Monday Morning Musings on Transformation

In my recent post “Transformation Is Always Possible” I shared the following passage from Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm:

“Sorrow, fear, and depression are like a kind of garbage. But these bits of garbage are part of real life, and we must look deeply into their nature. We can practice so as to turn these bits of garbage into flowers. We should not throw anything out. All we have to do is learn the art of composting, of transforming our garbage into flowers. In the practice of Buddhism, we see that all mental formations — including compassion, love, fear, sorrow, and despair — are organic in nature. We don’t need to be afraid of any of them, because transformation is always possible. With just a smile and mindful breathing, we can start to transform them.”

Well, my first musing this morning is about my review of November in my journal and calendar… Even though in the midst of my challenges I feel as though I am failing miserably, when I read through my journal I could see how much progress I am actually making, in working more skillfully with reactions, and in transforming negative thinking into positive thinking. And, I could see my strength, perseverance, grit, and mettle.

When I finished the review, I wrote, “I am feeling the flowers growing up out of the garbage! Even though it was still hard, November had so much goodness and it was much better than the previous three months!”

Dear reader, how was the month of November for you? Do you regularly take notes in a journal or calendar? Do you take time to reflect on your intentions, and celebrate your successes along the way?

My next musing is about how Gratitude is a potent tool for transformation… I really stepped up my gratitude practices in November, and I could really feel the results in a very tangible way. With each hardship that appeared, I consciously practiced feeling grateful for all the blessings in my life, and I came to the realization that for me, all roads lead to Gratitude!

As December begins, I intend to continue practicing the art of transformation… So my last musing for today is about my keywords for this new month. I pray that my “garbage” can be transformed into the flowers of Happiness, Holiness, Peace, and Joy! ~

~ Happiness ~ One of my current affirmations is “I am choosing to be happy, even when I feel tired or sick.”

~ Holiness ~ In this winter holiday season, I intend to look even more deeply into everything, so as to see the hidden holiness and to feel the absolute sacredness of life.

~ Peace ~ Imagining a very quiet place in nature, covered with pure white snow, I intend to generate the energy of Peace in myself and to send that energy of Peace out into the Universe.

~ Joy! ~ In his book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh draws this slight distinction between happiness and joy: “In the joy there’s still a little bit of excitement. Happiness is a more peaceful feeling, like contentment.” ~ So, in addition to choosing to be happy, I am also choosing to be joyful!

Beloved readers… May your December be Happy and Joyful!

Do you have any keywords for December?

With hope, positivity, and joy,
Sister Teja

 

Dahlia photo by S. Hermann & F. Richter on Pixabay.

 

Transformation Is Always Possible

What does the word “magic” mean to you?

One of my keywords for this month of November was Magic, and in my post “Monday Morning Musings from a Living Starbird” I wrote that I was really needing to experience some magic in my life again… What I meant by “magic” was something out of the ordinary that sparks an unusual quality of joy and fascination.

Well, many wonderful things happened this month, such as my younger son Gabe visiting us, and there was a lot to be grateful for… And yet, I still hadn’t experienced anything that felt like magic to me… until a few days ago… I was sitting at my altar singing the daily prayers, and I began crying over a deep grief in my heart… I prayed for help with the sorrow, and right then I looked down at the book I had just finished reading, Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh, and I felt inspired to ask for guidance through the book.

Do you ever use books as tools for guidance? It is a very simple practice that you can do with any book. Just ask a question, then open to a page and let your eyes naturally fall somewhere on the page. Read that section and contemplate how it might contain some wisdom that relates to your question.

So, when I picked up the book, I asked for guidance with the grief that I fear will never heal… And I opened to this section:

“Sorrow, fear, and depression are like a kind of garbage. But these bits of garbage are part of real life, and we must look deeply into their nature. We can practice so as to turn these bits of garbage into flowers. We should not throw anything out. All we have to do is learn the art of composting, of transforming our garbage into flowers. In the practice of Buddhism, we see that all mental formations — including compassion, love, fear, sorrow, and despair — are organic in nature. We don’t need to be afraid of any of them, because transformation is always possible. With just a smile and mindful breathing, we can start to transform them.”

Finally a bit of magic!

Dear reader, I was so amazed when I read that paragraph! Can you even believe how perfect it was? I was especially fascinated by “transformation is always possible,” because my question was essentially about whether or not the grief could ever heal… In total awe, I said aloud, “Thank you, my Deepest Self, for leading me to seek that guidance.”

Can you feel the magic in this story?

With gratitude and a joyful mind,
Sister Teja

 

Photo of Autumn flowers by Alicja on Pixabay.

 

Reaching for Orange to Happy Up… And Centering in Brown to Calm Down…

Hello dear readers!

The rain is falling and I am cozy in my tree-house temple, making the best of a migraine morning. I lit a few candles and I’m sipping hot black coffee in my happy orange mug! Despite feeling sick, I am delighted to be here writing for you.

