The Ground of Compassion

The inevitability of suffering is the connector between us all. It is the great leveler, and it is the ground of compassion. Our common human experience of the struggle back to balance compels us to help one another, to try to understand. It calls us to volunteer, to give, and to ease the way for others in any way possible. This is the remarkably beautiful face of Kwan Yin, the bodhisatva of compassion, revealing herself in a way that is not available when we are contentedly meandering through our lives. Our collective brokenness is so very poignant precisely because the heroic spirit of compassion arises in us as a result of having born the unbearable and of watching those we love do likewise.

From: “Heroic Compassion: Inviting a Lifetime of Challenges, Healing, and Spiritual Awakening” 
by ZenDoe Linda Frank

Available at Amazon


On Being Human… Again

Our work here on earth during a physical incarnation is not in exile, alone, on a planet far away from our spiritual home. Heaven, or Spirit, is intrinsic to our every breath, and closer to us than our own thoughts. We are spirits, each of us, experiencing temporary lives in finite, mortal, fragile human bodies, in a setting where fear, lack, and physical pain govern our behavior and our thoughts as inevitably as they govern our biological imperative to survive.

Again and again, we leave the comfort and beauty of our life in Spirit to undertake the greatest and most heroic challenge imaginable—a human lifetime. Because only in leaving Home for a while and throwing ourselves into the maelstrom of physical life can we fulfill our great purpose, which is to experience, and to learn through that experience. Love is easy when our environment is love. But, the test of our attainment of that state of love lies in our capacity for compassionate activity here, where it is so very difficult. We come here to learn love under the harshest of conditions, to discover it in others and within ourselves.

We are not puppets here, our strings pulled by circumstance or fate. We have free will. We can choose to remain in the dark of illusion, ignorance and fear, waiting for some external force to bring us happiness and change us from the outside in, or we can make a practice of stepping into the light at every opportunity.

Excerpt from Heroic Compassion
Available here


Dancing with our Shadow

I have spoken with so many beautiful, spiritually oriented people who deeply believe there is something profoundly broken within them. These are people who are open-heartedly surging toward the light with all they have, using whatever path feels right to them. They are genuinely kind and sensitive, giving and warm. Yet, these gentle, loving souls carry wounds within their hearts that are tender to the touch despite the scar tissue that has formed around them. It is painfully poignant that those who reach out time and again in compassion, with unconditional love for others who are wounded, can find it so difficult to shine that same ray of light into their own hearts.

For many of us, there is a sense that our spiritual work is intense either because of, or in spite of this feeling of brokenness. Philosophically, we recognize that there is a connection between our darkness and our light, but the chasm between them can sometimes seem hopelessly vast. It only takes a moment to go from mindfulness to madness when something pushes our buttons on a bad day when we’re tired, irritated, or exhausted. Depression, grief, or anxiety can move us without warning or explanation from brilliance into the morass of despair. Where is the light on these occasions? How do we reconcile these polar opposites?

Healing is the compassion-laden process of making room for our brokenness, of letting it be, just as it is, without judgement or exclusion. Doing so enables us to invite both our human nature and our spiritual nature to dance together. This is the beginning of self-love, and the beginning of possibility.

The light of loving compassion is always shining brightly within each of us. We must learn to recognize it, even in the dark.

Photo Credit: CanDaN


Walking Each Other Home

There are countless qualities that we seek to master during the course of our lives – patience, endurance, joy, truth, wisdom, dignity – you know each of them intimately. These lessons step forward humbly, disguising themselves as poverty, heartbreak, skin color, illness, political affiliation, disability, and as every other possible aspect of a person’s circumstances.

The disguises, the costumes, are the very things we tend to believe define who someone is. We judge. We criticize. We sort into “us” and “them”.

Every person that you encounter over the course of a lifetime is working with his or her lessons, reaching toward the light the best way they can.

And you? No matter what you are struggling with, no matter what your particular theme is or how it is playing out in your life, remember that all of us are walking the same road.

