an invitation to reimagine

I’m receiving these reframings from Benjamin Henretig as a beautiful invitation to ground and support us in tending to our fears, anxiety and grief.

May we find some peace, release (cry, scream, move energy through our bodies), relief, rest and wellness through this madness. 🙏🏾💜

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Image Description: A list with the heading “Five Creative Reframes in a Time of COVID-19” created and posted on Instagram by Benjamin Henretig. Two columns each listing 5 phrases with arrows pointing to the reframed phrases in the second column.

1) Shelter-in-Place becomes Artist-in-Residence.
2) Quarantine out of Fear for Self-Protection becomes
“Quaranteam” out of Concern for Collective Well-Being.

3) Social Distancing becomes Physical Distancing.
4) Isolation + Loneliness becomes Solidarity + Solitude.
5) Economic Collapse becomes Ecological Renewal.

the grace of awareness

3jewels.thegraceofawareness

From Transformative Love to Taking Ourselves As the Object of Love, Sangha’s inquiry and discernment came full circle in 2018. During our final practices in December, we reflected on our year of learning together, naming what we felt inspired to rededicate ourselves to individually and what we collectively felt drawn to study in the season ahead.

The thread weaving through our experiences and aspirations was the celebration of awareness and the desire to diligently cultivate it where it was absent and to nourish it where it was blooming.

For me, the lessons of the Fall had brought me into a deep exploration of Grace. I kept returning to a phrase that my cousin had shared with me a year or more earlier, “You don’t have worry about rationing that which God has already set apart for you.” I didn’t know the full context of the sermon she had taken this note from, but it suddenly sprouted up in a conversation with another good spiritual friend. So I immediately reached out to my cousin who then shared a link to her pastor’s sermon, Grace: How To Be What You Can’t Earn (to view the full sermon, start at the 51:00 mark).

After watching the video, my curiosity deepened with the realization that, beyond saying grace over a meal, I didn’t have a fully-developed understanding of Grace, as is taught from a Christian perspective. In my practice of Buddhism, I have never encountered a sutra or dharma talk about this particular concept. Which is not surprising, for how would a non-theistic religion articulate the notion of Grace being bestowed through one’s relationship with God?

Still I was compelled to follow my curiosity, which is always leading me toward an embodied understanding and practice of my questions.

I turned to the Bible’s Hebrew roots and learned that Grace is derived from Chanan, meaning an encampment, a refuge, a dwelling place (here’s a second translation I read). In this I had found a thread of connection for dharma practitioners:

Just as the brahmiviharas — compassionsympathetic joyloving-kindness and equanimity — are divine abodes or dwelling places, I clearly recognized Grace as a divine abode. I now understood what the Christian teachings I’d explored meant by the explanation that Grace couldn’t be earned. It is an organic emanation of our relationship to awareness in the same way as it is an emanation of Christians’ relationship to God.

We dwell in Grace whenever we dwell in awareness.
It is a sacred space of being, of trusting, of resting.

Magically, within two weeks of sharing my contemplation with Sangha, a good spiritual friend spoke a prayer over me for deep restoration and referenced a scripture that has become yet another golden thread in my growing tapestry. One particular translation— “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” — inspired my personal season of contemplation and has become the mantra Sangha returns to in our collective study of The Grace of Awareness.

This guiding contemplation for 2019 invites us to enter into (or renew) a relationship with awareness by establishing ourselves in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

It begins with the observation of the body, wherein the breath awakens our clear understanding of its suchness (functions, positions, activities, impermanence). It moves through observation of feelings, of mind/mental formations, and of perceptions/dharmas.

To fully live into The Grace of Awareness, we are moving with an intentional pace of steadiness and ease directed by the unforced rhythm of breath!

FOR CONTEMPLATION + PRACTICE

  • The Sutra on Mindful Breathing [.pdf]— from the Taisho Tripitaka 803 translated by Thich Nhat Hanh. Revised for Gender Inclusive Language by Tara Scott-Miller (3 Jewels Yoga).
  • Embodied Meditation— a guided practice from The Sutra on Mindful Breathing recorded by Tara Scott-Miller (3 Jewels Yoga).

bearing witness | new moon meditation

In Sangha last Sunday, I shared this beloved quote that I have carried close to my heart and have called up frequently during times of transition and transformation for over 20 years. It reverberates far, deep and wide in a season of bearing witness to our journey through challenge, change, growth, loss and renewal.

So powerful, in fact, that my dear friend called that very same evening to tell me she had recited those exact words (which she could specifically remember first hearing from me seven years ago) for a circle of her friends earlier in the day! With hundreds of miles between us, she wanted me to know how far they had traveled through space and time.

Our mutual conjuring of this affirmation was nothing short of magical!

Not only had we both synchronously chanted these hallowed words for those who felt moved by them. But also, in her giving them back to me, I saw clearly that the Universe was asking me to rest in and be transformed by them once more. For in that week alone, the energy of remembrance had engulfed me as I excavated hidden talents and paid tribute to my late grandfather and his grandfather for their military service. I continue to look back, beneath and beyond to see how very necessary these 11 words are for me in undoing ill-fitting and inaccurate perceptions, reclaiming the wholeness of my forgotten selves, and becoming even more of me.