In my new book, Reaching for Orange: Practices, Visualizations, & Blessings to Help You Happy Up Your Life, I write: “On the Hindu Yoga Path, Orange symbolizes the Fire of Renunciation, the Orange Fire that burns all the external desires, attachments, and expectations that cause suffering. Once those external causes burn, the internal happiness is experienced.”

Daily spiritual practices help to burn away those external causes of suffering… And spiritual practices do not have to be complicated or take a lot of your precious time. I have been doing daily practices for more than fifteen years, and I have found that being relaxed and flexible with the practices is what enables me to keep doing them.

Some of the practices I do daily to happy up are from the Hindu Yoga Path, but others come from other traditions. This Summer I embarked on a study of the mindfulness teachings of Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh (see my previous post, “Peace Is Every Step”), and those teachings are helping me tremendously in working more skillfully with my mind as I deal with the debilitating symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

At Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village monastery in France, the monks and nuns wear dark brown robes, and I find that color to be very soothing. Do you also feel calmed by the color brown?

(You can see their brown robes in this video: “Namo Avalokiteshvara Chant”)

Somewhere along the studies, it came to me that I am Reaching for Orange to Happy Up… And Centering in Brown to Calm Down!

In his book Peace Is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hahn suggests a simple breathing practice: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.”

Here are two more simple breathing practices that you might enjoy doing, especially in stressful or tense moments ~

~ With the in-breath, think “Happy Up” and with the out-breath, think “Calm Down”.

~ Breathing in, think “Calm” and breathing out, think “Down” and as you think “Down” imagine breathing down into your legs and feet… And then imagine your energy flowing down into the ground… Imagine breathing down into the sacred Earth… And feel your entire being calming down…

I hope you found this post helpful!

With boundless love,
Teja

Photo of orange leaves on brown ground by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

 

Peace Is Every Step

“Breathing and smiling together — that is peace education…. Peace is available in every moment, in every breath, in every step.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, in the closing paragraph of his book Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, originally published in 1991.

 

Dear reader,

Have you read any books by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh? If so, I welcome you to share your experiences in the comments below… If not, perhaps you will be inspired by this post to check him out… Here is a link to some of his 100 books: Plum Village Key Books.

For many years I had Nhat Hanh’s book Peace Is Every Step on my shelf, and from time to time I read a few random parts… But this Summer I was inspired to read it cover to cover, and now I have read it at least three times! It is so very good that I took eight pages of notes and now I am studying those notes daily. I highly recommend this book! In this post I will share a few of my favorite parts…

The book is organized into three parts, and I found the second part to be the most helpful because it is primarily about working with feelings. This is the best book I have ever read about how to skillfully work with difficult emotions. Nhat Hanh points out that our feelings are parts of us; that they are not separate from us. So he says, “Instead of acting as if we can dispose of parts of ourselves, we should learn the art of transformation.” He then goes on to explain, step by step, how to transform the energies of anger, fear, depression, anxiety, and so on. If this section of the book was taught in all of our schools and workplaces, the world would become happier, healthier, and more peaceful within one generation!

One of my very favorite parts is called “Nourishing Healthy Seeds” in which Nhat Hanh writes, “Consciousness exists on two levels: as seeds and as manifestations of these seeds. Suppose we have a seed of anger in us. When conditions are favorable, that seed may manifest as a zone of energy called anger. It is burning, and it makes us suffer a lot. It is very difficult for us to be joyful at the moment the seed of anger manifests.”

He continues, “Every time a seed has an occasion to manifest itself, it produces new seeds of the same kind. If we are angry for five minutes, new seeds of anger are produced and deposited in the soil of our unconscious mind during those five minutes. That is why we have to be careful in selecting the kind of life we lead and the emotions we express. When I smile, the seeds of smiling and joy have come up. As long as they manifest, new seeds of smiling and joy are planted.”

I believe this is a very important book. I want to give a copy to everyone I know! Have you read this book already? If so, what was your favorite part?

One last quote that really resonates with me:
“We all have the seeds of love and compassion in our minds, and we can develop these fine and wonderful sources of energy.”

May All Beings Know Peace, Love, and Compassion!

With great love and gratitude,
Teja

 

Photo of lone dandelion at sunset by Natalia Luchanko on Unsplash.

 

Two Simple Healing Practices

“There are many refreshing and healing elements in nature around us and in us… get in touch with these healing elements to get the nourishment and healing you need… nourish yourself with joy and happiness so then you are able to help people around you.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, in a video in which he answers a question from his one million Facebook friends: “How can I fight the injustices of this world without being consumed with anger, bitterness, outrage, and resentment?”

Here are two simple ways to practice getting in touch with the healing elements around you and in you ~

~ Each time you see simple beauty, think to yourself, “There are refreshing and healing elements all around me and inside me.” ~ For example, each time I see the sunlight on the fresh green leaves outside our bathroom window, I am reminded of the refreshing and healing elements that are available all the time.

~ When you drink water, use your pure drinking water as a bell of mindfulness. Let the water be a refreshing and healing element that you bring into your body as you sip it throughout the day.

I hope this post was helpful to you!

May All Beings Be Free of Suffering.
May All Beings Be Happy!

 

Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash.