mindfulness in a crisis

I close each meditation with a practice I’ve crafted over the years — with hands to the heart in gassho and a prayer of reflection:

“To honor and acknowledge ourselves and our commitment to self-understanding and well-being.

To honor and acknowledge the practice itself as it reminds us to listen deeply, see clearly and respond skillfully to what arises as it arises.

And, to honor and acknowledge one another for collectively generating the energy of mindfulness, compassion and understanding.”

Today, nowhere near the cushion, I call on this same affirmation to re-center me after a momentary family crisis. Even when others do not share my practice or draw upon similar skills in the face of madness, I honor how being a compassionate witness to their actions can help bring me back to mine.

dhamma for mama*

Exploded and firefighters are two words you don’t want to hear from an unfamiliar caller, informing you that your mother needs you to come over to the house immediately.

Already in the car, heading in the opposite direction, with my husband thankfully behind the wheel. My first response was not to panic but to pause and assess. In reflection, I recognize: This is my brain on mindfulness.

And let me say right now that mindfulness is not a quick fix tool that I acquired after some 6-8 week stress reduction workshop. It is the result of 10-plus years as a dharma practitioner with feet grounded firmly on the Zen path and a lifetime of exploring contemplative spiritual and wellness practices that have helped recalibrate my fiery temperament “to be more able more often” to generate skillful responses.

I’ll be straight up: it doesn’t “work” all the time…

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On “Revolutionary Mothering” | The Laura Flanders Show

Celebrating the transformative power of compassionate parenting and mentoring! Bowing to mothers and all others who honor the humanity of the little ones in our lives.

 

dhamma for mama*

In this, my 6th year of motherhood, I am celebrating my power to radically design a life for my child that does not conform to anyone else’s standards or conventions. I am crafting a life that resists the call to pass on legacies of unexamined dysfunction and empty rituals embedded in played-out cultural traditions shaped and sullied by the whims of industry, technology, politics and religion. Shrugged off and unquestioned… because, well, it’s always been done that way.

Long before I imagined myself a parent, I stood in line at a roti shop on Washington Avenue in Brooklyn and chewed on the island wisdom I overheard from an elder:

Yuh doh raise chil’run. Yuh raise cattle and corn. Yuh teach chil’run an lead ’em…

I recall nothing else about that moment — what sparked his statement, who he was speaking to (if anyone at all…because in my experience with my…

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remembrance + reconciliation: prayers for thanksgiving

On my run this morning, I contemplated the freedom/independence “we” are celebrating as a nation today and instantly recalled this prayer of gratitude I posted for Thanksgiving on dhamma 4 mama*–my blog on parenting as a spiritual practice.

Given the complex history of the United States and the current political landscape where civil liberties of marginalized populations are continuously being threatened, there is no monolithic and concrete experience of freedom for all Americans. There’s a myth of a dream that is a nature to shift and transform just when we imagine it’s within reach.

My deepest sense of freedom came from committing to the bodhisattva path and taking refuge in the Five Mindfulness Trainings and in the Three Jewels in 2006. So today I embrace and celebrate my personal and subjective spiritual experience of freedom, which I have learned to cultivate and embody wholeheartedly through movement, mindfulness and meditation.

dhamma for mama*

Today, may we appreciate this food
and remember those who are hungry.
May we appreciate our family and friends
and remember those who are alone.
May we appreciate our health
and remember those who are sick.
May we appreciate the freedoms we have
and remember those who suffer injustice and tyranny.1

I spent Wednesday morning in our tiny kitchen blanching, boiling, carmelizing, chiffonading, chopping, cubing, dicing, sautéing, seasoning, smelling, stirring, and tasting.

As I breathedin the swirl of pungent and sweet aromas from the herbs, vegetables and meat, I breathed out loving awareness and prayers of gratitude for the gift of being able to prepare and share a Thanksgiving meal with my family. My mate and I openly acknowledged that our blessings outweighed any minor irritations that come with hosting a holiday gathering: our good health, solid relationships, comfortable home, and modest but sufficient financial resources.

I quietly returned…

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kiss your brain: a compassionate life lesson from a preschool teacher

Here’s a practice to help foster self-compassion + (it is hoped) to plant seeds of skillful understanding about the workings of the brain and the arising mind and behaviors. #KissYourBrain #CradleYourHeart

dhamma for mama*

Last year, I worked as a substitute teaching assistant for a preschool program and had the opportunity to observe the dynamics between teachers, program assistants, and students in several classrooms.

One teacher quickly won my heart when I heard her say “Kiss Your Brain” in praise of the kids’ engagement in a group lesson. It wasn’t about having the “right” answer or being the best and smartest. It was a simple celebration of their ability and willingness to use their brain power—thinking, imagining, problem-solving, asking questions—and sharing it with others.

I’ve carried this practice into my home as well as into my yoga and meditation classes. With my son and the children that I teach, this phrase is a seed of self-compassion to nurture confidence and a sense of competency. It has the power to foster a love for learning without the pressure of performing to a certain standard of…

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