All posts by Chelsea True

One or Two New Year’s Resolutions

peaceHappy New Year, friends and families!  I hope your 2015 is off to a beautiful start…

I’ve been thinking about a certain story in Florence Caplow and Sue Moon’s book, The Hidden Lamp, in which a monastic woman has undertaken to keep the 311 precepts required for her ordination.  When a young visitor asks how she could possibly keep all of these vows, she responds, “I keep only one.  I just watch my mind.”

If you are resolved to make or keep New Year’s resolutions in 2015, consider keeping just one: watch your mind.  If you’re new to meditation or mindfulness, check out this quick article, Getting Started —  from Zen teacher Norman Fischer.

If you are inspired or daring enough to take up yet another resolution, then consider this one:  commit to serve.

These are the two foundations of Om School’s newest program: Children Creating Change — more affectionately known as C3.  This family program combines training in secular mindfulness with social engagement.  We’ll meet monthly to discover a new aspect of mindfulness while serving our community.  Slated projects include: gardening with elders at the Senior Center, taking needy dogs to the park, renegade compost-ball-poppy-seed-bombing hillsides and empty lots, and making Valentine’s Day cards for hospice patients.

In this awesome interview, Thich Nhat Hnah tells how he became involved in compassion-based social change.  He says,  “When bombs begin to fall on people, you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time.  Meditation is about the awareness of what is going on – not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you.”

In this newest offering from Om School, we will endeavor to take our practice into the world — for and with all beings.   As Thay says: “You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time.”

Om School kids taking an after-yoga walk at Sophia’s Garden

Our first meeting will be at Sophia’s Garden — the biodynamic farm that’s home to our weekly classes.  Monique Camp, the owner and operator of this botanical sanctuary, has helped make Om School possible by welcoming us onto her land.  Her farm sustained much storm-damage this winter, so we will begin our service-work there by pulling weeds, turning compost, laying mulch, and giving back to the place that has so generously supported us.

We’ll also move our bodies learning our new class song, hear a story about Avalokitesvara (our class mascot, bodhisattva, and one-who-hears-the-cries-of-the-world), share a formal practice, and enjoy eating mindfully together.

There’s still time to sign-up for this monthly, family-friendly, compassion-based social change class!  Download an application here or contact Chelsea for more information.

C3: New Compassionate Action Program!

COMPASSION-ACTION-HEADER

I am happy to announce our new compassionate action program is just beginning to take shape!

This exciting new program will include much movement and aim to engage the will-forces of our highly-energized children.  It will also have a large component of community engagement.  My hope is to harness that valuable energy of our most spirited kids and channel it into creating positive change in our communities.  The class motto will be, “Compassion is a Verb!”  All classes will be project-based and include on-the-go, practical instruction in secular mindfulness.

compassion is a verbSome classes will meet at Sophia’s Garden, others will meet on-site — such as singing at the Senior Center, marching against GMOs, gardening with the elders at Burbank Heights, or renegade compost-ball-poppy-seed-bombing needy hillsides and empty lots.  This class is a re-envisioning of something I started years ago, Children Creating Changeor C3 for short.

We don’t have set dates yet but we’re looking at the second Saturday of most months.  The program will run year-round with no meetings in December and April.  Please let me know if you are interested.  This program is open to the general community.  All ages are welcome.  Children already enrolled in other Om School classes are also welcome.  All C3 families are invited to attend our usual seasonal festivals at Sophia’s Garden and will have access to the Om School online forums — coming soon with resources, home-practice ideas, book clubs, etc.

Please contact Chelsea if you’d like more information.  The program will begin as soon as we have five children enrolled.   Adult volunteers are needed!  Some work-trade may be available.

Winter Solstice Spiral

“Look for a little light anywhere in the field of darkness and ask that it may increase.” –Joan Halifax Roshi

When I look to nature,  deep winter feels like a sacred time.  Grandfather Sun is completing his journey across the sky.  He is old now and his light is fading.  Nights are long and the time of rest is upon us.

In October, the children in our weekly mindfulness classes honored their departed ones with an ancestor’s ritual.  We noticed that giving attention to impermanence gave rise to a deep sense of appreciation for our own short lives.  In November, we turned towards gratitude with the coming of Thanksgiving.  Now, with the winter solstice approaching, we’re turning inwards.  One student, an eight year old girl, has given us a new phrase for this deep place: direct darkness.

Earth-based traditions tell us that it is from this darkest place that the light is born.  On winter solstice, the longest night of the year, Grandfather Sun completes his journey.  The Baby Sun is born at dawn.  These mythologies speak to a wisdom in each of us.

In the Zen tradition, the awakening of the Buddha is celebrated in December.  It is said that after sitting through the night, upon seeing the morning star, the Buddha realized awakening and exclaimed, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s me that’s shining so brightly. How wondrous, how wondrous! All beings share this indwelling light. What an astonishing thing has been realized!”

This winter, we’ll celebrate this indwelling light with a candlelight spiral walk.   We’ll meet inside for quiet songs and storytelling before walking the spiral together.   In quiet walking meditation, each child first walks the spiral turning inward, gathering light at the center, and then walks the spiral turning outward, bringing her light back into the world.

We are excited to join together with Stone Creek Zen Center to offer this celebration for all ages to the general community.  We ask that families please register in advance or contact Chelsea for more information.

Please bring your own candle in a wind-proof jar or apple votive.   Suggested donation:  sliding scale $3-$10/per person.  Your generosity helps ensure that programs like these will continue to be available in our community for a long time.

Please register in advance here.  Thank you!

The Whole Earth as Nourishment

Preparations continued today for the Summer Mindfulness Workshop happening next week — Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at Sophia’s Garden in Sebastopol.  

