Friday, April 29, 2011

Quieting the Mind at IMS

I have just returned from a mediation retreat at the Insight Mediation Society which focuses on mindfulness. It was a grueling and wonderful 3 1/2 days of agitation, contemplation and reflection. It seems like the first 2 days were a roller coaster of excitement and avoidance, attempting to settle into a quiet mind. By the 3rd day I was falling head over heals with life itself.

I picked up a book while there titled Coming to Our Senses : Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness by Jon Kabiat- Zinn. I am just starting it but would like to share his insightful prose.

"The world needs all its flowers, just as they are, and even though they bloom for only the briefest of moments, which we call a lifetime. It is our job to find out one by one and collectively what kind of flowers we are, and to share our unique beauty with the world in the precious time that we have, and to leave the children and grandchildren a legacy of wisdom and compassion embodied in the way we live, in our institutions, and in our honoring of our interconnectness, at home and around the world. Why not risk standing firmly for sanity in our lives and in our world, the inner and outer a reflection of each other and of our genius as a species?"

"The creative and imaginative efforts and actions of every one of us count, and nothing less that the health of the world hangs in the balance. We could say that the world is litterly and metaphorically dying for us as a species to come to our senses, and now is the time. Now is the time for us to wake up to the fullness of our beauty, to get on with and amplify the work of healing ourselves, our societies, and the planet, building on everything worthy that has come before and that is flowering now. No intention is to small and no effort insignificant. Every step along the way counts. And, as you will see, every single one of us counts."

While walking in the forest, I was so taken with these transparent leaves still clinging to life after such a fierce winter. Frankly, they reminded me of my 90 year old mother's translucent skin. It was only after spending some time with the tree that I realized there were new buds in the "ready" on each branch...the true miracle of the life cycle.

The teachers at this retreat center have spent years in mindfulness meditation and understand the multitude of difficulties in quieting the mind, with incredible benefits to the physical, mental and spiritual body.

My flight home was 5 hours delayed and went late into the night. Little miracles played out during that time in the "holding tank" including a very relaxed mind, kindnesses from complete strangers and learning that a young man sitting across from me was heading to Port au Prince in Haiti to work for 3 months at an orphanage.

The Dharma Seed website has a wealth of audio instruction for free in addition to many other related links. Check it out!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Today by Bill Collins


"If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day."

Check out the animated poems HERE. They are amazing!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Beckoning of Lovely

This is such an amazing video and will bring a smile to your face. Happy Wednesday!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nine Lives by William Dalrymple

I just finished reading a wonderful book, Nine Lives : In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, by William Dalrymple. It was recommended to me by someone I met in Kerala, India. I read it on my kindle but think I need to buy the "real" book. A wonderful quote...

"All religions were one, maintained the Sufi saints, merely different manifestations of the same divine reality. What was important was not the empty ritual of the mosque or temple, but to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart---that we all have Paradise within us, if we know where to look."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday in Pilsen

One of my favorite things to do in Chicago on Good Friday is to participate in the reinactment of the Stations of the Cross in Pilsen. If you live in Chicago and want a dose of religion and Mexico, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

going in for a tune up

I will be spending the next few days at a Buddhist Vipassanā retreat titled A Resilient Heart with Sharon Salzberg at the Insight Meditation Society
This is my daily schedule...

5:30 am – Wake up
6:00 am – Sitting meditation

.... 6:30 am – Breakfast .....

7:15 am – Work as practice period
8:15 am – Sitting meditation with instructions
9:15 am – Walking meditation
10:00 am – Sitting meditation
10:45 am – Walking meditation or interviews with teachers
11:30 am – Sitting meditation

..... 12:00 noon – Lunch .....

1:45 pm – Walking meditation
2:15 pm – Sitting meditation
3:00 pm – Walking meditation
3:45 pm – Sitting meditation
4:30 pm – Walking meditation
..... 5:00 pm – Tea .....

