Friday, June 17, 2011

Tonglen for the desert

When the smoke from the AZ wildfires came, this is what it looked like outside my door.  It smelled like the forest was on fire, and it was hard to even step outside to snap this photo.  That ridge is less than a mile away even though the perspective of this photo makes it look much farther away. 

Montezuma's Ridge June 6
We've had several days of clear skies again.  The wind pattern has taken the smoke to other areas.  I feel very sad and worried about the fires in Arizona.   It isn't just Arizona though.  I worry for all of the southwest.   My own state of New Mexico has had numerous fires this season.  I try not to be too anxious about where I live..........but I am anxious.  I feel dry and brittle.    I can feel the stress from all the plants.  I make sure to get water outside each morning into a low birdbath.  I saw a rabbit drinking from it yesterday evening.    That was joy for my heart to witness.   

I did not see the wildflowers much this year.  A few struggled to bloom.  The cactus is fairing better, but their blooms do not last long.  This little gem appeared one day.  I happened to catch it when I was outside giving other drought tolerant plants some supplemental water.  
Cactus bloom under pinon tree June 2011

My meditation has begun to include some tonglen. I breathe in dry brittle and breathe out moist soft.

I breathe in gratitude for exactly the way it is and I breathe out gratitude for exactly the way it will eventually change.  Each moment always changing.   What remains beyond that?

It is counter intuitive.  I don't like breathing in the dry brittle and I want to resist and bolt from my cushion.  Yet, I stay.  I return again to the practice of breathing in the dry brittle smokey fear and breathing out the moist soft clear gentleness.   This practice opens me to catch a glimpse of greater wisdom.  It calms my anxiety. 

It opens my ability to receive what is here now and beyond what it always changing.  It is like the sweetness of catching a glimpse of cactus in bloom or the happy relief of a rabbit quenching it's thirst.  It is like sending down my taproot to drink from THAT which is ever present and beyond. 

That glimpse doesn't last.   Nothing lasts.   Living is inherantly uncertain and groundless, and my anxiety comes again.  My mind rattles on to other worries.     So, I  return again to my meditation cushion each day- practicing tonglen for the desert.

Creative blessings to all who stop by.....


  1. I really like this, Kara--it makes me feel a little more peaceful, and a little more happy. It falls under the category of the uncontrollable--the horrible fires. Personally, there's not a great deal either of us can do--at least, not in an obvious, action-oriented way. But it IS possible to be less obvious, to go inside, to calm ourselves, to feel the wonderful goodness that is...and perhaps in doing so, we are indeed able to impact the world around us.

    I'm feeling such love for you and your blog...

  2. I just learned about the practice 'tonglen' recently and find your post touchingly resonant. So much of what I do in 'writing the labyrinth' as a meditative practice is similar in that I begin with 'what is' and do what I can to relax into the moment and find peace within around whatever is happening.

    Currently a dear friend's husband has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and the prognosis is devastating to all concerned. I'm doing what I can to help out and offer support to them both, but it's challenging to remain calm or find the 'blessing' in these circumstances. Even so, I am reminded that some of the most difficult times in my life did bring about shifts of a beneficial kind ... so as I prayerfully move through each day bringing thoughts of light, love, and peace to the situation ... releasing the need to control or predict the outcome, I'm doing the best I can and that has to be good enough.

    Like Karen, I'm feeling lots of love for you and your blog. Maybe I'll write something on my own since it's been more than a month since my last post.
    Hugs and blessings,