Hummingbird

Hummingbird                                                                                                  

Every time I tell this story it takes on a different form.

The non-human land and air creatures of the world were alarmed and frightened by the world being on fire.  Each species and form sent a representative to gather in a secluded valley visited by rain, with a river running into the ocean.  This location was chosen so that the ocean and river creatures could also be represented.  At the gathering of the non-humans there was a huge cacophony of sound, laments, blaming, cries of anguish that the world was coming to an end – and much desperation.  Beyond this verdant valley the world was on fire. Then all the creatures gradually grew quiet and lapsed into silence as they observed Hummingbird.  Hummingbird flew to the river and took a drop of water in her beak. He flew to the fire and dropped it on the flames.  Back to the water, picking up a drop of water, flying to the fire and dropping it.  On she went, relentless and unstoppable – flying to the river for a drop of water then flying to the fire and dropping it on the flames.  All the creatures were astounded.  Finally Bear shouted “Hummingbird, what do you think you are doing?”  Hummingbird flew to the river for another drop of water and dropped it onto the flames.  As she flew back to the river, he hovered for a moment in front of Bear and said – “The Best I Can.”

What is the best that you can do dear reader?

What is the best that I can do?

What is the best that our political and corporate leaders can do?

For the latter to emerge requires that we hold our leaders to account, and citizen activism on an unprecedented scale is necessary for that.  This is essential for the younger generation just coming into maturity and responsibility.  My generation has not left a healthy and viable planetary eco-niche for them to live in.  I offer a deep and humble apology to them for that neglect.  I ask of my generation of environmentalists, activist and organizers that they transfer their skills and knowledge to the younger generation.  To be mentors for the generation that has to do the heavy lifting to put things right on planet earth.  I will not be around to see the changes.  Yet I do posses a modicum of confidence. 

When I look at young people, I see beyond the ipods, electronic gadgetry and attitude to the deep intelligence that yearns for something better.  I love their in-your-face attitude, as that is the energy of determination that will drive them to put things into balance on Gaia.  They are not caught so readily by the identities and trade-offs that my generation is so good at entertaining.  They are breaking down the barriers of discrimination, storming the barricades of separation.  I have only one thing to ask of them.  That they slow down for a moment and hold out their hand.  For as long as I have a spark in this mind and a

breath in this  body – Take my hand for I am going with you!

Ian Prattis is a Zen teacher and author www.ianprattis.com

Healing The Inner Child

Healing the Inner Child                                                                         

The Territory of Suffering

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjJJTuXjrNk

I turn to my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (Reconciliation: 2010: 64) to open this essay on Healing the Inner Child.

“Dealing with suffering is like handling a poisonous snake. We have to learn about the snake, and we ourselves have to grow stronger and more stable in order to handle it without hurting ourselves. At the end of this process, we will be ready to confront the snake. If we never confront it, one day it will surprise us and we will die of a snake bite. The pain we carry in the deep levels of our consciousness is similar. When it grows big and confronts us, there’s nothing we can do if we haven’t practiced becoming strong and stable in mindfulness. We should only invite our suffering up when we’re ready. Then, when it comes we can handle it. To transform our suffering, we don’t struggle with it or try to get rid of it. We simply bathe it in the light of our mindfulness.”

 First we have to develop and nurture our mindfulness, which means waking up to the reality of our suffering that we would rather avoid. There are clear warning signals if we choose to pay attention. We get caught in our dramas and find ourselves telling and retelling our stories to whomever will listen. We also court our suffering and keep it alive. We often engage in a competitive aspect – my suffering is bigger than yours. The courtship of suffering can be an ugly romance for we enter into a co-dependent relationship, which has to be called by its true name – Addiction. Physiologically and emotionally we become so tightly tied into our suffering that we cannot be without it even though it is destroying our well being. We grasp at brief insights that “Yes – this is suffering” – but deal only with surface appearances. Yet the surface exposure has a long history of gathering momentum and energy until it actually surfaces. The small snake has become a monster. The addiction to suffering is now embedded in our mental state. We respond to any glimpse of suffering with such destructive emotion that we reinforce the causes and conditions that created the suffering in the first place. And so we continue shooting ourselves in the foot, torpedoing our lives – over and over again.

