Art of Dharma http://artofdharma.com A Mindfulness Journal Sat, 20 Sep 2014 17:26:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Downward Dharma: Weekly Rewindhttp://artofdharma.com/downward-dharma-weekly-rewind/ http://artofdharma.com/downward-dharma-weekly-rewind/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 17:26:51 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=17018 Namaste It was a good week. We announced our new redesign at Art Of Dharma and reached over 200, 000 “likes” on our Facebook page in this letter from our editor, Omotara James and managing director, Kyler Hamilton. We are grateful for every one of you. Click here for the write-up of Art Of Dharma on doyouyoga.com […]

The post Downward Dharma: Weekly Rewind appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
Namaste

editor-letter

It was a good week. We announced our new redesign at Art Of Dharma and reached over 200, 000 “likes” on our Facebook page in this letter from our editor, Omotara James and managing director, Kyler Hamilton. We are grateful for every one of you. Click here for the write-up of Art Of Dharma on doyouyoga.com

thepath

With pen and paper, we took a moment to meditate on the nature of spirituality, as it is, a response to the marvels and stresses of modern life.

desert yoga

Learn how to combat disconnection and practice regulating your emotions by utilizing the Body Scan meditation technique. You might as well become comfortable in your skin, if you haven’t already. You’re gonna be hanging out in there for the foreseeable present!

grattitude

It’s never to late in the day or in life to change direction: one woman’s inspirational choice to stop suffering and to start walking the path of gratitude.

The Lojong Meditation clan and their journey into mindful parenting

The Lojong Meditation clan and their journey into mindful parenting

Take the time to journey into mindful parenting with these helpful tips from our resident mindful matron, Claire Spencer. It’s worth it.

Indian forest man shares about 34 years of growing forest. (Source: vovan, Shutterstock)

Indian forest man shares about 34 years of growing forest. (Source: vovan, Shutterstock)

When photographer, Jitu Kalita, spotted a man walking a through forest in Northern India, she would have no way of knowing the man, Jadav Payeng, was responsible for planting this forest, one tree at a time over the course of 35 years.

Photo Credit: godcall.net

Photo Credit: godcall.net

And finally, follow recent university graduate, Asia Facey, as she sets off on charting the beginning of her young life with her newly found spirituality.

write for art of dharma

Interested in joining the circle of writers of Art Of Dharma? Find out how, here!

Namaste

art of dharma

The post Downward Dharma: Weekly Rewind appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/downward-dharma-weekly-rewind/feed/ 0
One Man, Planting One Tree At A Time, Creates A Foresthttp://artofdharma.com/one-man-planting-one-tree-time-creates-forest/ http://artofdharma.com/one-man-planting-one-tree-time-creates-forest/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 17:16:17 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=16989 One person can make a difference. Art can change the world. Thirty-five years ago, Jadav Payeng began planting trees on the North Eastern Indian Island of Majuli. Today, Payeng has singlehandedly created 1,400 acres of tropical wildlife refuge that is now the Molai forest. What was a barren sandbar in the middle of the Brahmaputra […]

The post One Man, Planting One Tree At A Time, Creates A Forest appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
One person can make a difference.Courtesy of: Kickstarter Courtesy of: Kickstarter Courtesy of: Kickstarter

Art can change the world.

Forest Man

Thirty-five years ago, Jadav Payeng began planting trees on the North Eastern Indian Island of Majuli. Today, Payeng has singlehandedly created 1,400 acres of tropical wildlife refuge that is now the Molai forest. What was a barren sandbar in the middle of the Brahmaputra river has become the life work of Jadav Payeng, the title subject of the documentary film, Forest Man.

A still from the film "Forest Man". Courtesy of Livemint Payeng inside Molai Kathoni. Photo: Shailendra Yashwant Courtesy of: Kickstarter

The problem: Home to 150,000, the island of Majuli has endured erosion of its land mass by more than half, over the last 100 years.

The solution: Since 1979, forestry worker, Jadav Payeng has toiled to produce woodlands that now house endangered Bengal tigers, elephants, rhinos and birds. Payeng’s physical labour and spiritual task was largely unknown by most of the world until he had a fateful encounter one day with photographer, Jitu Kalita.

