Friday, October 31, 2008

Rest In Peace

Grandma passed away in the early morning hours in Florida yesterday. Her last card to us - a Halloween card sitting on my nine year old's desk, is still making the same spooky noises when you open it up and see her familiar handwriting. I wonder how long the little computer chip battery will last. I still have her voice on my voice mail, too. I wonder how often Comcast will let me save it.

There is such a wonderful peace in death, especially when, as in her case, there was a year long, painful battle with cancer after decades of rheumatic arthritis. It is the same peace we try to cultivate in meditation so it becomes part of our life and we can enjoy it here. It eluded her much of her life as it eludes many, but she found it in the end - or rather - when she was down and out and weak and surrendered - it found her.

As I learned from an Indian Mystic a long time ago - we just have to get out of our own way. Then we can truly discover ourselves as peace itself - or rather - finally peace can find us as peace. If missed in life, in death it is the gift, the treasure and the love we have been looking for our whole life.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday's MeditatioMom Moment - Legs And Brains

Q: My question is related to the practice of meditation. I have recently started to meditate or try to at least after reading some books and online resources on the subject. I have found that I seem to get stuck at a certain level where my body is relaxed, my breathing is deep but my mind seems to stay active and I cannot seem to settle it.

MM: Ask yourself "Who" is trying to settle it? Who is that exactly? Who is trying to settle who's mind? Two entities? One? This may sound silly, but really, try to get to the bottom of this.

Also, have compassion for your dear old brain. Parts of the brain go through a bit of an alarmed state when we suddenly start to meditate. Blood-flow gets redirected from the back to the front, but not without a fight. It is somewhat similar to what your legs may go through as you start sitting in one posture for a long time. It is not what legs are made for. Your feet may fall asleep, they may hurt, you might be fidgety etc. It's not much different for the brain.

Patience and practice will move you, slowly but surely, towards freedom.

(The whole conversation lives here on

Some fun with restless legs...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thank You P.L. Smith!

Look what I found on the UK Amazon Website this morning! That sure made my day!

By P. L. Smith (London, UK)
This is a simple, yet stunningly beautiful book for bright young things, from the very young to nursery/pre-school age. Our daughter reads this over and over again, and has already memorized all the lines. I believe she will remain captivated as she finds out what they mean (she is one). Visually and philosophically stimulating, and different from most other kids books out there. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Death And Toys R Us

Our 82-year-old grandmother - my husband's mother - is dying of breast cancer. Her youngest grandchild - our 9-year-old son - who is used to people dying every day in car crashes, falling off cliffs, and getting blown up into a million pieces in massive explosions, but who then, instantly pop back up on the next level - does not quite know what it will really mean. When it happens he may just think she is now on the next level, and we won't see her again until we ourselves get there.

It reminds me when my oldest son - now 29 - had his first Nintendo, and Mario became a permanent member of our family. From then on, whenever I called the kids to dinner - his "reassurance" to me that he was on his way, was: "OK, Mom... I guess I'll just kill myself." - in that floppy-eared, defeated Eore voice.

My kids ended up killing themselves regularly to comply with dinner rules.
I was always a bit uneasy about that. Somehow video games have given us this take on death. Kind of like Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Last week - when days of homework, soccer games in the rain, and all the other stresses of being a nine-year-old came together in one devastating moment of having to postpone the purchase of a five dollar toy, I said to my wailing child:"I understand your disappointment, little man, but let's think a bit about how distraught you are right now, in contrast to last week's rather calm reaction when I told you that Grandma might be dying."

"I know Mom... I get it... and I know I'll be really sad when she is actually dead, but now it doesn't seem sad to me - 'cause she's still alive!That's why I can't be sad about her now, and it's why I can't be happy about getting that toy all the way next week, either!"

Checkmate. Once again, reminded by one of my children of what it's like to live in the present.

But - he did wake up to the vast difference between "life and death issues" and issues of mere childhood consumerism. It was a growing-up day. We celebrated that he wasn't a baby anymore. To babies everything is a life and death issue. He was very pleased in the end about this grown up delayed gratification.

Then, we received a - just in case- early Halloween card in the mail from Grandma - which contained a surprising $10.00 bill - to spend on something fun. The card played a spooky song when you opened it and featured lots of skeletons dancing around a fire, and announced - "Halloween is just around the corner. I can feel it in my bones!"

"Me too!" Grandma had signed the card.

We drove to ToysR Us the very same day, happy that Grandma was still alive.

Monday's MeditationMom Moment - What Then?

What Then

Q1: The struggle of life - all the suffering and the healing - it's all part of the beauty that is life?

To reach enlightenment I assume would be the end of the suffering and the struggle/journey to find it.

What happens after you find it?

