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Citizens of the Earth

I would like to offer more from Love Letter to the Earth (2018, Parallax Press) this week.
 Citizens of the Earth

We tend to think of human beings as falling into two groups:  those who are similar to us, and those who are different.  We allow political boundaries to obscure our interconnectedness.  What we often refer to as patriotism is actually a barrier that prevents us from seeing that we’re all children of the same mother.  Every calls its nation a motherland or a fatherland.  Every country tries to show how it loves its mother.  But in doing so, each country is contributing to the destruction of our larger mother, our collective mother, the Earth.  In focusing on our human-made boundaries, we forget that we are co-responsible for the whole planet.
When we see that we are all children of the same mother, we will naturally want to cultivate and strengthen our sense of being part of one large family.  When we speak of protecting our planet, we often speak of finding new technologies.  But without real community, technology may be even more destructive than constructive.  Real community, built with our practice of mindfulness, enables us to act together.  When we can communicate with ourselves and the Earth, we can communicate with ourselves more easily.”
A pause for breath here, and contemplation on how we strengthen our own practice of communicating with ourselves and the Earth, and how valuable it is to water the seeds of this practice as often as we can.
A moment too, to make acknowledgement in the season of NAIDOC celebrations here in Australia, of the wisdom in Aboriginal culture of deep respect for the Earth that was practised throughout this land for many thousands of years.  
Thay continues:  “Every one of us, regardless of nationality or religious faith, can experience a feeling of admiration and love when we see the beauty of the Earth and the beauty of the cosmos.  This feeling of love and admiration has the power to unite the citizens of the Earth and remove all separation and discrimination.  Caring about the environment is not an obligation, but a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival.  We will survive and thrive together with our Mother Earth, or we will not survive at all.”  (pp 81-83).
I find it so helpful, in diluting the despair that is surrounding our collective thinking about the climate crisis, to touch deeply the word of Thay here, about how our courage and strength in staying with the practice of feeling love and admiration for the beauty of the Earth and cosmos can contribute to our survival and thriving.  
Staying in gratitude, when we notice the wonders of our precious planet, and making our daily choices based on what is best for our Mother Earth are powerful things that we can all do in our daily lives that make important contributions towards our happiness and wellbeing as one big human family.
A bow in gratitude to you for all that you do to preserve peace and love,


Mindful Walking

“I know the Earth is my mother; a great living being.  I vow to protect the Earth, and the Earth protects me.”
This invitation by Thay to infuse our walking with loving mindfulness is perfect as the weeks of rain clear and we may be walking more than we have recently.  As we walk and remember our interbeing with all that we see, and notice the changes since our last walk, we can feel deep gratitude for the protection our great Mother Earth offers us, and strengthen our resolve to do what we can to preserve this precious planet.  
Thay also invites us to walk with full awareness of our love for the Earth:
 
“Each step can express your love for the Earth.  As you walk, you can say 
‘I love the Earth.  I am in love with the Earth.’”
“With both body and mind present as we take each step, when we are fully present, every step, placed gently, and mindfully on Mother Earth can bring us a lot of healing and happiness…
…We’re not stepping on something inanimate… in every speck of dust or grain of sand there are countless bodhisattvas… …we can be in contact through our feet with the Great Bodhisattva Mother Earth.  
     ‘With each step, I come home to the Earth.
With each step, I return to my source.
With each step, I take refuge in Mother Earth.’ “
This morning, I held 2 gazaneas, 3 buttercups, my child’s hat, her umbrella that she has become accustomed to bringing, the dog lead, and a small Koala.  I was so grateful that she had decided against also bringing her A2 sized laminated alphabet chart in the walk as she’d contemplated, as I did what I could to incorporate the essence of this beautiful practice into my daily life.  
 How do you enjoy the kissing our Mother Earth with imprints of reverence  and gratitude as you walk?
These quotations are from “Love Letter to The Earth” but I can’t check the date of publication as darling Miss Two is ‘reading’ it right now in this wonderful moment.

“Mum, would you like to smile?”