That serendipitous meeting between Payeng and Kalita has resulted in growing acknowledgement and awards for Payeng’s achievements, including a documentary titled, Forest Man, produced by Canadian director, William Douglas McMaster in 2012. Funded via Kickstarter, McMaster’s documentary, narrated by Payeng’s close friend, Kalita, Forest Man has recently won acclaim from Sundance and many other festivals. It is a story of one person, quietly taking the right action again and again and again. It is a teaching whose value is born out of example.

For a sneak peak of the film, click on the link below:

Source: Kickstarter l Livemint

 

The post One Man, Planting One Tree At A Time, Creates A Forest appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/one-man-planting-one-tree-time-creates-forest/feed/ 0
Finding My Spirituality On The Path To Adulthoodhttp://artofdharma.com/finding-spirituality-university/ http://artofdharma.com/finding-spirituality-university/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:03:21 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=16966 When I first got accepted to University, my heart was a flutter with excitement and expectation. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to be able to go a private school and I knew I was destined to make it big. When I first stepped foot on campus I was overwhelmed by the beautiful buildings, the beautiful […]

The post Finding My Spirituality On The Path To Adulthood appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
When I first got accepted to University, my heart was a flutter with excitement and expectation. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to be able to go a private school and I knew I was destined to make it big. When I first stepped foot on campus I was overwhelmed by the beautiful buildings, the beautiful people and the looming possibilities. If there are any Harry Potter fans out there, my emotions were pretty much straight out of the scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where Harry first arrives at Hogwarts:

However, once I moved in, got settled and my parents left for home without me, I realized that my family wasn’t going to be around. I got homesick and a little nervous. I could feel my adulthood looming over me. I felt small. I felt disconnected. For the first time in my life, I was actually on my own. I was going to have to make new memories. (Scary). I was going to have to explore this next chapter of my life alone. (Terrifying).  At least that’s what I thought.

Even on a large campus of a vast university with barely post-adolescent teenagers creating chaos and noise, there a places of retreat and quiet. I know this because I found these places: inside myself. Ravi Ravindra, who wrote The Wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, states:

As spiritual searchers we need to become freer and freer of the attachment to our own smallness in which we get occupied with me-me-me. Pondering on large ideas or standing in front of things which remind us of a vast scale can free us from acquisitiveness and competitiveness and from our likes and dislikes. If we sit with an increasing stillness of the body, and attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad stars at night, or any other indicators of vastness, the mind gradually stills and the heart is filled with quiet joy. Also recalling our own experiences in which we acted generously or with compassion for the simple delight of it without expectation of any gain can give us more confidence in the existence of a deeper goodness from which we may deviate. (39)

When I learned to channel my youthful, excited energy into a deeper more mature and reflective state, all the happiness I had only previously imagined, began to manifest in my present reality. Throughout my four years at school, I made new friends, tried new things and even got the chance to work with like-minded spiritually open individuals. My crisis of adulthood put me firmly on the path of exploring and adopting a new spirituality. I believe things happen for a reason and that the energy from anything: a challenge, a crisis of faith or just simply, fear can manifest as a teaching opportunity one can use to learn about one’s self. This was my experience. An attitude of willingness and gratitude will always lead you to who you really are.

Since I have graduated, I’m now back at home searching for work. It has not been a very easy road and I do not expect that the solutions to my problems to be solved in a wave of Hermione’s wand (that was another Harry Potter reference in case you were wondering). And that’s okay. Today I have more acceptance and gratitude than I have ever had. While I do sometimes wish I was back at school, I’m so glad I was blessed with the experience that so many others never receive. Plus, one never knows exactly what the future has in store, which is why it’s best to reside only in the present moment. Life is full of new things to discover. All we have to do is be still in order to find them.

 

 

The post Finding My Spirituality On The Path To Adulthood appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/finding-spirituality-university/feed/ 0
A Journey Into Mindful Parentinghttp://artofdharma.com/journey-mindful-parenting/ http://artofdharma.com/journey-mindful-parenting/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:31:08 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=16879 Okay, I’m going to level with you. There have been several parenting moments upon reflection where I should have used a mindful approach. Alas, I dipped into “Mama’s gone loco”, beelined straight into “frazzle hair rock” and slipped off the edge for a while. I’m not going to make any excuses. My partner Tamkey (a […]

The post A Journey Into Mindful Parenting appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
Okay, I’m going to level with you. There have been several parenting moments upon reflection where I should have used a mindful approach. Alas, I dipped into “Mama’s gone loco”, beelined straight into “frazzle hair rock” and slipped off the edge for a while. I’m not going to make any excuses.HandsinHands

My partner Tamkey (a former Tibetan Buddhist Monk of 19 years) seems to have one up on me in the patience stakes. To be fair though, he was raised in a culture where mindfulness isn’t a concept, it’s a verb, and it’s ingrained into everything. It’s effortless and I am in constant awe of his ability to calmly manage any situation.

