Why meditate?

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Often, when attempting to write a blog post, the lines turn into poetry. So, for once, I’m going to just let them be, well, lines of poetry…

Sunday morning meditation,
sign into the Zoom-do
as perfect little squares
pop on to screen. 

Dear spiritual family,
one by one, smile,
join palms,
bow,
as each enters,
settles
in the Morning Light. 

Facilitator invites the bell,
begins a chant of purest tone,
familiar Pali sounds caress ears
and then...
all thought, ceases. 

I’ve been subdued, in the best possible way.
After 20 minutes, I’m left with an answer to a question,
I did not know I held….
Why do I meditate?

Clear as the bell,
the chant,
the tone,
is the answer— to touch something larger in me.
larger in the challenges,
larger in this society,
so tired, so lost.

I meditate to touch capacity.
How could I have not known this?

Insight arises when ready
to see beyond
my boundaries.

~*~~^``*~’~*


Rest of the day, attuned to what expands: sunshine, gardening, connection, my beloved, Bene the cat, writing, singing, poetry, cup of blueberry tea, soft fabrics, wildflowers, smell of wild Sierra Rose petals, lungs filled with alpine air….

What is the question, you are not aware you hold? What are the conditions that break the question wide? What is the answer?    


I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Oh, Loves...if you haven’t been to the library in awhile, please go! I ended up there not on my own accord but at the request of a contractor who needed my interpreting services for a client. So, to the library I went. Stepping into the cool, dark recesses felt like coming home. Libraries were my stomping ground as a kid, Leola library above the firehouse, one room packed to the gills with shelves of books which to me seemed an expansive paradise. 

So, this last trip, we were finishing up, and passed a kiosk with the famous picture of Emily Dickinson...


Her iconic outline was in neon orange with a black-penned famous one liner splashed across her picture. In my head, I thought, “I’ve always wanted to read her poems, I’ll have to some day when I have more time.” 

I said goodbye to my contractor and client, and on the way out gazed upon shelves of book sale items. First title to catch my eye ~ “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” A slim orange book of poetry by, you guessed it, Dear Emily. I grinned like her mischievous best friend and reached for it, knowing it was going home with me. As I cracked open the pages to her 1855 brain, I was reminded of her incredible one liners that begin her poems and how she didn’t entitle her pieces, rather the first magical line of her creations usually served to prime the pump.  

Of course, there are no coincidences. Those who know me well, know—I pay huge attention to such gifts of the muse, spirit, ancestors, Creator, whatever the heck you want to call it. Miss Dickinson sits beside me as I write this article, and I am inspired: 

1) To have more time. After all...”I’ll have to (read her) some day when I have more time.”

Since finding, “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” I’ve ended each day with a poem or two before closing my eyes to sleep. 

2) To dedicate the month of May IC Blessings* to her. Here’s my idea ~ entitle each May Blessing a mind-blowing Miss D one liner and then pen a line or two in my own hand to accompany. This could fail miserably, or be a giddy study. Either way, it sounds like fun to me, the library geek. So, um...here we go....


5/02 I’m Nobody! Who are you? 

Are you Shaggy, or rattling Scooby-Doo?
Brave Velma?
Daphne picking locks on a slant?
Hex Girls rocking-out,
or maybe...the unleashed 13 Ghosts?
Vincent Van Ghoul? Or dreary Mortifer Quinch? 
Either way, here is a deep truth ~
I’m nobody! And so are you!
And so is Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo....

Water Always Finds Lowest Ground

Monday, April 4, 2022

A great realization arrived over the weekend--movement meditation is of upmost importance during these challenging times and in life which has amped up a few notches of late. When feeling pulled into reports and news about Ukraine/Russia, walking meditation calls as a way to move through strong emotions. One of the biggest felt benefits of walking meditation is getting outside where the sweet earth performs her magic ~ it never fails to calm and sooth. 

