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Letter from a Grandma about Meditation to her Grandson

This letter is a communication between Dorothyann Coyne, a Deep Spring Center teacher, and her grandson about meditation.

An email from Dorothyann’s Grandson: Grandma! I loved having brunch with you too. I just finished reading your whole letter. Thanks for putting down in words everything we walked about. I’ll do my best to start following these practices. Some I already do, but there is always room for improvement, and some I really haven’t spent much time with.

Thanks again. Much love! I’ll see you again soon hopefully.

Your grandson 🙂

On Thursday, August 11, 2016, Dorothy Ann Coyne <mickeyda@icloud.com> wrote:

Dearest Alex — Thank you so very much for the lovely brunch we shared the other morning.  I so enjoy spending time with you.  Love anticipating it, love being with you, love remembering it.  Crazy eh?  Guess I simply love you.

You asked me about meditation.  So you hit me right where I truly live and I’m going to type into this email a bit of general instructions that you can look over and maybe they will serve you as you de-stress.

First of all, know that you can quiet the mind, spirit and inner agitation whether “sitting, standing, walking or lying down” to quote the ancient masters.  And there is no special place you have to be.  The old instructions mention leaving town and going to sit under a tree.  There is no doubt that nature gives us the most supportive place, but, not to worry, you can find the inner peace on a train, in a bus, at your desk, walking from here to there, standing at a window, stopping anywhere and just being there.

Sometimes I teach a curious an acronym — BRFWA — doesn’t spell anything but sums up the qualities of this practice.  I learned it in my yoga training at Kripalu.  It stands for breathe, relax, feel, watch and allow.

BREATHE — This is so basic it would seem unnecessary to mention.  But the breath is truly the link in the body/mind loop.    We change our whole autonomic nervous system when we observe and take control of our breath.  We literally move from fight or flight to easy does it.  At any moment, we can stop and take three conscious breaths.  At any time when we have stopped and are trying to unwind, it will be the breath and the clear awareness of the breath in some detail that will settle us down.  So “know if you are taking in a long breath, know if you are taking in a short breath, know if you are letting out a long/short breath” quoting the Buddha directly.  Find the apertures in the breath.  Rest there.  Just let nothing to be happening.  Return to this breath awareness at any moment in life that gets tough.  This can be done at a party with a drink in your hand.

RELAX — As the central experience of meditating mindfully is to simply be able to let the stuff of the mind some and go with no attachment, I am convinced that relaxation is what makes this all happen.  A great time to practice is after a workout.  I use my yoga for this, but I could see stopping after a good run or time in the gym.  At those moments, the body is a bit used up and so willing to be still.  A still body encourages a still mind.  At the very least some stretches, loosening of the shoulders, releasing the jaw, getting comfortable are all strategies that bring us to the optimum place to “sit” which may or may not be in a chair.

FEEL — The body is always in the present moment and  returning to a clear knowing of how the body is will pay dividends.  Some masters advocate a scanning of the body — mentally sweeping one’s awareness from head to feet and back again.  We can let this careful experience of the body help relieve any mental stress that is bugging us.  Along with the  awareness of how it is with us physically is the knowing of what’s going on with our emotions.  Just noticing any anxiety, fear, wanting of things to be different somehow — here is the heart of the practice.

WATCH — OK so we’re just noticing, just watching.  No judgement, comment, no decision making.  Just a strong feeling experience.  I also think that huge doses of kindness to oneself can come into play here.  This is especially true if pain, mental or physical, is present.  And even more especially true if the pain or distress is self inflicted.  And in just observing things as they are we let go of controlling the situation.   In classic instruction this is often called “choiceness awareness.”  We really have no idea what the mind is going to cook up next or what itch or body sensation will surface.  But here we have taken a time-out, however brief or long, to simply be with ourselves.  And we’re paying attention.  This whole business is not asking of us something we do not know how to do.  We can notice.  We can pay attention.  Simple.  Easy even.  But practicing it regularly is rather unusual you could say.