These are the first words I heard this morning.

Followed by “there you go Mama, so lovely”.

I say ‘this morning’ in reference to the time after birds had started.

All the talking in wake and sleep that happened between 2:00 am and the birds shall be known as night talking. Night talking is not to be encouraged, as cute as some of the stuff is (Mummy I draw a beautiful pitcha on your aaaaaaaaarm); and shall not be spoken of again.

But that morning invitation to smile. Oh!

Thay makes the same invitation in the morning prayer:

Waking up this morning I smile

Twenty four brand new hours are before me

I vow to live mindfully in each moment

And to look at all beings with eyes of compassion

The beautiful hand made poster of this recitation that I used to have stuck beside the bed was long ago removed by a curious baby. Some days I remember to start the day with a smile to this poem, many days I’m swept up with the earliest demands.

Today they synthesised and my smile was so big, my presence in the moment so true; my gratitude for the life I have so visceral. Whatever the day brings, it started with a smile, and a smile to the invitation to smile.

Being awake since 2:00 is going to be ok…

New tricks

Things feel pretty glum.

My old dog is getting wobbly in the hips, but today was another new day for him.

He showed the same optimism for a morning walk that he does every day, intuiting before any of us could tell, that the rainy grey morning was but a light cleanse of yesterday’s dusts before the blood-warming heat crept in.

He sniffed and pissed his way along the High St as if it was any other day; particularly pernickety about some zones in a way that we could never sense the importance of.

He patiently let the toddler proffer a freshly picked dandelion intrusively close to his veteran snout, and behaved with grace when a neighbourhood cat came slinking out onto the path for the “dendle” petting she knows is guaranteed when our trio passes by.

Glad, with so many birthdays behind him, for a short walk; home once more, he allowed his muscles a break from holding him in shape , as he sighed his large nobility into a pile on his indoor bed, trusting that things were in order, and a feed would come soon.

Despite more than twelve years passing since his rescue, his breakfast meets his gut like iron filings to a magnet, over almost as it began. But these are sweet days, and the toddlers rejected egg scraps will likely follow soon as seconds.

They do. Today is good.

Watching him, he spends his day in a similar way to how my grandfather used to self-admonishingly describe his own idle days on the other side of ninety. And I am glad for him, that he can feel the changes in the breeze, hear the conferences of the magpies, sense the light shifting as clouds move across his patch of vast sky.

Witnessing with calm the bubbling babbling bauble of golden curls and rapid synapses; an anchor of cool self-authority, the dog just is.

All day.

As he was yesterday.

Accepting.

Present.

Inhaling.

Exhaling.

How many pats today? A lovely brushing in the sun? The child incorporating his water bowl into her play? What is his agency in any of this? Could I manage life with the same serene dignity as he does, with so much beyond my control?

Do I?

If only.

Instead, I am stirred up, fragile in my tiredness, and vulnerable in the wake of decades of perceived misuse. Crashing after building hope that intelligent change was within reach. Needing just that little bit more resource to be able to stay in the lane of everything actually being ok. Perhaps even frightened, for what it represents, that the majority of our population have used our chance to choose, to hand the power to racist river-killing bigots.

I’m glad the dog doesn’t know. He feels my sad. And he soothes me in it by showing me that today is another day.

And tomorrow will be too.

Onward dear heart.

Gimme a W

Because I need to call the Waaaahmbulance.

Ow! My arm.

What did I do last night? Bruised knees – part of dancing on a wooden stage. Slight pull in one calf – from when my tap shoes skidded on the shaving cream residue still on the floor from the previous performance. Crunkly eyelashes – from multiple coats of mascara… but I could not remember doing a one armed cartwheel/ I don’t even know what to call that trick, not in my repertoire… I could not remember a drunk person falling on me… I could not remember lifting anything particularly cumbersome or heavy.

What did I do last night?

Oh wait! What did I do yesterday lunchtime?

I’m a 40 year old cheerleader with a 12kg child.

A 12kg child who woke up precisely 4 minutes before our squad was due to appear at a festival, and was too much in need of mummy cuddles to be interested in any other potential care giver.

