As I continue to sit with others as a spiritual companion (director-guide) and listen to the ponderings of their hearts, the invitation to each of us is clear: stay steady. This is not easy when the nature of the energy flowing through the universe can be picked up as fear, worry or anxiety. These emotions are not unknown to me either. I know from experience how important it is to be able to access inner stability when everything around you and in you may feel tumultuous.
I love trees. I believe trees are living, breathing beings who feel and experience life in its fullness in a unique way. I also believe that one of their highest purposes on the planet is to sustain life, including ours. Trees represent stability to me. Their roots go deep, holding them steady when the winds come and threaten to uproot them from their very core.
Years ago, I began to imagine what it would actually feel like to be a tree when life felt frightening—more rooted than topsy Turvey. I crafted this practice to help me and I featured it in my book Portable Peace. I'd like to share it with you here because in times like these we can certainly use any help we can get, especially practices, if they can predictably deliver us to a place within ourselves that feels more steady and stable. I hope you find it useful.
Breathe deep. May peace be upon you.
It was 1994 and I was in the midst of a health crisis when I discovered the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Or should I say, his teachings found me. To this day I believe that his book, Peace Is Every Step, saved my life. Since then, Thay has been the wisest of teachers for me and I always keep one of his books close at hand.
"In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment."
All those years ago, I had lost my peace. In fact, I didn't know how, in the midst of a crazy busy life, peace was even possible. Chronic illness and anxiety had taken over. My life felt completely unmanageable. Yet reading Thay's words again and again created an opening and somehow, miraculously, the light broke through and healing began.
Relief poured in from the simplest of teachings:
You only have to do one thing at a time.
This teaching sounded incredulous to me. The relief it brought was remarkable and many tears flowed. This concept--doing just one thing with full and present attention—marked the beginning of my (now) nearly 30-year-journey with mindfulness.
Lately, I've been returning to one of his most well-known Gathas. It holds a potent invitation for me, for living in these times when presence for one's deep self may be difficult to access. There is so much that can pull us away from our innate peace.
Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
I understand during times that feel chaotic and uncertain, breathing out with a smile might be difficult. Even more challenging might be embracing this moment--just as it is—as a wonderful moment. But I do it anyway. You can too.
Why is this moment wonderful? Because we are awake, we are here, we are alive. What a gift it is to be alive! Thay writes:
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
This morning I engaged in a lovely practice: honoring Thay's invitation to be fully present on the earth with peace in my heart, no matter what is happening in the world. I sit with a photo of one of his works of calligraphy. I randomly open the book I've chosen to any page and allow its ambient message to flow through me. Today, it was this:
I've adopted "meditation calligraphy practice" for many reasons but key among them is to stay close to Thay's wisdom even though he has made his transition from this earth. Since his passing I feel his presence and the impact of his teachings more than ever. It is as if, in his death, his essence exploded into a trillion rose petals floating through the atmosphere, showering us with loving presence and compassion. Indeed, it is a miracle to be alive, to be the recipient of this. And, hopefully, to pay the transmission forward.
May it be so for you. May Love hold us all ...
Lovely friends, with so much turmoil engulfing our planet, our hearts can feel equally troubled and agitated. We long for answers, for relief, for an end to the suffering of so many, including ourselves. These are difficult times, no doubt.
We are encouraged to not remain silent to injustice and to lift our voices; to act on our convictions. There is another inner voice which also claims to be heard now too. It is the voice of silence and discernment; a call to inner quietude to rebalance ourselves. This is vitally important so that we can think clearly and act with wisdom.
It is impossible to think and act wisely if we cannot access any degree of calm within us. Calm = Clear = Wise.
A few years ago, I wrote this article for Spiritual Director's International: "Finding Inner Refuge in Trouble Times." Clearly, what I wrote about is still applicable and especially so today.
I hope you will find it helpful and take a few extra moments to work with the practice. May relief and refuge be yours.
Read it here: www.sdiworld.org/blog/finding-inner-refuge-troubled-times
May Love hold us.
Recently, I'd been meeting up with spiritual friends on Zoom on Saturday mornings. We'd share sacred space and engage in contemplative practice together. We did this for a number of Saturdays in the early and middle days of Covid-19 as a way to connect with one another and also to "what matters most": our peace, love and gratitude, even in a difficult time. As summer arrived in the northern hemisphere, we decided our group meditation time was done as many of the women were eager to get out in their gardens, or walk, and simply enjoy this beautiful weather. I am so grateful for the time we shared together.
Missing them and our gatherings, I created a Guided Meditation which offers a short practice that can help you find room--a little space of quiet—in your busy mind or concerned heart. And it all begins with the breath ... I hope it helps.
Listen to the meditation here:
How to cultivate presence for yourself at this time? Lots of options here, friends. Here's one of them: a little secret about the breath.
a calm, open-hearted space of welcome & service.
I'm glad you're here. Welcome to this space of exploration, deepening understanding & the practice of presence across traditions.
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Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin, MPC
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide, and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty-five years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.