Fog moved in while I slept. I felt her coming so I closed windows and doors before I hopped into bed. I’d been outside with the moon and stars, beacons and now the fog is a kiss, a soothing mist. I know what it is to be a flower wet with dew that will lift.
I stayed in bed this Sunday morning; it was still dark. I opened and closed my eyes, played with reception, allowing what was here to come to me.
Simplicity, noticing, opening, awareness. What am I receiving? And then, there was no separation; my hands rose, light.
I considered the words that so affected Charlotte Selver when she heard them from Elsa Gindler.
“Do you feel the air through which you move?”
And in feeling the air, the weight of it, I thought, and “Do I feel the air that moves through me?”
And there I played, a dance of movement, air and me, relationship. Again, I was with the expansion I felt with my brother’s passing, doors opening until there are no doors; there are no walls.
The words of William Blake came to me. “If the doors of perception were cleansed then everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern”.
Is that how I see? And perhaps for a moment there was a glimpse simply received.
And then the kitties called. It was breakfast time. After rising, feeding them, and watching water drip through a filter of coffee, and then, adding cream, I walked outside and was brought to the contemplation of non-duality, and these words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj from his book I Am That.
“Love says: ‘I am everything’. Wisdom says: ‘I am nothing’. Between the two my life flows.”
My neighborhood book group met last night. Walking home in the dark, I heard rustling in the bushes. My flashlight revealed that a skunk was rummaging through grasses; he or she was intent. At first, I felt a bit of trepidation, oh, great, I might get sprayed, but then, there was such serenity in the encounter, each of us with a mission and destination, one for food, and one for home.
I continued on, honoring that we each have our niche, our paths, and our meeting in the night was simply awareness, one with nuzzling, and one with steps.
I’m with arriving. What it is to arrive and be with ourselves all along the way?
I’m reflecting on arriving because two friends and colleagues, Pamela Blunt and Francesca Khanna, are offering a monthly workshop on Presence and Sensitivity. One can be anywhere on the planet and call in or participate in a Zoom call.
Their invitation and introduction shares the words of Rumi from his poem “Bird Wings”.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced as birds’ wings.
Sinking into that invites a pause. I feel the beat of my heart, it’s transmission through arms to hands and fingers that touch this keyboard sending thoughts who knows where and who cares. Shoulder blades and neck wing, whisks stirring the lift in air. Spine responds, answers a call.
The Presence and Sensitivity invite offers the words of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, “Don’t say I depart, I am arriving …”
A few years ago I participated in a Sensory Awareness workshop with Lee Klinger Lesser at Tassajara. Tassajara is a sacred place of enchantment, and after I’d checked in, I was standing in front of the office smiling, feeling gentle with peace, joy, and gratitude. Lee walked up to me smiling, and asked, “Have you arrived?”
“Yes,” I said. “I have arrived”, but after being there working with stones, lying on rocks in the creek, walking back and forth, aware of cleanliness being more than body and teeth, but also mind, a cleansing and flossing of mind and space and intertwining, I knew that with time and this space, I’d embodied a new understanding of arriving.
This moment, right here, enough.
Perhaps arriving is knowing enough – fullness and emptiness and all that is between. My head comes forward and rises, occiput soft to receive.
And now I introduce Crissy. The woman who hosted book group last night has a daughter with special needs. Crissy is in her 30’s, and unabashedly creative in what she wears. Yesterday when I walked up the stairs to their home, she saw me, and gave me a great big hug. She doesn’t know my name, but that didn’t matter. I was clearly there for a hug.
When we gathered in a circle outside, she went around and everyone received a hug, and not a touch of a hug. This was a full body hug that went on and on and on. What a way to begin each moment, with a full body and spiritual hug. It’s not always possible perhaps, but then, intention can be set.
In 1966,Thich Nhat Hanh learned the power of hugs when a woman friend took him to the airport, and asked if it was okay to hug a monk. He thought since he was a Zen teacher, that yes, it must be okay, but then he realized that he was stiff and uncomfortable with the hug. In response, he created hugging meditation.He teaches:
According to the practice, you have to really hug the person you are holding. You have to make him or her very real in your arms, not just for the sake of appearances, patting him on the back to pretend you are there, but breathing consciously and hugging with all your body, spirit, and heart. Hugging meditation is a practice of mindfulness. “Breathing in, I know my dear one is in my arms, alive. Breathing out, she is so precious to me.” If you breathe deeply like that, holding the person you love, the energy of your care and appreciation will penetrate into that person and she will be nourished and bloom like a flower.
