Our Daily Ritual
At noon on most days, my son, wife and I drop whatever we are doing and meet in the kitchen. One of us heats up water in the teapot, the other sifts 1 teaspoon of Japanese Matcha into three bowls. When the teapot whistles, we pour about a cup of hot water into each of the bowls and froth the Matcha. We sit at the table and one of us offers a blessing for the day.
My son has been helping out in a senior care center that had an outbreak of Covid-19. Today, he offers a blessing for all of the residents. There is a moment of silence. We first drink in the blessing, then we sip the Matcha.
We spend the rest of the time talking about news, what needs to get done, writing out grocery lists as if we were writing out the first draft of the Constitution. There is laughter. Then, we clean up and return to our tasks.
As you reflect on your day, what ritual(s) do you find yourself doing? What ways might we bring our mindful awareness into those rituals, no matter how big or small?
Here’s to the blessing that is YOU!
The Milwaukee Catholic Home, LovingKindness and One Simple Act of Kindness
Recently, I had the pleasure of spending time at the Milwaukee Catholic Home (MCH). What a lovely place and yet even more lovely, the people who reside at MCH. We gathered on the third floor on a Friday afternoon to practice lovingkindness. LovingKindness is an ancient practice of offering kindness and good will to others and to oneself. One enters into this practice like others by finding a comfortable posture. This could be sitting, lying down or standing. On this day, we began by sitting and then we continued our practice by inviting a mentor or benefactor to arise in our hearts and minds. A mentor or benefactor is a being who has been there for us. It could be a person who has supported us. It could be a church member. A teacher. A friend. A stranger. It could even be a pet! Next, after we identify a mentor or benefactor, we quietly repeated four simple loving phrases to the mentor or benefactor. In effect, we are offering good will and wishes for this person. For example, my benefactor on this occasion was the secretary at the church where I grew up. Her name was Mrs. Murphy. Mrs. Murphy had this ability to always smile and listen. She was a person who always puts me at ease. She is long gone now. However, her kindness still resides in my heart to this day. At MCH, she was the first person to arise in my heart as we began our practice of lovingkindness. After identifying a mentor or benefactor, we offered four lovingkindness phrases: May you be safe and protected. May you be healthy and strong. May you be happy. May you be at ease.
Take a moment right now and allow a mentor or benefactor to arise in your heart and mind. It could be a teacher, a family member, a neighbor or may be a stranger? Offer the phrases of lovingkindness to this mentor or benefactor and say it like you really mean it: May you be safe and protected. May you be healthy and strong. May you be happy. May you be at ease.
Next, offer these phrases to yourself. (This is sometimes the most difficult one.) Go ahead and try. May I be safe and protected. May I be healthy and strong. May I be happy. May I be at ease.
Next, offer these phrases to your family, your partner, your neighborhood, your colleagues at work; offer them to our planet, our leaders and the people who challenge us. May all of you be safe and protected. May all of you be healthy and strong. May all of you be happy. May all of you be at ease.
After our practice, the community at the Milwaukee Catholic Home talked about their experiences of the lovingkindness practice. One resident commented that she accidently left her door open in her apartment and someone on her floor noticed this and knocked at her door simply to make sure she was all right. The resident spoke with tears in eyes. I suspect she was touched by one simple act of kindness. Someone cared. In a world of uncertainty, doesn’t one simple act of kindness go a long way? The practice of lovingkindness can invite us to recall such moments and actually to BE vessels of lovingkindness for each other. These moments are often not complex or demanding. They are often simple and ordinary, inviting us to greater connection and healing and loving.
Consider one act of kindness today. See what you notice. What do you feel in your body?
One more thing. if anyone wants to increase their happiness, visit and connect with our elders. There were many other stories shared at MCH that afternoon that moved everyone in the room. It inspired and touched everyone. Stories of thoughtfulness. Generosity. Wisdom. Humor. I don’t know about you but our world is in sore need of such stories and simple acts of kindness.