Our suffering is caused by abuse – emotional, physical and sexual – and it becomes an organizing template in our mind. We then create an abusive relationship with that template’s qualities – addiction; fear; co-dependency. To stop the cycle of harm we need an OMG moment.  The insight that: OH MY GOD THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING ALL MY LIFE. HOW DO I STOP IT? That insight has to arrive in the mind before we can apply ourselves to developing mindfulness as an antidote to the abusive relationship established with our suffering. It is an awesome realization to penetrate the darkness and realize that the abuse you have suffered has created an abusive relationship with yourself. Mindfulness practice can bring the abusive relationship to a halt. This is the required OMG moment that propels you to get to work. To go backwards from the surface and investigate the causes and conditions that placed you in such suffering. And so we learn the practices, tools and concentrations that support this journey of understanding suffering and taking care of it. We break the cycle through re-training and mindfulness practice. We equip ourselves for a journey to be well that requires our determination to practice mindfulness daily and ensure that we take refuge in wise support.

The Wounded Inner Child

Emotional, physical and sexual abuse during childhood creates a lost, frightened and frozen child within us.  If we are unable to reach this lost and wounded child then we may never heal ourselves.  We prefer not to remember the sufferings of childhood, so we bury them and hide.  We run away from seeing deeply into the causes of our suffering.  Whenever the memories arise, however fleetingly, we think we cannot handle them and deflect them into the deepest realms of our unconsciousness mind. This results in the wounded child not being seen for a long time simply because we are terrified of further suffering. Yet we have to find a way to reach the hurt child and make her safe. This means we have to get past the fear and address the suffering, realizing that it is suffering which provides the way through to awakening.

Although we may now be adult, there is also a little boy in us, a little girl in us, who is so afraid and suffers deeply, no matter what kind of happy pretend face we present to life.  This suffering child within our adult frame colors everything we do, generating our fears, insecurities and self loathing, wounding us in our relationships and life.  That wounded child is you, is me, and we must extend a different energy to him so that the energy of childhood suffering can be understood, defused and transformed. Mindfulness is the way through to the inner child. We have to embrace him, embrace her exactly where they are caught by the past – in fear and with anger at being neglected for so long. Moreover we have to be very skillful.

This means touching the seeds of childhood suffering from an adult state of being mindful and aware, knowing that we must make it safe for that child to come out from hiding behind the closed doors of suffering and pain.  It is we as adults who must no longer run away.  We must have the courage and awareness to bring healing to our hurt inner child and thereby produce a transformation for ourselves.  The steps we take are not only to heal ourselves, we somehow connect to all wounded children – those in our ancestors and descendants and elsewhere in the world.  For once we cultivate the seeds of mindful healing in ourselves, the energy of these seeds continues on into all that we interconnect with. A quantum leap from our cellular memories to everyone else’s throughout time and space. With awareness we take our inner child into our daily life, on picnics, walks, sitting at the dining room table and doing the dishes together. Patiently realizing that we are on a splendid adventure to bring the cycle of suffering to a close, for it may have persisted over generations. Thus we are healing and transforming generations of ingrained patterns transmitted from our ancestors and continued through us to our descendants. Such patterns build up like corrosive rust through time and amplify the fears and suffering of the wounded inner child.

Thich Nhat Hanh addressed the issue of child abuse in a Question and Answer session held in the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village, France on the 17th October 1998.  Very gently he spoke about the ignorance and pain of the abuser as well as that of the abused, and stated clearly that understanding was the basis of recovery.  Not blaming or feeling guilt and shame, but seeing deeply and understanding.  First of all to understand that the person abusing must have lived under ignorant and deprived conditions without support, guidance or a wise teacher.  So much so that the power of ignorance was stronger than the person, and thus they were driven to do wrong things.  If the person abused can begin to understand just a little bit of that, then their anger, shame and outrage can transform into a droplet of compassion and through mindfulness practice their suffering can diminish. When forgiveness and understanding are there, suffering decreases.  The second step he suggested was to recommend that the person abused practice mindfulness, to transform herself into a Bodhisattva and engender the compassion to help and be of service to all children who need protection.  By merit of understanding the experience and recovery from abuse, such a person can practice and use their talents to promote measures to protect children.  This helps to eradicate the ignorance that generates abuse.

There are many techniques and methodologies of therapy that address issues of the inner wounded child.  The first one I am going to describe is simple and anyone can do it.  It is a first step and I recommend that it be practiced under the guidance of a therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher.  You are going to start a diary or log book for you and the inner child to write to one another.  The adult you will write using the hand that you normally write with.  You begin by saying “hello” to Little John, to Little Allison.  Then go on to say how sorry you are for having been away and neglectful; that you are grown up now and strong, and that you are going to do everything to make it safe for Little John, for Little Allison.  They will be safe, loved and cherished.  Write in your own words along these lines.

