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tuning in

First, I direct my attention within,
to my own being.

Like a sailor scanning the horizon
for anything worth noting,
I turn my gaze inward
and look around
for any feeling or sensation
that might be seeking my attention.

I am not on a mission to find anything.
I’m just looking.
If nothing comes to awareness right away,
I just take a breath.

But it rarely takes long
before something draws my attention:
a feeling of fullness in the belly,
general tiredness,
the steady beat of my heart,
the tidal rhythm of my breath,
a sense of tightness
or spaciousness
in the chest.

Tuning in is the most important thing.
Once I do, I am off
and sailing.

Bali, 2011

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not my body?

Would you please
stop trying to convince me
that I am not my body!

Your invitation “to detach”
is driving me crazy.

If you enjoy hanging out
in the stratosphere
of pure awareness,
suit yourself.

But I’d rather connect
more deeply
with life on earth.

The oceans and trees are begging me
to unlearn centuries of duality
rooted in mental supremacy,
and this rotten idea that my body
is untrustworthy.

Detach from my body?
Sorry, that’s not for me.
I’m too busy uniting all parts of me,
feeling and deepening
my budding connection to all of life,
after centuries of insanity.

Take a look at our world
and see for yourself what happens
when we lose our ability to feel
the impact of our ideas and strategies
on ourselves and other species.
Our disconnected minds have run our bodies
and our planet into the ground.

How will we navigate our way out of this mess
without some bodily awareness?
We can’t tell what’s life-giving or deadening
if we distrust our feelings,
and can’t feel whether what we are doing
is contracting or expanding our energy.

I don’t want to detach from anything.
I’d rather connect with everything.
I’m nudging my mind to notice all I am feeling,
inviting my body to feel all I am thinking.
Bringing mind and body together,
feels like the long lost key to unity.

So, before you lecture me again
with your lofty ideas,
please read the sign on my door.

It says:

Do not disturb!

My mind and my body
are getting to know each other

~ Bali, July 2011

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tuesday night at city hall

This visual came to me during a morning shaking meditation while I was in Haad Tien, Thailand, in January of 2011.

I am walking into Gloucester’s City Hall with a dozen other friends with whom I meditate regularly.  It’s a Tuesday night and the City Council is gathered for its weekly meeting.   The conversation is focused on the city’s budget, and everyone is very tense.  My friends and I dispatch to different parts of the main room. Some of us go to the mezzanine, upstairs.  We sit down quietly and start paying attention to what is happening around us while staying connected to our own energy, feeling the sensations in our bodies.   The City Councilors and assembled community members suddenly fall quiet.  The nine councilors just start staring at us around the room, wondering what is happening.  We are not saying anything, just paying attention to everyone assembled.  We are feeling the moment.  Our state of presence seems to be slowly pulling everyone else into presence as well.   The conversation quiets down and everyone eventually falls silent.  People are finally listening rather than filling the space with opinions and ideas. We can feel people’s minds relaxing, and their hard edges softening.   There is suddenly a new opportunity to access new solutions and possibilities that come from beyond our regular thinking minds.

As I witness the visual unfold, I suddenly understand that when our individual and collective presence reaches a critical threshold, others get organically pulled into that same space.   We don’t have to try to get anyone’s attention.  People are spontaneously pulled into more presence and connectedness with self and others, without even necessarily understanding how or why this is happening.  All we need to do is keep building our capacity for present moment awareness.

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the song of creation

The following visual unfolded in a meditation.  A friend of mine who is a singer was celebrating her birthday and asked me if I could meditate on how she could be of greatest service at this time in her life.  I do not take visuals literally.  I just feel and receive whatever arises (emotionally, mentally, energetically) within me as the visual unfolds.

She is sitting alone in the dark, meditating.   I can hardly see her but I can hear her sing a deep and low sound in a repetitive way.   The sound has a strong rhythm to it, and it possibly isn’t a single note, perhaps two or three, but it is very simple and ‘snake like’, rather than melodic, more like some kind of invocation a shaman might sing while stirring the alchemical cauldron.  It reminds me of some native american chants.   She is totally absorbed in the singing of that sound-song, almost in a trance.  I can feel her awareness deeply drawn within, all the way to the heart of her very being, in that place where all hearts connect.  The sound seems to originate from that point.   She is listening it into existence, more than ‘producing it.’   Her face looks very intense.  This sentence from one of the Radiance Sutras comes to my awareness:

“The ear that is prone to rapt listening, learns to hear the song of creation, first like a hand bell, then subtler like a flute, then subtler still as a string instrument, eventually as the buzz of a bee.  Entering this current of sound, the listening one forgets about the external world and becomes absorbed in internal sound and then absorbed in vastness, like the song of the stars as they shine.”