So there we were, at a community event, running a community workshop, with me as the one who was leading the big group warm up dance.

So I just did it. With my toddler on my hip, held there with my left arm.

4:11 of medium intensity cardio, Baby sitting on one pom-pom as I waved the other about with double enthusiasm for balance… I noticed the extra weight as we did 1,2,3 jump, and during the side traveling rock-stomp around in the circle; but mainly I was balancing my focus between teaching the basic moves and checking Baby’s welfare – was her head not bobbing around too much, was that security biscuit she needed to hold not choking her…

As you do.

Etc etc – it all went along – at some point she was happy to hop down and I noticed the great relief of no longer holding her in one arm.

Performance/workshop over, time to sit and feed snacks to Baby before heading home to get ready for cabaret tech run.

Blah blah blah, amazing night of women’s performance, happy juices flowing as I feel at peace with my need to share absurd dance comedy with unsuspecting audiences.

Home, sleep, sun comes up.

Ow! My arm.

Knowing that tiredness and pain are both things that can be a source of grumpiness, I pledge to go gently while my arm heals.

Times of exertion call for times of replenishment, and I’m ok with the ratio changing as I gather birthdays behind me.

Recovery time may be longer, but if I settle into that truth as a beautiful truth, leaning into rather than resisting it; then I can enjoy some slow days with less expectations on myself.

Let the floor stay unswept for today, have a storybook marathon in the teepee, model self-kindness and patience with the process of healing.

Because if I try and operate as though I’m not tired and hurting, yes, I can get the things done, but I get cranky and snappy. And that’s not the tone I want our family to have.

So I come back to myself.

What do I need right now to be the best mum I can be with what I have in this moment?

Caregiver state of mind is everything.

As my mum’s beautiful teacher Lama Yeshe said: “May I be gentle with myself. For only then can I be gentle with others.”

And gentle is what my kids need from me.

It is a secret strength that I am working on. Slowly, and with patience!

The Dawn Chorus

“Mummy! Where are my toes? Where’s Garden Bunny? Where’s my orange blanket? Where are Mummy’s toes?”

We are going through a phase of 4:00 am existentialism.

It’s ok. I quite enjoy the window it gives me into the workings of Little One’s blossoming mind… although, I am glad that my strategy of hugging her quietly through her musings seems to shorten her wakefulness, rather than turning it into a full blown discussion by responding to her queries.

Such a relief really, when she drifts back off to a peaceful sleep and I kiss her soft curls and listen in wonder to her easy breath…

And then: here come the thoughts.

And then: here come some more.

And now: here come the thoughts about how I’m having thoughts and therefore must be awake… and could be asleep… and would be better off asleep…

And there ends any chance of me getting back to sleep.

I have a bag of tricks to dip into at such times – yogic breathing, body scan, counting backwards, ‘lying down meditation’ (you know how when you’re in sitting meditation you sometimes drift towards zzz – trying here to transfer this phenomenon to horizontal plane)… anyway, there’s something about that time of day, when the trees are still still, and you know that even at the coast the first glimmer of light hasn’t yet hit; but if the brain is awake, it goes into alert. None of the tricks seem to work.

I can still relax and allow my body to rest; but am I really getting the true level of replenishment I need to keep up with my daytime self?

Today, I’d wondered this for long enough that I had begun to tune in to the very beautiful sounds of the day awakening.

I could hear the trees starting to breathe more deeply as the birds began to rustle themselves awake and whisper to each other that the light was changing.

I could hear morning dew twinkling.

I could hear the low clouds that had blanketed the night thin themselves out and release a gentle morning rinse upon the earth (and my clothesline of nappies).

I could hear twigs and leaves drop to the ground as the birds got more active.

And then the singing.

So much singing. With such jubilance and clarity. I was inspired to get up and see if I could magic up a cup of tea to enjoy while it was still hot.

Oh the light!

I’ve long considered my sixty year old Rose bush at dusk to be my absolute favourite play of light. But today was pretty freakin special.