On a recent walk, this little ditty came forth. Please enjoy:    

Seek Always Lowest Ground April 2, 2022  ©2022 Karla Johnston, InnerConstellation.com

Spring runoff
gurgling through the meadow 
sings a wisdom  Water always knows where its going,  without hesitation,  without stopping,  it moves ever  toward lowest ground.  Water never clings to mountain top  as it melts and flows away.  Water never doubts  Where am I going?   What am I doing?  It is water   and it always   finds Source.  
 

Why are we any different? 
We are not. 
When like water, 
we enter 
the melt of life. 
Let go the ledge, 
take all energy  
used to fight, 
and open wide. 
Resist not  
lowest ground 
You are Source 
compassion’s nectar, 
one drop,  
singing  
through the meadow.  

Spirit's Thrumming

Monday, March 14, 2022

 It's time to write about Ukraine. I realized it it on my mindful walk yesterday, strolling with the clouds and brilliant sunshine...

So, how to start? I didn't turn on the news, I went within and opened my heart to the situation, holding it as tenderly as possible while walking in my beautiful Lake Tahoe neighborhood. Slowing it down, taking in the natural world around me (AKA The Ultimate Dimension), I began to feel a movement, a thrum... 

1st Thrumming: the clouds overhead began giving a sermon:

"To transform masterfully,
covering sun, moon and stars yet
moving, shifting, shape-changing.

"Puffy, slender, thready white,
like cotton-candy or Slate-gray-night,
beholding to both moisture and light."

With the heart of a cloud, I smiled to neighbors, children making imaginary sand castles on their driveway, and to the little free library I passed beneath the pine trees. I opened the converted-pane-glass door and found upon the shelf, the story of Big Brown Nut Hare and Little Brown Nut Hare...


I held the war and conflict and the kindness of the little free library, a neighbor's wave and the spacious blue sky. After a couple miles of strolling like that, I realized... I had written barely a stitch on Ukraine~Russia. It's time. 

Arriving home, I prepared to write by planting Spring seeds, I wanted to practice feeling both the tragedy and the goodness of people. I didn't know yet how to do that, but planting seeds seemed a start. 

2nd Thrumming: I dug around in last year's seed packets and found Arugula, Chard and Russian Blue Kale. My curiosity was piqued, does Russian Blue Kale actually come from Russia? Turns out it does! What are the chances? All the way from Siberia to sit in my hand and be planted on a Tahoe windowsill. I felt a visceral warmth. My husband and I find the purple-veined, blue-green leaves the most tender and delicious Kale we have ever consumed. When I harvest them, the oak-shaped leaves are leathery and soft at the same time.

I was heartened and inspired, so after planting seeds, I tidied up my writing space and sat down. I took a few mindful breaths slowly, gently, tenderly, just as I had done on my walk. 

The idea came to begin with a 5 minute timed, "Tiny Poem."  Just let it all go with the metronome rhythm of the timer...

Ready, set, flow...

To my great surprise, out popped a love Koan:


Co-mingle ~


First breath depended on another’s kindness.

Who caught you surfacing the world?

As lungs inhaled with everything that ever was
exhaled with everything that ever will be.  
 


In my writing mind's-eye were Ukrainian children, Russian children, those whose kindnesses are tending the people during their most dire needs. Humanity at its worse bringing out the best in  people.


As I write this blog post, a news report from CNN comes across my device: Pregnant woman from maternity hospital attack and her baby have died... The 3rd Thrumming. How do I sit with this? Coming back to my breathing, that which depends on another's kindness...inhaling with everything that ever was, with everything that ever will be. The answer comes softly, gently...by holding both the tragedy and the goodness surrounding the tragedy. 


May all beings everywhere be healthy, strong, safe and protected, free from inner and outer harm, may they be light and free in their bodies and in their minds. 





There is a Field: Russia & Ukraine

Saturday, February 26, 2022

 




Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase, “each other,”
Doesn’t make any sense. 

~Rumi


There is this very beautiful human quality of feeling the pain of another's suffering innately. My heart breaks witnessing the invasion of Ukraine, alongside many other hearts. In my prayers and practice, I continually see a Russian soldier, unable to do what he was told to accomplish. He puts down his arms. I envision this again and again. It has entered my practice very organically as I pray, rest in stillness, do walking meditation, sing and chant. 