Out of the darkness a small circle of light appears around her body, first faint, and then increasingly brighter, and wider, like the rings around Saturn.   It seems that the ring is growing with and through sound.   As she keeps on listening and voicing more of the darkness into light, I have this sudden knowing that the darkness she is bathing in is the cosmic womb, not a dark or night-time location somewhere on earth.   I am wondering about the circle that is growing around her, and as I rest my awareness there.  The image of a single ‘cell’ comes to mind, and the word ‘creation.’  I immediately start seeing-sensing that the cells of her body are in internal resonance with the circle that is expanding around her, as if that outer process is actually growing in parallel with something that is happening within every cell of her being.

Now I see a few others join her.  I cannot not see their faces, just hear their voice which they are adding to hers.  I hear them sounding synergistic sounds, and watch the circle of light around her start growing more textured… and now growing exponentially, with the rings rippling far out in all directions.   And I hear this sentence “when two or more are gathered” and these words:

We do not to need to gather many.
Two or three are plenty.
Everything else grows organically.

This friend recently asked how she can of greatest service at this time.    Watching her now, it seems that that she does not need to “make anything happen,” other than notice, receive, voice and feel the song of creation come into existence.   This seems to be her gift: hearing, feeling and sounding what is wanting to come in, alone and with a few others, and then watch how everything grows and spreads exponentially, without efforting.

And then I hear the beginning lines of this poem by Hafiz:

“Sound will some day split you open
Even if your life is now a cage
For a divine seed, the crown of destiny
Is hidden and sown on an ancient fertile plain
You hold the title to.”

The original poem, by Ladinsky, says “Light” (not sound) “will some day split you open,” but I hear the word “sound” instead,  and all of a sudden, it feels as if light and sound are actually the same thing.

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the jazz ensemble of life

This visual came in a meditation I had after reading a friend’s reflections about patterns and music.   Below is what came to me while meditating, as I related to him later on.   His response is further below.

You are lying on your back, in the grass.  All the colors are much brighter than in regular life, as in a cartoon.  The grass is super green and the sky super blue, and the sun’s light is really bright and radiating everywhere.   You are feeling the earth beneath you, enjoying the breeze on your skin, sensing and hearing the aliveness of the world and sounds around you, while tapping your fingers on the ground to the beat of your heart and other surrounding sounds.  Black and white music notes rise out of the right side of your body and dance over it.  Over the other half, words are doing the same, and arranging themselves in different sequences, and then changing again.   Notes and words are dancing and merging in changing rhythms.

The sun is beaming.  Ducks are running around, making funny sounds.   A big bird starts singing from a high branch.   You look like you are in heaven, totally in sync with all the beings and elements around…  part of a giant jazz ensemble, with your heart beat as the bass.   There is incredible lightness and humor streaming out of the whole scene.   It feels a bit like a scene out of Fantasia.  Other people start entering the scene, drawn by the sound of the ‘party.’ They lie down in different parts of the grass, and start tuning in and feeling, listening, seeing… surround sounds and sights as they are listening to the words and sounds rising out of you.  They are being entrained, increasingly deepening their ability to perceive the whole orchestra unfolding around, each slowly turning into a new part of this growing jazz ensemble.   And then the visual zooms out to the whole earth…  I cannot see you or anyone else anymore, but I keep seeing notes and words rise out from every part of the planet, and the earth herself is happily expanding and contracting in rhythms, like a giant heart, fully alive, and healthy.I sat with eyes closed for a while feeling the energetics of this visual unfolding in my awareness, with a growing sense of expansion, spaciousness, joy and connectedness inside me.