Before I get into the guts of this article, let me first note that I’m not a Doctor, Child Behaviorist or Mindfulness “guru”. I’m a Mum who happens to use Mindfulness as the foundation for each day (in both my paid and unpaid work.)

Why am I spilling my guts like this? Well, because, when we talk about Mindful parenting, there seems to be a warm fuzzy bubble around it, like a nice hot cup of tea, but the reality is that parenting, mindful or not, can be really trying at times*.

Little ones make a fast track straight into your heart and know exactly how to dig out those hidden fears and insecurities and bring them to the surface.

If you have expectations, projections, hang-ups then you can bet your bottom dollar, they will be tested and stomped on, only to be replaced with something even more amazing, the reality of how things are right now. At some point, one fights or accepts the situation, either way, it’s a big adjustment.

The first step in mindful parenting is recognising what your ideas of good parenting might be, and how they might impact your ability to be present and in the moment with your child.

Don’t get me wrong here, this isn’t a judgement call on any style of parenting at all, it’s actually the absence of judgement for a few minutes a day.

Like all practices, there are soft and hard edges. The soft edge is the outcome of gradual acceptance, tolerance, calmness, and awareness that comes from the practice. The hard edge, is that it starts with you, meaning we have to “parent” ourselves first before we can provide this to our kids. This is often the most confronting part of mindfulness practice, and one that I’m personally working on all the time.

How do you dig deep to find the kindness, patience and love for yourself when your eyes are hanging out of your head, you’re multi-tasking like a monster, and it’s only 5am in the morning?

Well there are two components, that of daily practice, which builds a foundation to rely upon when things are a bit chaotic, and then taking time out to do simple mindfulness exercises with your children to build stronger connections.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it or pretend it’s easy to find the time, but I will promise you this, a few minutes a day being mindful will greatly enhance your understanding and acceptance of this wonderful journey called “parenthood”.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to introduce some mindfulness activities that you can take into your day and share with your little ones. I’d love to hear about your experiences, and of course, if you have some tips for our readers, please share them. I think it goes without saying, it takes a village to raise a child, and you are part of our Dharma village :)

The SEAT

First, remove the spaghetti from your hair and find a nice comfortable spot, it can be anywhere, your bed, a couch, just somewhere that you can sit with your child (on your lap works nicely if your child likes cuddles).

This works best one on one, so if you have several children, just let them know that this is something you will share equally. It can help if you introduce this practice as quality bonding time, something that is special to be shared.

Please note, that you can do this practice in 2-4 minutes, so if you have a wriggler on your hands, just reduce the times, and remember, the practice isn’t about sitting perfectly in silence, it’s just a few steps for bringing you both to the present and reconnecting.

Surrender: Gently release whatever hinderances including stress, anger or anxiety that you are holding onto, even if only for the next 4 minutes. It is critical that you create a sense of space and openness for this practice.

Exhale: Bring your awareness to the slow rising and falling of your chest, shoulders and stomach. Feel the sensations. Gently focus on your in breath, visualising that with each breath you are bringing bright, clear light into your being. On the out breath, you are releasing any residual tensions from the week. Sit with this for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Then transfer your awareness to the pattern of your child’s breathing. If they are sitting on your lap, or beside you, just be aware of their trust in this moment, and how expansive your love is for them. If possible, bring your breathing into alignment with your child. If sitting isn’t possible, simply move to the next step.

Acknowledge that this moment, right now is the last of it’s kind, never to be repeated. A year from now you will unwittingly wonder where the time went. Now is the time to absorb each detail. Take a mental photo if you like, and add smells, tastes, sounds to it. Be finely tuned to the here and now.

Thank your child for their time and for being who they are, focusing on qualities of character rather than external features. Make sure you make eye contact and try a positive affirmation such as “I just want to thank you for being so kind to your sister this week” “Thank you for sitting here with me, I love our time together”. If your child is too young to understand these words, that’s okay, in saying them you are still connecting.

If you feel like extending the practice and your child seems comfortable, you can ask them to slowly breathe with you, with the following instructions

“Breathe in. 1

Breathe out. 2

Breathe in 3.”