Sweeping out the Garage
“Why is it that when I sweep out the garage
there is a wind that blows dirt back in?”
asked my son.
When the wind blows back our carefully laid plans or the most delicate parts of our lives, what then?
Does one become angry? Depressed? Irritated?
Does one sweep harder and more furiously?
Does one give up the broom to someone else?
I’ve tried these ways and probably hundreds of others and
I’m getting older and more tired.
I don’t think I can stop this sweeping. Not yet.
I think dirt blown back is my teacher and I have sat too long in the back of the classroom.
My teacher says let it be.
She seems to being asking,
“Can you come to love even this?”
with deep inhale, I say, “Yes”.
In this moment, I am held by silence,
And, the wind,
while the debris of my life
swirls and scatters
around my feet
in wider and wider circles.
Words to live by, August 3, 2016
One afternoon while visiting my Sicilian mother-in-law in her memory care facility, I sought her advice on living. Without hesitation, she replied: “Just be yourself and everything will turn out.”
Letter to a friend undergoing chemo
From the Lake Michigan side of the state, we dedicate our practice to you this week—every day, every single day, every hour, even the hours which are quiet, and particularly the hours which are difficult and long, (and did I say, long,) you will be remembered like the sounds of the waves on the shoreline and the language of compassion which is spoken most elegantly in silence will hold and support you and all the good ju-ju over here (and we got some. We’ve been preparing for this), will be gathered and directed to you this week, especially the 3rd and 4th day. I am including the entire sangha on this side of state—all the rabbits that eat my garden in the morning and the ones who return in the evening for seconds, all the woodpeckers that put holes in the cedar siding of my house at heights none of my ladders reach; all the sparrows that live in the holes and spend their days caring for their children; all trees in my yard whose loving arms creatively turn and twist, allowing better positioning toward their source; the insects that find their way to my kitchen, the bees on my Russian Sages, one of favorite new friends: my neighbor’s golden; all the tomato plants and all the worms who have found my almost ripe tomatoes; the water lilies that have taken over—everything; can I include the buckthorn (I would want them on my side! They are most persistent.); can I include the 6 year old who dresses up every day as Batman and keeps our neighborhood safe, peaceful and crime free; We include the planets in this sangha. The 4 seasons. The moon will watch over you at night as well as the moon’s friends, the stars. All offering millions and millions and millions of years of unconditional love and tenderness. If you do not see, hear, feel or know them on the 3rd or 4th day, know they are there in the same way air, not seen, is present and available. Know that all dedicate our practice to you this week.
If you were walking
and saw a hungry child
on the Road,
would you not stop
and offer nourishment?
Sister, Wake up!
You are that child!
Don’t take another step!
Sit down at the table called stillness—even if it is for 1 breath!
A feast has been prepared for you.
All you need to do is show up.
The wise say this kind of meal
Might satisfy an entire planet!
And here, there are no dishes to clean up!
C. Smith 11/2/15
Squirrel in the Basement; Buddha at my Door
When a squirrel took residence in the basement, I found Mr. Theo online–“City Pest Control. His website proclaimed: “Guaranteed Results”.
Mr. Theo arrived late, set live traps and captured the intruder. As he finished his work and walked to his truck, he stopped and turned toward me. Both eyes fixed on mine. His voice quiet.
“Mr. Smith” he whispered. “I want to tell you something.”
“Sure” I replied.
“Twenty years ago, my doctor sent me home to die. I had liver problems. I couldn’t have any of that! So, I told my family, I was going to do a little experiment. I started meditating.
Mr. Theo continued…
“You know, Mr. Smith, it helps when you sit up straight. Posture is important. I tell my grandkids that.”
“Believing it will make a difference is key. Do it like your life depends on it.”
“We are all messed up. It don’t matter if you are employed or unemployed; rich or poor. What matters is what’s happening right here. (Here, Mr. Theo pointed to his head.)
Squirrel in the basement: Buddha at my door!
Guaranteed Results! Indeed.
Words to live by
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”