Grateful May, Day 1

Satya and Kaspa have started a new writing theme for the month of May–gratitude. Each day on their website, Writing Our Way Home, they share the small and big aspects of their lives for which they are grateful, and they invite others to do the same.

I signed up for their inspirational emails to keep me going; I’ll admit, I tend to let my mind run along some very slippery, downward slopes.  Having a bright note in my inbox reminding me to look up at the blue sky encourages me to pay attention to what brings me joy and happiness.

May 1: After a long drive in rush hour traffic and teaching a three-hour writing class at the community college, I came home to a sink full of dirty dishes, the counters littered with dishrags, coffee spills, and crumbs. The dogs were whining to be let out. I was feeling tired  from the work day and disappointed that no one in the house had cleaned up the kitchen mess.

But when I took the dogs out to the back yard, I looked up at the canopy of tulip poplars and hickory trees hovering over the house, shifting in the twilight breeze. I was still tired, still disappointed that I would have to go in and clean, but for that moment when I stopped at the fence and looked up, I felt the peace that comes with pausing and paying attention to what is good.

Wordsworth writes in his poem Tintern Abbey,

                                    These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet… .

Just as the poet’s memories of nature help to restore him when he is alone in his rooms, even my small moment of looking into the veil of leaves at dusk helps smooth the rough edges of anxiety and sadness, emotions that have built up in me over the years.

The trick is to pay attention, and to be grateful. I’m grateful for the sea of trees that sways in my backyard, for the birdsong that wakes me each morning in May.




Thoughts about Meditating and a Haiku

Sitting on a bolster

Eyes downcast, thoughts turned inward

Ice reflects on walls

When I meditated today, I thought about what I would write for this day’s mindfulness writing challenge. But I need to forget about writing when I sit to meditate.

My imagination is another distraction I don’t need to add to my deck of wandering thought-cards.  Thinking about what I will write is delightful and entertaining, but I want to focus on the breath, on the happiness I feel having, for the length of one breath, nowhere to go, no one to talk to, nothing to do.

Mindfulness Writing Challenge, Day 29, Writing Our Way Home. 


End of the Day Haiku

In the sink, broken glass

We each pick up the pieces

No one cuts a finger 


Mindfulness Writing Day 27, Writing Our Way Home


Today I read poet Jane Hirshfield’s The Heart of Haiku. In this wonderful essay, Hirshfield explains some of Basho’s life story, traces the history of haiku, and then offers translations and interpretations of some of Basho’s poignant and deeply mindful verse. A practicing Buddhist, Jane Hirshfield has insight that allows her to shed light on Basho’s poetry for those who are unfamiliar with Japanese culture and Eastern philosophy. 

Another short article well worth the time is Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “More than the Birds, Bees, and Trees: A Closer Look at Writing Haibun.” She emphasizes the importance of cultivating aware, “the quality of certain objects to evoke longing, sadness, or immediate sympathy.”

Jane Hirshfield also mentions this important aspect of haiku and how it was Basho who encouraged his students “to feel sabi.” She goes on to explain that “to feel sabi is to feel keenly one’s own sharp and particular existence amid its own impermanence.” 

Daily mindfulness writing and writing small stones are a beautiful way to feel sabi and to cultivate aware in poetry and in life. 

Indoor Swimming in January

If you close your eyes and focus on the space between your eyebrows, a white light will appear. Sometimes the light will crystalize into a sphere lined with purple. Some longtime meditators who maintain focus will even see a white lotus lined with purple. I have only seen the sphere, sometimes called the pearl.

Today swimming laps the sun spills into the pool through the glass wall. On the other side of the wall is a stand of very tall pine trees. Beyond the trees, a robin’s egg blue sky and a single cloud.