Ultimately, we undertake our lives, and endure the unendurable, not so that we can be wealthy and famous and carefree, but so that through our experiences we may broaden and deepen our eternal understanding of love, and of the human, active, manifestation of love, which is compassion for each other, and for all beings.

This Great Love is not something that only flows from you to others. It flows through each of us. It is, in fact, who and what we are. No one is excluded, not even you.


Photo Credit Zen Doe, 2013


Bright Morning Stars

There is a beautiful old song that begins:

Bright morning stars are rising
Bright morning stars are rising
Bright morning stars are rising
Day is a-breaking in my soul

So many of you have written to me since I fell out of the blogosphere, asking how I’m doing and offering support.  My sincere thanks to each of you for the kind words and encouragement.  It has meant a great deal to me.

Things are changing.

A simpler life is appearing – slowly, carefully, and at the same time like an avalanche.  The stress of this life of commuting, of high-pressure work, schedules and extreme busy-ness is still ringing like a hammer, but there is a transformation taking shape, like colors coming together in a kaleidoscope – appearing, falling away, and refocusing again.

The solitude, the alone-ness of finding refuge only in the affection of horses has given way to… yes… a romance, a love, so deep and wide that it is truly unfathomable.

This crusty old heart has abandoned its fortress and is breathing the crisp morning air again, wrapped in the warmth of hope, and feeling alive.  In the care of tender hands it has softened and begun to heal, to risk vulnerability, to find itself again.  I could ask for no greater miracle.

Things are changing, and changing in a big way.  I’m ready.


Mindfulness: The Graduate Program

The phone rang this morning somewhere between measuring out pills for the dog and dressing Captain’s wound.  “RED ALERT!” woooop!  woooop!  wooop!  (The ringtone for my parents is the Star-Trek battle alarm)  I turned off the ringer, having learned decades ago that buying myself a few moments to prepare for whatever is about to fall in my lap is well worth the delay.

Message: “They’re coming for your father with the ambulance.  We’ll be at St. Alban’s.  I’ll probably need an ambulance myself.  Just thought you should know.”


Rather than return the call, I phoned the nurse at the retirement home to get the scoop.  I asked her to relay to my parents that I’d meet them at the hospital.

I’m quite sure that the color drained out of my face and puddled on the floor.  The Sunday of “rest” that I had promised myself was about to become the Sunday of fear.  Breathe…

When my father is stressed, his memory becomes very poor and he can become quite mean and belligerent.  That’s probably normal at 91, but it certainly brings flashbacks.  And she…  she loves a good crisis.  What if he dies?  I’d need to postpone feeling anything at all about that, and rally all the strength in the world to deal with her screaming and carrying on.  I’d rather have my skin peeled off.

Breathe….  Breathe from deep in the belly.  This is only thinking.  I’m still safe, here at the farm.  The horses need to be fed.  One foot in front of the other to the barn.  BE. HERE. NOW.  The squeak of a stall door.  The smell of hay.  The white goo of the antibiotic cream for Captain’s leg.  The wound is warm and rough to the touch.  “Easy, Darlin’,” I whisper.  “I’m right here (and I am) and I won’t hurt you.”

Back in the house, throwing on a blouse and clean jeans, the walls start closing in, and I dash to the window to inhale the summer green.  I observe the pounding of my heart in my ears, the light-headedness, the clenched muscles, and consciously relax.  Picking up a horse shoe from the table by the window, I feel it’s heaviness, its hardness, its coolness – these things ground me, for a moment.

Shoes?  Wallet?  Keys?  One last sip of coffee, heavily laced with adrenaline and cortisol, and I crawl woodenly into the car.  A one hour drive is a long way on twisty back roads, longer still when you’re fighting dizziness and the overwhelming urge to dissociate.

Turn up the radio!  Roll down the windows!  This helps.

I’m watching all of this, observing it, allowing it.  “Don’t run away!  Be here, in this moment, with the fear.  There are countless people in your position at this very moment.  This is the human condition and the great soup of life.  You aren’t special.”

As I watch my body screaming out warnings, I send out waves of strength and solidarity to all who are afraid at this moment.  And simultaneously, I’m just driving – driving on a country road on a Sunday morning.  May all beings know happiness.  May all beings be free from suffering.  “We can do this.”  I say aloud.