6:15 pm – Sitting meditation
7:00 pm – Walking meditation
7:30 pm – Dharma talk
8:30 pm – Walking meditation
9:00 pm – Sitting meditation
9:30 pm – Late tea, futher practice or sleep

It will be interesting to see how long (or if at all) it takes for me to quiet my mind.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Genius Works ~ The Atlantic

Found this article, How Genius Works, in the Atlantic. It is filled with interesting thoughts and ideas on creativity.

"Great art begins with an idea. Sometimes a vague or even bad one. How does that spark of creativity find its way to the canvas, the page, the dinner plate, or the movie screen? How is inspiration refined into the forms that delight or provoke us? We enlisted some of America’s foremost artists to discuss the sometimes messy, frequently maddening, and almost always mysterious process of creating something new."

Here is a video on Chuck Close and Paul Simon talking about their process.

Be sure to check out the article in full by clicking HERE.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Waking who I AM

Waking up to who I am...this seems to be the thread that is most prominent in my thinking this year. I am actively working on trying to distill the remainder of my life to the most essential elements, if that is even possible.... how do I choose to spend my time and how do I want to funnel my energies.

I heard a wonderful piece on the Bob Edwards radio show this morning as he interviewed Filmmaker Tom Shadyac who has just released the movie, I AM. I have seen the trailers and can't wait to see the movie in the theater. The podcast of the interview is HERE.

© Jane Fulton Alt 2011

The following is from the I AM media page


"Everyday, we are assaulted with messages, images, slogans, and sound bites, that tell us of our inadequacies, the sad state of affairs that is you and me: “With this product, you can lose weight, with this one, you can gain muscle; if your breasts sag, our bra lifts them up; if you have wrinkles, this cream irons them out; if you’re sad, we have a pill that will make you happy; if you’re too happy, we have a pill that will bring you down; if you’re not as much of a man as you used to be, this pill will straighten you out (literally!). And everyone who’s anyone has itunes, the iphone, and the ipad, am I clear?

And we participate in this maddening chatter unaware, telling our kids that in order to succeed they have to get the best grades, get into the right school, and get the right job. We tell them that one day they must stop all this horsing around and get serious with their lives; we ask them who they are going to be when they grow up, warning them that life is all down hill after 22, declaring college the best four years of their lives; and finally, if they are lucky, they just might make something of themselves in this dog eat dog world. It’s enough to stress you out completely – but of course there’s a pill that can fix that, too.

Is this how life really is? Is our identity simply conditional and fragile? Is who we are really defined by the things we own, our job status, and the social circles we run in?

The mystics, those saints and sages who saw through to the inner workings of reality, proclaimed something very different. A little background here: The word “mystic” comes from the Latin word, “mysterium”, from which we also get the word, mystery. Thus, a mystic is one who sees into the mystery. So what exactly did the mystics see? And what does their vision of reality reveal about who and what we are?

Here’s what Thomas Merton said, after decades of meditation and contemplation: “As if the sorrows and stupidities of the world could overwhelm me now that I realize what we all are. I wish everyone could realize this, but there is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Shining like the sun. That’s you. He didn’t say, shining like the sun after you can afford the new electric Chevy Volt. He didn’t say, shining like the sun after your bust gets lifted. What he said was, right now, in this moment, with all of your imperfections, with all of your challenges in the temporal, with all of your worldly failures and successes, you are walking around shining like the sun!

Merton goes one step further with this concluding insight: “I am finally coming to the realization that my greatest ambition is to be what I already am.” Wait a minute. What about worldly status and success and power? Merton saw through all of that, and invites us to do the same. Can you imagine? What a lesson to embrace, to embody and even, to teach; to declare to our
kids they don’t have to be someone, they already are someone. Now the cynic will undoubtedly rise up and warn that this will poison our youth; they will be so inflated with their own identity, they will surely sit back and do nothing. Quite the opposite is true. This knowledge compels those it touches, Jesus, Gandhi, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Rumi, and Hafiz, to walk with power, to use their talents for the good of all, without the drag of invented pressure to measure up to some arbitrary social standard.

You see, (and it is a matter of sight!), what we are telling ourselves, the command to succeed and be someone, is just a story; it’s a story based on expectations. It’s temporal and finite. It is not who you really are. The Sufi mystic, Meera, wisely said: “You cannot play your role in time, until you know who you are in eternity.” And who you are is a drop in the ocean of divinity. Inside you is starlight. Inside you is the same infinite energy that created the universe. As the modern mystic, Irwin Kula, knew, “Everything is god in drag.”

