Thursday, November 20, 2008

Napa Valley

Some scenic photos of our stay in Napa Valley last weekend.
We enjoyed the Christian Brothers Retreat and Conference Center, in the beautiful countryside vineyards, where we had total peace and quiet, and the whole place to ourselves, except for the Brothers who kept out of sight. We had a second story room, with wall-to-wall-to-ceiling windows which we kept open the whole weekend, because of the unseasonably warm weather. Ideal! We could walk through the miles of vineyards, or we could wander through trails of Redwood Forests. Each morning we watched 3 or 4 hot air balloons rise over Napa. It was so restful and lovely, we were content to just enjoy the surroundings instead of shopping or sightseeing.
The event that took us there was the wedding of Hartley, daughter of Kirke and Darcy, our long-time friends from Spokane, Washington. It was held at the V. Sattui Winery, and they spared no expense in their hospitality. Everything was perfectly arranged, and the Filet dinner was superb. It was fun to visit with the family, to meet all of their children, now grown and having beautiful children of their own. It is amazing to me as I see these little ones, to realize that our own children were that young when we were friends, oh-so-long ago. So, at this time of Thanksgiving, I'll add a gratitude: Thank Heavens for Old Friends, who remember how immature we used to be, and still chose to stay friends while we grew up---sort of.
Love to all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eastern Philosophy 101

This is a topic I've been wanting to write about for a long time. It's outside the confines of religion, yet all religions are based on it's basic principles. In the yoga tradition, the first "commandment" also known as the yamas and the niyamas (the do and the do nots) is AHIMSA, translated as non-harming, or non-violence. This was Mahatma Gandhi's basic life teaching, adopted by Martin Luther King in the 60's. It is the medical profession's basic tenet: Above all, do no harm. All life is sacred, imbued with the divine, so if one practices ahimsa, true and lasting peace would reign on earth. In yoga class we teach that ahimsa starts with the self---self-acceptance, loving thoughts towards oneself. How many times we berate ourselves for what we have/have not done, feelings we have that are shameful, guilts, regrets, jealousies. How can we be loving towards another when we have violent thoughts towards ourselves? This principle of ahimsa carries into every area of our lives in everything we do. Can you personally go one hour without having a negative thought? I can't....yet....but I can practice by NOTICING when I am being less than accepting towards myself and others. And like every other spiritual principle, it is a life long practice honed through the years. We "simply" STOP the harming thoughts. I say simply, but it is not easy.
If we didn't adopt another practice, ahimsa would transform the world.
Now, to extend that, in the Buddhist philosophy, the ahimsa principle expands to METTA: meaning "Loving Kindness". In this active exercise, we practice intention. Not only do we stop the harming thoughts or actions, but we intentionally work on feeling what we wish to experience, and then sending out kindness and loving thoughts. It might start as simply as "May I be peaceful." "May I live in safety". "May I have mental happiness." "May I live with ease." But here's the rub: we start with feeling the loving thoughts towards ourselves, because (here's the Christian principle) we get back what we send out; we reap what we sow. The ripple effect begins inside of us. We do unto others as we would do to ourselves. When we want to help others, we send these thoughts out...."May you be safe." "May you be peaceful." "May you know your own true worth." Isn't that what we truly wish for ourselves and others?

This post precedes the holiday season, because it puts us into the proper frame of mind. Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate, traditionally means giving presents. I hope to reframe that into giving PRESENCE.
If we could all give each other the benefit of the doubt, what a gift that would be. If we could all offer our loved ones Loving Kindness, it wouldn't get any better than that. If we would truly be "present" in our relationships, instead of withdrawing into ourselves, or in whatever other ways we habitually run away, that would be a gift everyone would value. If we met together in the spirit of gratitude for the people in our lives who always have our best interests at heart, our holidays would be magical and memorable, and would make a difference in our world.

Love to All, no exceptions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History is made!

Wow, we have a new President of the United States. We have discovered that the world did not end, much to the surprise of many. The world as we know it is still with us, and probably will be for quite some time. The question is: Can we rise to the occasion? Can we make the difficult choices we need in order to bring about the changes that are necessary? Can we keep our focus on the essentials, the principles of right action, of integrity, of service, of sacrifice? Can we truly have the audacity to hope for a better America? Whoever you voted for, the separation, judgments, fears and doubts must be put aside to work together so our children and grandchildren will not suffer for our shortsightedness, our selfishness, or greed, or power-hunger. We cannot afford to be petty, but must expand our own comfort zones to be inclusive, to be peacemakers, to heal the divide which has gone on too long. Yes, this is a pep talk. Please leave your comments on ideas you have to foster hope and change and growth in the new climate sweeping the country.
God Bless America, and every person in it. God Bless the World, and every person in it.