Ultimately, it was all rather uneventful.  He was released.  She behaved herself remarkably well.  I drove them home, then I drove home, feeling like I’d been run over by a bus.

Why all the fuss?  Well, this is PTSD.  Despite one’s best efforts, the mind and nervous system insist that you are in an earlier place and time, and they react and respond accordingly.  It’s a little like being stuck in a nightmare from which you cannot awaken (or perhaps a nightmare through which you can awaken).  No amount of deep breathing helps, any more than “putting your past behind you”.  It’s just what you have to work with.

I have found one tiny crack in the PTSD monster’s armor though – one tiny place for some air to get in: (whispering) I don’t believe in it.  The body can spew whatever chemicals it wants to.  I’m going to keep breathing.  I’ll sit with the terror.  I’ll hold its hand.  I’ll do whatever it takes, but I do my best to stay present and observe, in compassion, what’s happening rather than buying into the story line and fanning its flames.

Sometimes, I succeed.  Sometimes not.  I do my best to have compassion for that too, when I can.

It’s suppertime.  Time to start the evening routine of pills for the dog and horse care.  There’s a summer storm rolling in.  Thunder rumbles to the west.  The air is thick with heat and rain.  “May all beings be free from suffering…


Not Knowing, and other disasters

She’s 180 lbs of soft, furry, brindle mastiff love – and she’s very ill. She may die, and she may pull though. I don’t know. About the only thing that I do know, is that I don’t know. That’s a hard place to be, but it offers some stunning and sometimes very painful opportunities to practice living in this moment.

Not quite a week ago, she seemed lethargic. If you know English Mastiffs, you already know that they sleep about 20 hours a day as it is. But, this was different. The light had gone out of her eyes. She was avoiding food. On Sunday (it’s always at night, on the weekend, or a holiday, right?!) she didn’t want to get up. That was frightening. We loaded a terrified and resistant gigantic dog into the car and drove an hour to the nearest emergency vet. Four hours and $750 dollars worth of tests later, we didn’t have a clue what was wrong with her.

On Monday, I took her to her regular vet, and after more testing there was a diagnosis: Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. Essentially, her body is targeting her red blood cells for destruction. It’s a dreadful disease, requiring massive doses of prednisone, transfusions, and other extravagantly expensive therapies that ultimately can be quite destructive.  And, despite the best care in the world, they can crash at any moment and be a memory by the time you get them to the vet.  She’s very sick.

I’ve already made my peace with what I can afford, and what I’m willing to try, and what I’m not.  I feel very confident about my vet and about the network of specialists, holistic and otherwise.  The knowledgeable people who have been down this road already are supporting and informing me.  I’m learning as fast as I possibly can.

Not being able to fix something this serious is horrific, and at every turn I find myself struggling against a tsunami of PTSD.  The fear, the panic, and the physical strain are utterly incapacitating sometimes.  My nervous system seems hell-bent on the idea that I am responsible.  Mercifully, my rational side knows better.  When the stress becomes overwhelming though, rational doesn’t seem to weigh much.  And if all of this isn’t enough, we’ve had torrential rains and tornado threats all week.  The barn is full of mud.  Having horses in a tornado zone is a nightmare.

But, here we are.   Life goes like this sometimes.  And death goes like this.  Somewhere in the middle of the cyclone of worry, activity, suffering, and being overwhelmed, there is a still place.  Maybe it’s like the point exactly in the center of the washing machine on the spin cycle.

In that still, quiet space, there’s only the softness of her fur, the look in her eyes, and the peace that I feel from her.

Even in the midst of the chaos of caring for her while having a full-time job an hour away from home, there are still moments of just driving, just chopping pills in half, just feeding the horses.  Most important (for her), there are the moments of just being with her.  Late at night, on the air mattress that is now a fixture in the living room, she lies next to me, and I simply listen to the sound of her breath.

