Love, kindness and compassion are the jewels of the universe

One last post about my retreat at Indralaya with Nawang Khechog.

The lasting messages are these.

1-The Tibetan cosmology is filled with beings. Now Quantum physics is using words and concepts that describe multiple realities, multiple dimensions, multiple worlds and universes Perhaps I am gluing them all together, but it reminds me of indigenous wisdom in which all things are sentient—even the things we don’t ordinarily think of—like the four elements of earth, water, Imageair and fire. This talk had extra power at a Theosophical camp, where a long tradition of nature spirits assumes there are other beings in other dimensions beside us in the world.

Result—my world is more populated and magical than before. What I knew as a child is validated. I knew then that I inhabited a mysterious and awesome place as one of many beings. I have been reminded again of that.

2-Love, kindness and compassion are the jewels of the universe(s). Of all the human attributes—strength, intelligence, beauty—the jewels are these magnificent qualities. The greatest meaning of life is to learn to love all sentient beings. Image

3-The innate nature of all humans is to want happiness and to not want suffering. The basic nature of our mind is a luminous clarity, like a beautiful lake. Much of the time, we let the world and our brain ruffle the surface. Mediation takes you home to that luminous clarity, and gives you a place to rest.

4-You must take time to gradually transform, nurture and warm your heart. Mediation will give you the certainty in what you know. Deep conviction comes over time; like a gymnast who learns a move, practicing it over and over until it becomes 2nd Nature, so do you approach meditation.

5-Enlightened beings are all around us. Their job is to alleviate suffering. But if they are not reaching you, it is because you are, essentially, blocking them with your mind. Once you can start to focus on loving kindness toward yourself and all sentient beings and your words and actions reflect this, they will be able to help you. Image

Lastly, when we asked about what to do in the world when you meet people who are not at all interested in loving kindness. Nawang smiled and said ah yes—they are selfish and –what do you call them? Brats? Yes, the Selfish Brats.

You try to teach them.

You become the example.

You look inside and keep working on yourself.

You keep practicing on your own work.

You minimize time with them until you are stronger.

Like on airlines, he laughed. Always put the mask on yourself first before you put mask on others. Be kind to yourself but push a little.

ImageThank you, Nwang Khechog. You have touched and changed my life.

Growing Our Souls

“These are the times to grow our souls. Each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power within us to create the world anew.”


When I first heard Grace Lee Boggs, I was rooted to the spot, unable to move away from the radio. Her cheerful, strong 95 year old voice answered all the questions Tavis Smiley and Cornell West could muster. I’d never heard anyone talk about growing a soul or give such credence to imagining new ideas for our world. And the WAY she talks. “We have reached a time on the clock of the world where we need to make a new beginning, a paradigm shift in almost everything thing that we do.” I had my paper and pencil out– scribbling notes like a reporter, hardly daring to breathe lest I miss something. I know we need to create a new world order—I know it in every part of my mind, heart and body. And it all depends on our souls, Grace says, a power that can “make a way out of no way.” Smiley and West, — like me,sometimes look out at the current situation and only see how grave it is. And it is grave. Still, as Grave Lee Boggs says “the devastation opens the way.”

When they persisted with their questions, she retorted (kindly) “don’t preoccupy yourself with ‘them’. When you are preoccupied with the negative, you can’t see the positive that is exploding all around you. The negative is a challenge to create new positives.” Wow. Now that’s a fully realized Forest Dweller. She gives you an idea of how incredible it could be of Boomers were to stop worrying about their portfolios and numbers and start working on their souls.

ImageForest Dwellers, by definition, are aging. Those days when I could party, study or create all night and then work all day and do it time after time are gone. I am learning “chi running” because the bounce of regular running is too hard on my body. The signs of age 61 are upon me though my internal age varies between 16 and 50. It is a question that wants to be answered. If I am past my physical and mental prime, what is my path now?

Grace Lee Boggs answers me. What we can do is– grow our souls. That is the Forest Dweller task. It is everyone’s task but it belongs especially to this stage of life. From taking care of our parents, we see what the Renunciate stage looks like. It shimmers in the future, this specter of our lives to come. But it also reminds us that we are not there yet. Our children have gone from the Student to the Householder stage. We Forest Dwellers can inhabit each one of these stages at anytime—allowing Beginner’s Mind to let us be students again, learning the ropes of being a Householder in different circumstances, renouncing aspects of career, relationships, material goods and ambition. Through all of those steps, we can grow our souls.

And always, we come back to the Forest Dweller perspective, this longing to focus on the deep center of our being before it is too late. ImageThose little wake up calls we get from the Universe remind us that the clock is ticking and at the end of the journey, the inner garden is the one we will harvest, not the outer accoutrements.

I will come back to the last post about Nawang Khechog tomorrow. Sometimes blogging turns out to be like surfing the internet. You start with one idea and end up with another. Once I got my teeth into Grace Lee Boggs, I couldn’t let go. Check the grand lady out, she is pretty damn magnificent.

