Archive for the ‘compositions’ Category

A Moment to Reflect

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Instead of rushing to my usual Sunday church service, I stay home in quiet. It is freeing to break habits and allow myself to just be. I am comfortable listening to birds, wind, the pulsing of my heart, and thoughts that rise and fall. I read Clark Strand’s delicious book, Seeds From a Birch Tree, a volume of teachings about writing haiku, and also of being still, returning to nature, and practicing knowing oneself. Strand quotes Basho, a famous haiku poet, “Do not seek after the sages of the past. Seek what they sought.” I think about the qualities I seek— inner wisdom, peace, clarity, and kindness.

It has been a hectic week, filled with meetings, commuting into the City, and not much quiet time. A close friend has invited me to her Jukai ceremony, a lay ordination marking three years she has studied Buddhist precepts and sewn a miniature Buddha’s robe, the Rakasu. She is my second friend to make this spiritual commitment, and because I missed the other ceremony, I am eager to attend this one.

I have not been to Green Gulch in many years, and I drive the curving road of Shoreline Highway to reach the humble buildings beneath groves of eucalyptus trees. I arrive, park, and walk down the one-lane asphalt road, following the sound of a gong echoing through the air. I slip off my sandals and carefully set them on a shelf, entering the zendo. People sit on black cotton mats, and in chairs. In the center, black-robed teachers and students, with heads closely shorn and solemn faces look towards a tall table with two Buddha statues, glowing lanterns, and a vase of bluebells, roses, and ferns.

We stand as the four initiates walk single file into the zendo, hands folded at their chests. Bowing before their teacher, ritual upon ritual unfolds and I close my eyes, becoming very present. A blessing is spoken, a confession, statements of purification, and then each student receives the rakasu. It is a marvel.

I inhale the first five precepts: “I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from harming living beings…from taking things not freely given…from sexual misconduct…from false speech…from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.”
I hear the word renunciation and it shakes within me as a reminder that I have all I need, and I can feel completely satisfied with releasing the temporal. I recognize that I have been clinging to the idea that I need something or someone more than me and the silence of peace. As the ceremony ends, I am full of compassion for life, and this journey of finding what I seek inside the love of my being.

Make a Beloved Community

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

flowersIt seems violence is all around us, yet we continue with our lives wondering what we can do, being upset, throwing up our hands, and often looking around suspiciously, concerned for our safety. Some people buy guns. I am a true believer in nonviolence, a child of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Gandhian philosophy. In a book I just read by Michael Nagler, Is There No Other Way: The Search for a Nonviolent Future, he writes that the term nonviolence is barely a century old. It is a misleading translation of the Sanskrit word ahimsa, the negation of himsa, “desire, intent to harm.” It is a “non-fear” or “non-anger”, a kindness and even love. Nagler’s book inspired me to examine the ways I react to others’ violence, to seek how I can remain in nonviolence and satyagraha or “soul force,” as Gandhi called the way he resisted oppression and violence in the world. Satyagraha literally means “clinging to Truth.” Nagler calls it a weapon of the strong because it takes tremendous strength to claim sovereignty over prejudice, hatred and violence. I want to encourage us all to search for the meaning in our lives that will allow us to flourish in these times, to fully live. In her book, A Life in the Spirit: Reflections on Faith and Politics, bell hooks wrote “our mission was to make a beloved community in the world.” In this time, with all we know, can we make a beloved community? I believe we can.

Dear Daraja friends and supporters,

Monday, March 12th, 2012

I leave for Kenya in two weeks to visit the Daraja Academy. It has been two years since I stepped onto the rich red soil of the secondary school campus and much has changed. The first girls I met, whose faces you saw in the Girls of Daraja film, are now seniors. There were 26 girls on campus in 2010; now there will be 104. I have not yet seen the newest dorm, the expanded garden, the medals each girl was given by the Bay to Breakers race organizers for their Lap-A-Thon and connection with Kenyan race winner, Lineth Chepkurui. Some of the girls I met now wear eyeglasses; the girls have set goals to be trustworthy, faithful, honest, respectful, self-controlled and mindful. Continue reading “Dear Daraja friends and supporters,” »

Let’s Occupy with Our Love and Our Light

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

We occupy this planet with our energies, our bodies, our thoughts, and our actions. I have a personal consciousness, and with every sentient being, there is a collective consciousness. We are all interconnected.

