Bells of Mindfulness
September’s Sacred Cinema movie is Walk With Me, a documentary about Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community. You are invited to attend the Sacred Cinema Zoom meeting this Sunday, September 18 at 3pm (contact office for Zoom link). Even if you don’t watch the movie, come discuss a favorite quote or teaching from the Master.
Watching the movie, there were two things that made a lasting impact on me. The first is Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice to a little girl whose dog recently died. You can watch the except
here: ‘Walk With Me’ Documentary film clip – Thich Nhat Hanh on dog dying.
The second was the “Bells of Mindfulness”. The movie shows that at Plum Village, every 15 minutes a bell will ring. Attendees stop whatever they are doing – talking, eating, walking, working – for a few breaths as a reminder to return to being mindful, mindful of what they are doing, saying, thinking, feeling. I wondered what that would be like. I wanted to experience this.
I was trying to figure out how to do this at home. That’s when I discovered a free app provided by Plum Village that includes the Bells of Meditation. You can get the app here: Mindfulness Apps | Plum Village
I had a free morning at home so I downloaded the app and enabled the bell. It starts you out with a 2-hour session with the bell ringing every 15 minutes. I started it and went about my day. Every 15 minutes when I heard the bell, I would stop what I was doing, take a long slow breath and check in with how I was feeling, what I was doing. Was I mindfully (or mindlessly) doing my tasks? Was I connected to my body? Was I aware of my surroundings? It did make me more aware of what I was doing, seeing, and feeling. But I actually found it distracting, taking me off task.
I decided to go another couple hours, but at a 30 minute interval. At this interval I found myself anticipating the bells. I would wait to start a task until the half hour was up or find a task, I thought would be completed in 30 minutes. I was being “mindful” in a way that didn’t serve me well.
The next day I decided to try again, but at a random 23 minutes. This way, I would not be sure when the bell would go off if I happened to look at a clock. This worked well for me. I was able to get things accomplished without being concerned about time or when the bell would ring. The bell at indiscriminate times brought me back to mindfulness, deciding if what I was doing at that time was what I should be doing.
When I find myself mindlessly going through my day, I now have another tool in my toolbox to bring me back to the present moment. “…we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.
If you want what you have, keep doing what you’re doing.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve picked up a practice that I use each week during service. When David plays ‘In the silence there is peace’ I close my eyes and I gather in my mind, all my problems I can’t solve. Usually, it’s one or two problems but sometimes I have a whole list. As he sings, I mentally throw these problems into the room so that the problems are dissolved and absorbed in the silence. When I leave, I leave those problems there.
Last Sunday, an interesting thing happened. When I went to gather my problems, none came to me. I couldn’t think of anything I needed to throw into the room! Of course, I doubted my thinking -surely I had just forgotten. I kept thinking, trying to gather problems. Nothing came to my mind. This practice is working for me.
The following affirmative prayer is from Ernest Holmes Creative Ideas – I AM FREE OF PROBLEMS – page 41.
I know that freedom from problems, whatever they may be, and a new joy are mine today. This freedom and joy spontaneously express themselves in my experience. There is nothing in me that can obstruct their passage. I permit them to flow through me in all their wonder and might.
I am conscious of an infinite wisdom directing me. Whatever I ought to know, I shall know; whatever I ought to do, I shall do. My every thought and decision is molded by infinite Mind and expressed through law into my experience. My problems and difficulties are dissolved and melt away as I now declare that the action of intelligence makes all things right in my life.
If you want what you have, keep doing what you’re doing.
The Law is Infinite and Perfect but in order to make a demonstration WE MUST HAVE A MENTAL EQUIVALENT OF THE THING WE DESIRE. A demonstration, like anything else in the objective life, is born out of a mental concept. The mind is the fashioning factor, and according to its range, vision and positiveness, will be the circumstance or experience… Having a strong picture or mental concept and holding to that equivalent regardless of circumstances or conditions, we must sooner or later manifest according to the concept.
Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind 281.4
The definition of a mental equivalent is having a subjective idea of the desired experience. As we bring ourselves to a greater vision than the range of our present concepts, we can then induce a greater concept and thereby demonstrate more in our experience (The Science of Mind, 610). This definition seems to indicate vision, idea, yet a mental equivalent goes beyond what it looks like. I also need to know how it sounds, feels, smells, tastes. I need to engage my entire being, to embody it.
I have a very broad mental equivalent: To live a rich and full life. Periodically, I have specific mental equivalents, that I can visualize. One was passing practitioner training and becoming a licensed practitioner. I visualized the initials RScP after my name. I even wrote it down repetitively on a several occasions.
A Cooper’s hawk swoops in and stands on the edge of the birdbath with its outstretched talons. Its head turns almost in a full circle as if it is looking to see if the other birds are watching, then hops into the birdbath, the full length of its legs immersed in the water. Across the street, in the background, a rabbit hops down the sidewalk. The Cooper’s hawk dips its head into the water, then raises his head, and then shakes its tail up and down. It moves so joyously, so energetically that the birdbath tilts to one side almost tipping over. The water is running over the rim.
This goes on for five minutes. I see the detail in its brown and white striped breast, small beak, dark gray back, yellow feet, and golden eye. It takes a deep breath, fluffs out its feathers, flaps its wings and looks around one more time before flying across the street over the neighbor’s house. There is a feather in the birdbath.
This is the richness I desire, moments of beauty, awe and wonder, and Spirit knows the perfect experience to fulfill my request.
To Playlist, or Not…
Let’s just say certain types of music are not and have never been on my playlists. There are exceptions, I get caught up in the melody or by an artist or songs. I like to hear stories etc…but a considerable amount of music contains messages that I do not want to involve myself with. If the music is exceptional I may listen to it in spite of any message but again they are exceptions.
Like most of us I was influenced by my parents and the world about how to think about things. One of those opinions influenced me to believe that country and western music was not something I should listen to. Over the years I have reinforced this conclusion and sought support from others. I held a belief that the country and western culture was a threat to my ideas.
I now understand that my thinking – my view of reality – and my happiness are connected. Holding thoughts of dissatisfaction regarding anything disrupts the ease and flow of my life.
I recently had the opportunity to accompany my wife to a business function in Nashville at one time known as the capital of the country and western music recording industry. During the preparations for the trip I made the decision to not succumb to my old thoughts and ideas.
Visit the Grand Ole Opry as planned and take things as they come.
This was my very first trip to Nashville Tennessee. I was able to experience the fluid nature of my thoughts and my ability to influence them. Whenever I find I am having thoughts that are causing some sort of resistance to my peace of mind. I do my best to consider them. In other words I avoid deciding to turn and swim upstream.
This approach proved to be optimum for my happiness because I had a remarkable time. Unburdened by the hardships that come with attitudes of various uninvited conclusions that have been a part of my thinking for a long time.
All Means All
Maria Schuchardt and I attended an interfaith community coalition gathering called ‘Dare to Care’ in support of LGBTQIA+ youth last Saturday afternoon at St Francis in the Foothills. (https://www.stfrancisinthefoothills.org/dare-to-care)
We weren’t part of the program. We were there to listen and absorb what was said. We heard a lot of stuff about how kids who do not fit the gender norms are treated by society, by schools, by the medical establishment, by lawmakers, by any group of individuals who choose to label them as ‘other’. The pain, anguish and fear present in the room broke my heart. The gathering of this roomful of people, and their intention to create a coalition to support and assist these young people in living full and healthy lives left me feeling a little encouraged, and a little challenged. There’s a chasm between what I know is the spiritual truth of every individual and what I recognize as each individual’s physical experience.
This is not that different from the gathering a handful of us had almost two months ago, after the recent Roe-v-Wade ruling came out. What is the highest truth of the situation, what is our experience, and how do we have to change our minds about that? And then… what actually is ours to do? And how do we do that work?
In the daily morning practice group Saturday morning, I shared Dr Kenn Gordon’s daily guide in the Science of Mind monthly magazine. He quoted part of a paragraph from Dr Ernest Holmes, (The Science of Mind 303.2). “When Jesus said, ‘Resist not,’ He meant that non-recognition of evil is the only way to avoid it. This is true according to the law of cause and effect. For what we persist in recognizing, we persist in holding in place. What which we refuse to recognize, we neutralize, and it is no longer there, as far as we are concerned.”
That is absurdly hard when I see something in the world that seems so antagonistic to my notion and experience of goodness. And yet, as religious scientists, it is our first line of action. When we can know this perfectly, and give no energy to the contrary experience, the contrary experience must dissipate.
A blogging friend of mine, who studies brain science and life, made a case in his Sunday morning blog (https://floweringbrain.wordpress.com/2022/08/14/honoring-and-supporting-the-wisdom-of-grandmothers- brain/) for having grandmothers ‘run things’. His reasoning was that grandmothers had raised their own children, and then supported their children in raising their own children, so they had some wisdom and useful experience in troubleshooting hard things. He concluded by saying that grandmothers had access to the six ‘transcendent perfections’: generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditative concentration and wisdom, which would be helpful in managing our collective experience.