Now that the practice is complete, take the feeling of calm and connection into the rest of your day (as much as is possible anyway!) and let me know how it goes.

*If you or a loved one are experiencing difficulties, be sure to contact your local health care professional or your national parenting support line:

USA: www.nationalparenthelpline.org/

Australia: www.parentline.com.au

UK: www.familylives.co.uk

The post A Journey Into Mindful Parenting appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/journey-mindful-parenting/feed/ 0
Gratitude Files: A Confrontation Of Love And Sufferinghttp://artofdharma.com/gratitude-files-philadelphia-story/ http://artofdharma.com/gratitude-files-philadelphia-story/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:28:26 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=16935 What is gratitude? Is it an appreciation of the universe? Acceptance of the present moment? Is gratitude love, unconditional and in all of its forms? I would recall a day a few years back when I lived in a very busy city in an apartment with aspiring young college students. It was the time of my life when […]

The post Gratitude Files: A Confrontation Of Love And Suffering appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
What is gratitude? Is it an appreciation of the universe? Acceptance of the present moment? Is gratitude love, unconditional and in all of its forms?

I would recall a day a few years back when I lived in a very busy city in an apartment with aspiring young college students. It was the time of my life when I worked 2 to 3 jobs and I was unsure about the future of my career: unsure about the direction of the most significant relationships of my life, unsure about how to navigate my young womanhood through a city where success seemed to be the most important currency. I was uncertain about a great many things and in hindsight, I can tell you that I was a little lost.

Not having the benefit of a mentor, I looked to my peers for clues about how to feel about myself. We all compared our trials and triumphs because that’s what kids do. They compete. However, for me, this was a mistake here. For me, these comparisons were not innocent questions about grade point averages. These were questions that were determining my self worth. These were questions to which I felt I deserved answers. What was I going to do for the rest of my life? When will I be happy? The irony of these questions is that none of the answers mattered. What I didn’t realize at the time was that when I thought I was looking for the solution to my problem, I was actually living inside of the problem and not the solution.

Although I was very young, with my whole life presumably, in front of me, I was obsessed with uncertainty and ignored all the certainties around me. Certainties such as the warmth of the sun. Or the laughter of a friend. Or the taste of the first bite of my favorite food. But this ignorance would not last.

On one particular day after work, in between jobs, I remember walking a few blocks through the rain, cursing the fact that I could not afford to keep a car. That morning I left the apartment without my wallet, in a rush after waking up late. As a result, I did not have my bus pass. I was tired, quite hungry and feeling very resentful at all the people in all the cars who drove past me as I limped uphill, wet from the rain, but truly I was soaked in my own self-pity. There is a quote by Maya Angelou:

Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.

This is true. I could feel myself hardening with each step. Being in the emotional state that I was, I remember I was not walking on the sidewalk but I was walking almost in the middle of the street, head hung low, paying little attention to the traffic. But then something happened.

I began to hear something, like a small whirring sound, steadily approaching me getting louder and louder. Pulled out of the isolation of my own self-directed thoughts, I looked up. To my surprise I saw a small dark and shadowy figure.

He was a young attractive guy, about my age, coming down the hill in an electronic wheelchair. He wore a bright yellow poncho, was holding an umbrella in one hand and was wearing a backpack. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him. When I tell you that the expression of this man’s face was one of sheer contentment, as he rolled down the very same hill that I was cursing as I struggled to limp up, I felt an immediate sense of disorientation. I was humbled by his flagrant joy. His eyes met mine. His beautiful round green and blue eyes, filled with love were focused on my furious brown eyes and I could tell that the smile on his face (which caught me, like a net), was a continuation of the smile he had on his entire journey down the hill. He was not smiling for me and yet he was. I did not have the language for it then, but this young man, a peer of mine, was a tangible example of what it is to be living in the present. And the universe sent him to me.

Because this stranger was able to be present in the moment and aware of where he was, he was able to see me: to acknowledge my presence, to acknowledge my existence and in doing so, I was wordlessly reminded of my own existence and summoned back into the moment with a smile.

This is a moment of unconditional love that I have carried with me for a few years now. This stranger taught me a lesson of unconditional love that I did not realize I was ready for. As we crossed paths, we did so without judgment of one another and it was a humble reminder that love is everywhere and comes up in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times.

I will not say that my entire attitude changed at this moment, but it was certainly a teaching moment where I realized that there is a joy that cannot be touched or tainted by any human experience. Nor can it be compared or traded like currency. It simply exists.