Then with your other hand, the one you do not write with, allow the inner child to express herself.  Do not edit.  Just write down whatever comes out.  It may well be angry, blaming and abusive words that come out, and it is your job not to be shocked or defensive but to provide constant re-assurance, love and guidance.  You bring to this communication with the wounded inner child all the qualities of love, compassion and wisdom you can muster.  These are the seeds of mindfulness you consciously bring to support the wounded child inside you.  The energy of these seeds works on the energy of the traumatized inner child to reduce his pain and suffering.  Talk to him through writing in this way – with total love and acute mindfulness. Then read your diary entries out loud – placing yourself in your adult shoes and then in your inner child’s shoes. This simple act of reading out loud is a way for both of you to be heard. On a daily basis register with how deeply your understanding and love is getting through to the wounded child, for she is listening carefully to every word and knows that you are now listening to her. You draw closer – the adult and the inner child – as you bring awareness, love and healing to the suffering and pain of the child.

Details of trauma may be revealed that you did not know about, which is why you need the help and guidance of a trusted therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher.  This is to support you being a wise and loving parent to your wounded child.  And with time you will notice shifts and changes in patterns of expression as the child becomes trusting and starts to grow, eventually merging fully with you as an adult.  (You also learn to write very well with your other hand!)  In your letters tell your inner child about yourself and your life, take him on outings, treats and give to that child all the care, attention and love you feel you did not receive when you were a little boy, a little girl.  The suffering will diminish and you will experience such a transformation, for you discover that your relationships with co-workers, friends and family start to change, and your fears of the past and anxieties about the future do not have the same driving force.  When you notice things like this tell your inner child: “Thank you for being with me.  That makes me so happy.”   The experience of being with the inner child in the healing journey is a stimulus for this kind of happiness.  There are times you may cry, or feel total joy and also suffer despair, which is why guidance and support is necessary on this beginning journey of reclaiming yourself.  You need that wise spiritual friend and teacher to keep you steady and mindful.  I know, for I went through it.  I am happy to say that it worked for me, as I experienced the painfully slow establishment of trust, then the exhilarating joy of safety and integration, until finally my inner child was the adult me, integrated with a freshness and vitality that I continually treasure.  Ultimately there is only one pair of shoes!

To support this journey there are other practices and meditations that are valuable for the steady process of healing. We have brought mindfulness, concentration and insight to our inner child and constantly enveloped him in the refreshing energy of transformation. We have worked diligently to nurture seeds of happiness, joy and safety in the consciousness of the inner child – the same seeds that are also in us, our ancestors and descendants. When despair and fear arise from the child we have the presence of mind to listen deeply and surround the fear with the stronger energy field of mindfulness. This is a deep and beautiful process because we are no longer running away or hiding from afflictions that have rendered us dysfunctional. Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Reconciliation tells us: “The capacity to be aware – that is, to be a human being who is mindful – is what will save us” (2010: 114).

Buddhist teachings contain a multitude of tools, concentrations and practices that can nurture this process. Such as The Five Remembrances, Five Year Old Child Meditation, Sutra on Mindful Breathing, Deep Relaxation, Touching The Earth and Removing The Object to mention only a few. In Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s practice center in France, he has provided a much loved practice gatha for the meditation community, which begins with “I have arrived, I am home.”  This is used in walking and other meditations as an instrument to concentrate on breath and be present.  In this way the fears and traumas of the past and anxieties about the future do not crowd in and overwhelm the mind.  The gatha with walking meditation, connected to in-breath and out-breath, provides an essential tool to take care of the many mental formations that flood our waking consciousness with fear, pain and suffering.  With daily diligent practice we can examine these same mental formations but from a place centered in mindfulness.  This simple gatha has become the dharma seal of Plum Village.

I: Inner Child Has Arrived Meditation

The Vietnamese origin of the gatha provides a penetrating tool to touch our inner child who suffers from trauma and abuse experienced in childhood.  It does not translate as:  “I have arrived, I am home.”  It translates as: “Your child has arrived, your child is home.”  This is so beautiful to say to yourself as you breathe in and out whenever you do walking meditation, for each step welcomes your wounded child to be well and to come home to you.  When you walk to your car or your office, by a river or in a park, you can be more specific and recite to yourself:

In-breath         “My inner child has arrived”

Out-breath       “My inner child is home.”

This is good practice, for with intelligence you use your conscious breath and concentration to heal, simply by welcoming your wounded inner child home through the practice of being present.  We are capable of arriving in every moment of practice, whether it is sitting meditation, walking meditation, having a mindful meal, taking a shower or doing laundry.  Being present in each moment is a way of practice that welcomes home the injured, frightened inner child harmed by abuse.