So the next time you’re told you need to be somebody, rest in the knowledge that you already are. Hafiz implores us to wake up to this truth when he says: “I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” Now what iphone or ipad, what present day pill or product can deliver that?"

...I couldn't have said it better myself.

Here is the trailer of the movie.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Cove

I just finished watching the award winning documentary, The Cove. It was an AMAZING film. Such courage and passion. In it there was the following quote....

"Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. " Margaret Mead

So much yet to be done....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Larson and Shindelman

I ran across the work of Larson + Shindelman a while ago and was so impressed with it. It is really clever in its treatment of our current state of communication.

Geolocation: Tributes to the Data Stream was created in 2009.

In their words...

"Each morning we follow strangers through their Twitter updates, becoming intimately involved in their banal daily errands. We imagine ourselves as virtual flâneurs, exploring cities 140 characters at a time through the lives of others. Sometimes we follow these strangers for a day and other times for months, following the ups and downs of their posts to this public venue.

Using publicly available embedded geotag information in Twitter updates, we track the locations of users through their GPS coordinates and make a photograph to mark the location in the real world. Each of these photographs is taken on the site of the update and paired with the originating text.

We think of these photographs as historical monuments to small lived moments, selecting texts that reveal something about the personal nature of the users' lives or the national climate of the United States. It is also grounds the virtual reality of social networking data streams in their originating locations in the physical world while examining how the nature of one's physical space may influence online presence."

You can read more about their work HERE.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trans ~ formation

trans·for·ma·tion noun \ˌtran(t)s-fər-ˈmā-shən, -fȯr-\
1: an act, process, or instance of transforming or being transformed

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why 30,000 People are Fasting



I have so much to say but have not had the time or space to articulate it.

This year has been amazing...the latest chapter involved caring for my parents, aged 90 and 91, after my mother's cardiac complications. I spent 3 weeks with them, one of which was in a hospital where they played the Brahams Lullaby every time a baby was born. When I first heard it, I thought they were trying to subtly tell everyone it was rest time! It was a wonderful reminder of the life cycle.

This was the monarch butterfly arrangement I placed in my mother's hospital window. Much to my surprise and delight I was witness to the real thing fluttering on the other side of the window pane.

The three weeks were filled with so many moments of grace. I feel fortunate to have had the time with my parents and felt completely in the moment. While there, I was reading a review of David Foster Wallace's new book, The Pale King. In it he states,

"Happiness... is the ability to pay attention, to live in the present moment, to find “second-by-second joy + gratitude at the gift of being alive.”

What else is there?

Monday, April 11, 2011

From Crista Dix of Life-Support Japan Print Auction

"It has been one month since the first earthquake and tsunami washed across Sendai and the northeast coast of Japan. 30 days ago we launched Life Support Japan, a creative community of photographers contributing to help in the recovery efforts. Since then, with almost 700 sales and 1,000 prints we have raised over $50,000 to help the people of Japan begin their recovery. We have delivered $25,000 to Direct Relief International, and the check for Habitat for Humanity is soon to be on its way.
Thank you all for your efforts, your support and your belief in our cause. It is because of you we can make a difference.
I am humbled by our efforts, and am filled with pride to be part of this amazing group of caring people."

It is truly amazing what is possible with some imagination and an open heart.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

working together ~ Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir

Just heard about this on NPR...a new piece is coming out tomorrow on You Tube. It is a wonderful counterpoint to the stalemate in DC on the budget...wake up you elected officials and start working together!

Provocation Exhibit at powerHouse Arena in NYC

I was unable to make the opening but happy to find this on their website:

Dear Friends,
For those of you who live just a bit too far to swing by Dumbo to check out the show fear not, for we've got you covered:
We've put together a slideshow of all the wonderful work that comprises the Provocation show, so sit back and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

i am back

just need to catch my breath...

© Dieter Appelt, The Mark on the Mirror Breathing Makes, 1977

more to come