MM: You either keep quiet, or you become of service. Actually the two do not exclude each other. Even if you just keep quiet you are serving. But this serving is not the self-sacrificing service we usually think of because there is no self left to sacrifice. It is just sharing at that point - of bliss, joy, peace, wisdom. It is like sharing an inner wealth the way you would share your outer wealth.

It is true that we have to become bored with all of our regular pursuits in life first before this would be bliss instead of boredom. That is why so many masters recommend to live life to the fullest first, like a bright fire. Then, when disillusionment sets in we are ripe for the teachings and the alternative of meditation. Then we have to also burn that candle down to Nothing.

After that we share the light that needs no candle.

Q2: What does it mean to live life by the fullest?

MM: When you breath - breath deeply, and say Thank You. When you dance - dance with abandon, and say Thank You. When you love - don't try to protect yourself from heartbreak, and say Thank You. When you are in the sun - close your eyes and feel it on your face....and say, Thank You! When you meditate - disappear completely...

I think you get the idea.

It is not what you do - as in "get married", "race cars" or "climb mountains" - the details are different for everyone, and often are quite simple and mundane - it is just that whatever you do, do it whole-heartedly and stay grateful. Then even the hardships become stepping stones across the river of illusion into nirvana.

Q2: That's a lovely explanation there. I realized that that is in fact the direction I have been starting to head recently. It also allows me to feel less hurt by the suffering I see in others, when you look at it as the start of their journey to first feel the disillusionment.

MM: You make a very good point - that a compassionate person suffers just as much from seeing others suffer, if not more, as from their own suffering, and that through deeper understanding, especially understanding of Buddhist teachings - BOTH of those kinds of suffering get reduced, and eventually eliminated through liberation. I am happy to hear that this is starting to happen in your life - proof you are indeed heading in the right direction.

(The whole conversation between all parties lives here ( on

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chopin, Shining Eyes, And Auschwitz

This talk is about children, music, death, and about what we tend to loose, and can regain with little effort. I am grateful for the children of the world, my own children and now my grandchild, who make my own eyes shine every day. If we look within, and around, with a listening heart, our eyes would be shining at all times, like the still enlightened eyes of our children.

Regarding the last story told in this video, there are many teachings that explain that if you don't relate to people and situations in life with the full awareness of death, you miss life. This awareness of death should not be confused with the intellectual understanding of death which can lead to a morose sense of fatality, melodrama, sentimentality, depression, indifference, fear or denial.

With the actual full awareness of death, on the other hand, every "Good Bye" and every "Hello" becomes very much alive, and every "I love you" becomes eternal, waking deep joy in the heart. Death disappears - in direct proportion to the strength of love and trust.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Baby's Universe And Symmetry

My "baby" (a Mom's relative term) is nine years old, and he is very interested in the Universe lately.

As I read about the Physics Nobel Prize going to Makoto Kobayashi, Toshihide Maskawa, and Yoichiro Nambu recognizing their work on the hidden symmetries of elementary particles today in the New York Times, I realized I better figure out how to explain quarks to my little scientist. I managed to explain the basic Atom to him the other day, but quarks are a different story. And symmetry - can get a feeling for it in the above picture of the Golden Rock Kyaiktiyo Pagoda.

In 1972 three kinds of quarks were known - the up, and the down and the strange quark. In 1974 charmed quarks were discovered, and then in 1977 and 1994 bottom and top quarks. It made me laugh when I read this. This would make a cute children's book. Quarks are the constituents of protons and neutrons which make up the nucleus of an atom.

That which holds together the nucleus, is the pion, which is the carrier of the strong nuclear force. The lightness of the pion is its magic and gives the nuclear force it's reach to hold together elements that are constructed in many different size configurations. Pretty cool stuff.

Then there is the mystical Higgs-Boson - the hidden molasses and stubbornness of the universe that theoretically gives everything its mass. We may find out soon how this works, but then - we'll have to find out what the Higgs-Boson is made of and to do that we usually think we have to take things even further apart.

When I was nine, my universe was much more manageable, made up of the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, stars, the Milky Way, and space - lots of space!!! - and everything I knew here on Earth was made of invisible, small atoms. God knew all , and I knew somehow that I would too, when dead.

My son on the other hand- as a fan of the Science Channel, "bets" there is life in the ice covered oceans of Europa, and in the lethal clouds of opposite-to-Earth-spinning Venus. He bases his guesses on the thriving life in the lethal environments of our deep sea volcanic vents. As far as everything here on Earth is concerned - atoms to him will be tiny, gigantic things made up of whole universes (once I explain them properly). And God - just seems to be known to him. No explanation needed. Here You Are may have something to do with that, without me ever having had to explain much.

