What Happens When We Inhabit the Practice?

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Two weeks ago, I was completely and utterly exhausted. Getting over COVID, after a busy day, the effects still lingered. The previous night, I had been supporting my loved ones for four hours at a critical juncture point in recovery. It had been brutal, and as a result, I had no energy left. I decided to lay down for a 30 minute nap. 

When my alarm went off, I woke with a profound sense of love, of being entirely loved. I felt embraced and held and to my surprise, entirely rejuvenated. I sat there, soaking it in for many moments, and then my thinking mind came back on board…what caused that? I was practically unconscious and the love was unmerited. I didn’t ask for it, I was’t even thinking of anything loving, in fact, I was feeling the opposite, fully drained. Where did that love come from? Did I slip into someone’s whispered prayer for me? My grasping mind wanted to know—how do I produce such care for myself and others?


The nicest part about the whole experience is that since waking up from the nap, I have felt the same presence of love every day since, sometimes many times a day, at moments usually unsuspecting: during an inconvenient holiday work assignment in the ER, while driving, while cooking, while getting ready in the morning, waking up in the middle of the night to pee….

I’ve noticed three things usually (but not always) occurring when I’ve been “held in love”—a quiet atmosphere, a quiet mind, a state that is open and receptive. In order for loving presence to be available to me, I must be available to it. Perhaps filling up with love, peace, contentment is the result of mindfulness coming to fruition, a mind and heart turned towards compassionate care, in a direction that is skillful and good. 

What Happens When We Inhabit the Practice?
©2023 Karla Johnston, InnerConstellation.com

Perhaps we become
love, peace and joy, 
inside and around us 
at all times
across all realms of wakefulness 
and rest.  

Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt....

Friday, December 2, 2022

 As a family member who is on the care team of a loved one in a cycle of active addiction/recovery, I have recently been looking deeply at denial as a coping mechanism and as an obstacle to clear seeing. Denial is a supreme survival instinct, it allows us to self-preserve and not be overwhelmed. In the short-term, denial allows us to function and keep moving forward. In the long-term, however, denial is extremely detrimental. Denial props up a false narrative, it's a refusal of the present painful moment. In my family situation, denial plays a very strong and embedded role in why the cycle of addiction continues. 

I'm known to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime, in any situation. I have fallen asleep talking on the phone, standing up, going to the bathroom, sitting in the hot tub...you get my point. I've learned to recognize my fawning behavior and as the sleepiness creeps in, I ask, "What am I shutting out?" 

Last night I identified for the first time a cycle of denial and how it functions in me personally. I was on a call with a loved one, hashing out a crisis. I did not fall asleep! I was a very clear observer, able to see the suffering, stay with it, hold it and not try to change anything. It was not mine to change, and I knew that. When I hung up, I of course, went to sleep :) and when I woke in the morning it was with a very sensitive heart, a heart overflowing with compassion for my loved one. This is my cycle, this is my circle: escape into rest and upon waking up, feel the emotions. Clarity comes in those first moments of waking. And this is what I discovered... 

One of the main reasons I was able to be 100% available and keep my energy on the call was because I wasn't attempting to change anything. I wasn't attempting to fix, problem solve or alter the present moment. Whoa! Humongous realization.  

Another layer to this waking up, is--when I am present, clear, not shut down, I can make a decision how I wish to respond. I have no control over my loved one, but I have all control over my response. Will I shut down, pretend all is well, or will I open my heart and meet this great suffering with a skillful response? I know it's possible, I've been on the receiving end. In order to give to my fullest capacity, denial has no long-term home in me. I am committed to seeing with clear eyes, noticing my cycle of escape and identifying what I am pushing away.   

Writing all of that just now, a word comes to mind ~ embrace. Open and embrace. Dang, that's a warrior move! I need to let that sink in for a spell. Maybe I need to escape into wakeful rest. I'll be back with Denial Part II. 

*if this post spoke to you, it was generated through my workings with the 8 Caregiving Foundations. Please join me and Jonathan Prescott on a deep dive into these skillful means

Never Disparaging Friends on the Path

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Yesterday I had the very good fortune of being asked why we do a particular thing in our mindfulness community. My response was, “to encourage inclusivity, so everyone can participate without any kind of obstacle.” Inclusivity in this context wasn’t only in regard to life choices, gender, ethnicity, or race but specifically inclusivity of views. Inclusivity is a strong North Star for me, particularly inclusivity of whatever a person may be struggling with in their life.

Bodhisattva is a word in the mindfulness tradition that describes someone or something who vows to not turn away from suffering and instead, do their best to alleviate it. One of my favorite Bodhisattvas is named Never Disparaging Bodhisattva. Such a one sees the goodness inside living beings, no matter their backgrounds, dirt and grim and accepts them with an open heart, trusting that they know how to wake up and are in process. Never Disparaging reminds me of something Thich Nhat Hanh was famous for saying—right view is the absence of all views. The idea here is not that we shouldn’t have views, that’s recognized as impossible, we will have preferences, values, ethics, however, we acknowledge that others also have preferences, values, ethics and come from a background completely unlike ours. Their experiences are entirely different and we will support one another in waking up, we’ll keep our hearts open, our views open to include and listen to others. When we practice doing this, our ripple out is expansive.

Yesterday, our mindfulness community in Lake Tahoe had a beautiful opportunity to practice inclusivity of views and supporting one another on the path of practice. Never Disparaging Bodhisattvas hashed out why we make the personal decisions we do and managed to hold each other with love and compassion ~ our highest ideals. Supporting one another in this day and time, when so much division and hatred plagues our country and the world is the ripple that will heal our families and communities. Listening, trusting we are all growing in our awareness and understanding, that we are in process, learning how to be more open hearted and take care of those around us in the best possible ways, is our rubber-hits-the-road practice. I take a deep bow of gratitude for mindfulness community, for our practice, for my Never Disparaging Bodhisattva friends on the path, for a place where we can be accompanied, our suffering hashed out, understood and ultimately loved and supported. 

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,
as each enters,
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,  
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.