That might be enough but he continues on.
Hugging is a deep practice; you need to be totally present to do it correctly. When I drink a glass of water, I invest one hundred percent of myself in drinking it. You can train yourself to live every moment of your daily life like that.
Before hugging, stand facing each other as you follow your breathing and establish your true presence. Then open your arms and hug your loved one. During the first in-breath and out-breath, become aware that you and your beloved are both alive; with the second in-breath and out-breath, think of where you will both be three hundred years from now; and with the third in-breath and out-breath, be aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive.
When you hug this way, the other person becomes real and alive. You don’t need to wait until one of you is ready to depart for a trip; you may hug right now and receive the warmth and stability of your friend in the present moment.
You won’t physically hug in Pam and Fran’s offering, but if you want more information, contact me, and meanwhile enjoy the continually expanding and contracting, the breathing hug of air we all share.
Yesterday, my Sensory Awareness group, a quartet, met on a Zoom call. We were exploring balance and dizziness by noticing and experimenting with different ways to be with our tongue which leads to examination of all. At one point, Siri joined in, and said, “I can’t help you with that.” How right she is. There are enjoyments and moments only we can create.
As I felt my tongue, allowed it out into the air flickering and tasting like a snake, my breath changed. I felt my tongue like a tail, yes, an augmentation to my balancing act. When I allowed my head to come forward, I felt the muscles around my occiput let go, and sinuses filled with fresh air. My eyes bloomed, and breath came, breath came up from the earth into my feet, up through my heart, and into the air, a shower, an embrace.
Perhaps this sounds silly but maybe today you’ll feel inclined to place a finger on the muscular organ that is your tongue. Maybe a quiver of intention will sharpen your attention as you honor this place the Egyptians called the Rudder of the Soul.
I’m noticing now that when I’m involved in a task, my tongue often comes out to help. It offers ballast and balance.
After this exploration with friend tongue, I went to my local grocery store, Good Earth, and chose three bunches of fresh basil. Unwilling to stifle or stuff them in a bag, I carried them through the store like a bouquet.
Home, I rinsed the leaves, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, then, garlic, a little salt, and then slowly pouring in olive oil pulsed it all together in the food processor. Presto, pesto!
I felt such gratitude in doing this simple task that I felt compassion for those so burdened with servants that they may never have worked with or prepared their own food, never washed a favorite dish. It’s a balance of course, but Steve and I are living in gratitude these days, each moment, pure grace.
And thanks to easy information access, I learn that the tongue is anchored to the floor of the mouth, and various muscles keep it “suspended” in the throat.
And so, I bring it out to play, and run it back and forth between my teeth, mind in teeth meeting flexibility and strength, the wave that is the tongue.
I’m reading Norman Fischer’s book, The World Could Be Otherwise: Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path. I’m in the section on Generosity, the practice of the “perfection” of generosity. We can begin by being generous with ourselves, open to the abundance that is here.
Norman writes, “One of my teachers taught me to practice generosity by taking an object in my left hand and giving it to my right hand. This seemed a bit silly to me, but when I tried it, I detected subtle feelings of gratitude or stinginess, various tiny clenchings of holding back or grasping, and sometimes, the ease of delight and joy. The inner details of actual giving are more complicated than you might think.”
He goes on to say that the practice of self-generosity is not easy, requires “that you care about yourself in the same way you care about others – not more, not less. This is not easy to do.”
I’m struck by this because I came to my teacher of Sensory Awareness through Norman Fischer. I was in a poetry class with him and we weren’t cohering as a group. He requested we stand in a circle and touch the shoulders of the person in front of us. He guided us to mindful touch. We then went outside to the grounds of Green Gulch Zen Center and wrote. When we came back together to read what we’d each written, we sat in a circle and went around the circle reading. What we read was all of a piece. It was as though one person had written the whole. In touching each other, we’d bonded, cohered.