In order to heal it is necessary to cultivate the internal energy of mindfulness before stopping and looking deeply into what caused the fears and traumas of abuse.  The practice of arriving in each moment nurtures that strength.  From the space of clarity provided by locating yourself in the present moment, not only is your inner child welcomed home, there is also the lucidity of mindfulness practice to deal with the ghosts of the past and at the same time put the ghosts of future anxiety to rest.

In-Breath:        My inner child has arrived

Out Breath:      My inner child is home

II:  Love Meditation for the Inner Child

Another tool is to adapt the Four Brahmaviharas meditation to focus on the injured inner child and is based on the Buddha’s teachings on Love.  Prepare for meditation by sitting comfortably with the spine erect.  Bring your concentration and focus to breath on the In-breath and breath on the Out-breath.  After ten or twenty breaths, whenever you feel calm and stable, begin by bringing each of the components – Love, Compassion, Joy, Equanimity – into yourself, the adult you.  The next sequence now provides a focus and concentration to water the seeds of Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity within your inner child.

In-breath                     I bring Love

Out-breath                   to my inner child.

You can say a loving name for your inner child if you wish.  Say silently “Dear Mary” or “Darling Joseph.”  Feel the energy of love fill you from top to toe and register with the energy for several breaths.  Then continue in the same way with:

In-breath                     I bring Compassion

Out-breath                   to my inner child

In-breath                     I bring Joy

Out-breath                   to my inner child

In-breath                     I bring Equanimity

Out-breath                   to my inner child

Then conclude the meditation by once more bringing Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity to the adult you.  This meditation nurtures the wounded inner child wonderfully and at the same time nurtures the adult you.  The Buddha’s teachings on Love provide the foundation for this Love meditation to the wounded inner child.  The concentration on these four qualities is an incredibly powerful instrument for healing.  I do not have the words to adequately describe the impact but Thich Nhat Hanh does:

The Buddha says if we gather together all the virtuous actions we have realized in this world, they are not equal to practicing love meditations………If we collect together all the light from the stars, it will not be as bright as the light of the moon.  In the same way, practicing love meditation is greater than all other virtuous actions combined.

 There are many other methods of meditation and practice that could be documented here.  I felt it appropriate to indicate some of the ones I used to good effect in my process of healing.  These were practices that accompanied the shamanic healing conducted in an Altered State of Consciousness (See Healing Journeys in Portals and Passages: Book 2).  One factor that was very important is that I was determined to heal once understanding dawned in my consciousness.  From that awareness I took specific steps and relied on wise teachers, medicine women and steady friends to help me along the path of healing and transformation.  I must emphasize that this is not a journey that can be taken alone, so do ensure that you have support from your sangha and good guidance from a therapist, shaman or spiritual teacher.

Ian is the author of Eighteen Books (www.ianprattis.com ) He has given talks and retreats all over the world. He now stays local in Ottawa to help turn the tide just a little in his home city so that good things begin to happen spontaneously.

THE FIVE MINDFULNESS TRAININGS

I did wonder about placing the 5 Mindfulness Trainings in a University class on Ecology. However, students and those viewing the video wrote in about how much they appreciated seeing environmental ethics from this perspective.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings presented as Environmental Ethics was a big hit for students at Carleton University in Ottawa, Class Two on “Deep Ecology” in my 12 week course on Ecology and Culture (2000 – 2004). Originally produced through the facilities of Carleton University.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqZWfeHMW1o

On Being Splendid: Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing

Dear friends and gentle people,

 Although retired from Carleton University and Pine Gate Sangha I had also created a Video Channel on YouTube. Students and friends have requested that in this shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic the videos of dharma talks and interviews would perhaps be useful. So here goes!

 This week’s video rests on a terrific dharma from the Buddha. This was not given until his sangha matured.

ON BEING SPLENDID

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4kEG5o8WBg

The Buddha’s Four Clay Pots metaphor as a means to introduce Shambhala Warrior training. Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, a mature teaching from the Buddha. Learning to Throw Away Strongly so that when you meet the Buddha on the road – you kill him. Kill the perceptions you hold about the Buddha. The raft is not the shore.

COVID – 19 and Walking Meditation                                                           

Anxiety and fear provide the internal Coronavirus. It overwhelms practices to calm and meditate. It is often impossible to sit and meditate, but we can walk with normal breaths for 15 minutes – in our home, in our back yard or around our streets – making sure we honor distance from others.

