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Living This Life Fully

shining the light of mindfulness

Now that the longest night of the year is behind us, I am looking forward to more and more light. Although I accept and even rejoice in the changing interplay of light and dark, I definitely prefer longer days and shorter nights. But my desire is not just for more sunlight. I also want greater mindfulness to brighten how I live those days and nights.

Munindra talked about mindfulness (he often used the Pali word sati) as “an illuminating factor” because it provides the brilliance of a lamp in shadowy places. “Where there is light, there cannot be any darkness,” he would say. “You are asked to develop mindfulness because sati illuminates the whole mental field. As soon as things come, you see them as they are.” Read More 
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facing life with equanimity

I am in the middle of reading Breast Strokes: Two Friends Journal Through the Unexpected Gifts of Cancer, by Cathy Edgett and Jane Flint. Although Cathy does not use Buddhist terms in her spare but lyrical journal entries and poems, it is clear that she understands what it means to embrace Dharma, to live this life fully even while undergoing the rigors of medical treatment for breast cancer. She faces each day trying to be as present as possible to what each moment brings: the sight of a redwood tree outside her window, Mt. Tamalpais in the distance, the fragility of the body, with its soreness, nausea, and fatigue, the soft morning light, the joy of being able to walk or share a meal, the sound of rain, the clutch of fear. As she confronts the truth of what is, she comes back again and again to “calm, steady, present, and clear.” Realizing that suffering arises when she wants things to be otherwise, she is now willing to “be with the journey, instead of wishing or willing it away.”


Cathy’s mindfulness, acceptance, equanimity, and even gratitude in so much discomfort remind me of how Munindra dealt with the vicissitudes of the ailing, aging body. Read More 
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JOY

Yesterday, I received an unexpected gift that evoked great joy: a calendar for 2011. Usually, calendars don't bring up that kind of joy, even though I revel in the gorgeous photos of nature or human-made works of art. But this is the most precious calendar I've ever gotten because it contains photos of a girl I’ve come to love.

Each month has a combination of photos of Jessicah. I get to see her Jessi-ness from before we first met, when she was seven years old. In January, she'll turn nine. She's the closest I'll probably ever come to having a granddaughter, though I'm not a relative. We call each other "my special friend."

I understand, even better now than through experiences earlier in my life, why Munindra loved to be with children and why they were so attracted to him. He had a sense of humor and laughed easily. He was friendly and cheerful. He had a childlike curiosity and was interested in the smallest detail, such as a tiny purple flower growing by the roadside. Most of all, he didn't take himself too seriously, though clearly he was completely dedicated to Dharma, practicing and sharing it with everyone he encountered.
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