The Sun My Heart

the solstice sun | contemplative handwork using up-cycled and natural materials

We had the great pleasure of offering a workshop at the Festival of Conscious Parenting last Sunday.  This conference was a wonderful convergence of many teachers, community leaders, and families committed to creating mindful and non-violent environments for children.

Because the summer solstice was also last weekend, Om School’s offering centered on the life-giving energy of the sun — and how the sun is really our second heart, the great heart outside of our body.

What follows is the prepared text of the talk I shared.

Hello friends and families,

How is everyone today?  I hope you are well and remembering to smile at the blue sky.  My name is Chelsea True and I am the founding instructor at Om School Learning.  Om School offers contemplative community programs and services to families and children in Sebastopol.  All of our programs are held at Sophia’s Garden — a biodynamic farm and medicinal herb garden.  It’s a lovely space and I hope you’ll come out and join us this fall.

So what do we do there?  Well, we come together each week to learn mindfulness — to practice holding the world in kindness by paying attention in a special way.  We do this with storytelling, songs, games, and handwork with natural materials.  And we’re going to share a contemplative handwork project here today.  This is a special way to train our attention to hold the world in kindness… and to shine the light of our awareness on the whole world for the whole world.

But before we get started with that, I want to talk more about this, “shining the light of our awareness…”

Does anyone know what we’re celebrating this weekend?  Yes, many fun things here at the festival — and I hope you’ll enjoy all of the joyful offerings.

The thing I’d like to celebrate with you all today is the summer solstice.  Yesterday and today are the longest days of the year with the sun right here giving us its gifts.  One of my teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, has this to say about the sun:

“The sun is our second heart, our heart outside of our body. It gives all life on Earth the warmth necessary for existence. Plants live thanks to the sun. Their leaves absorb the sun’s energy, along with carbon dioxide from the air, to produce food for the tree, the flower, the plankton. And thanks to plants, we and other animals can live. All of us—people, animals, plants, and minerals—”consume” the sun, directly and indirectly. We cannot begin to describe all the effects of the sun, that great heart outside of our body.

When we look at green vegetables, we can see that it is the sun that is green and not just the vegetables. The green color in the leaves of the vegetables is due to the presence of the sun.”

The same is true for these flowers and oranges.  These oranges are the sun.  These flowers are your heart.  Seeing this way, we’re able to understand that the earth is our body and the trees are our breath — our lungs.  The water in the oceans and little rivers is not separate from the blood in our veins.  And when we feel that warm sun our cheeks — well how does it feel?  I think it feels like a mother’s love.  Soft and warm, radiating towards us, falling on everything equally, inclusive and undiscriminating.   In an ancient language, this kind of warm, radiating love is called, “metta,” or loving-kindness.

We can generate this kind of tender love, the warm love a mother has for her child, on purpose — with special phrases, wishes that we send out to the world.  We begin with sending this warm, sunlight to ourselves.  Let’s do that now.

Imagine someone you love — someone you see regularly.  Maybe your mom or dad, your dog or cat or horse.  Someone who loves you and takes good care of you.  Now close your eyes and imagine them very close to you.  See the warmth of their heart shine into yours.  Feel the sunbeams of their love shining to you.  Now let’s say the phrases.  Amelie, who is an Om School student, will help us.  Let’s repeat after Amelie:

May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be peaceful

Now we can radiate that warm, soft sunlight of loving-kindness right back to the person we’re imagining.  Picture the love shining from your heart, warming them with gentle loving-kindness.  Now let’s say the phrases for them.  Emma, who is also an Om School student, is going to help us.  Let’s repeat after Emma:

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be peaceful

And we don’t have to stop there.  The sun shines on the whole world.  Let’s send that loving-kindness to all beings, even to the sun — to thank the sun for all of the gifts it gives us.  Liam and Tonia, who also practice mindfulness with Om School, will help us.  Let’s repeat after Liam and Tonia:

May all beings be happy
May all beings be healthy
May all beings be peaceful

Can you feel it?  I think we’re warming up the world.  And if you don’t feel it, that’s okay too.  We’re planting seeds and we can trust that they will grow.

I trust that the sun is your heart — and mine too.  Without the sun, no living being could survive. Without sun, there would be no you, no me.  So everything we know, even these oranges are the coming-together of many conditions near and far.  Here in one orange is the sun, the rain, the earth, the farmer who cared for the soil, the tools used to work the farm, the sky from which the rain fell, the parents who gave birth to the farmer.  In fact, this sun-ripe orange is the body of the entire cosmos… made up completely of non-orange elements —sunshine, rivers, and consciousness — and without any of these, the orange cannot be.

We can learn a lot from an orange.

Walt Whitman said, “I believe a blade of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars….” He also said, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”  The sun is our heart, yes?  John Muir said, “When one tugs a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

These are meditations on our interbeing — on how all things are intricately interwoven.  So, with that, let’s weave together a solstice sun.  Let’s honor the sun, that great heart outside our body, with an enormous weaving project — and create a big, yellow sun with up-cycled fabrics, wool roving, and other natural materials.

And for the parents– what makes this a contemplative project?  Many things.  We’ve just heard how the sun is our heart, so now we have a chance to deepen and embody this understanding through the experience of using our hands.  But that’s not all.  Some of you may have done a project like this in the past.  Today we’re going to do it differently.  Instead of just weaving the fabric around the branches, we’re going to repeat the loving-kindness verses as we weave.  With each verse, our hands will make a coordinating movement.  So, it’s, “May I be happy…” as we wrap the fabric around the frame.

In doing so, we are weaving our loving-kindness right into this sun — so it can shine on everyone.  We’re also training our attention to be right here in the present moment, where our lives take place… and not caught in worry or planning.  And this present moment, under the warm, solstice sun, is a pretty nice place to be.

Thank you, everybody.

Now let’s turn to some of the Om School kids to get us started.  And if you’re not an Om School kid, but you’d like to help, please come on up.  It’s going to take a lot of little hands to weave the entire sun.

This talk was inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, The Sun My Heart and references an article of the same title by Thich Nhat Hanh, published in the Engaged Buddhist Reader, ed. Arnold Kotler (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1966)

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