Possessed a poem for uncertain times by Colleen Keating

catastrophic

          despotic

                  covid

                   uncertain times

where is the still point

in this world wildly whirling?

 

 

possessed

the search for a still point
in this wildly unpredictable world
beckons us out along a bush track
listening for guidance
a calming

everything a scene
to be staged
the quiet ones
whispering wisdom
a calming hush

the creek red gums sandstone
moss-coated rocks
ferns unfolding tight-knit fists
the reassuring calls of the whip-birds
a calming hush settles

a lightness breathes
a forest breathing lightness
resurrection spangle of greens
new life blooms in every crevice
and a calming hush settles us

 

Finding Zen and the Opportunities of This Time adapted by Colleen Keating

“We can create a fearless life
by living daily out of our comfort zone,
and in the deliciousness of uncertainty”

Finding Zen and the Opportunity of This Time

The truth is, all of this has always been here. We’ve always been distracted, numbing our difficult emotions like loneliness and sadness and anger with social media, food, alcohol and other comforts. We’ve always felt uncertainty, anxiety, frustration and overwhelm.

It’s just that this pandemic has brought it all front and center. Put it directly in our faces, so we can’t ignore it.

That’s difficult, but it’s also an opportunity — to look directly at the things we don’t want to admit to ourselves.

To become present to our emotions.

To train ourselves in compassion, gratitude, wonder, connection, meaning and mindfulness.

It’s terrible that people are get sick and die,— we don’t want to pretend that everything is rainbows and unicorns. It’s terrible and easy to turn to alcohol are other unhealthy ways of coping with all of this.

But we need to make the most of this time, use the opportunity of this time.

We start first by recognizing whatever is there for us: overwhelm, distraction, loneliness, sadness, frustration, disconnect, anxiety.

We get present with it: how does it feel in our body? Can we be with the sensations of these emotions, mindfully, gently, with openness and curiosity?

We bring compassion to ourselves — a sense of warmth and wanting happiness for ourselves.

We then try a new frame of mind — here are a handful to try out:

  • Curiosity: can we be curious about something in this moment, from the sensations of our emotions to what another person is going through? What changes for you when you practice curiosity?
  • Wonder: Can we view this moment (ourselves, our surroundings, other people) with a sense of awe and appreciation? With a sense of wonder at the miracle of life? How does that change things for you?
  • Gratitude: Can we feel a sense of gratitude for what we have in this moment, for the other person, for our eyesight? What would it be like to lose those things? Can we see the things we have through this new lense of appreciation?
  • Meaning: What if everything we did had a sense of meaning — what if every act could be a way to love ourselves, or to love and serve others? How would that change each act for you?
  • Mindfulness: Can we simply be present in this moment? Connect with a sense of spaciousness and awareness of what is happening right now? What shifts for you when you do this?
  • Connection: Can we feel a sense of connection to others in each moment? To the light in ourselves? To the world around us? And realize how we’re supported by the entire world.
  • Empowerment: There’s a big difference between doing something because we feel we should, or because we have to … and doing something because we choose to. Can you choose into each act in your day? Or choose out of it, if you really don’t want to do it? What would life be like if you were choosing to do things from an empowered place, rather than feeling like life was happening to you?

Choose one at a time, and practice it for a few days. Life in the pandemic will give you plenty of practice opportunities, if you look for them. Embrace them, and train.

gratefully,

Leo Babauta
Zen Habits      Thanks to Zen Habits

“We can create a fearless life by living daily out of our comfort zone, and in the deliciousness of uncertainty”

Finding Zen and the Guesthouse by Rumi

 

Coming to learn to be fully human consider my body a guesthouse

When you breathe deeply and go inward,
make space for whatever wants to come to visit your guesthouse today.
What do you notice rising up in you?
What could it be helping you accept or understand?
What has your grief taught you?

The Guesthouse 

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


Jalaluddin Rumi

from Rumi: Selected Poems, trans Coleman Barks with John Moynce, A. J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson (Penguin Books, 2004)

 

Finding Zen and Thich Nhat Hanh RIP by Colleen Keating

Finding Zen and Thich Nhat Hanh RIP

Zen Practice  

Go outside for a walk
somewhere in a garden
with trees or plants

focus on soaking up the oxygen
given out by the greenery nearest you

allow yourself to relax
and touch love in the air
in the steps that you make
in the communal energy of living things

Feel the warmth in the sunshine
the brush of air on your skin

give yourself permission to taste it
bit by bit

whisper your gratitude. and bow deeply.