Who that man was, I’ll never know. What is his story today, I cannot say, but at that moment, that beautiful stranger was my belief in love. He was my reason to look up. He was the universe unfurling with kindness before me.

I keep the joy of that stranger with me today and always not because I was in a bad place, not because he was in a wheelchair. It is not the circumstances that made this moment memorable, it was the look of unaffected compassion on his face… I remain grateful today for the unspoken gratitude that touched me on that day and touches me still.

Thank you.

The post Gratitude Files: A Confrontation Of Love And Suffering appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/gratitude-files-philadelphia-story/feed/ 0
Moment Of Mindfulness: Be In Your Skinhttp://artofdharma.com/moment-mindfulness-skin/ http://artofdharma.com/moment-mindfulness-skin/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 07:26:46 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=16875 So often our bodies are doing one thing, and our minds are wandering this way and that. On a day to day basis, our attention is drawn outwards, to external factors. More so, when facing stressful situations. I know that I’m still finding a sense of “being fractured” from myself in times in high-stress, meaning […]

The post Moment Of Mindfulness: Be In Your Skin appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
So often our bodies are doing one thing, and our minds are wandering this way and that.

Body Scan mindfulness meditation for aligning the body and mind. Photo: www.janakellam.com

Body Scan mindfulness meditation for aligning the body and mind. Photo: www.janakellam.com

On a day to day basis, our attention is drawn outwards, to external factors. More so, when facing stressful situations. I know that I’m still finding a sense of “being fractured” from myself in times in high-stress, meaning that even though I know I should be breathing calmly, reducing my heart rate, being a casual observer, there are some things that just trigger a stress response in me. My heart rate spikes, my chest starts to feel tight and my hands get clammy.

After many years of practicing, the great thing is that I now know what causes this reaction and I can actively work to regulate my emotions by being aware of the impact that my thoughts have on my body.

What could send this cool, calm, collected lady into a head spin you ask? ;)

It’s funny, I think there may be a sense that if you practice mindfulness, you’re all “peace love and mung beans baby” and in a sense I think for the most part that is true.

But, being undeniably human, I am prone to lapses in focus and like the best of us, I too suffer meltdowns from the usual stuff. You know the type of things I’m talking about, being trapped in traffic, driving 20km an hour with the heartwarming shrieks of my baby in the back seat, or knowing that an important work meeting is coming up and feeling slightly unprepared, or that difference of opinion with a loved one (who is usually right, but I’ll be damned if I can acknowledge it in the moment!)…

All of these day to day happenings are creating internal conversations that most of us barely get the time to listen to. This becomes even more evident when sitting to meditate. Many people tell me that the moment they stop to sit, their minds begin taking inventory of what needs to be done.

“I must get the shopping tomorrow, I’ve forgotten to pay that telephone bill, I really should call my mother!” This is absolutely normal and to be expected.

One way in which we combat this disconnection is to perform a “Body Scan” meditation.

The Body Scan technique is a great way of familiarising yourself with the sensations of the body, both obvious and hidden.

In this meditation, we give ourselves permission to really feel and release the tensions and stresses of the day, whether they are trapped in our shoulders, or a clenched jaw…whether we hold that stress in our lower back or behind the eyes…we take a few minutes to explore how our body feels in the moment.

To begin, find a comfortable place to sit. Take a moment to find your breath.

Breathe in 1

Breathe out 2

Breathe in 3

Bring your awareness to the top of your skull, then slowly check your body. Take time to notice how your body feels. Become aware of the air on your skin, the feeling of the weight of your clothes and the sensation of gravity pulling you down. Make sure you take the time to feel every inch, from the tips of your fingers to your toes.

Gently rest in this awareness. Allow yourself to breathe slowly and relax, visualising all the tension floating away from your body.