His Response

I am moved to tears by the power of the resonance of your visual response to my thoughts.  Just before reading your words, I was thinking about how life, moving through a person, receives and carries an imprint of that person’s energy.  As the next person encounters that expression of life, she processes it however she must, and her own energy is added as life is re-expressed. If the first person encounters this expression, he can compare his perception of the energy as it left him and as it returned. He will process this comparison as he must, and so may learn some things about himself, her, and life, or he may react in a number of other ways, depending on his needs, desires, and aversions.

It occurs to me now that Life may also choose to express afresh during this exchange. In your visual response, I see a very clear analog to experiences I’ve had at a local lake on sunny days (and rainy ones and windy ones, too). It is as if you were there, in my head. Of course, you weren’t, but Life was, and your email is like Life saying “Yes, hello” to me. And I am grateful and joyous for that hello.

I was wondering a lot yesterday what it means to do something useful in a world so full of tempting opportunities to do the useless and the destructive. I wondered, as I have many times, how music and expressions of beauty might be useful or not. It occurred to me that, precisely in a world so full of distractions, over stimulation, and disconnection, musical expressions of peace, love, joy, gratitude, and more generally, Life, though filtered through the musician, can be nourishing encounters of Life that ease the stresses of living, promote healthy being, and point to the direct experience of Life from within. Playing such music with and for other people, and teaching others how to do that, opens channels for the expression of Life. To help someone move from distraction and disconnection to being an open channel of Life is, yes, a way to be useful. The second part of your visual, where other people are drawn into the “party”, speaks to me as a confirmation of this.

I see you just now as an opening from one world to another, Spirit poking through happily, and I have a new appreciation for the word Namaste.

Oh, what beauty there is in this world.



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the riverside circle

A couple of months ago, the following visual came to me while I was meditating.  I saw a number of my friends gather on the 16th floor of the Riverside Complex, a high rise building in Alexandria, Virginia, where one of us lived at the time.  The visual reminded me a bit of a scene out of Harry Potter, because although we were meeting on the 16th floor, one of us arrived through the balcony’s window!  Most of us actually took the elevator, but it felt like we might have opted for the chimney if there had been one!   One by one, we would arrive from different parts of the world into the living room, silently sit in a circle together on the floor, turn our attention inward, and tune into our bodies and energy.

As soon as I saw us sit down and connect, I started feeling a big surge of energy through the whole front of my body, and experienced heat waves in my heart that got stronger as I watched the scene unfold.  My energy was being drawn deeper and deeper inward, and my sense of external (skin) boundaries quickly disappeared.  I felt a sense of deepening connectedness with everyone present, with this palpable sense that our mutual presence kept amplifying what we were each experiencing.   The whole thing felt as real to me as if it were truly happening.  To someone who had been a fly on the wall, we would have looked just like any other meditation group, most of us sitting quietly with our eyes closed.  Yet, this particularly circle felt very different to me than any other collective meditation experience I had been a part of in the past.  And the reason, it seems, is that we were operating out of a very strong shared context: the awareness that we were allowing something new to come into being, that we were feeling new life and possibilities forming within us, individually and collectively, that we were consciously allowing our energies to shift and grow in resonance with each other, and in response to whatever we were noticing and feeling.  We were not just ‘watching our thoughts’ or connecting with our inner sensations.  We were knowing that we were individually and collectively aligning ourselves with a larger force, and supporting its evolution, receiving it in our bodies, not just our personal bodies, but the body of the world.  And somehow that awareness seemed to make a major difference. 

Once in a while, someone would give voice to what they were noticing and then fall back into silence.   Another person would echo, amplify or contrast what has just been shared.  Our energies and voices would start interweaving over time, as we mirrored and amplified each other’s inner experiences, visuals, knowings.  We occasionally would go through long patches of silence that felt energetically thick with lots happening.  Sometimes we would go through really dense patches when many of us would be feeling intense discomfort in our bodies… and at other times we would experience very subtle patches, feeling a lot of spaciousness and pleasure. 

My own body (in real life) was buzzing and vibrating madly all along.  The boundary between physical reality and the visual would keep blurring for me.  They’d both feel equally real.