ALLOW — One teacher I’ve learned from says that this whole practice is like being a child again in the back seat of the car.  You are not controlling this experience and really have no say in where it’s going.  I remember times in my parents car very vividly even to this day.  Often I would be pressing my nose against a window in the back seat and just seeing what was going by with no particular energy.  As I have practiced again and again watching my mind bring up thoughts and stories and observed sounds, smells or body sensations around me, I have become stronger and stronger in the ability to allow the world, my life, to unfold as it does — to allow the meditation experience to unfold as it does.  This does not mean that I have become a passive ninny but knowing what’s happening and allowing it without resistance gives me the ability to then work with the moment from a place of peace.  I no longer have to “try” or force events in my life.  And when a truly big moment comes (grandpa’s death) I am right there, not running from it, not wishing it away, but simply present.  From that stance, I can operate with some clarity and effectiveness.

Well, my dearest one, I can only hope that these words are helpful to you.  Your grandfather and I began to learn such things in our early thirties.  So you are ahead of us already asking to know this stuff in your late twenties.  I can only say that this practice so very much contributed to real happiness in both our lives.  And  I know you realize the inner strength, fortitude that he had as he faced the end of his days.  Deep happiness, less struggle and suffering, clear strength — pretty wonderful payoff for a few minutes a day of stopping to relax and breathe.

I wish you well with all this and am right here any time to talk about it again.

Love you so dearly, Grandma

Jan. 4, 2017 Private Session Excerpt

Aaron: I’d like you to try something with me. Please clench your fists, clench your jaw, tighten your body just for a minute, 10 seconds. Feel the contraction. Then release, ahhh… I am certain you can feel the distinction between the contracted and open state.

When we live with a lot of fear, when essentially we have lost touch with our essence so we are more connected with the physical and emotional bodies than we are with the spirit, all the systems start to shut down. The chakras close, the flow of energy closes. Everything becomes contracted and all sense of spaciousness is lost.

The experience is as that of somebody who had walked into a cave, walked a distance in, but when you turn around you can still see the cave opening. There is a sense of safety with that connection to the light.  You know where the light is. You’re 50 yards in. Picture yourself turning around and looking at that very clear doorway. It’s mid-day, no danger of the sun setting and leaving you in darkness. You have the choice. You can stop right there, knowing that the light is there with you. Or walk on!

If you keep walking into the cave, it grows darker and you believe you don’t have a torch. Fear comes. Contraction comes. You walk around a bend so you completely lose sight of the light.  As you go around that bend you no longer can see the big opening and the light. Suddenly you don’t know which way to go. No torch, and you’ve lost touch with the light. What are you going to do? Can you feel the contraction that that brings? This is the frequent human experience, as the human loses touch with the inner torch. Your work as a human is to maintain connection with the light. The inner torch is always there. You are that Light.

If you just sit in the doorway, fully out of the cave, fully in the light, you never can explore the shadows. Part of your commitment as a human is to begin to explore the shadow side, to be able to bring compassion and wisdom rather than fear and hatred to darkness.

You cannot just stay outside of the cave, and you can’t become lost so deep within the cave that there is no longer possibility for learning and growth, only fear and despair. Your meditation practice, your prayer, these practices help you to stay connected to the light and rest more firmly in the light, no matter how deep the darkness. Then you can go as deep as is needed and bring your portion of Light where beings flounder in darkness. Just a smile will do wonders!

Dharma Journal – January 2017

The Year of Light

Aaron channeled by Barbara Brodsky Transcription: January 11, 2017. Monthly Dharma Talk (Not yet reviewed by Barbara and Aaron)

Transcription, video is also closed captioned:

January 11, 2017

The Year of Light

My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron.

When I look out the window, I see light. Radiance everywhere. But some people turn themselves away from the window and they say, “No, the world is dark, Aaron.” We each have a choice whether to recognize the innate light that floods everything or to carry ourselves in a place of darkness.

I would like to name this year, “The Year of Light”. I think I have done that before, but let’s carry through deeper on it this year. What does it mean to recognize that you are Light?

There is a beautiful poem by the Sufi poet, Kabir. I’d like the share the beginning stanzas.

The Guest is inside you, and also inside me.
You know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.
The blue sky stretches out further and further.
The daily sense of failure goes away.
The damage I have done to myself fades.
A million suns come forth with light
When I sit firmly in that world.

We all sit firmly in that world. This is our innate place of being. We are light. What prevents us from recognizing that light? What keeps us lost in the darkness? Let’s explore that a bit together, but with a reminder that you always have a choice to be the light that you are or to disclaim that light and say, “No, I am darkness, I am limited.”

