Kissing the Earth

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
~ Rumi

Similarly, Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

Dear reader, what ways do you kneel and kiss the ground? Do you walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet? What is the most beautiful place on Earth for you?

Photo of red rocks in Sedona, Arizona taken by me, StarFire Teja. The theme for Sedona is “the most beautiful place on Earth” and I certainly agree. In my mind I am ever kissing the ground of that holy red earth!

 

Yoda, Thich Nhat Hanh, & Winnie-the-Pooh

Is anyone else getting excited about the next Star Wars movie coming out on December 20th?! (Trailer here: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be the final episode of the nine-part “Skywalker saga” and it is the third installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017), both of which I totally loved! Did you see them? Did you also love them?!

Are you surprised to hear that I love Star Wars?

Perhaps it goes back to that very first movie in the Summer of 1977, when I was a little seven-year-old and my parents took us to the drive-in theatre to see Star Wars on a big screen under the stars…

I can’t say that I have seen every single Star Wars movie… Nor can I say that I remember much from the early episodes… But what I can tell you is that these last two movies made me feel so “woke” as the young folks say today… After seeing The Force Awakens, I felt sure that all of humanity could be enlightened by watching that movie! The power of the Light winning over the darkness felt so tangible to me, as if I could hold that power in my hands!

One scene from The Last Jedi particularly touches me. I have watched this scene countless times. (You can view it here: The Last Jedi Yoda’s Force Ghost Scene.) Yoda, who had died at 900 years old in The Return of the Jedi, appears as a ghost right as Luke Skywalker is about to burn down the tree and the Jedi texts. Luke holds up the torch of fire, but then he cannot go through with it, so Yoda closes his eyes and summons the power of lightening to strike the tree and burn it all down. He laughs (oh, that laugh!), while Luke is horrified that the sacred texts are burning…

Yoda says calmly, “Wisdom they held, but that library contained nothing that the girl Rey does not already possess. Skywalker, still looking to the horizon. Never here, now, hmm?” Luke replies, “I was weak. Unwise.” Yoda says, “Lost Ben Solo you did. Lose Rey we must not.” To that, Luke crumbles in his despair: “I can’t be what she needs me to be.”

Yoda’s answer is profound: “Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.”

And the punchline… “Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

So, I am super excited to see how Luke is going to rise above his feelings of failure. I can really relate to him hanging out alone on an island and giving up on life… It will be very interesting to watch how he interacts with Rey in this final episode… And will the Light finally conquer the darkness?!

Dear reader, if you’ve been following my blog for a while then you know that this Summer I began studying the mindfulness teachings of Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh… Well, in the trailer for the movie about him (you can watch the trailer here: Walk With Me), one of his young monks says, “You know Yoda in Star Wars? He’s a little bit like that.”

Indeed, in his teachings, Thich Nhat Hanh does not focus merely on cultivating the positive, but rather, he also stresses the importance of working with our negative feelings… Yoda advised Luke to embrace his failures… And in his book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

“We embrace our feelings with tenderness, with nonviolence, and we soothe those feelings…. After some minutes of being recognized and embraced, that painful feeling’s zone of energy will recede, and you will feel a welcome relief from the grip of fear or pain. A seed from the depths of consciousness manifests, it stays for a while as a zone of energy, and then it goes back down to its original place as a seed. But after being recognized and embraced with mindfulness, it loses some of its strength. The seed is a bit weaker than before it manifested…. Every time the pain manifests, we have to let it manifest; we should not push it down. We shouldn’t try to suppress it. We have to let it come and take good care of it.”

In this book Thich Nhat Hanh also teaches about generating joy and happiness, as well as “gladdening the mind” in which he says there is “an added element of reinvigorating and energizing the mind”… (What I like to call “Happy-ing Up”!)… And in the last section of the book, he advises, “Do whatever you can to bring happiness to the air, the water, the rocks, the trees, the birds, and the humans.”

Winnie-the-Pooh, that lovable bear from the stories by A.A. Milne, brings a simpleminded sort of happiness wherever he goes… Recently I re-read a book from my shelf called The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff, in which he explains Taoism through the characters in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. I highly recommend this fun little book!

Hoff also stresses the importance of working with difficult emotions: “Instead of struggling to erase what are referred to as negative emotions, we can learn to use them in positive ways…. So rather than work against ourselves, all we need to do in many cases is to point our weaknesses or unpleasant tendencies in a different direction than we have been.”

Throughout the book, Hoff explains how Pooh Bear’s natural positivity makes him the ideal Taoist, who lives in harmony with “Things As They Are” in the present moment. He says, “The Wise are Who They Are. They work with what they’ve got and do what they can do.”

Very similar to Yoda’s advice to Luke, eh?!

And here’s another paragraph by Hoff that reminded me of Yoda’s talk with Luke: “A way of life that keeps saying, “Around the next corner, above the next step,” works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good that only a few get to where they would naturally have been in the first place — Happy and Good — and the rest give up and fall by the side of the road, cursing the world, which is not to blame but which is there to help show the way.”

I am really ready to see Luke come into his power in the here and now, as advised by Yoda, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Winnie-the-Pooh!

As Hoff puts it, “In order to take control of our lives and accomplish something of lasting value, sooner or later we need to learn to Believe. We don’t need to shift our responsibilities onto the shoulders of some deified Spiritual Superman, or sit around and wait for Fate to come knocking at the door. We simply need to believe in the power that’s within us, and use it.” (bold lettering added)

Dear readers, I really hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it for you!

May the Force of Happiness and Goodness Be With You!

With much love,
StarFire Teja

 

Image of Yoda from Star Wars: The Last Jedi… Image credit unknown, this image is on many websites… Background SunStar image Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. (If you are reading this post in an email, please click on the title of this article and you will be taken to the StarFire Teja Blog where you can see Yoda. He is such a love!)

 

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.