ichi go ichi e — my last day at work and first day of something new.

photo 1

Today was an unwrapping of gifts. Toward the end of my last day at work at MRC, I stumble into the performance space to see dim lights, balloons, tables and chairs, and, standing all around, faces of so many family and friends who came to see me off.

I see students, past and present, parents, coworkers, volunteers, supporters, mentors, and creative “partners in crime”. Hearing  my students perform one song after the next, and hearing them express their sentiments to knowing me, I melted into reverence for each moment I’d shared with them, that would inevitably, unbeknownst to any of us, lead us to this pivotal moment of the here and now. A moment that overflowed with loving spirit, of thankfulness and joy. Filled with warm wishes for me, and gratitude for how I’d touched others.

My heart continued to break open until I was surprised by a goodbye video, consisting of these warm wishes by many a student, strung together along with photos of yesteryear, when I was freshly back in Cincinnati. When I was planted back at home while yet to feel at home inside myself. My heart raced as my body appeared ready to shut down—I felt my rib cage ready to collapse, to make way for my soul to leap out from inside me.

When I finally took the microphone, I was unable to speak. It was at this moment I had fully touched the brevity of how much my work had affected me, and how much I had affected others. The stories could all be strung together in my mind, as they had been up til now. The stories of who I came to know, how our interactions touched us, and what I’ve come to learn and take away from dedicating myself to this place for the last 5 years.

But, standing shoulder-to-shoulder before me as one group, I had seen the bigger story of my life wholly embodied in a spirited presence. My mind unwound time to help me realize just what the place meant to me.

I looked to and addressed my father, who was my first supporter in my creative music endeavors. I opened myself to once again being grateful for his openness, his friendly support of my pursuing a passion. A passion that would lead me to the East Coast for college and work, where I would eventually burn out and return home from with complete surrender.

“You wouldn’t have known,” I told my students, “that when I returned home to Cincinnati, Ohio, I thought my days doing anything with music were over.” But soon after, I would find a mentor and business owner who would show me hospitality and an open door, subtly encouraging me to revisit my interest in music. Sure enough, he was standing before me in the congregation, now a volunteer at my work. Added to his gifts were the gifts my boss, Karen, would provide me with over the next 5 years.

As I would tell her later, she met me at a time when my vision was dim, my take on myself limited, and my belief in music, much less what my role with it, yet to be discovered. Yet, in devoting myself to this work, I came to find inner strength, a life purpose, and an ability to touch lives. Thus sparked a “new take” on myself.

Karen gave me the chance to recognize and use my gifts; to learn about others; to appreciate what I have, and to learn not to put limits on what I can achieve. I will forever be grateful for what she’d made possible.

Gazing into the eyes of those around me, I’d seen all the characters in what would become an immense chapter in my life, all gazing right back at me. The moment was so rich, so full, words could never aptly take one there. It was a junction of meaning, resolution, and understanding. There was a deep, deep acknowledgment of what this period in my life would actually come to mean, and what it was for me in totality right this instant.

It all made me contemplate my should, how I ended up here. What I unknowingly came to learn at MRC . . . that we are all good, that there is only healing; that we need to help each other water the seeds of kindness in one other; and that I can live my life, my every waking moment, with purpose, integrity, and belief in the goodness of all. That I can serve, bring joy to others; that I can be a light that I would hope helps you see your light too.

The heart that I wish to grow is not anything waiting for me overseas. It is what I discovered by watering seeds at this sacred workplace with these incredible individuals. This love and light I hope to nurture in my journey are merely the fruits of my path as a steward at MRC.

At the end of my acknowledgment, I shared the quote used in Japanese tea ceremonies,

ichi go ichi e. — one meeting, one opportunity.

With our arms around each other, we acknowledged that the moment before us would likely be the only time we would all be together in one room, in this exact combination. That whatever spirit can come about from this combination could only be found in the here and now, should we be open enough to one another to share it.

To all I came across, thank you for sharing a million meaningful moments with me, for all the many gifts each one would place on my heart for ever and ever. May we become evermore awake to ourselves and each other so that we can own the precious gifts this being alive has to offer.

photo 3

Mindfulness is…

Something came to me while journaling after meditation today. I’d found myself getting over a subtle yet pervasive feeling that I have something to gain or fix while meditating.

“Without mindfulness, the tiny notion that something is wrong with me or someone else is never seen as a thought.
No sooner does it speed past my vision does it become my very lense that I look through. “

Tea outside todayAfter some time sipping tea outside, then later meditating outside, I pause to notice how I feel happier, less reactive, and more still. Before doing those things today, there were thoughts about how busy I was, or how I wanted to do other things that would be imposed upon. Something to remind ourselves when we’re resisting doing something that in previous times we’ve decided is important: Sometimes a degree of trust is needed (or openness… or patience with yourself, whatever you call it!) to ease into that place of stillness, and that the state we’re in doesn’t always seem to make way for what we need.

Bowing head to nature.

Happiness Unhidden

Insight today: Prerequisites of happiness.

One of my favorite questions Robert Holden asks is, on a scale of 1-10, how happy are you in this very moment?  Can you allow yourself to envision the feeling of being one level happier? Now, WHAT would it take to be there? How often I remain in a middle-level happiness simply because I’m not taking full stock of what is. Simply asking yourself this question brings you more in touch with what’s here. [Keep reading below the picture]
Do I confuse happiness with happy states? What are the prerequisites for happy states? Not circumstantially, but within my own being? How is the instrument of myself usually tuned when I receive genuine happiness?

For me, a willingness to be connected. An openness, acceptance, being present to myself and others, allowing myself to be right here, comfortable, rooted, and engaged.

