Whether you are caring for patients, clients, family, pets, others, the Earth, take some time in silence to recharge and connect with your deepest intentions for being alive. You are not an unlimited resource. Thank you for your care.
Whether you are caring for patients, clients, family, pets, others, the Earth, take some time in silence to recharge and connect with your deepest intentions for being alive. You are not an unlimited resource. Thank you for your care.
Card: Blessings of the Moon Maiden – from the Kuan Yin Oracle cards by Alana Fairchild.
Most mornings I sit watching
fearful thoughts of the future,
listening to crackles of the radiator
and my husband’s reassuring
sounds while sleeping.
The breath flows easily
like an unblocked river
on its way to an ocean of Oneness-
breathing in suffering
breathing out compassion,
taking in care
opening a little more each day
to COVID-19 destruction,
even death if that is my destiny.
It’s a miracle to make it to this day
hearing the wind whisper my name
in celebration of all the years lived,
knowing that this breath will
one day inhabit a new body
for the chance to continually
practice Kwan Yin’s vows
hearing the cries of the world.
"Spring Flowers" by Bonnie Bertrand
(click on image to enlarge)
The breath does not ask why this
body is in the shape that it is.
Like the wind, it kisses all parts
of the terrain with impartial care.
The body sits, stands, walks, lays down
always in relation with the Earth,
Her tears falling as spring rain,
our tears falling for the lives we can’t save.
Some days the sun peaks through
dismal COVID clouds threatening
to blanket and suffocate us all.
When smiles are masked,
hugs and handshakes forbidden,
the eyes still communicate compassion.
Spring flowers still push through
cracks of uncertainty
despite a destiny of decay.
May all that we’ve lost seed the soil
for all that can still be gained,
benevolence and interdependence
standing together, six feet apart
frantic hearts at the front lines
fighting to protect what never dies.
I used to think that enlightenment
Was a place to get to
Just one more class, one more practice
One more teacher training
And I’m on my way
To the land of freedom
What if enlightenment was always right here
A calming breath underneath
An N-95 mask and other *PPE
Compassionate words to soothe
The ill and worried well
Knowing that both need attention
What if enlightenment is vacation
Redefined as staycation
No more Maui or even Monterey
The rooms in my home and backyard
Becoming the paradise I seek
Sheltering in place to awaken
What if enlightenment is this body
Breaking down to remind me
Speed caused injury
Slowing down is what heals
Yoga to Qigong, hiking to walking
Embodying over accomplishing
What if enlightenment is family
The ones who love me most
And push all my buttons
To test a bodhisattva’s vow
On your path to liberation
Will you take us with you?
Enlightenment is what’s here now
Pleasant, unpleasant and neutral
Moments taking turns to watch
If I’ll show up with grace
Or resist and run away
Accepting an in between response
As long as I’m willing to try
(*PPE: personal protective equipment worn to prevent injury or infection)
Dear Healthcare Workers,
Change is inevitable. With the current pandemic, change at work (and elsewhere) is likely faster than you ever expected. How can you meet these moment to moment changes, acknowledging the thoughts and true feelings underneath them? How can you remember the body that is holding so much right now? Who or what can you count on in challenging times? What does connection, collaboration, and self-care mean to care for others?
If these questions resonate, then perhaps you will find this guided mindfulness meditation for healthcare workers useful.
Thank you for caring!
As a front-line family physician, I’m used to offering compassionate care to patients, and listening to the care team at work. I’m used to holding space for meditation and reflective journaling classes, supporting family and friends in ways that feel wholesome.
And sometimes it’s overwhelming. With the recent pandemic, the constant barrage of news, work email updates, protocols constantly changing, and questions, there has been little time to contemplate what’s happening within.
This body is also in greater pain than normal. After several months of physical wellbeing with PT and engaging in movement practices I love (yoga, hiking, walking, Qigong), the body has decided to speak (scream at times). I’m sure it’s contributing to the overwhelm with fear eclipsing the things I usually see and remember.
Over the years, I’ve cultivated a strong lovingkindness and compassion practice to face challenges. But somewhere along the way, I’ve forgotten to pause for fifteen seconds six times a day to really let joy’s sunlight reach all the dark places within me. To help me remember, I joined an Awakening Joy course.
For a few days I was diligent with the practice, opening like a sunflower to moments of gratitude throughout the day. The pain in the sacroiliac joints and gluteal muscles was improving. Yeah, I thought. I’m on the right path!
Then the body screamed. I’m doing the PT daily. I’m trying to take it easy physically. Where am I going wrong??? In a state of despair and overflowing tears, I reached out to people who could help me remember what I was forgetting. The incoming texts/emails of care and support definitely helped me to remember a few things.