 

“This body is not me; I am not caught in this body,
I am life without boundaries, I have never been born
and I have never died.
Over there, the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies
all manifests from the basis of consciousness.
Since beginningless time I have always been free.
Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out.
Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek.
So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye.
Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before.
We shall always be meeting again at the true source.
Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.”

-Thích Nhất Hạnh, No Death, No Fear

with reference to Thich Nhat Hanh
and Sister Dang Nghiem in ‘Flowers in the Dark

“The Zen master Ling Chi said that the miracle is not to walk on burning charcoal or in the thin air or on the water; the miracle is just to walk on earth. You breathe in. You become aware of the fact that you are alive. You are still alive and you are walking on this beautiful planet. The greatest of all miracles is to be alive”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism announces that our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has passed away peacefully at Từ Hiếu Temple in Huế, Vietnam, at 00:00hrs on 22nd January, 2022, at the age of 95. We invite our global spiritual family to take a few moments to be still, to come back to our mindful breathing, as we together hold Thay in our hearts in peace and loving gratitude for all he has offered the world.

 

 

Finding Zen to rest and replenish by Colleen Keating

Finding Zen to rest and replenish

As the last blog stated these days, many people are feeling overwhelmed and  exhausted.

Here are some nourishing, replenishing, restorative  actions we can take  when we feel drained:

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Take a pause to breathe and notice the moment.
  3. Take a nap
  4. Give yourself a day of spaciousness.
  5. Spoil yourself with a moment outside in the air, with a cup of coffee taken to the garden, with a few hours doing something you always wanted to do, with a holiday away, a retreat, a spa place, etc. from 5 minuits to 5 days  every small moment is a gift to you.
  6. Take a tea break with a little ritual about it.
  7. Sit and feel the sun on your back.
  8. Lay down , close your eyes , relax every muscle in your body and just feel nourished by your brath
  9. Be kind to yourself , serching out and being aware of this every day.

Remember the rule in an areiplane – the adult /parent, must always buckle in before they buckle in the child. Your might think it would be best to attend to the child first but you must be safe firstly to keep the child safe. Hence you must care for yourself firstly to care for others.

Thank you to Zen Habits and Leo Babauta for his many great writings which I adapt for my friends now for all of us.

Finding Zen and taking a break by Colleen Keating

Finding Zen  and taking  a break

These days many of us can get caught out feeling overwhelmed, drained, fearful, exhausted.  

There is so much going on and everything we do demands so much more protocol 

and the worry of the risk involved. 

Yet we have to carry on and look to the positive and the glass half full idea

  even as we can feel dragged down.    Sometimes we can feel a bit like Rabbit:

“Nothing’s working.” said Rabbit.

“Have you tried unplugging?” asked Bear.

“I don’t plug in anywhere.” said Rabbit. 

“Yes you do.” said Bear. “You’re plugged into the world around you.”

“Oh.” said Rabbit, giving this some thought. “How do I unplug then?”

“Close your eyes, let your muscles relax and listen only to the sound of yourself breathing in and out.” said Bear. 

“After a while, when you feel ready, plug back in, and try again.”

Tara Shannon, Julian Gough and Zen Habits by Leo Babauta
whose wrok I have studied for years and am very grateful for.

Finding Zen and our sneaky inner voice by Colleen Keating

 

Finding Zen and our sneaky inner voice

There are times when you hear a quiet persistent voice prattling away to you. 

You feel inadequate.

You feel not good enough .

You feel inferior to the group you stand or sit with. 

You need to tell that voice to be gone. 

If you can remember,

that every cell in your body is listening, 

– listening to your negative voice, and listening to your denial of that.’ 

Then say to yourself, so that every cell in your body hears it  ‘cancel. ‘

Over time of picking up the negative voice and saying ‘cancel’  your body will get the message that that voice is not accepted by you . And the voice will slowly dissipate. 

EXERCISE

  1. Place you right hand gentled on your throat  

     2.  feel the breath in, out, three slow breaths 

     3.   Be aware of being centred with each breath out 

     4.   Place your right hand over your heart and say to yourself ,

            ‘I am enough”  

      5.   Breathe it in  and out. 

 

 

Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves . . . . and iconography by Colleen Keating

Listening to  Verdi’s Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves
my heart weeps
tears fall
my body stills
paused for the people

those without a warm bed and a home tonight.
Yes victims of war
and today victims of disasters
especially todays flood victims here

And so the war in Ukraine continues.

To see the people leaving their homes

leaving their husbands, fathers, sons behind,

leaving their homeland in the thousands,

now up to 4 million women and children

displaced is  horrible

a  tragedy.

Who could imagine this would happen again

in the 21st century.

My heart and love go out to the people of Ukraine

 and to the many people of Russia

who have the courage

to stand up and oppose this brutal invasion.

