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Category Archives: SOLI

Summer of Loving Kindness Invitational

Self Care Confessions

untitled © 2010 Mahala Mazerov

I have a confession to make.

When I published the Tender Loving Care post my original plan was to move the post in a different direction. As you may remember, Susan told the story of her tender attention to her baby daughter. She wrote of her mother watching in awe, touched and inspired by Susan’s loving care.

I planned to write about how seemingly ordinary expressions of loving kindness have a profound impact on others.

When it came to write, I was too tired to form words into sentences. I left Susan’s story to speak for itself and highlighted her final question. “Why, then, is it so hard to give that same care to myself?”

The result was wonderful conversations in the comments and in Real Life.

So here’s my confession.

Through years of living with a brain injury (and a thyroid illness and adrenal fatigue, sigh) I’ve had lots of practice with deep, honest self care. But the truth is I’m a million times more comfortable writing glowing words about inspiring loving kindness then I am writing about self care.

It seems to me that alone requires further consideration.

Demons

I have all the same demons you do assuring me it’s selfish, unnecessary (or too necessary, I’ll never doing anything else for anyone else ever again) lazy, arrogant, and in the end just plain wrong.

At the same time, everything in my Buddhist teachings (confirmed by my own experience) tells me focusing on myself, my needs, my desires is exactly how I create my own suffering. The way to free myself is to focus on the benefit of others.

Well, what am I to do with that?

Every time I put myself first — examining every request through the lens of my own energy level, riding disability carts through airports as throngs of travelers drag suitcases in the trek to their gate, going first, sitting when others stand, canceling plans, choosing to rest — how do I reconcile all that “I”?

You may give me a free pass because of my health challenges. You’ll say, it’s different for you Mahala, you have a head injury for goodness sakes.

Keep Your Free Pass For Yourself

You, sweet readers, are some of the kindest people on earth. So please forgive me.

I don’t want your free pass.

Your free pass, so lovingly intended does not help me at all. It makes things worse, can you understand? I don’t want to be the exception. Let someone else be the exception for a change.

We already give each other permission. Compassion. How can each one of us give ourselves permission? Our own free pass to take the care we need to stay whole, healthy, and in service. Without waiting for a breakdown?

How do I wish this for me and for you without turning my back on Buddhism, karma, and the genuine blessings that come from thinking of others instead of ourselves?

Breakthrough!

I’ve been struggling with these issues for years. Then, about a week ago, I started having breakthroughs. All of my long-standing explorations, meditations, conversations with Buddhist friends, studies in Buddhist psychology… everything that had been so emotionally laden before rearranged itself in the most clear and simple truth:

It is possible to engage in Sacred Selfcare.

I see it. I understand it. I can feel it in my body. It’s tender and beautiful and whole.

I’ve got so many ideas jumping around excitedly in my brain longing to be told, shared, and refined.

There is just no way I want to do this by writing alone. I want to be with you as much as I can with these observations.

I am inviting delightedly begging you to join me for what is sure to be a rich, joyful, wisdom filled, three-part class on the subject of Sacred Selfcare.

This changes everything.

And here it is! Body of Wisdom ~ Mindfulness Practices for Sacred Self-Care. Click for complete details.

Metta Sutra: What Buddha Taught About Loving Kindness

The Metta Sutra, Buddha’s teaching on Loving Kindness, is offered as part of the Summer of Lovingkindness Invitational.  #SOLI. I’ve used the alternate spelling, loving kindness, to help more people discover this beautiful sutra via the search engines

radiating loving kindness © 2010 Mahala Mazerov

Loving Kindness

This is what should be done

By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:

Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.

Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.

Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.

Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.

Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.

Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.

This is said to be the sublime abiding.

By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

Buddha, Metta Sutra

The Buddha’s discourse on Loving Kindness

Take a moment to recite the Metta Sutra out loud and you’ll experience the beauty of this most well known gatha (verse.)

You can also listen to the Metta Sutra, chanted in the original Pali language by Venerable Indaratana Maha Thera.