I focus on the breath, sometimes kicking a little harder to increase the amount of air I need to take into my lungs. I don’t try to go too fast, just fast enough so that my mind stays focused on the sensations of swimming–my shadow swimming with me along the bottom of the pool, the shaft of light I swim through each time I reach the deep end, the axle of my shoulders as my arms arc up and down, scooping the water, driving the rest of my body forward through the water.

There is no rush, just back and forth through the water from one side of the pool to the other, pushing gently with my feet  off the side  of the pool to propel myself back into the lane. Nowhere to get to, no goal other than to breathe, glide, and enjoy those moments at the far end when the sun shines on my face.

Maybe it’s the memory of the sun that allows us to see the pearl in the mind space when our eyes are closed. Even when we’re in the dark the light exists.

Mindfulness writing, Day 17, Writing Our Way Home.

Meditation on Sounds

Click-click, a metal zipper taps against the drier drum.

Click-click, the house birds have come back to reclaim

their timeshare above my window.

A fledgling creature clicks and mewls from the upper branches of a tree

outside my window.

A crow creaks a greasy call across the street.

The whoosh of tires on asphalt, wind parted by metal hulks.

The cool swish of air on the in-breath, the warm puff on the out-breath.

Drawing air up to clavicles, I hear the click-click

of spines expanding along my upper back.

A thin click as lips part then close.

The muffled click of a wooden bead as a mala passes through my fingers.


Many beginning meditations instruct practitioners to listen to the sounds that come and go outside the room where they are sitting. We notice the sounds rise and fall away, without labeling them or trying to find out what is making the noise.

We then focus our awareness on sounds in the room where we are sitting. The point is to notice how sounds come and go, just like feelings and thoughts come and go. In between the sounds, feelings, and thoughts, we continuously draw the mind back to the breath.

I found that today I kept labeling the sounds. I knew I was going to spend time writing after I meditated, and so my mind kept sifting through the sounds and placing words on them.

But when I think back to all these tiny moments of small noises, I remember a gentle popping, clicking, humming– these are the continuous sounds of life. They are always there, rising and falling like waves in an ocean. We swim in a broth of sound waves.

Day 13: Mindfulness Writing, Writing Our Way Home.

Thoughts While Meditating Under a Light Therapy Lamp

Imagine our first home, a time when we knew no fear.

Close your eyes and turn your face to the sun–this was our first light.

Hold the webs of your fingers above a flashlight– that red glow was our world.

The plush warmth of a giant membrane, a kind of palace.

Between systolic and diastolic

Between rising and falling, a gentle rise, a gentle fall, a fluid absorber of shock

Between in-breath and out,

We lived in a symphonic buzz of warmth.

When we left this palace, our tender flesh bumped against cold plastic and table edges.

We couldn’t see above countertops where the palace guards chopped carrots and onions

for our broth.

We swam in the flux between fear of death in this cold, sharp place

And a desire to please the palace guards, the ones who had control over our survival.

The guards had forgotten they too once lived under the protection of the symphonic membrane.

All they remembered was their desire to survive.

Day 12, January Mindful Writing Challenge.

Poison Arrow Dart from a Blue Sky

Driving home after teaching yoga, the sky was a reach-less blue, and I felt the same expanse inside my chest, in the heart space, that seat of consciousness Buddhists call the root mind. Clear, cloudless, light.

Coming around a curve in my neighborhood I caught sight of a small man in a black parka, a fluffy coat that inflated his presence. He wore a black knit cap that accentuated his bushy, steel gray mustache.

He stared at me intently as I rounded the curve, and I felt a sudden tightening of my heart, like I had been pierced with a poison arrow dart.

The feeling passed, but I was left wondering what was true about that fleeting encounter. I had met that man briefly many years ago, and I have been wary of him ever since.

Am I sensing his energy, or am I projecting my negative expectations of him? For now, I will continue to steer clear of him. Sometimes the best way to avoid harm is the path of least resistance.

blue sky

Day 3 of Mindful Writing Challenge, Small Stones, Writing Our Way Home.