August 30, 2012: What Surprised You Today?

Years ago I heard about a Basque spiritual tradition that can help us capture a little mindfulness in retrospect. Here's how it goes: at the end of the day, either write in a journal about the questions below or gather with someone and ask each other to answer them:
  • What surprised you today?
  • What inspired you?
  • What moved you?
  • What made you think differently?
Okra is one of my recent surprises. How about you?

August 18, 2012 Real But Not True

Who among us isn’t occasionally led around the nose by our own strong feelings of aversion or wanting? In this April 18, 2012 podcast on Tara Brach’s web site, Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche, in conversation with Brach, explains how we can be compassionate with feelings that are “real,” yet gently examine them to see if they are “true.” Sometimes our strong feelings come from past experiences that are internalized in the body, he says. Rather than suppressing or overriding them, we can take them seriously, gently examining them to help ourselves determine whether they are real and true – or real but not true – before we take action.

As an illustration, Rinpoche humorously describes the compassionate, mindful internal conversation he had with his feelings after he found himself unable to cross a glass-floor sky bridge between buildings in Thailand.

I’ll definitely be taking a look at Rinpoche’s new book, Open Mind, Open Heart: Awakening the Power of Essence Love.

July 27, 2012 Beauty is in the Eye

C. and I took an ecotour of a section of the Mississippi along eastern Iowa last night along with a dozen members of my reading group and a few of their partners. With our naturalist tour guide who navigated the pontoon boat, we spotted a half dozen great blue heron during our 90-minute ride. Each time we came close to one of these introverted creatures, the group issued a pleased “Ahh!” while the bird slowly spread its wings, revealing blues and grays, and meandered to a perch further down the river.

When we spotted a few turkey vultures drifting lazily above, someone said "They’re so ugly.” Another person quipped “Their breath must really stink” after the guide reminded us they eat carrion, serving as nature's clean-up crew. She also told us that if a vulture is in danger, it will vomit on its predator, stinging its eyes long enough for the vulture to fly away. Pretty crafty if you ask me, and personally, I love the sight of their fringed wings riding the wind current.

I’ll admit that the sight of hundreds of double-crested cormorants nesting in trees on an island in the Mississippi did give me an eerie feeling. There were so many of them, and their bodies seemed too heavy for perching on trees.  

The tour guide defended the double-crested cormorants. “They’re considered ugly by some, but they have the most beautiful turquoise eyes.” When I googled “cormorant eyes” today, I was indeed struck by the intricate beauty that I saw in several photos. What a color palate Mother Nature uses with that brilliant combination of blue, turquoise, and yellow!

We can assign our hierarchies to nature’s creatures, but nature just…is.