It’s hard to believe we’re entering our second month of #SOLI! There’s still plenty of time to leap into the love. You’ll find writing prompts here. Use the #SOLI link or check out the #SOLI hashtag on Twitter for the work of other inspiring writers.

Thanks to all of you who are sharing and spreading Metta, lovingkindness in the world!

Tender Loving Care

The Summer of Lovingkindness Invitational continues with tender loving care…

encircled © 2010 Mahala Mazerov

Susan Gallacher-Turner left a sweet and tender comment on my post What Is Loving Kindness? With her permission, I’m bringing it front and center for those of you who may have missed it.

Check out her Sculpting a Life blog, and discover her earthy sculptures here.

Susan wrote:

As a mother of two, now grown, children, I can see that loving kindness truly bloomed in me as I nurtured my children. And it reminds me of an exchange between my own mother and I.

I had been home a few days after giving birth to my first child, a daughter, and I was giving her one of her first baths in a small baby sink in the bathroom. I’d carefully assembled all the needs, soap, shampoo, soft wash cloth and towel then, just as carefully and somewhat nervously, I undressed this little darling. While my mother looked on, I lowered her slowly into the bath and went about gently washing her smooth skin while taking in her tiny beauty from her dark hair and eyes, little lips and fingernails. As I was absorbed in the process of bathing my daugther, I didn’t notice that I did anything special, but as I finished up my mother said, “You did that all so gently. I never did that, I was in such a hurry and just scrubbed you.” When I looked over at her, curious, wondering if I was getting criticized, I could see amazement on her face. It was as if for the first time, she realized that she could have done it differently.

The act of bathing, feeding and holding my children was always done with loving kindness, I realize now. It just came naturally. Why, then, is it so hard to give that same care to myself?

The tender loving care she gave to her daughter is so beautifully present in her writing. She inspired memories of my own, and I intended to add them to these words of hers.

I’m deciding to offer her words as a gift to you and to myself — to let her words hold the space even though I think I should be adding more of my own writing here.

“Why, then, is it so hard to give that same care to myself?”

I’m too far gone with exhaustion to have any honest answer. I’m good at being gentle with myself when I’m crashing from my head injury or adrenal fatigue and it’s too late to do anything else. (Like now.)

But I think it may be one of the most important questions we have to answer if we’re going to be of service.

I really want to hear your thoughts on this: What can I do? How can we support one another in giving ourselves the tender loving care we need to go forward in vitality and lovingkindness?

Longing for Home

This month, Jennifer Louden,Susan Piver, Hiro Boga and I unleash a wave of emotions as we write on the subject of Home: longing for them, losing them, making them ourselves. Follow the links to read their offerings. Hat tip to these brilliant women: my delight in writing in community with them was one of the inspirations for the Summer of Lovingkindness Invitational. (There’s still plenty of time to join in the #SOLI magic!)

earth - moon - rock (Arizona stone)

earth - moon - rock (arizona stone) © 2010 Mahala Mazerov

I step out every day, overflowing with gratitude for my life in Ithaca. I’m in walking distance to almost everything. There’s a wonderful disability ride service for things farther afield. I like the ease, progressiveness, cultural offerings and the extraordinary geology of the gorges that surround me. Plus there’s the Dalai Lama’s monastery brimming with boundless courses and retreats. (Not to mention the pure, inexplicable happiness I feel running into Tibetan monks in the food co-op.)

It’s perfectly functional for me. Except it’s not Home.

Before Ithaca, I lived in a small village in Vermont. For 10 years I lived with a river. No back yard, but the “west branch” of the Ompompanusac River, with meadow turning to woods on the other side. I would sit on my Little River Porch (bundled in blankets in winter) and watch deer, river otter, beaver, all manner of birds and the occasional kayaker pass by. I felt my roots go down deep there. I thought I’d never leave.

