Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wide Open Spaces



May you make the most of your wide-open spaces.
May you use the small, unscripted moments 
in your day to nourish and sustain you.

May you use them to relax your body and renew 
your spirit. May you not waste them on junk, 
noise, over-consumption or over-commitment.

May you have the presence of mind to notice 
the peaceful gaps in your day. (And when you 
find them, may you exhale with relief.)

May you smile, breathe deeply, relax, and 
stretch out into the spaciousness around you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Instructions


Slow down.
Pay attention.
Be kind.

Have faith.
Ease suffering.
Spread light.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Eftalou


Floating faithfully
in our
sea of starry chaos

easy grace
melts me into
soft and
skyfilled rapture.

Abundant Sun



I awoke filled with
darkness and ill will.

But the sun shone
so brightly,

and with such determination,
I could not resist the call.

I headed out the door, inhaled,
and reached my arms toward the sky.

The unkindness
within me dissolved,

as spring sap rose
through my bones,

and brightness returned
to those fallow places within

that only long to shine.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Savor


Sit down. Settle in.
Don't do much of anything.
Look around. 
Listen. Smell. Taste. Breathe.

(Ignore the pull of the restless mind.)


Exhale. Relax.

Soften. Watch.
Settle. Receive.
Accept. Savor.

Practice being. 

Practice feeling. 
Practice presence.
Practice happiness.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Pockets of Peace

originally published in Yoga International (Fall 2010)

One of my family’s favorite books is called Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy. It’s the story of a harried mama elephant, Mrs. Large, who seeks a few moments of respite from her three young children, but just can’t manage the act. She leaves them at the breakfast table and sneaks off for a bath, along with a pot of tea and the morning paper. The eager kids follow, with their musical instruments, books, and toys. Eventually the whole family ends up in the tub, frolicking together, everyone happy and bright, except for mama.

One of my family’s favorite books is called Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy.
Finally Mrs. Large sneaks out of the tub, slips downstairs, and plops herself in front of the crumb-covered kitchen table she had fled a few minutes before. And there she blissfully savors three minutes and forty-five seconds of peace before her soggy children come stumbling down the stairs to climb all over her again.

I didn’t actually buy this book for my young sons. I bought it for me. I identify with mama elephant—adoring my boys unfailingly but also longing for a little more tranquility in my life. I admire Mrs. Large’s resourcefulness and creativity (not to mention her sneakiness). And I envy her ability to settle for a little less than perfect—to make the most of a few brief moments of peace, even though she longs for so much more.

I must admit, I’ve spent a great deal of time fantasizing about freedom lately: A silent walk alone in the woods. An uninterrupted conversation with a dear friend. An afternoon with no agenda besides a good book, a cup of tea, and a nap in the sun. Of course I love my kids, and I do my best to soak up every fleeting second with them. But busy days with young children can leave even the most mindful parent gasping for a few sweet breaths of quiet and calm.

“My five minutes of peace,” I thought. “Here they are!”

And so I surprised myself the other day as I reclined in a beach chair in the backyard watching my sons prepare a salad of leaves and sticks in their playhouse. My attention alighted on the brilliant beauty of fall—fiery maple leaves drifting toward the earth, hidden cicadas buzzing in the trees, a breeze just sharp enough to hint of cooler weather ahead. I noticed the twittering of birds all around, their voices complemented by my sons’ own chirping nearby. I realized that although I wasn’t completely free to follow any whim—I had my children to keep track of, after all—life in that moment felt remarkably beautiful and serene. “My five minutes of peace.” I thought, “Here they are!”

This happened again a few days later while nestling in a hammock with the kids. I wasn’t vacationing on a Caribbean beach or immersing myself in a weeklong yoga retreat, but I was enjoying a simple moment, lulled into ease by the swinging of the hammock and the expanse of crisp blue sky overhead—so vast and full of possibility. “Another few moments of peace,” I whispered to myself, “right here in the middle of this crazy day.”

The more I’ve looked, the more I’ve stumbled upon these golden little gaps. They appear like unbidden gifts hidden among laundry, errands, and the endless demands of a three- and a six-year-old. At first I called them “stolen moments,” but then I realized they weren’t so much stolen as simply found—fresh little pockets of peace that, in my fierce hold on life’s mundaneness, I had almost overlooked.

I have learned to make the most of mama elephant’s moments whenever they do appear. I smile, exhale a sigh of relief, and settle into them. I let that welcome peace sink right into the marrow of my bones, and whisper a secret prayer that this moment may soothe and sustain me until the next restful pause arrives. With each passing breath, some measure of sanity and clarity blooms in my chest. I feel reborn, reawakened, revitalized—ready to slide back into the beautiful chaos of my day.

Imagine what would happen if we committed to looking for happiness and contentment within the boundaries of our current lives, in the simple delights of each passing breath, instead of striving for perfect peace in some far off fantasy of tomorrow. What if wisdom actually lies in seeking fulfillment within our lives as they are, rather than in mythical Edens that hang perpetually beyond our reach?

The newly discovered oases have prompted me to consider that life may be best measured in tastes rather than meals, in minutes rather than lifetimes. We don’t have to reach for the whiz-bang perfection of eternal peace in some other time and some other place. We can find ways to savor it in little bites, like mama elephant, right here and now in the midst of our everyday lives. As Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck wrote, “You cannot avoid paradise. You can only avoid seeing it.”

This possibility inspires me to stay on the lookout for new niches of tranquility—even the littlest ones that pass in the blink of an eye and are nudged aside by responsibilities and life’s mundane chores: A feathery flash of yellow from a migrating warbler. A walk with the family with no aim other than fresh air and a taste of twilight. Those first hazy seconds upon awakening, and the last soft breaths before sleep. When strung together, these simple moments foster a profound sense of inner peace that transcends life’s craziness and chaos. They sustain us, enliven us, and illuminate our days.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Love Your Life


May you love your life. This one, the one you are living right now. May you not waste another second wishing it were otherwise.

May you greet everything and everyone you meet today as a gift and a teacher - each new delight, each struggle, each challenge, each fear. And may you look upon each moment as a chance to stretch your soul, and to grow wiser, kinder and happier.

May learn to love the surprise and the mystery that comes with each new day. What will be waiting when you step outside? How will you respond? What inner resources will you call on to find meaning and illumination in even the most challenging and uninvited guests? How will you transform these offerings into kindness and illumination on behalf of everyone around you?

May you open your hands and gratefully accept all that you are offered with a resounding yes, and with a willingness to pour your entire being into its unfolding. May you make the most of each moment this beautiful day may bring.