August 2014 Features
Poetry of the Present Moment, Part 2
The present moment has soft edges.
It can’t be rigidly defined.
It is not measured as a second or even a millisecond.
It can’t be measured.
You can’t grasp it or hold on to it.
It is always passing by and yet it is always with you.
Photo of the Month: Look Up
You never know what you might see when you look up; you might find yourself gazing at something surprising, such as a spectacular ceiling.
Book Review: True Refuge
Tara Brach’s most recent book, True Refuge, is organized around the three classic gateways to freedom in Buddhism: truth of the present moment, love and awareness. Truth, she writes, “can only be discovered in the aliveness of this moment.” Regarding love, she observes that it “can only be experienced in this very heart, here and now.” And about awareness, she notes that it “can only be realized as we discover the space and wakefulness of our own mind.”
Brach’s previous book was the best seller, Radical Acceptance. She is a meditation teacher and clinical psychologist who is based in the Washington, D.C., area. She is also someone who has dealt with chronic pain for years. In her latest book, which is subtitled Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart, she shares personal stories from her own life that show how the three gateways to freedom have provided her with refuge in difficult times. In addition, she gives examples of how some of her clients have found sanctuary through these gateways.
Brach discusses recent scientific findings about the brain and the mind in True Refuge. She writes, “Regular meditation practice creates new pathways in our mind, ones that carry us home to the clarity, openness, and ease of presence.” She defines “presence” as “directly contacting our real, moment-to-moment experience.” As in Radical Acceptance, in this book Brach includes numerous guided reflections and meditations. The reflections and meditations wisely and compassionately explore various topics, such as forgiveness and lovingkindness.
This fascinating book culminates in a final chapter called, “A Heart That Is Ready for Anything.” In that chapter, Tara Brach assures us, “We don’t need to get somewhere or change ourselves—our true refuge is what we are.” Her book on finding peace and freedom in one’s own heart is an excellent addition to one’s collection of books of meditative readings. It’s the kind of book that one can gladly re-visit again and again.
4 Things It's Too Hot To Do
On some days in August, it’s just too hot to do certain things. For example:
1) Exercising outdoors in the middle of the day. It’s so much nicer to be able to go out for a walk or run in the morning or evening.
2) Turning on the oven. When the temperature soars above 90, it’s not the time for roasting or baking. It is the time for salads of all sorts; foods quickly cooked on a grill or stovetop; watermelon, cherries and other ripe fruits.
3) Organizing a basement or attic or storage closet. Spring and fall really are the best times for such activities!
4) Reading books that require intense concentration. Hot days are made for breezy books—“beach reads” that you can easily dip in and out of. Magazines are also great to read on a hot day, especially magazines that are fun to page through.
Word of the Month: Humility
There seems at times to be confusion about what humility is. It’s not a synonym for humiliation, even though the words sound similar. Simply put, humility is the quality of being humble. To me this means that you see how you and your efforts fit into the big picture. You appreciate how you are part of something much bigger than yourself. And you appreciate how others have played a role in every success you have had. Friends, relatives, teachers, co-workers, customers and other people can help to make possible the success of an individual or organization.
You are also experiencing humility when you realize that inspiration and creativity come to you from a mysterious source, whatever you call that source. Some use terms such as “God, “Source of Being,” “Ground of Being,” “Creator” and such; and for some, that source is indescribable, ineffable, beyond words. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes that artists are humble when “alone with the work.” He says, “They know that they are not the source of the creations they bring into being.”
In essence, when you are humble about your accomplishments or talents, you are letting your work speak for itself. In such a case, you can exude a quiet confidence and you can make an effort to ensure that others get the credit that they deserve. Perhaps a good example of humility is when someone receives a prize such as an Academy Award and sincerely wants to thank everyone who helped to make that honor possible. It’s no wonder that nominees often show up at such events with a list of those to thank, “just in case.” Although it might seem arrogant to be prepared in that way, it might actually be an act of humility, if the intent is to be sure that everyone who deserves credit is thanked!