But I was dependent on others to get out and around. It was tiring to always have to ask and so I mostly stopped asking. Over time the isolation I needed (to get away from 7 years of hospitals and 3 years of at-home brain injury rehabilitation to heal and integrate in peace) became too much.

I’m on a quest for a Heart Home where I have the best of all possible worlds. But I’m questioning my perception of Home. Can I find it? Or, like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, has it been with me all along?

The Story

If I ask “Where are you from?” do you answer with the place you live now? Or the place you were born?

Ask an indigenous person that very same question and they may point to a great ocean, a mountain, or the center of the earth as their home.

Ask the Q’ero, direct descendants of the Incas, and they point to the stars.

I was only just discovering my shamanic ancestors when I met Q’ero shaman sometime in the 1990s. In a strange prescience we met in a Zen temple in Rhode Island. Peruvian shaman in ceremonial ponchos looking as if they’d just stepped out of National Geographic magazine sharing space with a giant golden Buddha.

Little did I imagine how these two worlds would combine to be my future.

I can see the face, the energy, the pure love beaming from Don Manuel Quispe, the Dalai Lama of the Andes as if he were standing before me now.

Don Manuel Quispe

Don Manuel Quispe 1905 - 2004 (photographer unknown)

He and the other shaman shared extensive teachings and initiations his people had hidden for 500 years. Their prophecies indicated it was now time to share this knowledge. Time for the Condor of the South and the Eagle of the North to fly together.

One night they gave us an initiation, a Karpay, a transmission. They gave us the Star Rites of “Mosoq Karpay” (The Rites of the Time to Come) to the Star Beings.

To this day I could not tell you what happened to me under that sky. But something cracked open.

I returned home to Vermont, sat on my Little River Porch, looked up at the night sky and sobbed my heart out for eight solid weeks.

Just writing about this makes me start to quiver.

What does this mean that, longing for Home, I point to the stars?

It’s the same longing I have for the all-encompassing love I experienced the night of my brain injury. The night when, after 8 hours in the ER, my awareness of dying transformed into a near death vision.

It’s the same unobstructed state I experience in some of my Buddhist practices. I overflow with love until everything becomes spacious and empty.

These are my Home. And yet there’s no physicality. There’s no place to stay. I need a body and this physical world around me to accomplish anything at all that is good.

Wherever I live becomes my practice ground. The place where I turn events easy and hard into a cultivation of lovingkindness and compassion. The place where I fail and try again. The place where I sometimes succeed and bask in pure astonishment that it is possible to feel such love here, too.

Home becomes everywhere my heart has a chance to love.

Comment Kindness: This is one of those posts that might seem perfectly ordinary to you, but which feels very vulnerable for me to publish. Even though I ask What does it mean that I point to the stars…? it’s a question of inner exploration. I’m not really asking for an answer. What I would love is your thoughts about home: Have you found your heart place? And your thoughts about lovingkindness: how does your home evoke that in you?

What is Loving Kindness?

cherish - loving kindness

cherish © 2010 Mahala Mazerov

So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
~ Buddha’s discourse on Loving Kindness

Thanks to all of you who are joining in the Summer of Loving Kindness Invitational, #SOLI. It’s a delight to see what you’re creating. I must admit to being very happy every time a new person joins in.

I’m also excited to discover that I’m noticing more and more kindness related offerings on the internet, whether they’re from #SOLI participants or not. This is exactly what I wanted — to turn my mind to loving kindness and discover it all around me on a more constant basis. I hope that’s happening for you, too.

We can all be mirrors of loving kindness everywhere.

[Just so you know, I'm writing it as "loving kindness" here in this post for the sake of the search engines. I'd like to have as many people as possible discovering and engaging in this awareness.]

As we explore our concepts of loving kindness inspired by the writing prompts or our own insights, I thought it would be helpful to share the Buddhist meaning of the word.

Many of you know the word Metta; it comes from the Pali language. (Some of you also know Maitri, which is Sanskrit.) It’s most often translated as loving kindness, but in truth there is no singular word in English that expresses the full breadth of the word. It’s more than affection or warm feelings, and very different from the attachment that forms with worldly love.