Former U.S president Barack Obama’s 2011 speech before the British Parliament said:

‘the longing for freedom or human dignity is not English, American, or Western,
but universal, and beats in every heart’.

I say it again:

We are all Ukrainians.  

Our destinies are intertwined

with the destines of all others on the planet 

as monk and social activist Thomas Merton once observed:

“we do not exist for ourselves alone’.”

 

“Creation of the World” by Ukrainian iconographer Lyuba Yatskiv.

(Thank you to my Hildegardian friend Amanda Dillon for sourcing these sensitive icons by Ukraine iconologists.)

It is incredible to me that within 3 months of COP26 in Glasgow, a war was launched at the other end of Europe with the explicit threat of the use of nuclear weapons or the explosion of a nuclear energy facility. Beyond its implications for human beings, the environment impact would be catastrophic.
How do these 2 possibilities exist side-by-side in our culture? Why is there always staggering amounts of money readily available for the purchase of death technology, but it’s so difficult to find the will – let alone the money – to solve our environmental problems?
Where is all the toxic waste material, the rubble of the bombed out, burnt-to-a-cinder cities, like Mariupol, going to go? The environmental impact is part of the long term human impact, but it is never discussed. Maybe we need an international court for war crimes against nature? Lord have mercy. 🙏🏼💙🇺🇦💛🙏🏼

 

 

“Archangel Michael. The defeat of satan” by Ukrainian iconographer, Kateryna Kuziv.

Praying for the defeat of the evil of war.

A friend has researched and shared Ukrainians icons

that are very touching and I would like to share them here 

Thank you Amanda for giving me permission to share

 

Everywoman by Colleen Keating

Everywoman 

The Walk

after the  deluge 
the track was heavy  hard-going 
shoes muddied  bogs to be side-stepped 
yet there was grace in the morning walk

light was breaking
through unzipped clouds 
making the bush smile
 a thousand welcoming smiles
 dazzling  and  bright eyed  

a slow waltz shimmered through leaves 
vibrant red gums  stood friendly sentinels 
mossy rocks verdantly green
palms washed clean 

i leant against the familiar trunk of a gumtree
reassured by its sturdy cool presence  
a shadow crossed my path
i looked up –
a yellow-crested cockatoo 

ferns caught my eye  dripping with dew
 as tears 

 * * *

they are walking too today
along cold corridors 
on frozen earth
they can’t hurry although it’s urgent 
a matter of life and death 

they are pressed 
no time for a last glance back
their homes their precious things
surrendered  for  desecration

the air cries silently
for their wounded homeland 
they are slow 
burdened with babies children elders pets 
 no comfort of saucepans tea pots  books music

 a shadow crosses their path
they cower  huddle  whimper

 * * * 

she is walking now
not like me
she is walking for her life 
and the life of her child
her track is short to safety
but it ‘s not 
she sees a welcome sign just ahead
but she doesn’t      let us imagine
people welcoming her with warm soup  hot bread
reassured by soldiers like sentinels 
many who reach out to help

let someone kind ease her burden
let smiling eyes greet her 
tired  and sad 
and give her shelter

when a shadow crosses her path
let her and her child be safe
and its noise not exacerbate her fear

her words i cannot decipher 
but i understand the language
she is  everywoman

Ukraine by Colleen Keating

This photo is not 1942. This photo is taken this week in Ukraine March 2022 with the colour taken out.
Thank you to a brave war journalist who I will research to find the name.

Ukraine

“ . . man learns nothing from history”   Hegel

“I think it better that at times like these
we poets keep our mouths shut
for in truth
we have no gift to set a statesman right “
W.B. Yeats 
from (‘On being asked for a war poem’ 1919)

 

can’t help being pessimistic but
but. . .I cannot be silent
in this sorrow of war

the enemy has risen its monstrous head again
where human decency  gives way
to rage that leads to war that leads to rage 

 . . . and this too will end
leaders will  make deals shake hands
some will put aside vicious propaganda
and become allies

once again trenches filled in
old war tanks disassembled  
in time they will build a cenotaph
engrave the names of heroes
not the women  old men  children
displaced and broken
not victims who paid the price

as the English FTSE and Russian MOEX
surge with share holder profits
and each trumpets themselves
winner

no-one gains land
for there is nothing to gain
it’s all an illusion that sabotages despots
yet there is a lot to lose  
mostly humane values   sadness in a mother’s eyes
fear in a child’s heart  
hate and revenge replacing a teenager’s dreams 
the loss of human decency  in the soldier.

meanwhile the sun anchors
this tiny dot in the ocean of sky
and its lens blinks
another ‘lest we forget’