We know from our experience of hikes in nature, or neighborhood walks after dinner, that sudden flashes of insight often arise in concert with our footsteps.  We then see clearly how to handle a predicament or solve a problem. Imagine what can happen when we add conscious awareness to our footsteps.  When we concentrate on our breath and focus on slow walking, we actually have a brilliant piece of engineering to quiet the mind and body.  When we add a third concentration – aware of how our feet touch the earth – we have a meditative practice designed for our times.  We focus our mind on the mechanism of each foot touching the earth – heel, then ball of foot, then toe.  We slow down even further and with our body – not our intellect or ego – we make a contract with Mother Earth to leave a smaller footprint. We examine our consumption patterns and energy use.  All from walking with awareness, our breath, our legs and noticing how our feet touch the earth.

With this concentrated focus of walking meditation there is very little opportunity for the mind to worry about past events or future anticipations.  The meditation keeps us present, here in the moment of being fully alive.  It slows us down step by step so that our mind enters silence.  This is aided by another component we can add to walking meditation – a gentle half smile to nurture the peace and silence within. With the deepening of this internal silence, insight naturally occurs.

Walking meditation is a powerful methodology for healing ourselves.  We start by breathing in and out with full attention to the in-breath and to the out-breath.  Co-ordinating our breath with our steps we breathe in, saying silently to ourselves – “Breathing in” – as we take two or three slow steps.  Then as we breathe out, we say – “Breathing out” – as we simultaneously take two or three slow steps.  Practice this for several minutes just to get used to the concentration and the co-ordination of breath and steps and be fully aware of breathing in and out, and of walking slowly step by step.  Sometimes you will take two steps, sometimes three or four steps, sometimes there will be more steps on the out-breath than on the in-breath.  Allow the breath and lungs to find a natural rhythm with your steps.  It is the concentration and awareness that matters, not whether you take two or three steps, but do remember to wear a half smile on your lips!  If you take two steps with the in-breath, say to yourself –

“Breathing in” (on step 1), “In” (on step 2).

If you take three steps on the out-breath, say to yourself –

“Breathing out” (on step 1), “Out” (on step 2), “Out” (on step 3).  As you take each step, you can add a concentration that brings you solidly into contact with the earth.  Concentrate on your foot touching the ground in this sequence – heel, ball of foot, toe.  This particular concentration assists you to be fully with your stepping on the earth, keeping you alert to earth rhythms.

At Carleton University where I used to teach, I would walk from the bus stop and take a detour around the greenhouses of the Botany department and come to the Rideau River that runs along one side of the campus. From there I had a kilometer of riverbank to practice walking meditation before arriving at my office building.  It is quite secluded in parts and the river has sets of rapids that greatly enrich my walk.  One section of the path took my steps through a cedar grove, and I always felt a sacred blessing from these beautiful trees.  I slow my walking right down to a three – three rhythm when I enter the cedar grove.  The path is never the same, as the seasons change its character.  Autumn leaves give way to snowfall as winter leaves her embrace.  My clothes and footwear change, yet my steps, breathing and feet touching the earth remain constant.  The rustle of autumn leaves is replaced by the crunch of snow and ice, which gives way to the mud and rain of spring before the heat of summer allows me to walk in sandals or barefoot.  The birds and foliage change with the seasons, as does the river – iced over in winter, turbulent in the spring and calm in summer and fall.  Students with their books and friends congregate by the river when the weather is sunny.

I notice the changes in the seasonal round of nature, yet remain with my breathing, footsteps and the earth – so that I am not drawn into unnecessary thought.  It takes me approximately twenty minutes to arrive at my office.  I am in a clear, calm state and better able to be of assistance to students and colleagues and bring my own sense of calm and clarity to the university.  On leaving the university I retrace my steps of walking meditation along the river before going home, or to appointments in the city.  The experience engenders the same calm and clarity.  This walk is Paradise, and a constant reminder to me for those occasions when I am not in touch with the earth mother.  We do not need to walk on water, or over hot coals.

We simply need to walk on the earth and touch her deeply with our full awareness.  That is all that walking meditation is.

Dr Ian Prattis is an author, speaker and Zen teacher. His recent books are found at his website www.ianprattis.com

 

Covid – 19 and Walking Meditation

Anxiety and fear provide the internal Coronavirus. It overwhelms practices to calm and meditate. It is often impossible to sit and meditate, but we can walk with normal breaths for 15 minutes – in our home, in our back yard or around our streets – making sure we honor distance from others.

We know from our experience of hikes in nature, or neighborhood walks after dinner, that sudden flashes of insight often arise in concert with our footsteps.  We then see clearly how to handle a predicament or solve a problem. Imagine what can happen when we add conscious awareness to our footsteps.  When we concentrate on our breath and focus on slow walking, we actually have a brilliant piece of engineering to quiet the mind and body.  When we add a third concentration – aware of how our feet touch the earth – we have a meditative practice designed for our times.  We focus our mind on the mechanism of each foot touching the earth – heel, then ball of foot, then toe.  We slow down even further and with our body – not our intellect or ego – we make a contract with Mother Earth to leave a smaller footprint. We examine our consumption patterns and energy use.  All from walking with awareness, our breath, our legs and noticing how our feet touch the earth.