The world of atoms and subatomic particles he is not yet very impressed with - because the eternal question: "And what are those then made of?" - no matter how many times we split nothing into nothing, cannot be answered by me, at least not in terms of physics. The truth that we don't exist at all and that all this matter is an illusion, is no fun for a nine-year-old, and simply annoying to almost everyone else. It can put a knowing smile only on the face of an old sage.

In meditation there is also a point of perfect symmetry.The way I usually explain it is with the image of standing under the sun at noon at which point the shadow matches the soles of one's feet. It appears and disappears according to the balance of two things. Once they are out of perfect alignment "the third" appears, in this case the shadow, and takes on infinite forms and shapes. The koan to contemplate is: "Is there a shadow under your feet?"

When you are nine, your shadow (thought) is still small
and you are very busy growing it. Only later in life do you start longing for the days of small or absent shadows and try to find your way back. Meditators find their way back to this original state of union - that perfect symmetry - through love, trust , infinite patience and courage. Those are the same qualities required of parents.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday's MeditationMom Moment - Walking, Talking Humans - At Peace

This is a sequence of questions from the same person. To read the whole thread and other people's contributions to this discussion you can go to were most of the online MeditationMom conversations take place in the various religion forums.

Question:Are those who attain enlightenment always enlightened?
MeditationMom: Yes.

Q: I ask, as some recent meditation sittings I've done have brought on glimpses of something akin to nothingness.
MM: "Glimpses of something akin" is not yet "it" and it will take more trust and love on your part for that. A glimpse of the ocean differs greatly from jumping in. Also, there is still an "I" that had the glimpse. Who had the glimpse?

Q: But I always come back.
MM: Who comes back? From where to where?

Q: The 'edge of mind' feeling though remains, and sometimes I can almost fall back into that state/feeling/whatever with the simplest effort.
MM: This is very good that you can go there at will and it is good practice to keep going "back and forth". But, "the edge of the mind" is not yet having jumped off the cliff, so to speak. That's where you need more love and trust, still.

Q: The only thing that seems to be holding me down are things & family, even my own body.
MM: The only thing that is holding you back is not body, things or family but "I". Who would you be without your things, body and your family? More importantly, who would you be without thought - especially the root thought of all thought which is "I". Who or what would that be? That is who you are! The Nothingness you had a glimpse of - when fully known - you realize is who you are, rather than an experience that you have. This can be known fully before death, but for most at death is when they find out, again and again, life after life. If you find out before death, it is called enlightenment and it does require losing ones fear of death . So far you are experiencing your mind at profound rest which is great, and truly gives a glimpse. There is one more step in order to go beyond, and it is not a step we can take, but a step that is granted. Readiness is achieved by working on love and trust to its utmost. A family is a great training ground to practice love and trust. The readiness I mentioned is nothing but a complete willingness to give up the self.

Q: Makes me wonder if its only something that can be utterly attained at the end of life, when the final tether (body) starts to unwind.
MM: The body is not the tether. The "I" is the tether. Even when there are "almost enlightenment" experiences, it is still the "I" that had them and then loses them again. Hassidic Jews say: "You have to die before you die." This is no small thing.

Q: Do these enlightened folks walk around in this state all the time? I find that hard to bet on, tbh.
MM: They do not run around in the state you describe, because that is not enlightenment.

Q: Crazy, I know, but I'm interested in the philosophical aspects of this question. I've heard of people attaining enlightenment, just curious if they are still walking, talking humans.
MM: Walking, talking humans - with a twinkle in their eyes and a profound peace about them, living ordinary lives. The "great ones" like Buddha or Jesus were just living ordinary lives at the time, and have only become "great" in our minds over time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

IQ Test Or Not?

Here is why you can feel fantastic about reading this blog - maybe. I can easily spin the pretty girl in both directions or take every one inch section of this image separately, and likewise spin it in opposite directions, every one to two revolutions.

When I don't try to do anything and go into non-doing as in meditation, the image just takes turns spinning left and right, about every 8 - 12 revolutions. After a while of that, this one person spins in both directions simultaneously. Maybe only Buddhists can see such a paradox - or people who have been married for a long time and raised many kids. At that point all awareness of her being female vanishes as well, which I found very interesting. Either I am really smart, or Yale wasted a lot of money on these brain studies. I doubt I'd score that high on an IQ test with all those tricky brainteaser puzzles, which involve neither nakedness nor dancing.

But - I am very impressed with whatever science must be behind this moving image.

If you see this lady turning in clockwise you are using your right brain.

If you see it the other way, you are using left brain.

Some people do see both ways, but most people see it only one way.

If you try to see it the other way and if you do see, your IQ is above 160 which is almost a genius.

Then see if you can make her go one way and then the other by shifting the brain's current.

This was proved at Yale University , over a 5 year study on the human brain
and its functions. Only 14% of the US population can see her move both ways.

I guess that last sentence explains our present financial crisis.