I don’t know what will happen, or how, or when.  It is my hope that I can be fully present for her, but I don’t know even that.  So, there are moments of simply not knowing.  That’s ok.  In an amazing way, not knowing is the doorway out of our frantic thinking minds, and into moments of grace and peace.



All photographs copyright ZenDoe

What are you afraid of?

Trying to learn to ride a horse at fifty-something is daunting at best.  I’m quite sure that I break more easily than I did when I was ten, and the idea of ending up in a body cast isn’t appealing in the slightest.  That said, I don’t seem to have any particular fear of falling.  So, why do I seize up with anxiety at the very thought of climbing up on Captain’s back?

I never took riding lessons as a child, but I vividly remember the percherons.  Molly and Bob were the two working draft horses that belonged to Gordon Shiffter.  When they weren’t hitched to a plow, they lived on the steep, rocky side of a mountain that was Gordon’s back yard.  His farm and his mountain were tucked away in a little corner of Appalachia called Mutton Hollow (pronounced “holler”), where nobody had indoor plumbing and a dollar was hard to come by.

Gordon had a daughter about my age.  Cheryl and I took every possible opportunity to heave ourselves up onto the backs of these tall and massive horses.  We’d be barefoot and covered in summer dirt, riding without so much as a halter and rope, let alone a saddle.  Long stretches of dirt road wound next to the creek, and we’d meander along on those gentle titans without a care in the world, drinking in the green and giggling over something foolish.

One of those summer days, we somehow ended up at a farm where they trained race horses.  There’s a picture in a family album of a horse race that everybody went to.  It took place on a wide, dusty back road; just these local guys, racing their horses like their urban counterparts drag racing down Main Street.  Well, we ended up at that farm, and the next thing I remember is being perched on the back of a sleek thoroughbred and walking around on the training racetrack.  It was glorious!

I was ten – maybe 12 years old, feeling fancy and graceful up there, until one of the boys popped the horse on the rear and whooped.  The horse took off like he was running from the devil himself.  Faster and faster that horse ran, and I hung on for all I was worth, tears streaming into my ears from the force of the wind.  Crouched over that horse’s neck, all I could see was the white whir of the inside rail as the red clay exploded under pounding hooves.  Funny thing is, I had no experience of fear at all.

I don’t have any idea how I got that horse slowed down to a walk, but I do remember the cheers from the boys that had gathered around!

Forty years later, I’ve been a horse owner for nearly a decade.  I’ve taken in rescues, tended to abscessed hooves, bandaged wounds, fed, cared for, and loved my horses.  But none of them have been broke or sound to ride until I found the Captain.  Here’s his story if you need to catch up.

Captain is so gentle, so well-trained, so docile and intelligent, that if I’m ever going to learn to ride, he is the horse to do it on.  The vet adores him.  Sue, the woman who comes out to the farm to coach me says that he’s worth 10 times what I paid for him.  I’d have to agree.  So, what am I afraid of?

I crawl up onto the mounting block, and insist that he stand still while I mount.  So far, so good.  I’m relaxed, happy, and comfortable.  Sue says it’s about time we leave the round pen and take a walk around the pasture.  The anxiety starts rising, and by the time she’s opened the gate, I can feel my legs shaking with fear.

My pasture is very hilly, almost terraced in places.  I stay up near the barn where it’s flat, and practice turning in large circles and stopping.  Stopping is good.  My familiar pasture is suddenly looking like a vast and terrifying down-hill slalom course where I shall surely die.  Captain stops and sighs.  I think he may have fallen asleep.

Sue marches half way down the hill and shouts, “Ride down here, Hun!”  – her long-ago British roots evident in the “Hun”.  I breathe.  I “relax”.  Here we go!  Captain inches down the hill, mindful of the shaking sack of human terror on his back.  “DON’T LOOK DOWN!” shouts Sue.

We arrive at Sue’s position, then finish the circle and go back up to the barn.  “AGAIN!”  Round and round we go, and little by little, I’m feeling less anxious.  Sue is encouraging, but she keeps saying that I should stop looking down.
Am I?