The world surrounds us with catalyst, sometimes challenging; words and actions that bring forth pain, fear, and anger, that lead you to feelings of limitation and helplessness. There is so much habit energy in being helpless and small. Why are you afraid to be big? I am not suggesting that you allow the negativity in you to be big, but that you can allow the love within you to be big. What if it bursts forth and shines everywhere?

So much of this is simply habit, the habit to remain dim and small. For the spiritual seeker who aspires to live life with love and non-harm, I think the habitual pattern to stay small is an outgrowth of discomfort with negative emotions that you recognize have not yet been fully resolved.

This one pushes you. Anger arises, wanting to lash out at the other person. Then, “Oh no, I can’t do that,” and you diminish yourself and your energy. The pattern is unconscious. What if, when you feel that push and you feel that (gesture), want to lash out, you just remind yourself, “This not my highest intention. I am light. I am love.” But remember also that light and love are powerful. This is the ground of compassion.

So you have that push, anger, and then, “No, I will not respond from the place of anger.” And saying to the other, not anger (hits screen), but, “No, you may not speak to me that way. No.” Let your light shine forth, and say this compassionately, yet very powerful “No.” I can’t guarantee you that the other will stop what he or she is doing, but you have not contributed any more negativity to the situation, only kindness.

If the other is greeted with that “No” often enough, eventually something will shift in him or her. How many times can somebody push you, be met with, “No,” push you again so you fall over on the ground, and you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, walk back up to them and say, “No.”? They may punch you, they may try to beat you up, because they’re so afraid of the power that you wield when you say, “No.”

But something else can happen, and it’s so beautiful. Eventually that “No” brings forth a remembrance of their own. At some point they will catch your eye, and your radiance will draw forth their own radiance, and something in them will reverberate with your light. They will begin, just begin— the “seed inside the sprout.” They will remember, “Oh, I am also light.” It may not be a conscious thought, but the anger in them will diminish a bit. They’ll start to look away.

Barbara tells a beautiful story. This is probably 1960 or ’61, somewhere in the Deep South with a group of others, integrating a small southern restaurant. They sat in the restaurant meditating. Everybody had gone out except the manager. An angry crowd was outside. They knew that people had been badly beaten trying to integrate this restaurant in previous weeks, so they knew there was real danger. They were prepared to accept that danger because of the strong intention to bring light and love to the situation.

They meditated, the four of them, for half an hour. All seemed to be ready at once. Barbara could hear then, she could hear the anger outside. She knew there would be people with rotten fruit and wooden clubs and stones.

The four of them came to the door. She was so filled with compassion for these people— not pity, not anger; compassion. These were people deeply in pain. Their beliefs and way of life were being threatened. But the light in her was willing to say no to this. The power of satyagraha, soul force. Gandhi coined that term, soul force.

So they walked to the door. And one of her most powerful memories is coming out and looking at people in the eye, seeing the anger, the fear in their faces, and being able to greet it— no words, no “No,” just looking in the eyes of one person after another. And they could not meet her gaze. Eyes dropped. The weapons in their hand dropped. It wasn’t shame that she was drawing forth, it was a memory that they also were light.

She was not shaming them; their own recognition of who they were caused them to feel some shame about the person they had become. So they dropped the weapons, they stepped back, and the four people walked through to the waiting car and drove away. She remembers this as one of the most powerful memories of her life, the one that really taught her the power of inner light and love. You are that.

Many of you have expressed concern, with the coming inauguration, of what the next years will bring with a leadership that seems more inclined to give voice to negative thought and hostility toward others. I cannot say I’m delighted that this man will be your president, but I think it’s perfect, because he is a mirror for you. He is the angry crowd gathered outside and you are the person walking out the door, and able to walk out, not with hostility and anger in yourself, but with full confidence both of the light within you and the light within him. I do not imagine that this man is going to easily be transformed to know his inner light, but that could happen.

But it’s not about the president-elect, it’s about all of the people in your society who are feeling so much fear and pain and anger, like the crowd drawn outside that restaurant, that they are looking for somebody strong to fix the fear and anger that they feel in situations that elicit it. These are the people to whom your light can speak. But it cannot speak to them until you uncover it in yourselves and let it shine forth.