Look Deeply

This quote appears as an affirmation under The Tower card in The Tarot Handbook. May be derived from the statement “what you think you are is a belief to be undone” from Lesson 91 in A Course in Miracles.

when + where we enter | weekend intensive

I had the great honor and joy to spend a beautiful weekend holding space for my Quaker friends to discern how we skillfully engage in practices of justice, liberation, and healing.

Leading with Spirit + Faith, practitioners were guided to focus on “discernment over data” in order to:

GET GROUNDED — Cutting through the noise in order to get clear about one’s intentions and to honestly assess what one feels compelled and equipped to do.

BUILD CAPACITY — Cultivating an intimate understanding of one’s self and one’s values; examining the ways we each embody privilege and risk as well as each individual’s unique relationship to injustice, power and oppression; fortifying one’s self through transformative practices of deep listening and skillful communication. Discerning how each of us shows up, lends our presence and privilege, and can learn to apply our skills without creating more harm.

CENTER OUR WELLNESS + PRACTICE ACCOUNTABILITY — Using sacred tools and skillful strategies to restore, nourish and sustain healing, well-being, and wholeness; and establishing the circles of trust to support our learning and growing toward compassion, connection, and reconciliation.

radical bodhicitta

if there is no silence, there is no stillness.
if there is no stillness, there is no insight.
if there is no insight, there is no clarity.
— tenzin priyadarshi

red cedar friends | 21 – 22 october 2017 

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​dirt + dharma

the strength of fingers, the might of earth. 

gratified by the labor of tending + clearing the path. 

where sweat meets dust, we see the body + soul at work.

the day’s lesson: let that shit go!

found/left behind: scattered rose petals. a mason jar with a forgotten sip. a book on philosophy…

“The logic of the rebel is to want to serve justice so as not to add to the injustice of the human condition, to insist on plain language so as not to increase the universal falsehood, and to wager, in spite of human misery, for happiness.” ~ Albert Camus, The Rebel

more gems from our sunday: zen mom life

how we sunday

friends on the path: weeding and tending the labyrinth. walking in awareness, aligning with intention, praying with our feet, moving into clarity and wisdom. nourishing ourselves and one another with laughter and good eats.

on cultivating doubt

“When there is great doubt” says a Zen aphorism that Kusan Sunim kept repeating,”then there is great awakening. This is the key. The depth of any understanding is intimately correlated with the depth of one’s confusion. Great awakening resonates at the same “pitch” as great doubt.  So rather than negate such doubt by replacing it with belief, which is the standard religious procedure, Zen encourages you to cultivate doubt until it “coagulates” into a vivid mass of perplexity…

Great doubt is not a purely mental or spiritual state: it reverberates throughout your body and your world. It throws everything into question. In developing doubt, you are told to question “with the marrow of your bones and the pores of your skin.” You are exhorted to “be totally without knowledge and understanding, like a three-year-old child.” To pose a question entails that you do not know something…To ask “What is this?” means you do not know what this is.

To cultivate doubt, therefore, is to value unknowing. To say ” I don’t know” is not an admission of weakness or ignorance, but an act of truthfulness: an honest acceptance of the limits of the human condition when faced with “the great matter of birth and death.” This deep agnosticism is more than the refusal of conventional agnosticism to take a stand on whether God exists or whether the mind survives bodily death. It is the willingness to embrace the fundamental bewilderment of a finite, fallible creature as the basis for leading a life that no longer clings to the superficial consolations of certainty.

~Stephen Batchelor, “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

3jewels.hardcore

the eightfold path: skillful effort, skillful mindfulness + skillful concentration

Sangha committed several months to the study of how we “live into community” and the purpose of gathering as spiritual friends to build our capacity for skillfulness and resilience. To that end, we’ve contemplated the Eightfold Path as a set of embodied practices that help us develop wisdom, ethical action, and various faculties that support our meditation.

The Eightfold Path is the fourth of the 4 Noble Truths:

There is Suffering.
There are Causes of Suffering (craving/attachment).
There is an End of Suffering.
The Noble Path is the End of Suffering.


Our journey on the Noble Eightfold Path winds up with three mental faculties — Skillful Effort, Skillful Mindfulness, and Skillful Concentration. With the development of our ability to regulate, shape, and direct the movements of our mind, we harness the power to cultivate and refine the first five “liberating” actions — our understanding, thinking, speech, action, livelihood — that help free us from cycles of suffering and discontent.

Skillful Effort refers to the quality of the energy we apply to our actions (both in meditation and in the world). Are we struggling, feeling sluggish, practicing half-heartedly and part-time, or wrestling with self-defeating patterns of doubt and worry that we’re not getting it right? Are we striving, approaching our practice ambitiously and overzealously, or straining ourselves with self-limiting habits of perfectionism or a goal-oriented mission for self-improvement?

Are we applying skillful understanding of how our brains and bodies function and of the conditions that create fluctuations in our energy so that we can be flexible, patient and gentle? Are we approaching our meditation practice and spiritual development with diligence — lovingly, compassionately, wholeheartedly, consistently, and creatively?

