharing here.