1.) I must put my own oxygen mask on first before I can take on the suffering of others. This means meeting my own suffering with compassionate care and asking, What’s needed now? I’m not always in a quite space to listen, so it’s important to take this time when possible, pencil in an appointment for myself, like I did this morning.
2.) S.O.S. I heard this acronym through a prerecorded webinar my work offered titled “Managing the Unknown”. When you notice that you are on information overload, and the brain, body and heart cannot take any more, STOP what you are doing. Stop clicking on more news links online, more email. Stop engaging in conversation that is echoing doomsday. Stop immersing yourself in more secondary trauma. OBSERVE the thoughts and feelings within with kindness. If that’s hard, imagine a kind, supportive being/presence with you. Stay here as long as you need to really listen internally. SWITCH to something that is positive and nourishing – a cup of tea, a conversation with a friend, music, a walk, journaling, humor, etc. (I’ve also heard this as S.T.O.P.: Stop. Take a breath. Observe thoughts and feelings. Proceed with something nourishing.
3.) Stay informed so that you have the latest information from the CDC, WHO, your local state, county, and health care professionals AND ask yourself what else you need to hear so that the scales are balanced. It’s easy to listen to statistics, worsening conditions, and conversations around you that accentuate the negative. What do you need to hear that’s positive? Where can you find this? It might be an inspiring quote, book, movie, song, story, prayer, etc. If you are having a hard time looking, ask others! Try this one on:
"My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul.”
-Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves.
4.) Which brings me to my next point. Be a calm presence where you can be. Today I had the opportunity to speak with a relative overseas, a local business owner, and a stranger while shopping for groceries. The questions that used to sound like massive missiles attacking were surprisingly welcome. The conversations included some of what I am sharing here. If staying calm is not possible (it’s not expected, even for me), then can you be generous in other ways? Can you call someone who is currently quarantined, or check on them in other ways that do not place yourself at risk? Do you have an extra toilet roll, hand sanitizer, can of food that you’re saving for The Apocalypse? Do you know of neighbor you can share this with, someone who is restricted financially, physically, or by some other means? Generosity cultivates abundance of heart and mind, widens survival of the fittest perspective into one of interdependence. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and don’t share if you’re sick.
5.) Impermanent/Imperfect/Impersonal. Physical pain and global pandemics can feel permanent, imperfect, and personal. It sure feels perpetual, messy, and personal to me right now. But if I take a closer look, there are moments when the body isn’t raging, even parts that feel neutral or pleasant. There are times when corona virus is not the main news infecting body, mind, heart, and spirit. It was not the main news when I dropped my daughter off or picked her up from school, on a mini retreat this morning in sitting and walking meditation, while brushing my teeth or taking a shower.
It can also help to remember that others are affected by what’s happening, just as you are. Knowing that so many lives have been affected, what can you keep doing regularly to maintain some sense of normalcy? (If you or someone you know has been significantly harmed physically, emotionally, financially, etc. please grieve the way that you need to. ‘Normalcy’ may be the last thing you need to hear/read.) Maybe it’s the way you comb your hair, brush your teeth, sip morning coffee or tea, go for a walk/run, meditate, eat, work, hug/kiss healthy family members, sing, dance, or any number of things you normally do (and are still doing:) Though change is inevitable, it’s healthy to maintain contact with who/what is familiar. It can nurture a sense of safety in times like this.
to a beating heart
an unsettled belly
a hand on each one
prana providing companionship
through every future unknown
This post is not written to negate the true feelings that are here: fear, anger, loneliness, despair, etc. It isn’t a spiritual bypass to a happier place untouched by illness or suffering. (If you know of such a place, let me know!). I needed to sit with all the paralyzing thoughts, feelings, and physical manifestations of them. I will likely be sitting with them for some time. Surrendering to a beating heart and unsettled belly, I placed a hand on each one, just sensing, just breathing, prana providing the companionship that was so desperately needed. I know that this simple act is not enough to heal the world, but it is certainly “mending the part of the world that is within my reach” through every future unknown.
May these reflections be of benefit to all beings everywhere without exception.
Welcome! If you are here, then maybe you are curious and looking for something else about COVID-19 than the typical daily news flash. The news is important to help you stay well informed and make healthy choices. And it can be overwhelming.
The invitation here is to carve out about an hour for your yourself, possibly 1.5 hours if you choose to experience this with another person.