This light is your essence, you cannot lose it, although you have temporarily lost track of it a bit. What does it mean to keep yourself small? What if you are that light? What if you are all-powerful? And yes, you have not yet resolved your negative emotions. It means that you must be increasingly responsible to any negativity in yourself, able to experience that negativity as arising thought, arising energy, and simply hold space for it until it resolves. You can practice with this on a daily basis. The itch, wanting to scratch— can you just hold space for it? The angry words that somebody said to you— I’m not saying don’t respond, but don’t respond until you hold space and it is not anger and ego responding but love. So each of you has the ability to go deeper and deeper into the essence of love and light within you. You cannot lose it, it is your essence. The darker it gets, the more important to remember your light.

Imagine us entering a cave through a big doorway. The sun is behind us shining light deep into the cave so we easily walk in. You’ve been told there is some cherished treasure— now I’m not speaking of gold here but something really important, something beautiful, that you will find deeper within the cave. So we walk in together. 25 yards, it’s still lit up; 50 yards, 75 yards— it’s beginning to get dark. But you can still turn around and look over your shoulder and see the sun shining through the doorway. So no matter where you are in the cave, you can always turn around and find the doorway. That’s step one.

Eventually, in every life, the cave turns and you lose sight of the doorway. Here we are at that space where the cave turns a corner. Pause here. I am light, I am love. We are light. We are love. Can you feel it? We are light. We are love. We will not be diminished.

Now join hands and let us walk around the corner. Notice that moment of fear, suddenly pitch black and you don’t know which way the cave mouth was. You knew you turned right, but could you turn the correct degree of right to go back around the corner and out? Fear. Ahhh…breathing in, I am aware of the fear, breathing out, I hold space for the fear. Opening, opening… feel the increasing spaciousness, and literally feel the light that you are shining forth. All of you, holding hands, creating a circle of light. You can never lose that light, it’s your essence. Within that light there is enough to retrieve perhaps a lost child in the cave that’s fallen to the floor unconscious. There he is. You go in and pick him up. You lift him up, and your light is enough to turn you back around and walk around the curve, and there is the sunlight again. Emerging into the sunlight.

You really have to be in the darkness to know the power of your light. When you’re in the sunlight, it’s easy, you rely on the external light. But when you are in the darkness in a place of grief, of fear, of confusion, your inner light is vital. When I call this the “Year of Light”, what I am asking, inviting, really, is each of you, especially when it becomes dark, to take the time to remember: I am light, I am love. And that light can never be diminished because it is that light of the Guest within me and you, the Divine within me and you. It can never be lost. When I speak from that light, I transform myself, those around me, and the world.

This is the power you have, in these somewhat shaky times in the world, not knowing what the future will bring in your country. Aware of the increasing violence throughout the world, with the seeming increasing hatred in the world. I invite you to find the source of your power, which is not yours, but the power, of love. And remember that you are undefeatable when you rest in that power. But it is never a power that you can use for your own personal gain or to harm others. It is only the power that all beings have that speaks from the loving heart. And it’s such a joy to rest in that space. …”A million suns come forth with light when I rest firmly in that world.” This is your birthright. Enjoy it and use it well.

Thank you.

 

Sat., Jan. 21 – Special Event – Support Washington D.C. women’s march

A time of meditation, sacred sound,
inspirational words and silence
At this time of the inauguration of a new president
we invite all people to come together
holding space and co-creating our future in love.
Entering the Sacred Heart
Deepening the Knowing of Love
led by
Norma Gentile – Sound Shaman
Barbara Brodsky – Herself and Channeling Spirit
Haju Sunim – Buddhist Priest
Saturday, January 21
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Donations Welcome at Door
Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth
704 Airport Blvd., Ann Arbor
This event is meant to provide a spiritual energy container for the Women’s March happening concurrently in Washington D.C. on this day.
While it is vital to have people physically present in the D.C. March, there are many more people whose life circumstances make physical attendance impractical.

We hope such a gathering, at the same time as other such gatherings around the country, can help create an energetic container in which we may deepen our capacity to remember the transformational power of love.

Co-Sponsored by:
Deep Spring Center for Spiritual Inquiry
HealingChants.com
Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth

Links:
http://www.interfaithspirit.org  (Interfaith – location)
http://www.deepspring.org  (Barbara’s link)
http://www.healingchants.com  (Norma’s link)
http://zenbuddhisttemple.org/haju.html  (Haju link)