When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and face the day. Please let me know how it goes :)

The post Moment Of Mindfulness: Be In Your Skin appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/moment-mindfulness-skin/feed/ 0
If Spirituality Is The Solution, What Is The Question?http://artofdharma.com/spirituality-solution-question/ http://artofdharma.com/spirituality-solution-question/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 07:53:54 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=16825 (There are countless ways to meditate that do not involve sitting cross-legged on a meditation blanket. The following is a meditation in writing. I encourage everyone of you to put your own pen to paper or finger to key and start meditating! Namaste) As I traverse my path through life, unattached yet unafraid of labels, I […]

The post If Spirituality Is The Solution, What Is The Question? appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
(There are countless ways to meditate that do not involve sitting cross-legged on a meditation blanket. The following is a meditation in writing. I encourage everyone of you to put your own pen to paper or finger to key and start meditating! Namaste)

As I traverse my path through life, unattached yet unafraid of labels, I frequently have time to wonder; “what is this path I’m on?” What kind of path is this, that has instructed my soul? I do not yet know. I travel in circles with folks who proclaim to walk the spiritual path, with those who proclaim that their path is religious and those who claim no path at all. Perhaps I’m on the unenlightened track. In primary school, (I attended a highly unorthodox grade school), I was taught the value of being an individual who walks an original path. These archetypes include, but are not limited to: the poet, the artist and (of course) the wanderer. Here, I was encouraged to find a higher calling, which I thought was strange as I had believed the opposite to be true– that your calling finds you. However, as I began to climb higher up the ladder of thought and academia, I was repeatedly confronted by philosophers and critically original thinkers, who proposed that there is no such thing as an original path: that what’s different is all a part of what is the same. This was confusing.

"The Reader's Path" by Jeremiah Morelli

“The Reader’s Path” by Jeremiah Morelli

As I walk alone (or never alone), one step at a time through this journey, my journey: or as I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors to reach this marker know as my life, or as I follow down the well trodden path of those who have come before, or even, as I borrow these feet to travel a path I have already taken: a path which seems familiar, but I cannot remember, I look straight ahead and with gratitude. This is my choice. That is where the “now” is. Life keeps happening. Sure I could look up or down or even back, but time, as it is, compels us all to move forward. Willingly or begrudgingly. With or without grace.

I do not know if I am walking a path of darkness or one of light, but I know that life keeps happening.  How could I know, now? Who could tell me? I could look always look for clues about this path in my fellow travelers, whose life experiences shimmer like still and deep waters: reflecting the movements of the wind and all types of celestial bodies.

Friends, families and loved ones are our clearest mirrors. Certainly my mother, one of my closest reflections, would label my path a wandering one, as I have not yet proclaimed a precise destination. This may or may not be true, but I can state that not having a destination in mind has not hindered me from asking or taking direction.

The_path_to_freedom_by_LoneMoon89

I Have Walked Many Paths

And they have all required balance
And when I could not balance, I held on
And when I could not hold on, I let go.
- Omotara James

 

And so concludes this meditation on spirituality. Thank you for joining me.

The post If Spirituality Is The Solution, What Is The Question? appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/spirituality-solution-question/feed/ 0
Moment of #mindfulness: Interdependencehttp://artofdharma.com/moment-mindfulness-interdependence/ http://artofdharma.com/moment-mindfulness-interdependence/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 04:02:13 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=16696 This morning we’re going to take a few minutes to meditate on the interdependence of all things by starting with an object, your morning cup of tea or coffee. That cup started as an idea, a shape, or a design, far from where you are now. Most likely the cup that you are holding is […]

The post Moment of #mindfulness: Interdependence appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
Interdependence of all things

Photo: Unknown

This morning we’re going to take a few minutes to meditate on the interdependence of all things by starting with an object, your morning cup of tea or coffee.

That cup started as an idea, a shape, or a design, far from where you are now.

Most likely the cup that you are holding is made from a porcelain or ceramic that combines clay and sand, which was dug from different quarries and delivered to one place. Then, it was crafted and put in a kiln, glazed and checked in preparation for sale. Next, it was packed to keep from breaking and finally, sent via ship or plane or train to a warehouse, where it was unloaded then to a store for purchase.

This process of creating a cup, touches the lives of potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of people: from the designers, creators, warehouse workers, drivers, store owners and lastly us, the consumers. Yet, when we drink from the cup every day, quietly there is an inherent sense of ownership and singularity “…I love my cup, this is mine, I bought it…”

Everything we touch, everything we do, is connected and dependent on others…sometimes in a very obvious way but more often in a subtle and profound way.

Take a moment today to consider everyone who is contributing to your way of life, and send them a silent but heartfelt thanks. The beauty of this, is that you too, are part of this vast, connected and beautiful world and are contributing to the lives of others.

Even in our darkest hours, we are never alone. Everything is connected.