With this concentrated focus of walking meditation there is very little opportunity for the mind to worry about past events or future anticipations.  The meditation keeps us present, here in the moment of being fully alive.  It slows us down step by step so that our mind enters silence.  This is aided by another component we can add to walking meditation – a gentle half smile to nurture the peace and silence within. With the deepening of this internal silence, insight naturally occurs.

Walking meditation is a powerful methodology for healing ourselves.  We start by breathing in and out with full attention to the in-breath and to the out-breath.  Co-ordinating our breath with our steps we breathe in, saying silently to ourselves – “Breathing in” – as we take two or three slow steps.  Then as we breathe out, we say – “Breathing out” – as we simultaneously take two or three slow steps.  Practice this for several minutes just to get used to the concentration and the co-ordination of breath and steps and be fully aware of breathing in and out, and of walking slowly step by step.  Sometimes you will take two steps, sometimes three or four steps, sometimes there will be more steps on the out-breath than on the in-breath.  Allow the breath and lungs to find a natural rhythm with your steps.  It is the concentration and awareness that matters, not whether you take two or three steps, but do remember to wear a half smile on your lips!  If you take two steps with the in-breath, say to yourself –

“Breathing in” (on step 1), “In” (on step 2).

If you take three steps on the out-breath, say to yourself –

“Breathing out” (on step 1), “Out” (on step 2), “Out” (on step 3).  As you take each step, you can add a concentration that brings you solidly into contact with the earth.  Concentrate on your foot touching the ground in this sequence – heel, ball of foot, toe.  This particular concentration assists you to be fully with your stepping on the earth, keeping you alert to earth rhythms.

At Carleton University where I used to teach, I would walk from the bus stop and take a detour around the greenhouses of the Botany department and come to the Rideau River that runs along one side of the campus. From there I had a kilometer of riverbank to practice walking meditation before arriving at my office building.  It is quite secluded in parts and the river has sets of rapids that greatly enrich my walk.  One section of the path took my steps through a cedar grove, and I always felt a sacred blessing from these beautiful trees.  I slow my walking right down to a three – three rhythm when I enter the cedar grove.  The path is never the same, as the seasons change its character.  Autumn leaves give way to snowfall as winter leaves her embrace.  My clothes and footwear change, yet my steps, breathing and feet touching the earth remain constant.  The rustle of autumn leaves is replaced by the crunch of snow and ice, which gives way to the mud and rain of spring before the heat of summer allows me to walk in sandals or barefoot.  The birds and foliage change with the seasons, as does the river – iced over in winter, turbulent in the spring and calm in summer and fall.  Students with their books and friends congregate by the river when the weather is sunny.

I notice the changes in the seasonal round of nature, yet remain with my breathing, footsteps and the earth – so that I am not drawn into unnecessary thought.  It takes me approximately twenty minutes to arrive at my office.  I am in a clear, calm state and better able to be of assistance to students and colleagues and bring my own sense of calm and clarity to the university.  On leaving the university I retrace my steps of walking meditation along the river before going home, or to appointments in the city.  The experience engenders the same calm and clarity.  This walk is Paradise, and a constant reminder to me for those occasions when I am not in touch with the earth mother.  We do not need to walk on water, or over hot coals.

We simply need to walk on the earth and touch her deeply with our full awareness.  That is all that walking meditation is.

Dr Ian Prattis is an author, speaker and Zen teacher. His recent books are found at his website www.ianprattis.com

 

Coping with COVID – 19

This was sent to me by my friend Theda Phoenix. An excellent overview.

From a psychologist:
After having thirty-one sessions this week with patients where the singular focus was COVID-19 and how to cope, I decided to consolidate my advice and make a list that I hope is helpful to all.
MENTAL HEALTH WELLNESS TIPS FOR QUARANTINE

1. Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.

2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.

3. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues. If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.

4. Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!

5. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your kids miss their friends, too!

6. Stay hydrated and eat well. This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!

7. Develop a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when overwhelmed.

8. Spend extra time playing with children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.

9. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.

10. Everyone find their own retreat space. Space is at a premium, particularly with city living. It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.

11. Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently. We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on emotional connection.

12. Focus on safety and attachment. We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement. We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children. Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.

13. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. This idea is connected with #12. We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.

14. Limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.

15. Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.

16. Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.

17. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it. In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.

18. Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.

19. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements. Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.

20. Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel. It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!

21. Find lightness and humor in each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.

22. Reach out for help—your team is there for you. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.

23. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now. Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.

24. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.

25. Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?

Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse

Excerpt from Chapter 3

 

The landscape they traveled through that night had a rare beauty and stillness. It felt as though time itself had stopped. A portent of things to come, a foreboding rebuke to the crisis they already knew they were to face together. By daybreak they found Eagle Speaker, near to death with fever and very cold underneath the weeping willow tree, whose branches touched lightly onto the river’s surface. Trailing Sky knew what to do with the fever to prevent it penetrating her and The People. She asked Rising Moon to fetch water from the river so her medicines could be prepared. She noticed that there was an ancient medicine wheel on a high bluff overlooking the canyon to the east and knew instantly that this was where she must take him. Help was immediately at hand as the Clan Chiefs with twenty warriors arrived.

 

They had carefully followed the tracks left by the three women. Trailing Sky asked the Clan Chiefs to carry her husband to the medicine wheel on a hastily built carrying frame. That was the place where she could summon the Sky People to help her. The Clan Chiefs gently laid the frame down in the medicine wheel so that Eagle Speaker’s head was in the west, his heart in the centre and his feet pointing to the eastern door of the medicine wheel. The eastern door was where the Sky People could enter. Yet Trailing Sky knew by this time that even her medicine powers were insufficient.

 

She called in the Sky People to save her husband, as they had long been her mentors in medicine power. They came as requested. Their light could be seen along the canyon to the east and it spread up to the medicine wheel into which Eagle Speaker had been placed. But Eagle Speaker was too far gone for even their extraordinary powers. Trailing Sky felt a momentary rush of rage at the inability of the Sky People to help her save Eagle Speaker. But she knew that her rage was a product of her grief and deep sorrow. She abandoned it immediately, requesting the Sky People to help her through the ordeal of her husband’s death that she was facing. She then lit four fires of sacred herbs within each quadrant of the medicine wheel to purify him for his journey across time and space. With some water from the river, brought up by Rising Moon, she held his head so he could drink it. Eagle Speaker came back to her for a moment and smiled. A beautiful smile that enveloped her with so much love that Trailing Sky almost broke down completely. She instantly remembered their first meeting – the silent young man offering her a bundle of feathers at a trading parley between her people and Eagle Speaker’s people. He did not speak and did not smile on that occasion – yet here he was dying in her arms with a smile of such gratitude and beauty.

 

It was almost too much for her and she had to hang on grimly to what she knew as a medicine woman and what she now had to do. Eagle Speaker knew it was his time and had no fear, just as his grandfather had known at his time of death. Eagle Speaker felt all the joy from the life he had spent with her. Trailing Sky’s heart was breaking, for she did not want to let him go. Yet the depth of wisdom within her knew that she could not keep him any longer. The grief and deep sorrow abated as Trailing Sky summoned all her internal strength and love to assist the journey from his body across time and space. She beseeched the Sky People to enable her to stay steady and for Eagle Speaker to journey safely.

 

By this time family groups from the village had arrived until there was over one thousand of The People gathered where their leader now lay in the centre of the medicine wheel. The Clan Chiefs had alerted all the families and they came en masse. The families were quiet, knowing that this was not a usual death, but something very different. The Clan Chiefs stood in silence round the medicine wheel. They were instilled with Trailing Sky’s calm and fortitude. Only she knew of her inward struggle and sorrow. She surmounted both successfully and then began to chant the sacred songs of her people. Trailing Sky knew not to vent her grief at this moment of Eagle Speaker’s traversing. As she sang, Eagle Speaker looked up at her with amazement as he had done so often before during their life together. Just before he drew his last breath, she cradled his head in her arms, leaned over and whispered softly in his ear, so that no-one would hear her:

“I will find you, my husband. I will find you”

 

She asked the Clan Chiefs to build a platform for Eagle Speaker, so that his body could be offered to the elements. The burial platform was constructed swiftly with vines strung across to carry the weight of Eagle Speaker’s body and the weight of their collective grief. The platform was placed next to the medicine wheel on the West side. Very tenderly the Clan Chiefs carried Eagle Speaker’s body to the platform that they had erected. The outline against the sky was stark at the top of the high bluff above the weeping willow tree and river, with the dark canyon stretching to the east. The fingers of the dawn had drawn daylight awake so everyone could see. The medicine women had strung vines of forest flowers, herbs and grasses around the four strong posts. She placed her medicine pouch in his hands clasped in front of his body, so that he would have sustenance for his next journey.