Some translators say it literally means “friendliness,” but that too is different from how we generally use the word.

When we love, when we feel friendliness for someone, we tend to exclude others. We think “I love you.” Or “This person is my friend. This group is my tribe. That person is a stranger. Those people are my adversaries.”

Metta does not set up such boundaries of exclusion. True loving kindness is extended to all humanity. That is what makes it a practice requiring (and worthy of) ongoing devotion.

The Buddha uses the image of a mother’s love for her only child as the epitome of love. It’s the loving kindness we should develop for all beings. When you consider how carefully this mother would attend to her child, how no self-sacrifice would be too great to see her child survive and flourish, you begin to grasp the full meaning of metta.  You come to understand what is being asked of you, and what a great gift you give to the world, even if you can only generate a small amount of loving kindness at a time.

If you’re a parent, I would love to hear how this description resonates with your experience.

For everyone: How can you bring the essence of loving kindness into your day?

#SOLI : Lovingkindness : Writing Prompts

interior © 2010 Mahala Mazerov

Welcome to the latest project on the LuminousHeart blog. I hope you’ll join in. If you haven’t seen it yet, you probably want to read the Summer of Lovingkindness Invitational post first. Just so you know, there are no participation commitments. You are welcome however and whenever you choose to engage.

Glorious heartfelt thanks to all of you who have signed up, emailed, tweeted, sent good thoughts, and invited your friends to join in the Summer of Lovingkindness Invitational.

(Thanks, too, to everyone who kept the momentum going when I had web site woes. Everything is fixed and comments are working again.)

When I sent #SOLI into the world, I had a deep wish it would grow over time to be much more than my singular offering. Even though we’re just barely getting started, I feel this is happening already. You’re gathering it up in your arms, making it your own. Some of you are starting new blogs, testing shaky writer’s voices, looking through art portfolios. I couldn’t be happier. Or more grateful.

I have some writing prompts for you, but first, a few housekeeping items:

I’ve created a “What’s #SOLI” link in the navigation bar above. You will always be able to find this post and the original Invitation under that link. (You can find my own #SOLI offerings via the Categories link on the right hand sidebar.)

If you’re on Twitter, I’m @LuminousHeart. I’ve started a SOLI group. (I didn’t use the hashtag because I was afraid it would botch the link.) If I haven’t added you already, do join the list and I will add you on my end.

Also if you’re on Twitter, use the #SOLI tag in your tweets. It will help me find you.

If you’re on Facebook and can walk me through setting up a Fan (?) Page, I’d greatly appreciate it. I already have a FB account, but only use it to connect to people who aren’t on twitter so far. ;-)

Now for Writing Prompts!

These are only ideas to get your juices flowing. Feel free to take them up or ignore them all.

  • How do you define love, lovingkindness?
  • Do you have a  metta / maitri /lovingkindness meditation practice? Write about your experiences. (Let me know in the comments if you want me to teach this practice to you.)
  • Artists, Poets, Musicians – what are the colors of lovingkindness, the images, the sounds, the symbols?
  • Have you ever had a profound experience from an act of lovingkindness – given or received?
  • How do you practice lovingkindness in daily life?
  • If you remembered that everything is impermanent, ie: remembered you could lose something / someone at any time, how would that change your love? How would it change your actions?
  • Who have you loved, who have you been kind to?
  • What person or thing has changed you by the loving of them?
  • Does lovingkindness mean telling the truth all the time or is there love in telling “white lies” ?
  • Love and activism – your thoughts?
  • Is there room for lovingkindness in business? Can a business succeed without it?
  • Describe an experience of thinking of another’s needs ahead of your own. Was it a “should” or a kindness? What was the result?
  • Which is harder for you, lovingkindness towards yourself or towards others?
  • Tell a story, a memory you have of lovingkindness.

That should be enough to get you started!

Watch the #SOLI hashtag on Twitter for more prompts over time including quotes. Or use your own favorite quotes as a jumping off point.