I highlight diligence here because in my study and practice of the 5 Spiritual Faculties, I discovered that, at its root (latin: diligere), it meanslove, take delight in.” Whereas in common usage, we erroneously associate diligence with painstaking, rigorous or arduous work. So this re-claiming and re-imagining of how we use our energy resonates deeply with me. It feels more aligned with the quality of skillfulness, where we take care with how we apply ourselves — balancing the amount of stimulus and ease based on the conditions present — so that we are not creating habit energies of pursuit, ambition, craving, clinging or avoidance, resistance and aversion. And when those do arise, we are able to (re)examine them, readjust and transform them without criticizing or condemning ourselves.

Skillful Mindfulness may seem at first glance like a redundant term because we generally associate mindfulness with being a beneficial or at least “neutral” ability to pay attention. However, as we learn to pay attention to what is arising in body, heart, and mind, there is a possibility of our awareness taking a hue of criticism or hyper-vigilance that becomes unskillful. We lose the quality of ease, non-attachment, and non-judgment when we begin to ruminate or fixate on sensations, thoughts, emotions, perspectives.

Thus, cultivating the energy of skillfulness within our mindfulness is an invitation to ground ourselves in The Four Foundations of Mindfulness. The Buddhist discourse “Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness” (Satipatthana Sutta) details this thorough and measured process of liberating ourselves by abiding with full awareness of body and breath, feelings, mental states, and objects/qualities of the mind:

“A practitioner remains established in observation of the body in the body, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.

…remains established in observation of the feelings in the feelings, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.

…remains established in observation of the mind in the mind, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life

…remains established in observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.”

 — from Transformation + Healing by Thich Nhat Hanh

Skillful Concentration is  understood as the mental capacity to merge skillful effort with skillful mindfulness to direct our attention toward a single-point of focus in our meditation practice. For example, we can cultivate steady focus on our breathing, by chanting a mantra, counting malas, gazing at a yantra or into candlelight.

Unfortunately, the dominant conception of being an experienced  meditator is equated with being “successful” at concentrating and sitting stock-still for otherwordly periods of time. This idea is also upheld by teachers and practitioners who are fixated on being strict disciples of spiritual discourses written eons before science and technology would uncover the vast range of cognitive functioning. Lacking an understanding of neurodiversity, they promote a rigid “one size fits all brains” standard of learning.

As a homeschool educator and wife to a person living with a traumatic brain injury, I am keenly aware that favoring “concentration” as an optimal mental state and evaluative measure of progress in meditation (aka the flagstones of enlightenment) also presumes and privileges practitioners who have neurotypical development. So I’ve long been called to expand our perception and practice of concentration in order to minimize the anxiety and frustration that can arise in practitioners who have difficulty focusing. The invitation instead is to conjure the image of absorbing or being saturated with qualities we wish to embody like joy, equanimity, compassion, steadiness, nonattachment. We can then return to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and contemplate the phyiscal sensations,  emotions, thoughts, images, memories, narratives and experiences we associate with such attributes.


look deeply

The featured image is my sketch of the Four Exertions, which inform our efforts to: cultivate skillfulness by watering and maintaining what has arisen while arousing or awakening skillfulness that has not yet arisen; and to transform unskillfulness by releasing and not dwelling in unskillfulness that has arisen while guarding against and not fueling that which has not arisen.

other liberating actions of  the eightfold path

on skillful understanding + skillful thinking
on skillful speech, skillful action + skillful livelihood

when + where we enter | abiding in the practice

We closed yesterday’s daylong practice of discernment and self-inquiry by reflecting on how we aspire to show up and carry what we have learned about cultivating radical bodhicittawhat I call the heart and mind of justice, liberation, and healing — into our ever-widening circles of compassionate social action.

After everyone departed, I returned to the room to collect my belongings and stood for a few breaths to rest and revel in the full energy we had collectively generated. In that sacred pause, I looked down at my stuff scattered around me — realizing that I was embodying the wisdom that framed the final segment of our discernment. Have your heart be where your feet are. I had spent the day exactly where my heart had called me to be.

When we value and intentionally cultivate the sacred pause, we can amplify our capacity to listen deeply to the call of our hearts and see clearly the direction our feet will go.

when(ever) + where(ever) we enter, may our hearts be where our feet are. 

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…we are in fact not where are feet are. We are not here. Or at least we are not all here.
The “where” that our heart is not so much a place but
a different time: past, and simultaneously, the future.
We are everywhere but in the now.
~Omid Safi
read Safi’s full column: Have Your Heart Be Where Your Feet Are

march mindfulness 2017 | on justice, liberation + healing

3jewels-marchmindfulness2017

Each year I launch this campaign to uplift wisdom, values, teachings and affirmations that nourish our capacity for compassion, skillful understanding, and authentic connection.

Aligned with Sangha’s monthly contemplation and culminating with my upcoming workshop, When + Where We Enter, we’ll shine the light on and look deeply into practices of Justice, Liberation + Healing.

March Practice Schedule