All my lying down meditation had me well primed to really soak in the wonder of how every single day the sun comes up.

I watched, from my corner lounge in the corner windows as the golden glow rose up from the east, easily visualising the glimmer it would now be casting over the ocean.

I breathed deeply, integrating into all my cells the gratitude at having this delicious solitude; just me and the dawning day.

What a sublime treat.

Inside the house, my old hound snores, all is quiet from the children’s bedrooms. Incense smoke unfurls, and my tea cup is warm in my hands. This is it.

The very here and now.

“Mummy where’s Garden Bunny?”

Little footsteps carry a little voice down the hall towards me, and the moment I am in is richer even than the one before, as I scoop up a bundle of pyjamas and golden curls and we snuggle into the bliss together.

Lucky lucky me!

(Written in thirty second spurts throughout the morning, long after the sun and Little One had risen).

Peace begins with your lovely smile

“Peace begins with your lovely smile”.

Thay’s skilfulness in including the word “lovely” in this calligraphy works instantly to soften me into smiling.  For if others find it lovely, of course I want to offer it.  And in being inspired to offer a lovely smile, I benefit too.
Is the smile the beginning of peace when it is received, when it is smiled, when it is inspired? 
When I remember to decide to smile, even the breath before the smile is more peaceful than a breath taken with a furrowed brow.  When I know that my smile might bring joy to others, I feel into the broader value of my smile.
When I allow a gentle smile to come through me, I feel instantly more calm.  My heart lifts, my breath softens, my whole body relaxes.  And my readiness to respond to life mindfully is expanded.  
How does your lovely smile generate peace?  

Happiness

Happiness
Is here and now
I have dropped my worries 
Nowhere to go, nothing to do 
I don’t need to hurry

Happiness 
Is here and now
I have dropped my worries
Somewhere to go, something to do
No longer in a hurry

How wonderful! That by the time we come to the end of the second verse in this simple song, it is such a real possibility!

We live in a time in the world where the footprints of hurry are causing pain to the earth, and to our collective consciousness. Hurry is such a contagious energy; and whilst there is a gentle movement growing to decline the invitation to be ever busy and in a hurry, it can still feel like it takes more discipline to do less than to say yes to all the opportunities that come to us.

When this song was new to me, I distinctly recall thinking “nowhere to go, nothing to do!!?! – what an absurd luxury!”. But really, what is absurd is that such a concept should seem like a luxury, not to mention an absurd one!

I love the Plum Village practice of having a “lazy day” each week; a day where we have a chance to catch up with ourselves in our bodies. At first unspiralling from the habit of having a very full diary was difficult, even uncomfortable for me. Life is so full of so many exciting opportunities to do, learn, see, talk, listen, meet, play… so many verbs, such limited time! 

But what is the quality of our experience when we are so preoccupied with cleverly slotting it all into the schedule, planning our route to the next thing whilst we are at the current thing? How available are we for the people we are with, for ourselves, when we are busily trying to manipulate time? Are we fully present at our appointment with life? Are we able to see that here, now, in the present moment, is the very pureland we are conditioned to be chasing?

I am really seeing a difference, thanks to this song, and the permission I needed to consider a lazy day as a valid thing to schedule; in how I parent a toddler with my youngest child now, compared to her older sister, 13 years ago. What a radical thing, to allow enough space in our day, that we can walk a block at toddler pace, enjoying instead of feeling frustrated and anxious about looking at tiny leaves, patterns in the pavement, shapes in the clouds. There is even enough time to be aware that my tea is there! 

How long does it take a toddler to walk a block? As long as possible!

Right now, my parenting is my teacher, my toddler is my bell of mindfulness. And I feel so grateful that her natural way of doing life waters the seeds of mindfulness that are planted in me from times when I could study the dharma more fully.

I remember standing in a very long queue in a busy Paris train station the day after a delicious week in Plum Village, and humming this song to myself as the queue slowly moved. For me, the songs of practice can act as short cuts to some of the essence of the teachings, and I really appreciate this!

I wonder how it is for you?