The post Moment of #mindfulness: Interdependence appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/moment-mindfulness-interdependence/feed/ 0
The Dharma In Fiction: 5 Characters Who Live The Teachingshttp://artofdharma.com/dharma-reads/ http://artofdharma.com/dharma-reads/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:58:06 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=16753 “In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.” -Anna Quindlen I have lived many lives as long as I have been a lover of reading, but there are five characters who have made a lasting imprint upon my heart and my personal journey through life:   Oskar Schell of […]

The post The Dharma In Fiction: 5 Characters Who Live The Teachings appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
“In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.”

-Anna Quindlen

I have lived many lives as long as I have been a lover of reading, but there are five characters who have made a lasting imprint upon my heart and my personal journey through life:

 

Oskar Schell of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, 9 years old

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, 6-8 years old

Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, 11 years old

Lily Owens of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, 14 years old

Francie Nolan of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, 11 years old

 

Each of these unique and beautiful literary characters are children and teenagers. Authors tend to speak genuinely through young characters. There is a perception that children are innocent, carefree and sheltered beings living in a dark and scary world unknown to them. I disagree with this perception. Children have a sense of innocence, yes, but they are sensitive, painfully honest, authentic, and curious souls living in the same world as adults. The difference is they have not yet lost hope in the future; they have not yet let others’ judgments rule their own intuitive thoughts and actions. Adults, including myself, fear change, and change is inevitable, healthy, and necessary. Society expects children to undergo stages of their “coming of age,” also known as overwhelmingly rapid and constant states of change in the process of “growing up.” While children are expected and encouraged to change during the course of their youth, adults tend to resist change, desperately grasping onto any sense of stability and routine. Age spots and wrinkles? God forbid! Changing one’s career? What a nightmare! When does transformation become a feared move into the dark unknown? Or, rather, why does this change occur? I found some answers to these questions looking at these five young characters.

 

Oskar Schell

extremely loud incredibly close

 

In Foer’s beautiful tragic and novel, pessimism is explored from the eyes of a 9 year old boy living in post- 9/11 New York City. His father died in the fall of the Twin Towers, and the story centers around his complex quests and adventures revolving around a specific key. In his desperate search to connect to his father and understand the unexplainable sadness and heartbreaks that can shape the world, he undergoes a transformation. His quest was never about his father or a key or a tangible destination. Only through a young, outcast boy can the readers experience the connection between human beings and tragedy. In this story, told by Oskar, tragedy and suffering reveal truth and beauty.

 

“I don’t believe in God, but I believe that things are extremely complicated, and her looking over me was as complicated as anything ever could be. But it was also incredibly simple. In my only life, she was my mom, and I was her son.”

-Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

 

In this moment of connection with his grieving mother, Oskar pinpoints how not everything in life is understandable. There is a simplicity in the complex, and there is an incomprehensible nature to simplicity. There is a fluid nature experienced by human beings open to vulnerability, and this is what Oskar demonstrates to the readers. Foer uses this beautiful boy to connect the complicated nature of life to the simplicity of not knowing all of the answers. Sometimes, we all just need to be, and simply being is painful but it is also beautiful.

 

Scout Finch

mockingbird

 

It is a widely held belief that Atticus Finch is one of the greatest literary characters of all time. While I do think Atticus is an extraordinary character, Scout Finch, the narrator of the Lee’s classic novel, is the story’s most memorable character. She is between the ages of six and eight during the course of events that take place in the story and she is a sassy, honest, and curious individual. She learns about life from her wise, level-headed and just father, Atticus. Atticus seems to be a flawless character while Scout stands out as the girl abandoning her name of Jean Louise. She is a fighter, literally and figuratively. Her adventure and spunk gets her into trouble at school and leads to compassionate lectures by her father, but her voracious curiosity and inappropriate timing churns out the truth of this novel.

 

“Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

-To Kill a Mockingbird

 

The people surrounding us help shape our experiences. In the statement Scout makes above, it is clear that Atticus strongly influences her perception of the world. Scout’s gradual evolution in this story from child character to adult narrator reveals an admirable maturity. Her curiosity about life never hardens into a bitter distaste for the inequality she sees in her world; it transforms her into a reflective critic. Readers learn how judgments are often misplaced and justice isn’t always served. Instead of hating the world or fearing more change and negativity, Scout sets an example to lead a life filled with perspective and understanding.

 

Anne Shirley

annecover

 

Orphaned Anne Shirley moves in with older Matthew and Marilla. The freckled red-head is an amusing and lovable chatter-box. Her talkative nature and endless imagination gets on the nerves of some characters, but her uninhibited authentic self is what draws the readers into the story.

