Category Archives: meditation

Hello once more, meditation!

Sunday morning. New resolve. I can, will, and must begin a regular practice of meditation once more. Trust me.

So I set the timer to twenty minutes. Lit a candle, sat on the floor in front of it. I decided: no mantra, no severe zen stance (I’ve done them all). Instead a simple cross-legged position, back to the sofa, old dog lying nearby. Was Winnie meditating in her dog way?

Here are thoughts that arose as I sat for fifteen minutes: flame of the candle–nice, better if I close my eyes? Back to the flame. Airplane flies over my house–damned Green Township pathway! I’ll be flying soon–Paris, hurray! Oops, stop it, Phebe, let the thoughts float by like clouds in the sky…..

In between these concepts, I did have a few moments of No Thought. So when I peeked and the timer told me “three minutes more,” I was disappointed.

Yes, disappointed! For I was just getting started. “Getting started” — an odd concept since there was No Where To Get to in my meditation. I reset the timer for ten more minutes. Ahhhh.

That new Sia song insisted on wafting through my head. Notice, float by. Tears. Surprising. Oh, earlier I had remembered my father, recently dead (whatever this means). “Where are you, Dad?” I inwardly asked. Maybe this is one reason I’d been resisting sitting in meditation. Feeling. Feeling my father’s recent death. Feeling my recovering chest incision from February bypass surgery. But, wait–then I felt tears of joy: my new internist. She has knowledge and caring. Knowledge and Caring. What more can a patient ask for?

Back to the candle and its wavering flame. Wavering. Yes, kind of like the baby meditator I have become after not sitting quietly for some time. Beginner’s mind begins again. And there is nothing wrong with that.


Satsang with Laurel and Dan

I’ve had the pleasure–blissful pleasure–to participate in an evening of kirtan and a satsang, both this month of August.

It took me an entire year to make it up there, to Kettering (near Dayton, Ohio), a mere hour away. Their gatherings have come to my email. I wanted to drive up last August to the celebration of Anandamayi Ma but didn’t have the energy to do so.

Two weeks ago, I almost literally ‘made’ myself go. Was I glad I did! Laurel is the real deal. She spent nearly three years with Ma at her ashrams. Laurel shared stories of Ma. In the background when we arrived, there were recordings of Ma and a devotee chanting. Bliss! I knew right then I came to the right place.

Laurel has been teaching hatha yoga since 1974. I’m not sure how long she’s been having these chanting sessions. I did find out she and Dan married eight? years ago; Laurel called him her music teacher. They make a wonderful team: Laurel usually plays harmonium and Dan guitar. Both plan mridangam (Indian double headed drum), and usually someone in the audience also plays percussion, making the sound echo from all sides of you.

Well, I’ve used terms like “sides,” and “you,” but once I become immersed in a chant, there is no side or me. One of the appeals of chanting is to let go of my mind, my head, my egoic self. I want to let go, become one, feel the bliss.

And both visits I have. I’ll be back.

At satsang gatherings, Laurel focuses on an Indian saint. Last night was Sri H.W.L. Poonja, known affectionately as Papaji. I have had the fortune of coming across some encounters with Poonja on YouTube. I love Who He Is (or seems to be); he is so down-to-earth and laughs contagiously (he left his body in 1997). Poonja stresses simplicity and tells us:

“You are always Free.

There is no teacher,

there is no student,

there is no teaching.”

These words remind me of Dogen and other of the zen teachers. I do love it when the practices I have studied all come together 🙂

I haven’t even mentioned how wonderfully they decorate the space! The altar/puja extends both sides of the stage. Multicolored lights enliven the atmosphere and make it festive. All this really helps me feel immersed in the sound and complement our series of mini meditations throughout the evening.

By now you realize I will be driving north to Kettering on a regular basis. I feel such sincerity and warmth from Laurel and Dan!

Note: Their gatherings take place at Center for Spiritual Living (4100 Benfield Dr., Kettering, OH). Laurel’s website is *** I received no payment or promises for promoting them ***

contemplating my “interior castle” on the first whole day of Spring

I try to sit here
find my inner landscape,
that chamber in the castle,
the divine dwelling,
and all I hear is
a bird singing outside.
I know the grass is growing
one blade at a time
this first whole day of spring
but I don’t hear it,
only trust that
it is doing its work.
Am I doing mine?
And what is it
I strain to remember.
The bird sings on,
oblivious to my question.
She is in synch
with the nature of things
as I sit on the side.

Watch “Om Shreem Hreem” on YouTube

Surprised by Contentment

I was driving home from Costco, an odd time to get a glimpse of contentment. Or is it? Any time is a perfect time to feel content. It just took me by surprise, that’s all.

So I hadn’t been feeling well for two weeks: a bad head cold and exhaustion. I had just started getting over the 10.5 hour time change between Delhi, India and Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S. when I got slammed by this cold. I had time; it was the winter holidays, and I had been careful not to descend into a holiDAZE!

Just feeling better, I wanted to get that big container of dental dog chewies plus some other items I’d discovered at Costco. For an early Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t as crowded as I had dreaded. Working from my short list, I completed the task in record time. My Honda headed west on I-275.

I’d only driven a few exits when the combination of uplifting Mozart on the radio, space in the interstate lanes, and the completion of a task on my list combined to make me smile. Hmmm, I thought. Ever analytical, I quickly figured it out . . . . .

Ah, contentment.

It doesn’t happen that regularly. Too often I am driven by a free floating anxiety. What haven’t I done yet takes priority in my brain over satisfaction with what I’ve completed. I don’t recommend this way to be in the world. I’m not proud of it. Anxiety is one reason I am drawn to meditation.

So when contentment floated into the front seat and put its arm around my shoulders, I sighed. “I recognize you,” I thought. “It’s been far too long. Welcome home!”

how that chant makes me cry

To settle down my mind before meditation, I played a chant that begins “OM Satchinanda Parabrahma” …. and ends “Hari Om, Sat Nam” that I downloaded from Deva Premal last spring. This chant will likely always be associated with a sad moment in my life:  my handsome and loyal dog Bodhi and his final hours on this earth. For I played this chant as he sat on the living room floor the morning after Memorial Day, unable to rise. 

When Bodhi’s back legs began giving out, I met him at the side gate and brought him in the house from the two front steps. When this became difficult, I bought him a ramp. When his front legs went, there was nothing left to do. He was a Norwegian Elkhound and 65 pounds his last years. We were together 13 years, long for a dog his size. 

So when I played this chant this morning, immediately that connection came up, that memory of me sitting on the floor next to him waiting for a vet appointment to release him. I cried. I had to. I am still letting go of this marvelous relationship. Little by little. Will it ever end? 

So I had a good cry then sat for a bit. I silently chanted OM 108 times, as I fingered my sandalwood beads. It felt like the perfect thing to do on this Sunday morning. Now I just shared this with you on this first official day of Fall Equinox.

being with the sadness

This morning out in my backyard, alone, I started crying. “Bodhi, I’m so sorry. I couldn’t help it. There was nothing else to do,”

I was walking with a chant on my tablet, my anxious-lazy version of a walking meditation. On those stones, those many stones from Home Depot–was it two summers ago now? My mad idea of a zen rock garden.

I should call Sally. She’d understand. Do therapy again? But my answer was simple: just feel it, feel the sadness, I have to go through it.