A few days later, I saw the circle again.  There was more of us than the previous times, and we were pretty crammed in the living room of our friend’s apartment, but it was an amazing feeling to be gathered there together!  Then we all started turning our gaze in the same direction, out of the window, toward the East.  It quickly became clear to me that we were all looking to the horizon where new life was emerging,  and our collective focusing was inviting this new life in.   And there was clearly something powerful happening because all of a sudden neighbors started knocking at the door, wanting in.  And out the window, we could see people flocking from many places into the parking lot, toward the building.  But a point came where no one else could come into the room.   There was just no physical space left for expanding the circle that way.  And that’s when something awesome started happening.  People started understanding that they didn’t actually need to join us in physical space in order to join the “space” we were inhabiting.  They could just join us in with their awareness through the gateway of their body, tuning into whatever drew their attention, wherever they happened to be, knowing they were joining a growing movement of people who are collectively opening to receive more aliveness, through our physical bodies.   So people just started sitting down wherever they happened to be, in the hallways and parking lot of the building, and just started tuning in.   And then slowly, slowly, and beyond anything we could physically see, each of these people would in turn inspire others in their physical proximity to tune in and join in.

It looked like a movement was building, but it never involved asking or telling anyone else to stop what they were doing to meditate.  This was all happening as the organic and spontaneous effect of our feeling and listening more life into being together, as a result of our becoming more and more present, connected and expanded, which naturally entrained other into that embodied space.

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life’s broadcast

This visual came in a meditation back in August of 2011, in Bali

My eyes are closed, but as I direct my attention inward and connect with my felt experience, an image slowly begins to emerge, visually capturing what I am sensing, and inviting me to feel more deeply.  It is a very tall broadcasting tower, much taller than the ones we are accustomed to seeing rise over big cities, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Tokyo’s Sky Tree. The image stays a while, and as I let myself feel it. Energy builds in my body in the form of stronger tingling sensations and felt vibrations. Then my attention expands and zooms out, and I can feel that this tower is broadcasting to the entire planet.  I don’t literally see that. I just know it. I also start sensing the presence of others around the world who are, like me, listening to that broadcast.  I can feel the depth of our attentiveness, by the way my attention gets pulled more strongly and clearly in the most inner part of my being where it feels increasingly connected to everything.  The way my attention is pulled suddenly brings back a generic memory of World War II movies where underground members of the French resistance are gathered around a kitchen table, staring at a transistor, avidly listening to the latest news broadcast by Radio London.  But the other people whose presence I am sensing in this moment are not tuning into an old-fashioned radio transistor, nor are they tuning into a computer or smart phone. They are deeply tuning into their own body, and listening to life’s 24 / 7 broadcast streaming under and amidst the buzz of daily activities.

The “radio show” to which we are listening is not offering information for the mind, nor is it offering entertainment, or expert opinions. It is broadcasting life force and energy, a huge lot of it. And we are listening vibrationally, receiving this energy in our bodies, and feeling nourished by it.  As I’m drinking it in, I’m feeling increasingly connected to these other folks around the world who are also feeling pulled to connect with their felt sense, whether they are meditating quietly, or otherwise engaged in the world. I begin to feel new possibilities emerging through our collective listening, and the difference it is making. The more we let ourselves feel what life is broadcasting, the more life force is being broadcast. Energy is building, and embodying through each of us. And as we fill up with more energy, each of us is turning into a ‘relay’ broadcast station, increasingly radiating life force and energy, and nourishing the people who gravitate in our social orbits, at least those who are receptive enough to feel it. More people begin to tune in directly.  And the more of us join this worldwide network of ‘receivers’, the more energy builds.  And the more it builds, the clearer we feel about how to move forward in a connected way, in partnership with life.  Something new and exciting is emerging through us, something that none of us could allow while focused on external information and answers: life!

This is a different kind of broadcast, one that comes through those who are willing to listen to what Life has to say, and life’s mother tongue is vibrational, though it will also try to reach us in languages we understand more easily: images and words.  It’s teaching us to relate to it in new ways. Some of us are bringing our questions and challenges to the radio host, Life itself, noticing our minds’ desires to receive ‘conceptual answers,’ but opening to getting vibrational answers in the form of energy flooding our bodies as we make  space for what our preconceived answers previously precluded.  And as we build our capacity for receptive listening, our capacity to feel the discomfort of not knowing, life offers us energetic support and strength, and helps us lay the foundation for the possibilities we have been dreaming about to embody here on Earth.