 

Then she stood in front of the funeral place of her husband and faced The People. She stood tall and magnificent before the thousand members of The People who had followed the path to this moment. She was calm and serene. All those gathered sensed her extraordinary medicine power. In a steady measure she began to chant the life story of her beloved Eagle Speaker. Her voice was strong and melodious and it carried directly to every listener. The People swayed backwards and forwards in a spontaneous dance that had its own unison. They clasped arms around shoulders that shook with grief as they danced forward and backward to the mesmerizing chant Trailing Sky offered to them. She chanted the circumstances of Eagle Speaker’s birth and his naming after the great eagle by his grandfather. Her voice carried the story of Eagle Speaker’s training with his grandfather in the mountains, desert and forests of their region and how Eagle Speaker came to live his life as constant prayer. She sang blessings for his mother and father and for all who nurtured him. She sang the story of her first meeting with this handsome young man who moved with the grace of a mountain lion, of how he named her with his gift of six feathers, of how their eyes had connected that first time as if drawn together by the threads of time.

 

Strong warriors bowed their heads and wept openly as her vibrant voice shook everyone to their core. Other warriors fell to their knees, overwhelmed by the burden of loss. The People were then uplifted from their sorrow when the chant from Trailing Sky carried everyone to remember all that Eagle Speaker had put in place for The People and the legacy left that they must cherish and build on. She sang his wisdom and patience that wove a tapestry of co- operation between clans and peoples. Then Trailing Sky’s voice fell silent for a moment. After a time that stretched painfully into infinity she announced to all with a voice that now had a deeper timbre and a source of power they were not expecting:

 

“I am Trailing Sky Six Feathers. I ask you all to be a witness of my last words to my husband, Eagle Speaker, before he died in this medicine wheel on the high bluff above the river.” It was as though every one of The People took a deep breath at the same time, waiting for Trailing Sky’s next words:

“As he smiled to me and took his last breath, I said to Eagle Speaker – I will find you my husband, I will find you.”

 

The ensuing silence cut through everyone’s tension, fear and grief. The words, now voiced by Trailing Sky for The People, was taken by a whisper of wind into every heart. The trees heard her words and told the animals and birds. The clouds heard her words and extended them to the Sky People. Across the forests, grasslands and mountains – her words echoed, growing stronger and more penetrating so that the universe itself paused to listen.

 

http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

 

 

 

US Book Review for Shattered Earth

Shattered Earth – Review

US Review of Books by Susan C. Morris

“Yet there is always a glimpse, a possibility of stepping through the darkness and touching a warm knowing light that spurs us on.”

Educator, prolific writer, spiritualist and environmentalist, Prattis delivers an SOS to the world to save the earth and its inhabitants from destruction. The work draws upon written accounts from scientists, philosophers, social activists, and spiritual thinkers, including the wisdom of First Nations, all who make a convincing case for the need to take immediate action to rescue the planet. His futuristic scenarios are a wake-up call to honor the Paris Climate Agreement and the horrific physical, environmental and social consequences that civilizations will face should the earth fall further into demise. Prattis elucidates the dangers of corporate carbon emissions and their contributions to the destabilization of the earth. He emphasizes that the continuous search for wealth accumulation has come at the sacrifice of the planet. His compelling personal narratives take the readers to the Canadian wilderness, the Hebrides in Scotland, and to an ashram in India, where he writes of his near-death experience.

Throughout the book, the author reaches beyond the scientific to the spiritual, emphasizing humankind’s oneness with the earth. Most notable is his example of the environmental activist Greta Thunberg and the global Children’s Movement, which recommends such alternative earth friendly ways to live as “not having children, living car-free, and taking trains instead of planes.” In particular, the author’s experience with White Eagle Woman, his shaman mentor, is an exceptional narrative on how her wisdom helped him to heal from sexual abuse during his childhood. Prattis’s volume is an opus on the healing of humanity’s inner soul, together with the healing of the earth, so that both can live harmoniously.

To avoid the cost of Shipping and Handling, Ottawa area folks are welcome to pick up a signed copy from my home AND receive the bonus of a FREE prior book. Otherwise, order through http://ianprattis.com/ShatteredEarth.html which provides links to my stock, Amazon and Indigo.

 

Podcast for “Shattered Earth” and other books.

This podcast lands first on “Shattered Earth: Approaching Extinction” – then on a prior book “Earth My Body, Water My Blood” plus some astrology at the end

Podcast with Mark Aaftink – “Shattered Earth: Approaching Extinction” and other books, followed by astrology #extinction #climateemergency #booklovers

https://furtherreflections.net/home/2020/2/2/episode-41-shattered