Mindfulness and Choice.

I don’t think of life as a sum of choices. I think of outcomes as a result of each choice. I’m not sure that so called “choices” would have been as wise as what actually happened. We fool ourselves to think that we are making big choices that are going to direct our lives. What’s actually happening is that in every moment small, intimate choices present themselves, depending on conditions that previously arose. And appropriate responses can happen if we’re present. Those appropriate responses come together to be part of a kaleidoscopic pattern that can later on appear to be a huge choice that we made. Actually, the pattern is always changing, and if we look at it with spaciousness, it’s beautiful.

-Gina Sharpe

-Gina Sharpe in “The Beautiful Mind,” an interview by Parabola editor Tracy Cochran, from our Winter 2010 issue, “Beauty.” Purchase the full issue here: http://bitly.com/1AALaS7

Slowing Down and the Malleable Nature of Time.

When the gaze of African elders fell on a turbulent distance, they rallied their people by urging them to slow down. I have often quoted them in my talks by saying, ‘the times are urgent, let us slow down’. It is perhaps crucial to note that ‘slowing down’ isn’t so much a function of speed, as it is a function of awareness. The point with ‘slowing down’ (and why this is important in our times) is taking the less obvious path – and not merely about reducing how fast we do the things we do (though this is often implied). Slowing down invites us into a keen awareness of alliances, of affinities and agencies that press so close to us that it might be said that we share the same skin. Slowing down is, more importantly, a repudiation of the idea that ‘we’ have agency – or that anyone is invested with agency, will or foresight. It is a worrying of the boundaries of ‘we’ – a stretching of what it means. It is the acknowledgement that agency is always an entanglement with forces beyond our wildest reckoning, and it is when we divest ourselves of the hubris of sole intentionality that we access ‘resources’ stronger than volition, nobler than ideology, and finer than outcomes.

–Bayo Akomolafe

“People could fly.”

There was a time in Africa the people could fly. Mauma told me this one night when I was ten years old. She said, “Handful; your granny-mauma saw it for herself. She say they flew over trees and clouds. She say they flew like blackbirds. When we came here, we left the magic behind.”

— Sue Monk Kidd, first paragraph of The Invention of Wings

“The land is an old friend.”

Being an Indian means being able to understand and live with this world in a very special way. It means living with the land, with the animals, with the birds and fish as though they were your brothers and sisters.It means saying the land is an old friend and an old friend your father knew, your people have always known… To the Indian People our land is really our life.

~ Richard Nerysoo, Inuit

Hurrying and mindfulness.

About seven years ago, I  had a “wake up” call. I was entering a retreat at a place with a high concentration of Conscious energy. I was dragging a huge suitcase up a long stretch of stairs. A man at the bottom told me that he would help me but he had a bad back. He also told me I was hurrying.

“Not really, ” I answered. “My problem is that I brought more stuff along than I can handle.” (I also thought to myself, “If you won’t help me, at least don’t criticize me.”)

I soon found out that I was in denial. And that what I took as criticism (and it may have been) was a huge event in my life.

That simple message about hurrying was repeated to me throughout the retreat in various ways. And the awareness of hurrying  has become a touchstone for my mindfulness practice all these years. When I catch myself hurrying, it’s my “wake up” call.

Obviously, I did have to admit that I was hurrying, and that I do hurry.

What hurrying is NOT: it is not the same as moving quickly. We can move quickly and not be hurrying and we can move relatively slowly and be hurrying. It’s the state of mind.

I think of hurrying as a racing mind, a mind composed of thoughts tumbling over themselves, a mind oriented in the future and the need to get there. There is a sense of dissatisfaction in not being there, which can become agitation, then frenzy,  and, in its extreme form, panic.

The trouble is that when we are hurrying to get there, we are not here.

Mindfulness is the antidote to hurrying. Mindfulness makes a clearing for being present in this very moment. Often, slow movement, like walking meditation, does help us to become more present. Pausing and taking a mindful breath is also a way to come back to ourselves right here, right now.

It’s actually very simple to become mindful. There are a few practices we can do to help us. What is simple can be difficult, though. As my mom has always said, “Practice makes perfect.” If we long to be awake and aware, more free from judgment and unconscious programming– if we want to be more fully alive— we can. And practice does make perfect.

— Pam



The Inka Medicine Wheel journey.

New moon fire (1.20.15, Anchorage, Ak)
New moon fire (1.20.15, Anchorage, Ak)

The photo is of a sacred fire done after we completed the Inka Medicine Wheel training.  Below is a description from our teacher of the first session (there are four sessions in one year as part of the Four Winds Society training program).

I find that this work is compatible with any other path one might be pursuing; it has put me on a whole new footing upon our Mother Earth. I continue to grow in this relationship that deeply feeds my soul.

The medicine wheel journey begins with the South session. It is a three-day group training intensive which initiates the process of healing and activation of an individual’s energy field, by working with the gentle healing energies of Mother Earth. We learn the basics of shedding attachment to the past by examining our perceptions. Working at the level of our core energy field, we learn how to release stories and scripts that program us for repeated failure and suffering. During this session, a participant starts his or her personal medicine bundle, called a mesa, which receives the Mesa Blessing rites in ceremony.

— Tomas Bostrum

The miracle of mindfulness– some thoughts.

The common condition is that we all have these audiotapes playing in our heads that run according to certain themes that we have identified with. Who knows all the reasons? These themes were programmed into us growing up… and/or they kind of fit the way our systems are wired. We may have chosen some of them from our predilections. However we got them, they run on their own endlessly. They provide the lenses through which we see ourselves, others, the world. They serve up to us what we consider to be “reality.” What we have, however, is only a limited version of reality– no matter how sophisticated the tapes might be.

Who would not agree that surely the world is wider than how we see it at this particular moment?

Which is one reason why it’s so important to listen to others’ views that will surely differ somewhat than our own– in varying degrees.

But let’s take it farther. How about if there was a way to get to the very bottom of things? What if we could find out what lies beyond the endless tapes? Might it have some resemblance to the experience of a young child, who sees and feels the world with wide-eyed wonder? Is it possible to ratchet back to something like that state of being?

That’s where mindfulness practice comes in. The great thing about it is, you don’t have to believe in it. You just have to have enough curiosity and desire to try it for a certain length of time.

If you wanted to learn to play an instrument, say, the fiddle, you wouldn’t expect it to yield sublime sounds the third time you picked it up. Mindfulness practice is similar; and while not all of us will become master fiddlers, we can become mindfulness masters if we practice with dedication and a sense of longing for something more.

That something more has been spoken of by the writers of scriptures, poets, saints, and also by artists, musicians, scientists, and so-called “ordinary” people. By reading/listening to  what they have said, we may begin to resonate with a possible way of being that just might be real and attainable for anyone.

Mindfulness practice is simple (although it may not be easy). Each person will have a unique path to carve.  The fewer mental barriers we have, the more readily the fruit will be experienced. Children respond, on the whole, very quickly to it.

If we wish for inner peace and happiness, if we wish for peace and harmony and an end to suffering in the world, then this is something to take seriously. And this seriousness will yield its seeming opposites– freedom, joy, and belly laughs.

Those are my thoughts for today on mindfulness practice.

— Pam




The Wonder of being here in a body.

It is a strange and wonderful fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you. It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here. Rilke said, ‘Being here is so much,’ and it is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed. We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free.

– John O’Donohue