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down the niagara falls

This visual came through a joint meditation with my friend and mentor Dan Emmons, during a skype call between Florida and Bali, in December of 2011, when I was facing a challenging situation in my life, and having a hard time feeling the discomfort I was experiencing in my body.

Dan:  I see you standing at the top of the Niagara Falls.  You are standing in the water, withstanding the rush of the river and having an enormously difficult time trying to hold your position.  It would be easier to just relax and go over the Falls but you fear you might die.  You are determined to see the perspective from the top of the Falls, the perspective of what life looks like from up high.  Now, that you are there, you are trying to see what this perspective is, but you are having to work really hard just to stand up against the rush of the water.   An helicopter comes along, and the pilot throws you a rope and motions for you to grab onto it.   You were getting really tired and you think that you are being rescued so you climb up.  The pilot is very calm and mellow, and says: “I didn’t actually mean for you to come up in the helicopter; I was just trying to help you.  You can stay down there, and just sit on the rope ladder, and enjoy the perspective.  I’ll give you as much time as you need and you can relax.”  You thank him go back down, sit on the ladder, and go for your perspective.  You look at the view and notice many new things that you did not pick up before, including the boats on the lake.   But, you also realize that this perspective is not really what you were hoping for, so you climb back in the helicopter.  The pilot asks: “What is it that you were expecting?”  You answer “I thought that there would be something out there at a distance which I needed to see and learn from.”   And the pilot smiles and says: “Where were you when you first had that idea to see what the perspective would be from up there?” And you answer: “I was taking a tour on the lake and looked at the top and that’s when I had the idea.”   And the pilot says: “Ok, let’s rewind back to that moment when you looked up, and thought you should be somewhere else.”

Me:  I am sitting on the boat at the bottom of the fall looking up, and now I have lost all interest in seeing the view from the top, so I am able to relax into simply ‘receiving’ this view from below, and something huge opens up in my experience as I watch this enormous body of water pouring down and I allow myself to visually drink it in and “receive it” in my body.   I suddenly feel the need to leave the big motor boat and get on a small row boat so I can lie down at the bottom, undisturbed and watch / feel all the water pouring down, in total awe, drinking in every second of it.   I can feel myself wishing to stay there, wanting this moment to never end, but my boat is no longer held in place by an engine, and so it start drifting with the current which is headed toward another fall.  Though I feel some anxiety about it, I don’t feel any draw to resist that motion anymore, so I just go with it.   My little boat tips over the next fall and I fall down, but somehow I don’t die.   I am now aware of my body continuing to flow down the river.   I’m no longer in the boat.  It’s just my body and the water.   I am thinking I should be drowning, but somehow breathing is not an issue.  I feel all this spaciousness around and within me.  My body is merging with the water.   I’m getting more and more fluid.    And then I get over an another fall, and I now start losing my sense of being a body.   I am becoming so fluid  that I am becoming the water itself, joining with the river.   And I’m having the experience of becoming what it was I was trying to grasp with my mind from up high, and what I was first trying to receive from the bottom.   I no longer wish to understand or receive anything.  I’m just experiencing what it’s like to be life flowing freely.   The river starts pouring into the ocean and I feel myself spread and expand with it, becoming the whole ocean, and like a kid who rushes back up the top of the toboggan after sliding down, my awareness gets back to the top of the Fall but it is now merged with the water, not trying to understand or grasp anything, just being this huge power that is life.

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tuning in

First, I direct my attention within, to my own being. Like a sailor scanning the...
article post

not my body?

Would you please stop trying to convince me that I am not my body! Your invitation...
article post

tuesday night at city hall

This visual came to me during a morning shaking meditation while I was in Haad Tien,...
article post

the song of creation

The following visual unfolded in a meditation.  A friend of mine who is a singer was...
article post

the jazz ensemble of life

This visual came in a meditation I had after reading a friend’s reflections about...
article post

the riverside circle

A couple of months ago, the following visual came to me while I was meditating.  I saw a...
article post

life’s broadcast

This visual came in a meditation back in August of 2011, in Bali My eyes are closed, but...
article post

down the niagara falls

This visual came through a joint meditation with my friend and mentor Dan Emmons, during...
article post