Our theme for the day is “the whole earth as nourishment.”  We’ll be held by a beautiful, biodynamic farm filled with healing herbs and organic fruit trees; learn three, foundational mindfulness practices; and notice how the whole world offers itself to us for our health and wholeness. 

This is so evident and observable time of year — gardens are abundant, fruit is heavy on the trees, herbs are flowering, and poppy seeds are, well, popping!  

When we take the time for stopping and noticing, we can see that the whole world is healing medicine.  I hope you’ll join us next week. 

You can learn more and register here.

With metta,
Chelsea

Postcards from Impermanence

We’ve had a rough week here.  Our local feed store, Frizelle Enos — the longest, continuous running business here in our little town — was destroyed in a fire.  The store was a local landmark and we’ve spent many happy afternoons there — visiting baby chicks and stocking up on supplies for our animals.  We are deeply saddened by this terrible loss.The fire has my heart/mind turned towards impermanence — how one thing is always changing into another… that the true nature of things is that they’re always in flux.  This is a classical wisdom teaching and reflection upon it is believed to increase our sense of well-being.  Zen teacher and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible!”How does it work?  By letting go of attachment to things as fixed or unchanging we begin to relate with the world as an interdependent evolutionary process.  We see that we are an inseparable part of a great story unfolding.  We fall in love with the flow.

How can we share this wisdom with our children?  One way is by keeping a seasonal nature table.  This hallmark of Waldorf education invites children to pay close attention to seasonal rhythms — and perhaps even notice their own ever-changing inner-seasons.

By noticing the natural world, we might also see that we’re constantly receiving little postcards from impermanence…

Here are some postcards we’ve recently received:

  • irises in the compost pile
  • the startling sight of our molting chickens
  • clouds shaped like elephants and fire-breathing bunnies
  • threads of gray in mama’s hair
  • green tomatoes ripening to purple in our garden
  • our first sunflowers opening
  • the waxing moon beginning to bulge gibbous  
  • the fire at our beloved feed store

When we open to receiving these little postcards, we allow a deeper meaning to unfold within our lives.  Each moment becomes sacred because we see that it will never come again.  Each experience becomes sweet because we see it arising in relationship with everything else.

What postcards from impermanence have you recently received?  I’d love to hear about them.

With metta,
Chelsea 

Metta Flags in July

The first Sunday of every month is a time for children at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center.  Families file slowly into the zendo for the first part of the Children’s Program.  Little ones wiggle and giggle on zafus.  Energy buzzes through the meditation hall before the teacher’s talk begins. 
Last Sunday, in a short talk geared especially for the kids, Korin Charlie Pokorny told how each of us has a hidden jewel we can share with the world.  Asked what that jewel might be, children responded: our happiness, our love, our joy.   

 

The second part of the Children’s Program takes place on the farm among organic vegetable fields, fruit trees, and flower gardens.  This part of the program includes a kid-friendly mindfulness practice or seasonal project.  Earlier this year we planted corn, beans, and squash — The Three Sistersin the children’s garden.  Last autumn we enjoyed contemplative handwork by making floating acorn cap candles.  Another all-time favorite project is launching compost-seed balls into the hillsides.  

Last week, after bowing in and offering incense, nearly fifty children practiced metta or loving-kindness meditation together in the peace-garden.  Then we crafted metta prayer flags to hang on the children’s play structure.  

Children mindfully sewed wishes for the world into colorful cloth panels.  Some wishes included, “may all be free,” “may all animals be safe and healthy,” “sharing,” “less pollution,” and “may you see rainbows.”

After giving still, focused attention to their sewing, the children were ready for the out-breath of play.  With the wind carrying their metta-wishes to all beings, children climbed, slid, swung, and laughed together.  As always, organic apple juice and muffins from the Green Gulch kitchen were enjoyed by all.

Our next program is Sunday, August 4, 2013.  We meet on the lawn at 10:00 a.m. near the southwest side entrance of the zendo. 
For more information about the Children’s Program, please be sure to visit the Green Gulch website.  For the full text of the loving-kindness meditation click here.   Hope to see you next month!

 

May All Beings Be Free

It’s the 4th of July and with everyone’s attention turned towards freedom, flags, and independence, I’m thinking about freedom, prayer flags, and interdependence… and sending these wishes out to all beings.

This is the classical mindfulness practice of loving-kindness or metta meditation.  Mindful Schools translates this practice as, “heartfulness.”  Susan Kaiser Greenland calls it, “sending friendly wishes.”  You can see kids practicing in this short video.

We begin by picturing someone who loves us and feeling their love flowing into us.  Stay with this feeling for a moment.  Then repeat short verses such as:

May I be peaceful.
May I be safe.
May I be free.

Now that we are filled up with this warm, safe feeling, we’re ready to share it.  Imagine sending out this feeling — from your heart to someone you love.  Picture the person or animal you’ve selected and repeat the verses for them.  May Prudence be peaceful, safe, and free…

But we can’t stop there!  Because my freedom, safety, and peace is inextricably tied to yours,  next we send loving-kindness to all beings:  May all beings be peaceful, safe, and free…

One way to bring this practice into your home is by making metta prayer flags.  We’re using this fun, kid-friendly tutorial from Future Craft Collective:

We’re writing short words and phrases on the white panels: kindness, peace, love, homes, clean air, fresh water, joy.  Then repeating our wishes/verses as we stitch them to to the colorful panels:

May all beings have clean air.
May all beings have fresh water…

We’ll hang them in the garden and let the wind carry our wishes out into the world.  We’ll also share this project with the Children’s Program at Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center this Sunday… and hope to see you and your family there.  In the meantime, may you and all beings enjoy peace, safety, and freedom this 4th of July.

With metta,
Chelsea