“Try To Praise The Mutilated World”

30 01 2010

A couple days ago, I came home to find that I had left my office window wide open. Strong winds had reduced a 2 foot high stack of papers to hundreds of single sheets scattered everywhere in the room.

Ankle-deep like snow all over my office. The place looked ransacked.

During the clean-up, I came across quite a few things that I hadn’t seen in awhile.

One of the things I came across was the September 24, 2001 issue of the New Yorker magazine. It was the first issue after 9/11

On the very last page, was the following poem, which moved me again and maybe even more so thinking about the state of our world which has taken a hard right turn in the last 9 years.

It seems that the suffering of sentient beings and the earth, is on turbo.

I personally think it’s a time now, more than ever, that we need poets. And artists of all kinds. They are the superhero’s that can steer this boat back onto a course that is more sane and gentle and humane.

Don’t give up on this world. And to me, that means staying connected to the soft spot in ourselves, continuing to disarm ourselves internally, and taking any kind actions that we can toward the greater good of restoring and cultivating peaceful abiding.

Here’s the poem:


Try to praise the mutilated world.

Remember June’s long days,

and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.

The nettles that methodically overgrow

the abandoned homesteads of exiles.

You must praise the mutilated world.

You watched the stylish yachts and ships;

one of them had a long trip ahead of it,

while salty oblivion awaited others.

You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,

you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.

You should praise the mutilated world.

Remember the moments when we were together

in a white room and the curtain fluttered.

Return in thought to the concert where music flared.

You gathered acorns in the park in autumn

and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.

Praise the mutilated world

and the grey feather a thrush lost,

and the gentle light that strays and vanishes

and returns.

РAdam Zagajewski  (Translated, from the Polish, by Claire Cavanagh)



blue sky, storms, clouds, and our minds

19 01 2010

In the 19 years that I have been a student of Buddhism and have practiced meditation, the most common way I have listened to teachers describe the nature of our minds is that it is like a vast blue sky.

Thoughts and emotions (really intense thoughts), they teach, are like clouds or storms passing across the vast blue sky.

When a storm front or clouds are passing through, the blue sky is still there, its essential nature remains the same, but it is covered over for a time.

In the same way, the essential nature of the mind doesn’t ever change, but sometimes, our thoughts and feelings can make us feel less than clear and calm.

My sister, @jillwiles, took this photo this morning from her house and the caption read:”A front was moving in this morning”

It reminded me how we experience our relationship with our own minds.

Sometimes we can see things coming on the horizon, sometimes things hit us out of the clear blue, sometimes we feel foggy, sometimes we experience our minds as open, vast blue yonder, not a cloud for miles.

Our minds are a lot like the weather.

And like we are looking at this photograph right now, we can watch what arises in our minds and simply notice it.

In a culture of do, do, do, it really is a very powerful thing to simply notice what arises within you and simply be present with it and watch it.

Things are always moving. Each thought and emotion, like clouds and storm fronts, has its own timing for how long it will stay around before finally moving on.

This is a photo from a meditation retreat that I was on a few years ago in Colorado and it reminds me of the sense of internal space we have available to us in blue sky mind.

Keep the vision of the vast blue sky alive within you.


18 01 2010

Each Martin Luther King Day I find myself excited.

It’s a day for me to contemplate freedom.

What does it mean to be free?

What does it mean for me to be free within the context of the life I have now?

How can I free myself from the trappings of my mind in my beliefs and perceptions that are tainted with wounds from the past?

What qualities must I cultivate and possess as someone who is free?

I have experienced my own specific share of not being free in my life. I have been discriminated against because I am a woman and because I am gay. I have felt ashamed and silenced about things that have happened to me and about who I am.

While this is not anywhere near the level on a global scale that other people in the world go through in terms of not being free, each person’s pain and suffering is relative, so I cannot minimize my own suffering while maximizing others, even though on a basic level I understand that I am not starving or thirsty, and am therefore in a better position to actually access/experience true human freedom.

We must each engage the ways we are not free where we live with what presents itself. We don’t have another life to work with.

Two of my heroes are Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. When I think about what it means to be free, I think of these two people.

Dr. King is my example of the power of well-thought-out passionate words and maintaining one’s dignity in the midst of injustice that could leave one speechless and crazy. You seldom see him without a tie.

Nelson Mandela is my example of the whole often confusing idea of forgiveness. His work with Desmond Tutu on the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa has had a powerful influence on my own life like no other singular idea. You seldom see him without a smile.

In Architecture and in Yoga, there is a saying; “Form brings freedom.”

When I think about King and Mandela, I see in them a one-pointed focus as to what their lives were about. They kept their eyes on the ball and on the prize. They embodied in speech and action the very principles they believed would set millions of people free.

Freedom is a natural human proclivity. All of us want to be free. We all know people who are willing to give their life so that others can be free.

There is a discipline to freedom. Of staying with the thing until the rock moves. Of not giving up, remaining as best as we can, open-hearted and present in the face of injustice. Of continuing to work with ourselves and others in a way that serves the greater good.

As King and Mandela know, freedom is not a singular thing. We are interconnected.

No one is free until all are free.

May it begin with me and my life. May I free myself so that others may be free.

what to do in a catastrophe

13 01 2010

In Buddhism, we have several practices to help ease the pain and suffering of others.

They are called things like Tonglen, and Maitri, and Lovingkindness.

In all of these practices, one places one’s awareness and thought and heartfelt feeling on another person and their situation.

We imagine the details of what they are going through and try and really feel it, and then send them our own sense of well-being.

