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When we connect to peace and happiness, we can discover Universal Love and Universal Compassion. We need to make the decision to go there – go to what brings us peace and happiness.
Take a few moments, and just let go and take some time to focus on what generates joy in our life. Notice that when we focus on joy, peace arises naturally. As my Buddhist teacher, Kadam Morten says, “Peace is the nature of our mind. When we pay attention to peace, it expands.” My teacher will often recommend that we hang out with our peaceful mind.
Personally, when I sit in meditation, I am reminded of my peaceful nature or my Buddha-nature. I can let go of delusions – of self-grasping and ignorance. When I open my eyes, the work of remembering that peace within continues and I must make the decision to go to the peaceful places within myself. As Kadam Morten says, “I can have a heart pervaded by peace, joy, and compassion.” He challenges us to wish for enlightenment for all loving beings without exception (bodhichitta – enlightened mind). It is a practice I am working on daily.
As Kadam Morten often says, “It’s audacious to identify with your Buddha-nature.” The idea of striving for enlightenment for the benefit of all as a way of being can feel too much. So, we start with ourselves. We carry love in our hearts as a way of being. The sun doesn’t think about radiating light – it just does it. We don’t have to think about radiating light – we can just be light. We can transform situations into peace and fuel the path to enlightenment.
We can be audacious and identify with our Buddha-nature.
I choose to focus on a word or theme that will represent an upcoming year. Sometimes the word or theme comes easily and get a sense of the New Year will bring. Or I get a string feeling of what I am being called towards experiences and living.
2017 was a little different. I had a sense of what I wanted for the New Year, but couldn’t quite name it. The word adventure kept coming and yet it wasn’t encompassing the totality of the energy I was feeling. It was more than experiencing adventure in 2017; it was more like the energy, spirit, and wisdom that comes from adventures.
While on a road trip, I started playing with the word adventure. As I expressed my stream of consciousness of words around adventure, I found myself smiling at the feeling of all the words. I thought about experiences and adventures on a deeper level.
The word came effortlessly flowing in and out. Verve is all about vigor and spirit or enthusiasm. It’s what a friend might call “a happening.”
Verve is more of an experience or energy difficult to describe in words; it is felt.
Thank you to everyone who participated in sharing their word or theme for 2017. Many amazing words and themes have been shared so far, including Hope, Engaged, Productivity, Cure, Mets, Wellness, Momentum, Contract, Release, Focus, Trust, Ease, Conscious, Diligent, Onward, Action, Hope (again), Declutter, Integration, Faith, Open, and Swagger.
And you? What is your word, focus, them for the New Year?
How will you celebrate the light in the darkness?
As winter draws near, it is a time of going inward. The winter season allows us to align with a slower pace. In the depths of winter, when the bears hibernate, trees put their energy deep into their roots, and many of us dive deeper into the dream world, it is a natural time to retreat.
As we go inward, let us notice the beauty and tranquility of winter. Let us celebrate the light within that is always available. Let us embrace the opportunity for deep rest and integration that winter provides.
How will you keep the candle lit inside yourself this winter?
Spend a few minutes enjoying meditating on relaxation. Notice what happens when you take time to really breathe in and breathe out. Spend five minutes tuning into your mind and body – relaxing and welcoming more inner wisdom. Let go of the “busyness” that normally runs your life and make time for you. From that place, you can give more fully and with more attention. When you let go, you make space for more joy, more peace, more compassion, and more love to enter. Enjoy this meditation with Mary Anne Flanagan, Toning the OM. This was filmed at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx.
There was a time grief knocked on my heart daily. It was right after my mom passed away over 16 years ago. I remember the call from my father like it was yesterday. It was early morning and a loud ring echoed in the kitchen. I picked up the phone and heard my father’s shaky voice tell me that my mother had passed away. I dropped to my knees and sobbed. I would sob for another hour before leaving to help make funeral arrangements.
For years, I had regular visits of grief. Some visits were expected like on birthdays and anniversaries. There were other visits that would surface without reason and I would become flooded with sadness.
What I have learned from grief is that when I am seen, heard, and valued, I am able to move the sorrow into something more meaningful. I experienced this after the death of my mom when I moved beyond my own heart and was able to see, hear, and be with the suffering of others. Moving beyond my own grief and connecting with global grief taught me how to show up with love. Ten years ago I was able take my personal grief and connect it with the hearts of others through Toning the OM™, a global healing community that centers on peace and wholeheartedness. I was able to transform my deepest grief into a universal place of healing and connection.
Grief revisited again after the election last week. Every cell in my body filled with grief. My grief wasn’t just about an election; it was about the loss of human decency. I was horrified at the scenes of hatred that filled my screen daily. I was saddened to see how people were normalizing actions and speech that were/are harmful and dangerous. I was reminded of years of hate that I experienced throughout my life as a gay woman – having both verbal slurs and physical objects thrown at me. I know what it feels like to feel unsafe and to have to consciously choose where I go or where I travel so I am not physically harmed.
I know what feels like to be silenced, shamed, and despised. This election opened up wounds of deep shame and pain for many of us. And the election outcome celebrated the suffering of others. When we celebrate the pain of others, we lose our capacity to have empathy for one another.
Sixteen years ago, my grief was internal and silent. Now, my grief has a voice and a place. This grief is bigger than me. I meet this grief and I know it is time to rise, to cry, to speak, to hug, to reach out, to connect, to listen, to share, to create, and to lean in. When we take our personal grief and shift it into global healing – of ourselves, one another, and this sacred earth, we begin to shapeshift grief into inspiration – together. We must consciously choose wisdom and compassion over ignorance, even when that seems impossible.
Grief can call us into an experience of immediacy – of what’s needed now. It teaches us how to be present. It calls us to be present to our heart.
Welcome grief. Let grief be your teacher for however long you need it to be. Heavy hearts can be wonderful teachers of compassion. Grief revisited means opening to the suffering of all beings. Grief is a landscape that moves us from our own suffering into our relationship with all of humanity. As I continue to shed tears, I invite all of us to look for the spaces where global healing and connections are possible.
Grief revisted and I welcomed it home – to the heart of humanity.
This is dedicated to my mother who taught me to live a life of service to others. Also, to my spouse who sees, hears, and values me. To all those who are experiencing grief, I see you, I hear you, and I love you.
As I come across beautiful places throughout my travels I often pause and record a three to five minute meditation video. They are unedited and offer a focus that I am feeling in that very moment.
As part of my meditation practice, I headed down to the end of my street on City Island in the Bronx to see an evening sunset. As the light began to change from an orange to an incredible vermilion, I realized it would be a perfect moment to record a meditation. Right on cue as I held up my iPhone and hit record, a helicopter flew in the background and a bird started to sing loudly. I decided to continue recording and use all the sounds in nature as part of the meditation. As I began recording, I had to become centered and focus on the meditation. I had to turn the background noise into a meditative hum.
In that moment, I realized our mission is to use everything as meditation. Transforming loud sounds into peaceful soundscapes can be a beautiful experience.
Truth is, life is filled with noise. And if we are really honest, our mind is filled with noise throughout our day.
The gift of noise is that we have to choose to zone in rather than zone out.
As you listen to everything around you, I invite you to notice the places of irritation and the places of peace. All of it is useful. At the end of the day, everything is meditation if we allow it to be.