Let yourself be inspired, too, by reading the other participants. Something they create could very well inspire you to new ideas of your own.

Summer of Lovingkindness Invitational

Representing the many layers of love and lovingkindness present in the world around us

layers of lovingkindness ©2010 Mahala Mazerov

Calling all practical idealists, hidden mystics, and people of good heart!

Please join me for 2 months of creative focus on love and lovingkindness.

Starting today, (July 1st) through August 31st, I invite you to share your words, art, wisdom, and stories — your questions, contemplations and experiences — in the Summer of Lovingkindness Invitational, #SOLI for short.

Take part in whatever way works for you.

[update: Some of you have voiced concern that you're afraid you won't be able to keep up with the project. I want to assure you this is not a post-a-day or even a post-a-week project. The idea is to learn to bring lovingkindness into you awareness more frequently than you do now, and to share some of your experience with the rest of us in your creative form of choice.]

You can join in as frequently or infrequently as you like.

You can post on your blog. Write twitter poetry. Fill FaceBook. Wherever you show up on the internet is the place to publish.

Here’s why:

One thing I hear all the time is how much people struggle to make time for spiritual practice. I understand. I’m a huge admirer of people who spend hours in traditional meditation, and still my own practice time falls short of what I’d like it to be. At least, it did until I started redefining what I meant by practice.

When my definition included expressions of lovingkindness, compassion and other qualities throughout my day, the tug of war for practice time came to an end. It turns out, you can practice almost constantly.

In your tradition you may have another name for it, maybe you don’t call it lovingkindness. But you still have something that expresses the same fundamental quality and I would be thrilled to learn about it from you. Maybe you don’t even have a “tradition,” a path you identify with or practices you follow. Even so, you can bring the essence of love into every aspect of life as you live it.

Which brings me to another reason to join in:

Positive change. In 1996, Tibetan monks from the Dalai Lama’s monastery sent blessings over cyberspace.  Tibetan Buddhism views space as an absence of obstruction. That absence, whether in our minds or in cyberspace creates potential for something new to arise. The nature of what arises, negative or positive, harmful or beneficial, depends on the motivation of the one creates or uses it.

Participating in this project will create a result. Possibly subtle, possibly life-changing, but a positive result nonetheless. Even if you create only a few  #SOLI offerings between now and August 31st, your intention to bring more lovingkindness to the world will make a difference.

This positive result won’t only be for you. The fact we’re turning our hearts and minds in the same direction supports us all and moves outward in unexpected dimensions. There’s no way to predict what will happen. No way to predict what you’ll receive. No way to know who will find your #SOLI blog post when they most need a dose of lovingkindness.

That’s why I want you to join in, instead of me just blogging about loving-kindness by myself for 2 months.

Creating Space

My intention is to invite. To create a space for your heart and your insights, for things positive and unexpected. To that end, I hope you’ll think of me as someone who has simply built the campfire, in hopes that you will gather around, share your stories and send them lovingly across cyberspace.

Please join in. Spread the word. Jump into the fray. Let me know what can I do to make this a wonderful experience for you.  Let me know, too, if you have ideas or gifts you’d like to add to the #SOLI experience.

Moment of truth

Are you in?

Take part in whatever way works for you. This community is open to prolific and slow bloggers (artists, identifier of choice) everywhere. If you’ve got love in your heart or if you’re afraid you’ve misplaced it in the chaos of daily life, we welcome you!

Please sign the list below which includes a link to point us to your #SOLI offerings.

Next up I’ll have a list of questions and writing prompts to get your ideas flowing. But for now thanks for reading this far, and special thanks and blessings for the first 5 people who sign up (so my heart can start beating again.)

[update: I'm hearing "I'm in" from a number of you, but not seeing your name on the link list below. It's OK not to sign up if it feels too public or like it puts to much pressure on you to participate. But it's probably the key way to show up as a like-minded person so we all can find and get to know you. Just a thought.]

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