While looking for a picture of the Ukrainian flag online, I saw the above creative and beautiful impression. Poet Rumi's words came to mind ~ Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there....

Mind is so quick to divide ~ Ukraine/Russia, Right/Wrong. What about, rather than dividing, allowing one word to suffice ~ suffering. Then...a question, how can I help? Rumi provides a clue ~ When the soul lies down in this grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase, "each other," doesn't make any sense. 

In this crucial time, I choose to step onto the golden grass, let go of ideas, language, even the phrase, "each other." I am the Russian soldier laying down his arms, again and again and again. Seeds of violence are very much alive within our hearts. If we don't think so, we are mistaken. Also, seeds of peace are very much alive within our hearts. If we don't believe so, we're misguided. 

I will do my best, in the days and weeks, months ahead to look on the situation in Ukraine from the field, beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing. I listen, I listen to one clear, arresting word ~ suffering. I practice to lay down the arms within myself: the violence, frustration, horror. Dear Thich Nhat Hah says what I'm wishing to express much more eloquently: 
We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds--our own prejudices, fears, and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration and fear that will be passed on for generations to come.

I lay down my arms. Will you join me? Here is a practice opportunity, to come back home to our good and noble hearts and the good hearts of the Ukrainian and Russian people. 

"It Was Not A Dream," says the Plum Blossom....

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Hello Dear Beautifuls, many of you know that the balance of creating amidst the muddiness of life can present challenges that I embrace. Why? Because the most beautiful story ever told is one of hitting rock bottom and coming up into freedom and renewed life. I had a taste this week. 

I was walking mindfully in Sacramento this weekend, fully enjoying the 70 degree day when I caught a whiff of the most amazing smell. Here is what transpired...

It Was Not A Dream
©February 12, 2022 Karla Johnston, InnerConstellation.com

Blue sky day,
I am walking...
fragrant warm breeze
entices my nose to follow,
head turns just right to see--
newly budding Plum Tree
on dark branch,
crookedly framing waxing moon,
two days from full.
Stop,
Breathe,
Smile.

Hiroshige (1797-1858)

It is February,
I am walking.
All conditions align 
to offer
peaceful, unseasonable,
precious moment.


Image: Hiroshige (1797-1858)

*`~~*-`*~~`*

I was walking for insight into a family situation and had decided to take my loved one on a walk with me, to give our minds a rest and simply find some beauty, then...the wafting fragrance.

The following day, I had a peaceful conversation with my loved one and we talked for almost an hour, from our hearts, connecting like we hadn't connected in a long time. The moon and Plum Tree remained with us. 

Then, today, I was sitting with Morning Light Sangha (Mindfulness Community), and the facilitator read this passage from Dearest Thich Nhat Hanh: 
"Look into a plum tree. In each plum on the tree there is a pit. That pit contains the plum tree and all previous generations of plum tree. The plum pit contains an eternity of plum trees. Inside the pit is an intelligence and wisdom that knows how to become a plum tree, how to produce branches, leaves, flowers and plums. It cannot do this on its own. It can only do this because it has received the experience and heritage of so many generations of ancestors. You are the same. You possess the wisdom and intelligence of how to become a full human being because you inherited an eternity of wisdom not only from your blood ancestors but from your spiritual ancestors, too." 

         Thich Nhat Hanh~No Fear, No Death

The sappy pants within me is tearing up as I write. Is it enough to be with our loved ones and simply breathe? Simply see within them peace, beauty and hope. Yes, the moon and the Plum Tree say...yes. Thank you to our ancestors, those in blood and spirit, who have come before us and know how to walk and how not to walk this path. 

The plum tree is blossoming and the moon is almost full. Its light penetrates all things.  

#ReactivePositivity While Blasted By A Snow-Cutting Machine!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

 I've learned in life to be careful what you wish for. My 2022 aspiration is ~ #ReactivePositivity in the face of...(I'm whispering) anything. Knowing the chances to practice would arise, because, well, that's what life provides at every turn, I took a few breaths, and hunkered down....