 

“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”

-Anne of Green Gables

Anne Shirley’s ability to allow her true personality to shine through, despite society’s conventions and expectations, is inspiring. She does not stifle who she is, and neither should anyone else! Perfection is boring. Politeness is boring, expected, and unnecessary. Like Anne, I’ve found it’s important to just be me and not care what others think. Anne finds excitement in the little things, she believes in the importance of “kindred spirits,” and realizes one cannot always dissect a situation or person. There is a very authentic sense of “letting go” in the way in which Anne behaves in accordance with the world.

 

Lily Owens

The-Secret-Life-of-Bees1

 

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is my all-time favorite novel. The oldest of the five characters I selected, Lily is fourteen years old and is insecure and feels she is undeserving of love. On her quest to find out about her deceased mother in the 1960s American South, Lily finds refuge, hope, and love in four African American women, Rosaleen and the Boatwright sisters, who act as the mothers she’s always needed. While finding self-love and acceptance in unexpected places, she pushes against the racist society of the 1960s. Family, she discovers, does not discriminate against age, race, or location. It is within our own hearts and a power greater than we can understand.

 

“Drifting off to sleep, I thought about her. How nobody is perfect. How you just have to close your eyes and breathe out and let the puzzle of the human heart be what it is.”

-The Secret Life of Bees

 

Lily discovers a universal truth: one cannot always know things, but one can feel them and experience them. This is enough. Letting go of judgement and expectation can bring truth, beauty, and love.

 

Francie Nolan

brooklyn

 

A smart, sharp, observant girl, Francie is the protagonist in Smith’s novel centering around a family dealing with economic troubles and alcoholism in their poor Brooklyn neighborhood. Francie has an optimism that is pervasive and a dream-like way of thinking that helps set a marvelous tone for this classic. Everything in our lives helps shape who we are, but we are in control of how they shape us. Francie’s story demonstrates this. The novel takes place over a long period of time, and Francie grows up in the story. She doesn’t become dark and complicated; she simply views the world differently, and this is how we can all choose to mature. The world doesn’t have to be “bad,” even though difficult times hit all of us. Difficulties allow us to learn and grow. Francie appreciates her past, lives in her present, and hopes for her future.

All of these characters are fictional, but they are real in my own life. Each of these stories and characters have helped me reflect upon my own journeys, transformations, and growths. They are a reflection of what can be true for those of us willing to explore the depths of possibility.

The post The Dharma In Fiction: 5 Characters Who Live The Teachings appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/dharma-reads/feed/ 0
Moment of #mindfulness: Make #time to get timehttp://artofdharma.com/moment-mindfulness-make-time-get-time/ http://artofdharma.com/moment-mindfulness-make-time-get-time/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 04:59:22 +0000 http://artofdharma.com/?p=16702 So often we say “I’m too busy to meditate,” as if our lives are moving at breakneck speeds and we’re merely passengers on a bullet train, watching everything blur by. Meditation is the antidote to busy. It gives you your time back, and brings a sense of awareness to each second, minute and hour. Practice provides […]

The post Moment of #mindfulness: Make #time to get time appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
So often we say “I’m too busy to meditate,” as if our lives are moving at breakneck speeds and we’re merely passengers on a bullet train, watching everything blur by.

No time to lose, wikinut.com

Photo: No time to lose
wikinut.com

Meditation is the antidote to busy. It gives you your time back, and brings a sense of awareness to each second, minute and hour. Practice provides the expanse of every moment and is infinite.

How? In setting aside 2-5 minutes each morning, we recalibrate our minds to focus on one thing well, rather than simultaneously coping with several tasks or thoughts. This pause, plus repeated daily practice is how we train our minds to find space in between the business. It might sound strange, but meditation can provide you with the ability to find a sense of calm and clarity when the world is seemingly spinning out of control, by turning inward.

Try it today. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing: gently bring your awareness to your breath. Your only thought for the next minute should be “Breathe in, Breathe out, Breathe in, Breathe out”. You can observe the comings and goings, but be careful to keep your primary focus on your breath. Notice how the timing of the world is now with you and aligned with your breath rather than being determined by external factors?

Take this feeling of awareness with you throughout your day, and let me know how it goes!

The post Moment of #mindfulness: Make #time to get time appeared first on Art of Dharma.

]]>
http://artofdharma.com/moment-mindfulness-make-time-get-time/feed/ 0