If you are practicing alone, then find a comfortable, quiet space to listen to the guided meditation in your favorite meditation posture. Have a journal/paper and pen (or laptop) ready to go for the reflective journaling part.
Once the meditation is complete, read the writing elements below, the poem "The Peace of Wild Things", the writing reflection, and write/type for approximately 20-30 minutes. You can write for a shorter or longer length of time depending on your needs.
Dyads: If you are practicing with another person, then listen to the guided meditation together, and follow the same writing instructions. Once you both have finished the writing process, decide who will share first, while the other simply listens. (You can choose to set a timer for sharing 4-5 minutes each, or keep this more spontaneous. Each person should be given the same respect of time.) The one sharing can read what was written, share the process in his/her/their own words, or a combination of both. The listener listens with his/her/their whole body, mind, and heart without the need to say or do anything else. After the speaker is done, the listener thanks the speaker for the vulnerability it took to share. Then roles are reversed. After both parties have the chance to share, the dyad may choose to move to an open dialogue about the process, or not.
May this offering be of service. I'd love to hear how it goes for you.
Text of Guided Meditation
Please sit comfortably, relaxed yet alert. Whether you are sitting in a chair, on a cushion, or lying down, notice the areas where your body is supported by the earth and this moment.
Take a few full breaths in and out, inhaling deeply, and exhaling completely. Then return your breath back to its natural state when you’re ready.
Where do you feel the movement of your breath? Is it the inflow and outflow of breath at the tips of your nostrils? The rise and fall of your chest? Or the contraction and expansion of the belly? Rest your attention gently on the place that feels the most natural for the next minute or so.
If the attention has wandered away from the breath, it’s not a problem, it’s what minds do. Notice where the attention was, and gently guide the attention back to your breath with as much kindness and as little judgement as possible.
Releasing the attention from the breath, imagine that you are in a space that feels comfortable, safe, and protected. This might be a place in nature, a part of your home, a place from your childhood, or a place where you gather with others. Engage the five senses as best as you can to bring you to this place. What do you see, hear, smell, taste? What can you touch?
Though this place is safe, news from the world outside keeps creeping to the edges of your comfort zone – the things that could happen to you or loved ones around you, the physical isolation, work, school, travel and home lives disrupted. Maybe other thoughts are also present.
Can you sense the feelings beneath the thoughts: anger, fear, disappointment, frustration, hopelessness, sadness, something else? Remember that you are not alone in this. Others are experiencing this, too.
Where do these feelings live in the body? Is there any physical area of tension or tightening, heaviness or holding?
Breathe with what’s here, without the need to change or fix any part of this experience, bathing any discomfort in kind awareness, trusting the process as best as you can. It might help to feel the presence of a being who supports your sense of safety and comfort: a spiritual being, a parent, grandparent, partner, good friend, or pet.
What might this being want you to remember that is positive in times like this? Maybe it’s access to healthcare, supportive beings at work and at home, how interdependent we are locally and globally, how a virus can physically separate us and still motivate us to work collectively towards health, wellbeing, and a potential vaccine. Or maybe this being has another message of care and concern for you.
As the philosopher Albert Camus said, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there's something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
-Timed writing. Set a timer for a certain length of time (20-30minutes). Try and write for the full length of time. Keep the pen moving on paper like a skater on ice. This will encourage you to keep exploring, even when you feel stuck. That being said, sometimes the kindest thing is to stop writing if you are feeling overwhelmed by something or feel as if your exploration is complete before time is up. Writing continuously helps to bypass the left, logical, linear mind and the inner critic to access our creative, intuitive side.
-Nothing will be graded. Let go of grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Give yourself the permission and space to write in a manner that supports your exploration. If it’s helpful, imagine you are having a conversation with a kind and supportive friend. Feel free to say whatever you want to say. You may even choose to write in your native language.
-If you get stuck, you can always write ideas down like a grocery list. They don’t have to be complete sentences. You can also rewrite part of the poem or writing reflection question that stands out to you and see where it takes you.
-Trust yourself. If you’d like to write about something other than the writing prompt, feel free to do so. This is your time to explore in a manner that will best serve you.
The Peace of Wild Things (excerpt)
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For the time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
By: Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows inside you, where can you go and lie down to feel safe, rest in the grace of the world, and be free? If this place is not physically available to you due to illness, isolation protocols, or bans on public meetings, can you reflect and write about the last time you were there?
It needs the right temperature to bloom
To open to its surroundings
In full disclosure without apology
For the time it took to recognize
It’s power and purpose
For the time it took to grow
I used to think there were only
Two realities for this lotus heart--
Stuck in the mud of suffering
Or fully open to the sun
And never contemplated
The possibility of still blooming
After reading an article from The Mindful Self-compassion February newsletter, I was struck by these words:
“And so, for today, I practice self-compassion by congratulating myself on how far I have come – and I refuse to beat myself up over how far I have yet to go.”
