Category Archives: Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness with the Moon

moon_phases_by_izzabell-d3inrqvBy practicing with the moon, we can give continuity to our practice.  We can also become more aware of our interrelatedness with nature.  Through bringing rhythm and intention to our practice, we become more consistent and rooted in our practice.

For centuries, the full moon has been a metaphor for the awakened mind – the inherent nobility that dwells within each of us.  With the full moon, we can practice feeling this inner-nobility.

For me, the waning moon is like the out-breath.  It is a time for letting go.  It is a time for noticing difficult emotions and negative mental formations and shining our light of awareness on them so that they diminish with the vanishing moon.  It’s also a time for slowing down, for noticing when we’re caught in the habit-energy of rushing, and preparing to rest with the dark moon.

I see the dark or new moon is the pause between the in-breath and the out-breath.  It is the quiet space where we can rest before continuing on to the next phase of our own journey… the vastness from which all things emerge.

While the moon is growing, we can explore new ideas, nurture our creativity, and plant intentions to grow like seeds under the energy of the increasing moon.   In this way, the waxing moon is like an in-breath.

Verse for the waning crescent moon: “Sister Moon, your horns point west, breathe in, breathe out then take your rest.”

Verses for the new moon.  January 30, 2014:
Breathing in, my belly grows
Breathing out, my breathing slows
In between I feel the space

Here there is a quiet place

What does the moon mean to you?  Do you feel drawn to a particular moon phase?  I’d love to hear from you.

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

Mind Like the Sky

Behind our thoughts, fears, frustrations, and rough places, there is a soft spot.  Pema Chodron writes, “if you touch that soft spot, you find the vast blue sky. You find that which is ineffable, ungraspable, and unbiased, that which can support and awaken us at any time.”

How do we help kids touch the vast sky that is our inner-nature?   One way is to get outside.  By the sea, in a field, on a farm — in these open places we notice the openness inside us.    Another way is by simply watching the clouds as they come and go.

We’ve all done this at some point in our lives.  Laying on the grass, settling into our body, gazing at the sky — we watch cloud shapes emerge and dissolve above us.  Kids are naturally drawn to this — so catching their interest shouldn’t be difficult.  Adding an element of mindfulness to it, we can invite children to notice how thoughts and feelings are like this too — coming and going and always changing shape.

Children’s artist  Betsy Rose writes, “I use this… as a way of teaching and discussing how to name emotions, and how feelings come and go like clouds; the clear blue sky of inner calm and quiet happiness is always available to us.”   She even has a song to go with it.   (If you don’t know her music or her work with children, be sure to investigate.)

Another way we can touch the clear, blue sky within us is with our breath.  Just one breath is often a starting place for clearing our mind and increasing our calm.  Encourage children to sit up tall and solid and let the sky fill them with their breath.  Thich Nhat Hanh offers children this verse for practicing with the sky:

“Breathing in, I see myself as the big blue sky.  Breathing out, I feel free and at ease.”