As best as we can, we close the gap of emotional distancing inside ourselves that we often create to make ourselves feel safe or protected or to maintain our good mood.

We aren’t afraid to maybe not feel so chipper in the light of the often massive scale of the kind of suffering others have to go through on a daily basis who live in the realms of the world where poverty, sex trafficking, genocide, war and natural disasters take place.

The point is not to be overwhelmed. The point is to let your heart really genuinely break for the specifics of other sentient beings conditions.

To feel deeply for others and send them our wish for their suffering to cease, is a natural aspect our our good human heart/minds.

This moment of castrophe in Haiti gives us that opportunity.

As Nicholas Kristoff tweeted this morning, “Today we are all Haiti.”

peaceful person

8 01 2010

“Be like water,

Flowing everywhere

Without striving,

Benefitting all

Without contention.

Live in touch with the earth,

Meditate deeply in the heart.

Be generous in relationships,

Truthful in speech,

Consistent in leadership,

Competent in work,

And timely in actions.

The path of peace

Is forever honorable.”

-excerpt from the Tao Te Ching

Photo taken by my sister Jill from her house this morning.

remembering our own and others innocence

6 01 2010

last week my girlfriend’s sister and her husband had their second child. a baby girl. they are young parents. 25 and 26. to say that they are doing an amazing job is an understatement. these are the kind of people that really should raise children.

these two pictures they sent out reminded me of how we all start out. fresh. innocent. vulnerable. a white canvas of endless possibilities.

then things happen. some of the things that happen as we grow up are painful and devastating and take their pound of flesh and leave their mark. it’s easier to

shut down over time than it is to open up.

it’s not easy to remember our own innocence never mind someone else’s. but how about at the start of this new fresh year, if we just drop all our big projects and push to achieve and get it all done for a minute, and remember how we all started.

even the jerks we encounter were once small children. jerks are jerks because of unattended and unhealed wounds inflicted upon them from childhood that they haven’t worked through.

a new year without compassion towards ourselves and others is a new year absent of our most beautiful aspect; our humanity. our power to be kind.

as the saying goes; it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

these pictures of Lena Elizabeth are all of us.

maybe it’s time to find an adorable picture of yourself as a wee one and prop it up on your desk and gaze lovingly at that sweetie-pie who survived it all and is still here.

the beautiful messy scary joyous ride of life

5 01 2010

it’s been 18 days since my last post. life has a way of sometimes intervening and all we can do is just sort of hang on for the ride. that’s what’s been happening for me and that’s where i’ve been. thanks to everyone who DM’ed me asking for a post.

i’m seeing the chiropractor today and the acupuncturist tomorrow for the literal and figurative whiplash i’ve incurred from the ride of life i’ve been on since december 18th.

in short, i moved out of the place i had been living for like 7 years so we packed and unpacked, my girlfriend and i had a near death miss with a car accident that happened about 5 feet on either side of us and from which we were both traumatized for several days, i wrenched my back during the move and unpacking which left me flat on my back in bed for about 5 days, i got a terrible cold and could hardly function, and of course christmas and new years were happening all around us with all it’s unique logistical pressure.

so that’s where i’ve been.

the amazing thing is that i ended 2009 with so much closure that i almost fell off the roller coaster from the sheer force of growth and change. it was the first time that i was aware of time passing (a bittersweet effect of middle age), and understood it was the end of a decade and so i was prepared internally to put closure on an entire chapter of my life.

everything converged into a two week moment of time where life said to me, “Bindu honey, the force of propulsion with which you are hurtling through this portal is a direct result of how stuck you have perceived yourself, so buckle up, because your destiny just won’t wait another second.”

it looked and felt like this:

i think that when we can’t figure out how to un-stick ourselves externally and there is tremendous unrest and movement and dissatisfaction happening simultaneously internally, that the moment of getting unstuck on the outside can be very fast, almost violent in its motion and energy. especially if the external and internal are mismatched for years as they were in my case.

i think that’s because energy, being a force of nature, becomes very powerful when it is condensed or held back or compacted. our lives are flows of energy and sometimes, like any flow of water, it gets backed up from time to time, it meanders, it pools, it ebbs, but one thing is for sure; water must flow and energy must move. and when the dam breaks, there is a lot of energy unleashed.

sometimes energy can appear stuck for longer than we want. sometimes we think this is all that we can manifest for our lives. sometimes the pain of wanting more for ourselves and our lives and not knowing how to make it happen or how to move ourselves into a different internal vibration can be heartbreaking over and over again. sometimes we have to wait many years.

the important thing is to not give up and to keep the vision and the dream alive inside.

the force of being unstuck and/or taking your life to the next level can feel wild when the dam breaks, or, as we say in buddhism, your karma ripens.

sometimes conceptual mind is slower than wisdom mind. sometimes we don’t really know what’s going on. there is a lag between what we have created in our lives and in our understanding. at least that’s often the case for me. i am headed in a direction and i’m not totally sure what’s happening but i am propelled and am manifesting the outer conditions and experiences that i have felt were not right internally for quite some time.

i never fight that feeling of being propelled. i just hold on for the ride. often i get physically sick or mildly injured. or both. i tend to somaticize.

and then like any ride, it comes to a stop. and i get out and look around and things seem more closely aligned from the point of view of my internal vision of my life and my actual life.

if life, as i believe it is, is all mind, then i am incredibly interested in my life being a reflection of the natural luminous nature of mind. i want that to be reflected in where i live, the people in my life, the creative endeavours i undertake, and the self-care i extend to myself on behalf of others.

stay tuned. i believe 2010 is going to be my best year yet. i am happy you are along for the beautiful messy scary joyous ride with me.