 

Maybe this offers more insight than does the “technique” of pursuing happy states and circumstances that seem to birth them. Sure, circumstances bring about a happy state, but doesn’t my inner temperament have a role in it? It must, because I’ve found myself on a beautiful sunny warm day, in the company of nature, good friend, or family, and simultaneously unhappy.

 

May my moments be infused with the spirit of being open, in that way that inclines me toward happiness.

If I concentrate on anything, may it be to remember this way of being that makes me most “ready for happiness.”

Peace Is Always Beginning, In Each Of Us

Driving today, after the five minute well-being revival, it came over me, a sense of importance of Inner Peace. The Peace Revolution, we say “it starts with me.” I feel that often, I take this to imply that I will work to achieve inner peace, then “spread” that “peace vibe” externally to those around me. But now I see the mission of my work with Peace Revolution differently. After transforming myself in the meditation room and heading about my day, I see my own capability to create peace. And, as a member of Peace Revolution, I see my role is to encourage others to find their own peace, for themselves, because we all must be centers of peace. I am learning that a true “peace activist” does not walk around with a paint bucket of “peace” and smear it across the expanses of our world. A “peace spreader” instead is like a gardener, planting seeds in others, seeds of happiness, of peace. The seeds came from somewhere else, but their growth, their fruit, belong to nature. It is up to me not to craft peace inside and “install” it somewhere. Instead, I can encourage people to touch the ground of their own being. It is ground we perhaps all share, we come from the same soil. To connect within is to access the element of being that we all share.
You are the center of existence … you are the center of peace itself.

Peace is not a status that is painted on existence, applied to our world. Peace exists literally inside of you. It is not something outside that “depends on you.” It is a gift you already have, but need to give to yourself, so that others may benefit. Isn’t that inspiring?

Anxiety … Unease … Peace Prevails

For the past week, my mind, body, and heart have been in an accelerated, anxious state, as I prepare for my journey to Thailand for Peace Revolution’s Global Peace On The Move 8 Fellowship. Once there, I will be learning Inner Peace Techniques with people from all around the world, learning from experienced teachers and Buddhist monks.

Well, the journey to Inner Peace hasn’t always looked so peaceful! I am learning as I go about just what accommodations I need to make, and taking care of all the considerations of the fellowship retreat. This has involved continual time spent shopping, using the computer, and little sleep.

Also … little meditation.

I have grown very stressed as my nervousness kicks in about the unknown. I don’t even know what to expect from the retreat experience itself. Much is unknown, and every contact I have has told me not to expect anything, that it will all be glorious.

It has been a time of balancing relieving expectations while at the same time taking due diligence with certain matters that need attention.

In the midst of all this, I am of course still heading to work each day, and applying myself to those matters. Today, preparing for work, I noted to myself how I had not meditated fully in a few days, and I felt all the tensions in my body, how it pervaded every thought muscle, and breath. I decided to take the time to meditate for five minutes before heading out the door.

As I walked into the meditation room, a room I hadn’t entered for most of the week, and took a bow, I felt I was returning somewhere deep within me. As I lit the two candles in beside the altar, I felt the rigidity of my hands, the hurriedness of my hands. As I lit the incense stick from the candle flame, I felt the scent take me to a place in my being that I knew was always there, but had not touched in a while. I felt myself fixating mentally again, this time on the length of the session I was beginning. “What if this is not long enough? I suspect that for the full five minutes I will only be anxious about not having more time to still my mind. Then it will be over, I will be at a loss, and will feel hurried onto the next engagement.”

I took another bow, and sat down on the cushion.

I folded my legs, felt my spine straighten, and by the sheer posture of my body, my mental posture transformed almost immediately. I felt my spine was erected straight into the heavens, rooted to the earth, and perfectly balanced in gravity. This stillness, this physical rootedness, brought me to the calm of the ocean floor, well beneath the choppy surface of the waves.

I smiled as I noticed how quickly I reached stillness. Within seconds. By the end of the five minutes, I had become centered, in time, in myself. No longer was I coming or going, I felt rooted in my own motion as I stepped out to work.

I realized here, on this cushion, the value of my experience practicing meditation regularly since the beginning of this year. During one of the more frantic weeks in my life, I can touch this stillness, without question, amidst it all, and smile at my own being.

I also wish to express gratitude for the meditation room itself. The sacredness, the atmosphere and state of mind that this room commands, centers me just by walking in. Its effect and sheer importance in my life become apparent during the more unexpected moments in time.

This gratitude for having the space at all is what has driven me to create Inner Peace & Tea. I wish to share the space, and the opportunities that it brings forth.

All the same, I hope you can create a meditation room, or even a corner in a room that is sacred and used only for meditation, and experience the same experience as I.

Meditation Tonight

The most wonderful meditation tonight with Donna. Thank you for coming :)

We enjoyed meditating with the Sabai feeling, and drank Ben Shan Oolong tea.

The insight I had while we were meditating was: of all the “good” meditation sessions I can remember, where there was good insight or experience—the common thread doesn’t seem to be the insight itself as much as the space in which it was able to appear in. Meaning, we need to allow ourselves time, freedom, space, detachment, and sabai feeling to experience anything real.

We need this time to meditate. And together, maybe we’ll be more encouraged to allow for that time in our day. Maybe it’s hard to set aside time for it alone, or it’s hard to “turn our mind off” when we are alone. But maybe it’s easier in the company of others; to put it all down and touch the bare experience.

It was agreed tonight—the intention to sit is all that can really be required. May this intention cultivated tonight bring peace and happiness to all beings, may it aid in the direction of removing all beings from discontent.

Peace In, Peace Out