In my Sunday talk, I challenged those present to think about the actions and practices they could do in support of wisdom and right action, and the shared Oneness that is the capital T-truth of our existence. How can we be (even more) the presence of Love in the world? I ask the same question here and I offer Thich Nhat Hanh’s Metta Meditation (paraphrased) from his book How To Love.
Preparation: Sit still and calm your body and breath. Sitting still, you aren’t too preoccupied with other matters. Begin practicing this love meditation on yourself. Until you are able to love, and take care of yourself, you can’t be of much help to others.
May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love. May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself. May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
After you are able to love and take care of yourself,
you can practice knowing these truths for, and about, others:
First for someone you like,
then for someone neutral to you,
then for someone you love,
and finally, for someone the mere thought of whom makes you feel suffering.
After practicing Metta Meditation for a while, you may discover you can think of them all with genuine compassion.
–Rev Janis Farmer
Full Moon Labyrinth Walks
Go forth under the open sky and list / To Nature’s teachings. ~ William Cullen Bryant
I began doing the full moon labyrinth walks on October 31, 2020. It was also the second full moon of the month, so it was a blue moon. Being closer to the earth than usual, it was also a Super moon. And it was Halloween. It had been 76 years since all these last occurred on the same night. A labyrinth walk seemed an appropriate way to celebrate the Full Super Blue Boo Moon. That night it was only myself and one other, but we had just a good time so I decided to make it a regular event.
We meet in the parking lot of the Unity Church on Camino Blanco. Unity has a beautiful outdoor labyrinth that is open to the public. It does have a dirt path, but it is level and well maintained. Even though it is in the middle of town, it feels secluded being surrounded by desert vegetation. We have had owls fly by overhead and often hear coyotes howling in the distance.
Sometimes the tiles of the labyrinth glisten in the moonlight. Sometimes the moon is not able to break through the clouds. There is always enough radiant light to see the path without any additional lighting sources, although I do recommend bringing a light source to guide your way from the parking lot to the labyrinth entrance.
I start with a short centering exercise. We then start walking the path one after another with space in between each to allow for contemplation time at the center. Once done, we gather around the labyrinth, holding sacred space for those still walking the path. When all have completed their walk, I end with a brief prayer of gratitude.
“Walking meditation is to enjoy the walking – not in order to arrive, but just to walk. The purpose is to be in the present moment and, aware of our breathing and our walking, to enjoy each step. Therefore we have to shake off all worries and anxieties, not thinking of the future, not thinking of the past, just enjoying the present moment. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“Taking a walk is like medicine for the soul. It’s hard to remain stuck in the yuck when you are out moving your body through the fresh air.” ~ Rev. Dr. Christian Sorensen, SOM Magazine 2/16/2022
In two years, there has only been one night when no one showed up to join me. (It was an extremely cold night.) We have had as many at ten join in, on average we have 4-5. As well as being outdoors, there has been plenty of space for physical distancing. The next full moon is tomorrow, August 11th. Won’t you consider joining us at 8pm?
I have always had a wealth of friends and have always valued my friendships. As I am joyously approaching my 60th Birthday, I think back on my life and am overjoyed with all of my friendships. I know, I have attracted just about everyone of them to me. My friends have been with me through my hardest times and the best times of my life. I have always felt deep gratitude for the love and abundance of my friendships.
I started to think, who was my first friend that I could remember? That would be Andrew. Andrew is my only sibling and is five years older than me. Most might not consider a sibling a friend, but a friendship has developed over the last 60 years. My mom told the story that when I came home from the hospital, she was so excited and proud to show me to Andrew. Andrew ran up to the car, took one look at me and was disappointed. He said, “Oh darn! I wanted someone I could play ball with!” Off he ran to go play. Andrew may have been disappointed at the time, but he got over it.
When I was about 5, he informed me, that Santa wasn’t real. (a story for a another article maybe?) We grew up and I always felt that his presence protected me. He was my Big Brother. Once our parents passed away, (dad in 1985 and mom in 2002) we’ve both felt like orphans. We had that common bond feeling and our friendship developed deeper. I am proud to call my brother, my first friend.