What does it mean to occupy anything? Webster’s defines occupy: to engage the attention or energies of ; or a : to take up (a place or extent in space) occupied> or b : to take or fill (an extent in time) occupies all of my free time> Continue reading “Let’s Occupy with Our Love and Our Light” »

Writing is about observing

Monday, December 5th, 2011

At a writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg, my duties were: Monday, snuff candles; Tuesday afternoon, sweep porch; Thursday morning, sweep zendo. I was in Taos, New Mexico to write, yet the teacher, a longtime student of Zen Buddhism, was also teaching her students to be present in each moment, to notice the dust gathering in corners of the room, and to participate in small actions that would create a healthy community.

Natalie knew that writing is about observing. Artistic expression is a reflection of our eyes taking in the landscape of life and transferring it to a poem, canvas, sculpture, or song. I love the small moments of awakening that occur when I am still. This morning’s sunrise with a fire-orange mound peeking above the distant mountain range, was a radiant blaze in the sky. Sitting at my shrine, I was part of the miracle of morning. No matter what humanity thinks we understand about life, no matter how brilliant our minds, we cannot change the time of a sunrise, or the quarters of the moon. We cannot stop the winds of tornadoes, or the waters of a hurricane. We are glowing embers of the sun’s burning light, sprinkles of dust on the land.

“People when they walk on the land leave their breath wherever they go. So wherever we walk, that particular spot on earth never forgets us, and when we go back, we know that the people who have lived there are in some way still there, and that we can actually partake of their breath and their spirit.”

– Rina Swentzell of the Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico

Meet the Divine in Your Life

Monday, September 12th, 2011

“If you want to meet the divine in your life, you have to expose your heart.” I copied Aqeela Sherrills’ words in my journal five years ago and they speak to me just as profoundly today. I want to meet the essence of God, to live above the materialism of this world; I want to embrace the sacred. I also want to open myself to humanity, to be a participant in every aspect of life — the physical, the emotional and the intellectual, to be in my body in an ever-evolving way. Continue reading “Meet the Divine in Your Life” »

International Women's Day

Monday, May 16th, 2011

March 8th, 2011 marks the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. Everyone can celebrate the amazing women who have shaped us, who have cared for our world, and who work with compassion and power for our future.
I have many sheroes of international fame and of local renown. To celebrate this significant day, I would like to highlight one woman whose life has inspired mine. Continue reading “International Women's Day” »

Joyous New Year

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

At the end of each year, I have a burning bowl ceremony, either with friends or by myself. I write down (on rice paper) the situations I want to let go of — things that I want to be liberated from – and say a prayer of acceptance that people or actions are no longer part of my life. In a large ceramic bowl (or a cooking pot), I light a match to this list and allow it to burn, sending the past on its way. Continue reading “Joyous New Year” »

I Am Exactly Where I Am Destined To Be

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Summer is nearing its last days, leaves are beginning to drift from oak trees outside my house, and children are returning to school. I have been writing poetry with author and teacher, Alison Luterman, who is inspiring me to step beyond what I know. I also took a one-day collage class with Lindsay Whiting, whose intelligence and talent helped me birth a piece I titled, GO. Continue reading “I Am Exactly Where I Am Destined To Be” »

Martin Luther King, Jr. Conference at Stanford

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Dr. Vincent Harding, longtime associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speechwriter, activist, and currently Professor of Religion and Social Transformation at Illiff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, was one of the panelists at a two-day conference at Stanford University July 16th and 17th. Continue reading “Martin Luther King, Jr. Conference at Stanford” »