He said if we were interested in what had just occurred, we should sign up for a workshop he’d just taken with one of his teachers, Charlotte Selver, and do it soon because she was very old. At the time, she was 92. She lived to 102, practicing all the way. I signed up for a Sensory Awareness workshop with Charlotte, and was so entranced, I then followed her to a fishing village in Barra de Navidad, Mexico to study with her for a month.
Charlotte liked to work with stones. We’d choose or be given a stone and become attached to it. We might do exactly as Norman says here, practice giving it from one hand to the other, but then the big test came, giving it to someone else. How is it to give the stone, this precious stone, to another?
One time in Barra, the stones were of various sizes, some small, and one so large and heavy I would call it a boulder. One delicate woman went right up to it, hefted it up in her arms and struggled around the room, unwilling or unable to pass it to another, which was the task of this particular experiment. The idea was to know and bond with a stone for awhile and then either willingly or begrudgingly, but certainly with care, give it to another while receiving a different stone in its place.
I’ve never forgotten the symbolism of watching this woman struggle to carry the burden of one huge stone. She held it close to her chest; she couldn’t let it go.
In my book, Airing Out the Fairy Tale, I talk about meeting Charlotte and what her work has meant to me. I find her work well-expressed in these words of Eckhart Tolle.
To bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal does not mean to think about it, but simply to perceive it, to hold it in your awareness.
Something of its essence then transmits itself to you. You can sense how still it is, and in doing so the same stillness arises within you. You sense how deeply it rests in Being – completely at one with what it is and where it is. In realizing this, you can come to a place of deep within yourself.
I went to bed last night with news of one shooting and rose to read of another. I suggest that each of us find a stone and pass it from one hand to another, perhaps find two stones and do this with someone else, passing stones back and forthfor as long as is nourishing for you both.
There are many ways to heal. May today bring the changes we want to see, a unifying knowing we all are one.
I’ve been intrigued by a branch that extends up and out from a tree in our yard. It’s flimsy and yet seems a sentry place and point of delight for a variety of birds, large and small, and for the squirrel who scampers out to the top and swings back and forth.
It allows me to consider what it is to stretch and play and even feel that the squirrel, and I, as I watch with my mirror neurons, have wings.
Today in my Sensory Awareness call, I became aware that in closing my eyes, the lid wasn’t quite meeting the ball of my eye. There was a holding back, a gap, a “mind the gap” awareness of an unconnected space.
Curious, I explored and realized in my intention to live in impermanence, I had forgotten, or denied a place for tears. I was trying to be brave, a noble pursuit, of course, but it is a pursuit, and not a momentary response.
I felt the tightness in my jaw, and in allowing that noticing, the hinge began to loosen and I felt the lower part of my jaw, the support for the front of my teeth, let go, like a hammock or net springing back and forth.
There was rest there, movement, and support, and that allowed moisture to come and fill the space of my eyes, and with that wetness, a fluid glue, lid and ball came together to rest in connection, to kiss.
The heart moistens when we feel love. So do the eyes. Moisten and connectin the joyful grace of swingingand livingfluid and elastic. It is our birthright.It is our birth rite to use all of our being and trust the net.
My sensory awareness group met today. As I settled into myself and felt the support of the floor and the chair, a tear came and rolled down my cheek. My throat felt tight and scratchy and I began to cough. Grief extended into my heart and down to my feet.
I shared that I was experiencing a visceral feeling of grief from my brother’s death on April 14th. I had hoped I’d moved on.
Later, a woman who’d just completed a workshop at Spirit Rock on death, dying and aging asked if I thought what I was feeling related “just” to my brother’s death. I knew that it was more than that. She suggested that my feelings related to impermanence.
I could feel how true that was.
Later we worked with flexibility using partly inflated balls. I felt my holding and inflexibility. I was trying to hold a stance of strength. I felt the work of holding back tears, what it does to my legs, neck, and spine.
What I learned today is that flexibility and impermanence relate and when I can honor the waves of both, float a little more openly on the natural movement I am, I can breathe, and tears may come, but in and through the tears there are waves, and released, I breathe, and am breathed.
Allowing immersion in impermanence, I hold both joy and sorrow, no dividing, and there I celebrate the wonder of being alive. Vitality is my wand and spring when I honor that impermanence is the ocean and land we share. There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. I’m here.