Two nights ago, I had just fallen into slumber on the couch before bed and in my mind's ear (is this a dimension of reality?) I hear our county's snow-cutting machine chugging down the road at turtle speed, devouring the 12 foot high snow banks to widen our barely one-lane neighborhood road. I live in Tahoe, so massive storms. The house erupts in glee, Bene the cat runs to the kitchen window to look out, husband lays over the back of the sectional couch, peering out the living room window, and I get up and move toward the hallway to go to bed, when suddenly...

What sounds like boulders start smashing into the wall of windows in our living room. Turning to look, its awash in a steady chute of compressed, concrete snow chunks. I scream over the noise, "Maybe he's had a heart attack! We need to do something!!!" It was the only exclamation my sleepy mind could deduce. Boy Scout husband runs over to the outside light switch and throws an SOS signal as the Snow Cutter slowly creeps by. 

I grab my coat from the hallway closet, slam on the snow boots and head out the door while husband calmly warns, "Nothing can be done." I feel on fire, literally, from head to toes. "It's dangerous!" I yell, as in my mind's eye I envision the driver inebriated (sorry, it's the addiction provider in me) or something worse. 

It didn't take long to catch up and giving the machine wide girth, I approach the side window and pantomime in my best ASL-ism ;) HOUSE, CHUTE, SNOW-CRUSH!. Machine stops, driver opens his window, I see he's alert and wide-eyed looking at me. I yell over the noise--"Are you OK? Are you tired? Do you need help?" He shakes his head, no.

"Be careful!?!" I scream, seeing his snow chute is lower than my neighbors house, he shuts his window and chugs along. 

Walking back to my house, I feel my relief turn 180 degrees--to anger. As I walk up the deck steps my anger mounts: solid snow concrete is waist high, window screen ripped, patio bistro table and chairs buried. Hitting the deck-long mound with a shovel, it seems unmovable. A call is made to the county and I pray no one gets hurt tonight as I try to go to sleep. But...as I unwind my body in bed, it is racked with pain, quite literally up and down my spine, legs, arms, neck, head. I realize that in the ten minutes or so of holding all my anger, I am truly afflicted! For the first time in over an hour, I remember my  dear, precious breath, my anchor in the storm. I come back to my anger-scorched body, breathe deep nourishing breaths and concentrate on gratitude: driver was not injured, we were not injured, house is intact...sleep finally came. 

When I shared with a dear friend and mentor the following morning my wish to have responded differently, he gently said, "May I suggest you responded exactly as you needed to protect you, your house and your family." He mentioned the possibility that anger and every emotion serves a purpose. The mindful moment of realizing when I got caught and consumed, is the practice, it is the path to buddhahood. Whoa, mind blowing---and...#ReactivePositivity in action. 

That afternoon, a county supervisor came out to access damage and confirmed my friend's wisdom.  The man said he had just come from 3 cabins, recently renovated who, like us, were hit with a chute of concrete-snow only the load blew the front doors off the hinges and shattered all the windows on the front of their dwellings. Luckily, no one was inside and now one was hurt. "Consider yourself very lucky," he said. 

OK, it's quite alright to respond with anger and strong emotions! I might even say, sometimes the body knows things in ways our sense organs do not. The key for me, that unlocks the beautiful door of #ReactivePositivity is the personal question--am I swept away? Am I completely and totally consumed? Because, even if I am positively swept away and consumed, I may miss something. Positivity might  not actually be the most skillful response. Dang, that's deep. 

Umm, so much good and juicy life to process and ponder. I am so grateful that sweet Bene cat, my dear husband, peering out in joy, were not injured, that all are safe and home just scuffed a bit. The amazing supervisor buddha then called in a crew to come get that concrete off the deck, then, he assessed the minimal damages and went on his way, fully knowing how lucky we are to be breathing, loving, living in the snowglobe of Winter 2022. Stay safe out there everyone, love one another and be #ReactivelyPositive, solid, stable and not swept away....