a family affair: father’s day practice

the family that prays together stays together ~ al scalpone

so the slogan-turned-Christian-proverb goes…and came to mind as i prepared to share my Sunday meditation practice with my father and youngest brother, who were coming into town to spend Father’s Day with me. although my dad has attended one of my yoga classes before, i was excited that, for the first time, he and my brother would experience mindfulness meditation as i lead it during my Sit+Study practice at Just B Yoga.

inspired by the practice i shared with my root sangha (which studies Zen Buddhism in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh), i gently guide my yoga-sangha through an hour of walking and sitting meditations and a dharma discussion.

i invite the bell and bow deeply throughout; occasionally recite a gatha and share Buddhist suttas or readings; and encourage mindfulness, compassion, and the calm-abiding of body, heart, mind and breath to prevail.

but what makes this so different and special?!  just as the bell and breath can help us return to our “true home” in the heart, Just B Yoga has become a sacred space where many have found their second home in the embrace of a heart-centered community.

it has become a place of refuge and respite: inviting, attracting, and nurturing diversity in age, race, ethnicity, nationality, size, shape, color, gender, physical ability, religious affiliation, sexuality, education, and socio-economic status.

it is a donation-based, community-driven, family-and-pet friendly, LGBTQ ally, urban garden-growing, NO JUDGEMENT ZONE...yoga studio in the ‘hood! in fact, it’s not far from the hood where i grew up.

the doors are open. the practice is accessible. it is found in the form of yoga, tai chi, meditation, and friend-family-and-community-building! it thrives and blossoms. it spreads.

here, i’ve been awestruck at the frequent sight of more than a half-dozen black women gathered in movement, mindfulness + meditation with me! now, this here is worthy of acknowledgment and celebration! it’s a rare occurrence in the yoga and meditation circles…except, perhaps, when a special “people of color” retreat is organized.

here, we contemplate and muse about reconciliation, letting go, working through fear, doubt, and difficulty. here, we learn to stay present to what is arising and get real about the obstacles and struggles we may encounter when we’re off the cushion. here, we cultivate trust, diligence, understanding, and skillfulness. we nurture lovingkindness, respect, gratitude, and equanimity. we learn to listen deeply, see clearly, and respond skillfully.

at the end of Sunday’s practice, i bowed deeply to my father for all that he has gifted me: love, support, understanding, acceptance, insight, wisdom and, most important, the seeds of the dharma.

when he graced me with the name of a bodhisattva, he illuminated the path that would unfold within me.

here, now. this is my prayer: may the merits of our practice continue to strengthen all our relationships.

may the family that meditates together, cultivate together mindfulness, compassion, and understanding…

What is prayer?…

What is prayer?

I make a list:

Praise
Gratitude
Begging/pleading/cutting deals
Fruitless whining and puling
Focus

There the list breaks off; I had found my word. Prayer only looks like an act of language; fundamentally it is a position, a placement of oneself. Focus. Get there, and all that’s left to say is the words. They come: from ancient times … from the surprisingly eloquent heart … from the gush and chatter of the day’s detail longing to be rendered.

So what is silence?

Silence speaks, the contemplatives say. But really, I think, silence sorts. An ordering instinct sends people into the hush where the voice can be heard. This is the sorting intelligence of poetry, marked by the unbroken certainty of rhythm, perfect pitch, the placing of things in right order as in metrical form. Not rigid categories, but the recognition of a shape always there but ordinarily obscured by — by what? By noise, which is ourselves trying to do the sorting in an order that may be a heroic effort but is bound to be a fantasy.
~ Patricia Hampl, “Virgin Time”

From the transcript of On Being with Krista Tippett’s 2009 show Approaching Prayer.

magic of moon wisdom

There’s something magical about waking up with my lovey-boy before dawn on the days that surround the full and change of the moon.

Sometimes for K, it’s a tossing-and-turning to find the right nook to snuggle into, a fluttering of eyes, a murmuring of dreamy words, a giggle- and-yawny stretch. Hands reaching out, knees nudging, toes burrowing—the reassuring warmth of skin. And, once in a while, he’s wired for sound! Popping up to play with cars or to read books as if the sun were streaming brightly through his window.

When I alone am awake, I rest in contemplation or sit in meditation. These witching hours are made for listening deeply and seeing clearly by the twinkle of stars that light the path.

Insight is a gift not the goal. Some things are illuminated, others released. Often, nothing at all appears to be happening. Yet it’s more than enough to abide in the hush, to simply feel and hear my breath subtle and distinct. Quietly, steadily just being me.

Attuned to this spirit time, I feel energized rather than depleted. I am awake—moving easily through the day on merely a few hours of sleep, sustained by the magnetic wisdom of the moon.