How often do I hold myself to a higher standard, some ideal that’s hard to perfect? If I’m stuck in the mud of suffering, I must have done something wrong. I forget that causes and conditions affect certain outcomes that are beyond my control. And if I’m in full bloom, radiant and joyfully open to the sun, there is a subtle expectation that it must always be this way. No other version is worth acknowledging.
As I was having dinner with a dear friend this week, she pointed to the jasmine bud in my teacup. I stopped paying attention to it after pictures were taken and we were savoring dinner and sweet conversation. “Look. It’s still blooming!”
It’s helpful to remember that just as the jasmine tea bud needs the optimal temperature to bloom, so does this heart-mind. It takes time to understand each moment and what it requires. There are times when skillful speech and action are the norm, and times when I’m triggered by old patterns. To open to my surroundings in full disclosure without apology, to feel power and purpose at the core of my being, I need to remember there are more than two realities.
I am not a static being, but forever changing. There is forgiveness for forgetting that I am still blooming.
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes
By: Danna Faulds
There are days when things feel so easy. Every single conversation has meaning, every act a purpose that makes sense.
Then there are days when it’s complicated. Communication feels off, the weather sucks, and nothing seems to go smoothly. Of course, the perspective is heavily influenced by how well I’ve slept, my overall health and attitude (to name a few things).
What does it mean to allow, to trust in the natural unfolding of life? I can tell when I’m trying to corral a lightning bolt or dam a stream. The heart-mind screams, “Hell, no!!!” as the body becomes rigid and gets knocked off balance.
I’ve spent thirteen years studying mindfulness and compassion practices, going deep into the teachings. So many practices. So many ways to interpret the teachings and experience freedom. And there is still resistance. Am I letting it all in, or just reaching for a practice, an understanding like a lifejacket to save me from drowning?
When it feels complicated, it’s helpful to simplify the truth, to ask, “Will this thought or action lead to suffering or the end of suffering?” Letting go of my known way of being (overthinking, rehashing, planning), I try to drop the mind chatter and listen to the body.
From a place of connection (not separation), a whole new world is revealed to heart-mind.
Keep it simple, sweetheart.
May I meet each moment with kindness and care. When I forget, may I be guided gently back home.
(inspired by Annie Lighthart’s The Second Music)
Underneath all the noise,
the constant mind chatter
of excitement and longing,
between email and phone calls,
driving to work and the grocery store,
there is a second music always
playing in the background.
You could almost miss it
if you aren’t paying attention.
You would surely miss it
if you forget the best friend
whispering to you through a slow
inbreath and long outbreath,
the one who has asked all these years
I’m here. Are you here?
The one who has always known
your song by heart
patiently waiting for you to listen.
Do you ever feel like a kite, flying from one thing to the next, guided by some mysterious hands that feel so far away?
Back into the full swing of work, family life, and gearing up for some mindfulness projects, the New Year’s retreat feels so far way. I know I’m tethered to something important that’s guiding me, but it can get lost
underneath all the noise, the constant mind chatter of excitement and longing, between email and phone calls, driving to work and the grocery store.
When your attention is split between all the people and things calling to you, how do you ground and unify the heart-mind to greet them one at a time? Who/what do you say no thank you to in order to have authentic energy for loving presence?
Last Thursday on a weekday off from work, I had the option to participate in a mindful mom’s yoga class, collaborate with a friend on an upcoming mindful parenting class, spend time with family, catch up with patient care online, and attend a performance in San Francisco about healing and human connection in medicine. I can’t tell you how many times I went back and forth about these options (especially in the 24 four hours preceding that day).
I was missing a best friend’s whispers until I sat down to meditate Thursday morning and fully embodied a warrior pose in yoga class drawing the line between what was needed, and what would need to wait. Between slow in breaths and long outbreaths, I was asked many times, “I’m here. Are you here?”
I often get anxious with a busy schedule or a long to do list. When I decide not to do something, an inner critic reminds me of all the missed opportunities, all the people I’m disappointing.
This is the time I especially need to listen to the one who has always known my song by heart. I need to trust this heart-mind to direct the energy where it is needed most. If I can concentrate on what I am doing, one breath, one step at a time, I’m more likely to hear the second music, to confidently step into the Great Mystery and become a part of its benevolent design.
Kaveri Patel, a woman who is always searching for the wisdom in waves.