Tommy Carter was the boy across the street I played with. I was about five and he was four. I came running in the house one day and when my dad asked me why, I said, “I don’t want to share my Slinky with Tommy.” I don’t remember the exact words, but I went back out and shared my Slinky with him. Gratitude to my dad, nearly 55 years ago, encouraging me to share.
Then there was Lady when I was eight. We often would sit on the front porch steps together side by side, my arm around her back. I could talk to her about anything. She would just sit there and listen. Sometimes she would come up to my bedroom and play. Sometimes she’d sleep with me, always happy to be by my side. She was my friend. She was my first St Bernard.
I continued to attract friends throughout my life. Long lasting true and enduring friends. I know I am a true extrovert and friendships fulfill something in me. The same is true for CSLT. The friendships I gained through CSLT are of true beauty. I am so grateful for you. Yes YOU!
I have always loved to be around people. One of my dearest best friends told me today, “In the middle of friendship is love and you exude love. If you’ve got love, you’ve got friends.”
• “The one who has learned to love all people will find plenty of people who will return that love.” Page 297 Science of Mind Ernest Holmes
• If you want to attract friends, I recommend reading the whole section on “Attracting Friends” Pages 297-299 Science of Mind Ernest Holmes
• “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
• If you are reading this, and don’t know me or are a stranger to me, I learned something many years ago. “A stranger is a friend you haven’t yet met.”
So, as I’m preparing for my 60th Birthday Celebration, I am thinking about the joyous feeling I will receive as many of my friends gather together with me. I want to just stand back, absorb all their energy, watch and hear the laughter amongst my friends, knowing I am the common thread that brings us all together. We are all One.
“You’ve Got a Friend” – James Taylor is the perfect ending to this newsletter article. Sing along with me as I turn 60.
Ebb and flow
The recent overturning of Roe v Wade has the words from Ecclesiastes running through my mind. I understand both viewpoints, and believe in a person’s right to choose.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing…
And I think of the in and out of breathing, the ebb and flow of the tide, the rhythms of life. And in the motion of breath and wave, there is a moment of silence and stillness. And with all the motion, either physical or inside my head, it is in the silence I find refuge, where I find my truth and what is mine to do.
Often we find ourselves confronted by the problem of how to begin. We are not sure what we want to do; we see no way to begin anything; seeing nothing to begin on; when we find ourselves in this position, humanly speaking, not knowing where to turn, then of all times we must be quiet and listen; then of all times we must trust that the same power that started all things will also start us in the right road. — Ernest Holmes, Creative Mind and Success 78.3
Looking and Seeing
This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colors.
I have been patiently waiting for the first pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope. On July 11th it felt like Christmas eve when I was a child. Only now it was the anticipation of receiving views from the heavens.
The first photograph, or at least the oldest surviving photograph, was taken in 1826 or 1827 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. So, in the grand scheme of things we have only had
the ability to photograph people and events for a minuscule amount of time, never truly knowing what countless individuals of history’s most famous people looked like.
Around the turn of the last century Henrietta Leavitt, one of a group of women “computers” at Harvard University who pored over photographic plates capturing the night sky. In studying photographs of the Magellanic Clouds, which we now know are two small galaxies that orbit the Milky Way, Leavitt noticed that certain stars varied in brightness over time, some of them in a peculiar way. “It is worthy of notice,” she wrote in 1908, that “the brighter variables have the longer periods.” In other words, brighter stars twinkled more slowly.
Around the same time, astronomer Harlow Shapley of Mount Wilson Observatory in California began to prove that the Milky Way itself was inconceivably vast. Shapley built on work by Henrietta Leavitt.
The Great Debate of “Were there other galaxies?” was resolved by a young astronomer named Edwin Hubble. He also used Leavitt’s Cepheid variable technique to measure cosmic distances, this time by finding the variable stars in the spiral nebulae themselves.
Not only do the incomprehensible distances of the cosmos amaze me, so does the rate we as humans are compounding knowledge. I am extremely happy that there are so many ways to explore and things are moving right along. Today we are seeing the universe in unprecedented detail. Tomorrow even more. The preliminary pictures are just the beginning. The possibilities are endless.
Today here and now. I enjoy my place in the universe knowing that I recognize that I am already whole, perfect and complete in essence and that I have the capacity to be whole, perfect and complete in manifestation regardless of what may be appearing as a relative condition. And it doesn’t matter how serious the condition is. There is no big or small in the Divine Mind, be it a planet or a peanut. It is as easy to create a castle as a button. It’s just a matter of whether I’m focused on a castle or a button. Thoughts become things.