Removing Obstacles

In the ongoing Ongoing – I feel like making it a noun and having a meaning slot for each circumstance, in this case; the selling of the house – of showing the house which sounds so dry and unweighty, we have evolved a few tricks. One of them is cleaning for four or five hours. How do you make a house with 12 animals and 2 to 4 humans look unlived in? Yep, we clean! The other more unsettling thing is the “show” itself. There we are. Our habits, choices, interests exposed. Should we take down the Obama signs, is the photo of us with the kids or the dogs “too much?” When we adopted Chandrika and Bimala we had to eviscerate the house of “Us.” It would have foiled everything. I know it’s not the same now but I have flashbacks.

One of the funny things we do now in order for the doors in the house to be open – we have them all closed against a list of cat and dog possibilities that would and have made life miserable – is to load two cars with the dogs and take a drive. Inside, we have two cats who hide in a closet, we close that door. Another one can go out. One in my studio. Two in Paula’s with a sign on the door to re-close. We figure one closed door they can handle. Two more get put in individual carriers in what we consider a “one brief look” room upstairs.

When we come back they all run around freaked to see if everything is the same – whatever that is in this household! Then two of them open a few doors with their renewed energy and tip a few Matryoshka Dolls, dig the tree, dig into the rolls of toilet paper, rearrange the cushions, pee on some (why not) and generally get comfortable reminding us why we like our own spaces.

The Ganesha at the door and the ones inside our house are for removing obstacles. I think of them as  inspiring me everyday to be the best I can be, to notice all the souls in my path and to laugh. Can’t have better help for that than 4 dogs and 7 cats!
This period of knowing we are moving but staying here is a lovely challenge. We love it here in this house. We want to move for all kinds of good reasons. Our shadow selves (above) and all our other selves are in sync with this. We get reminded everyday to focus on what is here now, on what we love and have faith the right things will be put in front of us and we will be awake to see them!

Paula taking my photo. Seeing each other.

An Old Friend Speaks Up


When I first met Narayan around 1985 she was an ethereal presence, an angel always dressed in white. And she sat beside my teacher Christina Feldman on my third Women’s Retreat at Insight Meditation Society and on every one thereafter. It might have been a year or two before she told us how she came to meditation at a young age or maybe she told us right away. She was obsessed with candles. In her teen-age room, hour after hour she would stare at a candle. She called it meditation. Her family called it crazy. She became a symbol of strength for me, nothing could stop her being anything – my image of womanhood had to shift because she wouldn’t.
She still dresses in white. And sits beside Christina and sits on her own as she has always sat, on her own. She owned the space. Lightly. Whitely. Gently following the stream of her steadfast delight. Gently following the precepts she acknowledged as her own. Gently bringing us back to the basics, the simple, the essential. Always soft, never pushed or rehearsed or defended.
Here’s what she says about love.

Narayan talks about METTA

  The word “metta” is defined as loving  kindness or unlimited friendliness.

The practice of metta is the encouragement of the qualities of friendship – affection, acceptance, trust, warmth, loyalty, a sense of humor, non abandonment, and sympathy; extending those to oneself and others as well as towards experiences and situations. It also means “to be near to” or close to all things.

 Metta has the characteristic of unconditionality; it is the practice of making room for all beings and experiences in our lives, including political beings and experiences. Metta practice adds the element of kindness to whatever is happening in the here and now.

We add lovingkindness to the mess of things, not planning that things be a certain way at a later date and not waiting until inner and outer conditions are perfect. The practice of metta is not the effort to convince ourselves of something that we don’t actually believe, or to deny that we feel the way we do, such convincing and denial tend to make things much worse!

With the intention of metta, we are enlarging our capacity to be kind, even when it seems impossible. Metta practice encourages confidence in our inherent goodness of heart.


This morning in my meditation I asked for courage. Courage to be who I am – which means I accept myself – to do what I need to do – which means I have a clue – and the willingness to act with love, every act from love.

Notwithstanding my teachers’ groans over my punctuation, I feel set to a high standard. It means that in every moment I am awake to myself, to my dreams and desires as well as my shortcomings.

As unlikely as it is that I will accomplish every goal, it is very certain I will act differently than if I had not entertained these thoughts.

I often feel like a bowl of water I’m carrying. If I go too fast, act with haste, some will spill out – perhaps on you. But if I still myself so I can see my reflection, my path will be free of spills and you will walk with me in peace.

I take wisdom from the world of distinctions. The spider is determined to be a spider, not a lot of choice. While I may not have the choice to change what I am, I have the choice to change who I am. Everyday, every minute I can make a choice, in that choice lies the difference of who I am.

May you have the courage of your conviction, compassion in every step and love in your heart.

The Road To Hell

When I start something I always mean to finish it. You probably do too. How many of us start something we have no intention of finishing? I doubt I’ll see any hands raised for this one.

Here’s the but – we all don’t finish everything we start. Do we know we’re not going to finish? Are we testing the water or fooling ourselves? The saying, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes to mind. I’m never sure what that means, but I think I know what it looks like.

As an artist I know that dragging something to its bitter end is not necessarily valuable time spent. So I have work started in my studio that is not finished but has been valuable – or will be put to use Someday. That’s not what I mean about finishing. It’s more like planting a garden and then keeping it weeded even when I forget that keeping a garden is as much about weeding, watering and mulching as it is about harvesting.

It’s about the diet we say we’ll go on, the books we’re going to read, the retreat we’re going on or the art we say will brighten our lives. When the phone rings and it’s someone who needs something, an overdue book, a reminder of an appointment I leap to it. But how do I get my phone to ring for me. Where are the overdue reminders, the missed appointments I have with myself?

Most of the time when I go to meditate I know I’m ready for the phone to ring, for the distraction to happen. It takes extra determination to hold still, to let myself just be. I know this path so well and I know the many “hows” needed to “do the right thing.”

It helps me to know this has been going on for thousands of years. I feel connected to those who are ahead of me. And I feel connected to you who are with me and behind me because I know I’m not the only one who knows all this stuff and then still has to do it.

Pema Chodron writes in The Wisdom of No Escape, “The only way to find yourself is to be with yourself. It’s all up to you. No one will know, you won’t be tested.” Reading, listening, knowing won’t help. Only doing. And it will help right away. It will start immediately. Now. Now. Now.

Make It Personal

I walk by the cats

each one’s attention to me is palpable

each one waiting

as I go by (or pet, acknowledge, feed, scoop)

their equanimity reminds me to pay attention

my feet on the floor, my hands on the fur

where is my heart?

I take a breath, feel, Be

each cat, each breath, each blade of grass

step by step, blade by blade is personal.

One moment, one me, this time to be.

I’m Lucky

This morning the cats were all quivery at the windows. The Robins are back! The Voles are out and about and Spring is here. It might be a bit of a mixed message that people are still walking on the lake, but it looks slippery and I know they won’t be walking too much longer.

The ground isn’t frozen and the water from the snowmelt can run deep. The dogs are waiting for that. The poor things have been staggering around for so long.

I am impressed by the New England weather, the largescale work of people, of beavers, the muck of the cows and horses, their hooves churning the soil. But this morning’s vole reminded me of creatures small and smaller who turn the soil, pollinate, feed and support our system of life. Small scale has a big impact.

Last summer when the electricity went out and our generator didn’t go on, we went out to see what was the problem. Snake skins! It was filled with snake skins and we had to get a new motherboard so it would know what to do. The snakes had done in its brain!

I love the time nature gives me by taking away my tasks or giving me new ones. I’m lucky to be counted in its creature load.