Forest Dwellers, Loving Kindness and Soul Wealth

I’m a thinker. That certainly doesn’t mean I am smarter than the average person.  But I do think a lot, and it is not repetitive drama very often. It is how I make sense of the world; through a larger mind than my brain, organizing the bits and pieces of information it has and assembling them into meaning. I make order out of thinking and writing. So when Nawang Khechog explained Analytical Meditation, it caught my attention.

Most of the mediation we associate with Buddhism is Single Point mediation. To explain the difference, Nawang said to imagine milk. If you are making yogurt, you add the enzymes and then it must be left alone, and through that stillness comes yogurt. But you can also churn the milk to make butter. Nawang calls this “wisdom storming” and his eyes twinkle as he says it. “I made these words up,” he says, with his remarkable, inclusive laugh. Wisdom storming is like brain storming but you call in all the best wisdom you have access to.  

Tibetan Buddhism considers the innate nature of human to be one that doesn’t want suffering and wants happiness. True for you? Analytical Meditation would say:

1-I want to be free of suffering.

2-I appreciate people who are kind/compassionate/loving to me.

3-All humans are the same.

4-Therefore all want to be free of suffering and all want kindness and compassion.

5-Therefore, I should strive not to make others suffer and to give them kindness and compassion.

The same mediation would lead us to the same conclusions with all sentient beings. We arrive at the truth of what is being chanted, said, written by our own logic.

Outrageous. How will you ever get ahead with such notions? What about people who are mean to you? The marketplace doesn’t give a hoot about this kindness stuff. People will take me to be weak. Etc.

So don’t consider this from any other perspective other than your deathbed. Mostly likely you are totally dependent on the compassion of others, just as when you were born. When my mom was in this stage of her life, she was poor in friends and loving family. She’d spent a lifetime being self focused and hadn’t noticed what that led to. She did observe the value of money, as most of us do, but she failed to see the wealth and value of friends and that love, compassion and kindness attract the same to themselves. The warm-hearted accumulate soul wealth as surely as the frugal or ambitious accumulate material wealth. It is a different kind. But it is the kind you can take with you.

Time for a laugh. Nawang would find a way to lighten this up. I am still learning, so I will simply laugh at myself, as he does himself. We are all just learning. But it is a conscious decision to choose this path. It is the hardest thing in the world. It is exceedingly simple and logical. It benefits you and all sentient beings at the same time. It is a lifetime practice.

More to come on this.

Forest Dwellers and Loving Kindness

This weekend I was reminded of the transitory nature of life. What? Doesn’t sound like a normal conversation you hear in America? I know.

I started my journey by ferry through exquisite island scenery and landed just 40 minutes away from home on Orcas Island. There, I went on pilgrimage to my 5th year at Indralaya. This leads me to one of the most important DIY tenets:  To deepen the sense of your own life, go on pilgrimage. I arrived confused by people and worn down by bureaucracy. I knew nothing about the speaker. I only knew it was a beautiful camp that I dearly loved, with a small cabin that would be mine alone to roam, and that the theme was “Awakening Kindness”. Right? That much would be enough. And did I mention the wonderful vegetarian food?

The speaker was Nawang Khechog, a Tibetan musician who now lives in Colorado, and who studied as a monk for 11 years, 7 of which were as a hermit. So, my theme is out of the box aging and becoming a Forest Dweller and his is that kindness, compassion and love are the “jewels of the universe”. I know that the measure of my life is more than the work I have performed, and I hope it is more than what my increasingly forgetful brain can hold. I am on task to grow my soul. That is what my purpose is now.

Nawang speaks gently, reminding us that everything changes; each cause and condition create the next change. He asks us to deepen our hearts in this wisdom so that we are not surprised and confused when it happens. Aging will happen. Translate “I am getting old” to “if I am lucky enough, I’ll be a graceful old man/woman.”

“We have come to be in the mandala of kindness,” Nawang says in a voice so quiet I had to still my own breath to hear. “We are gathered to nurture our heart.” The heart needs to be warm, you see. The warm-hearted are benefitted with being inspired, uplifted and rejuvenated.

On that first night, my thoughts about Forest Dwellers settled into a deeper understanding. We have to be wise and strong…and humble… to adopt love and kindness and compassion as our creed. The strength of the heart will keep us from being easily discouraged.  Loving all species that share this planet is not naive. It is wise. We do not lose beauty, we transform it by becoming more loving and kind and compassionate on the inside. Then, as Nawang says, “our wrinkles become like the painting of a great artist”.

If you are like me, you might think this seems like such a long way away, to aspire to live in such a space. I can’t help but want it now (read American).  But “spiritual progress takes time” Nawang said, and having said it, he rocked back and laughed. It is funny. Does it make sense to try to do this crazy thing in a world of competition and one-upmanship? Answer that by looking at our world. Which one is crazy?

I will explore this further in the next few entries.