Finally, after about five round-trips in each direction, I’ve had enough.  I feel like I’ve run a mile while having a massive anxiety attack.  I dismount and lead Captain over to the hitching rail on the premise that I need some water.  Mostly I just want my legs to stop shaking.

Sue walks up and says, “You really have to stop looking down, Hun.  It’s terrifying you!”  I stop and think about that for a moment, and I tell her that the strange thing is that I have no fear at all of being that high up or of falling.  Hmmm…  Then it comes to me that what I’m so afraid of is that I will ask Captain to step somewhere that will cause him to stumble.  I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about him!

“It’s a horse,” she says.  “He knows how to walk around and not fall down.  You let him do his job, and it will make yours a lot easier.”

Horses are great teachers if you take time to listen.  My childhood with horses was wondrous.  My childhood with parents who demanded that I parent them taught me to be responsible in the extreme for everyone and everything around me.  If something goes wrong, it’s ultimately a failing of mine, right?  Oh, dear.

I could feel my shoulders dropping slowly down to a more normal position.  I’d been wearing them as earrings just moments before.  Captain snoozed while I sipped water and contemplated this.

After a while, I loosened the girth, pulled off the saddle and hoisted it onto the rail.  When I’d taken off the bridle and eased the bit from his mouth, Captain shook, and instead of wandering off, he raised his head and rested his chin on my shoulder for a moment.  It felt like a hug.

TheCaptain I
All photographs copyright ZenDoe


On Meditation

As I stepped into the barn on this cool morning, all three horses were still and silent.  I was among them, welcomed.  They neither turned to greet me nor turned away.  They simply accepted my presence as part of their own.

For most of us, the barriers that we erect to keep our ‘self’ safe preclude this kind of openness. We brace for impact at every turn, living in our endless stream of thought, preempting rather than being. Yet, despite our best efforts, the world has a way of grinding against our sense of safety and seldom operates on our terms. What would happen if we were to open to life exactly as it is? What would happen if we were to open to one another in this way?

Here is a wonderful story about one of the most well-know Zen masters of all time, Hakuin Ekaku, (1686-1768). Hakuin had a reputation for being brash, harsh, and flamboyant. He was a brilliant man, whose energy and excellence has inspired countless students of Zen.

A beautiful girl and her parents who owned a food store, lived near the monk, Hakuin. One day, to their horror, this girl’s parents discovered that she was pregnant. They were furious, and demanded to know who the father was.  For weeks, she steadfastly refused to confess his name. But, after much harassment, at last she pointed the finger at Hakuin. In a rage, the parents went to the master and confronted him, telling him about their daughter’s condition. “Is that so?” was all he would say.

After the child was born, it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation as a monk. Still, he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and begged for money for everything else that the child needed. A year later, the girl could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market. The mother and father of the girl went at once to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back. Hakuin willingly yielded the child, saying only: “Is that so?”

Few of us would be able to manage this level of welcoming whatever comes! Even in meditation, we want things to be just so.  We want.  We want peace. We want bliss. We want something nice, something extra, something that will be a beautiful add-on to how we already envision ourselves. This wanting removes us completely from how things are.

The art of meditation is to be a welcoming host to whatever lands on our doorstep – to get our judgemental self completely out of the way, so that how things really are at this moment, can appear fully. Rather than bracing for impact, or struggling to achieve something, the art is to simply welcome.

This isn’t a new experience for any of us. It’s not something alien or a special skill that we have to learn. If you’ve ever had a butterfly land on you, you know the moment of total stillness, of wonder, of incredible gentleness, as you simply let it be a butterfly, just where and as it is.

But life isn’t all butterflies and wonder, and neither is meditation; and meditation isn’t about mentally escaping from difficulties or turning them into butterflies and bliss.  What about when we’re in pain – physical, mental or emotional?  What about anger?  What about that mind that refuses to settle, and races randomly like a freight train?

Welcome this too, with compassion.

These are the experiences of meditation that teach us more than any kind of bliss.  Welcoming our sadness, our discomfort, without buying into a story line and fanning its flames, is a lesson in living.  To simply remain present, with deep compassion for the human-ness of things not being as we would wish, teaches us.

Sit quietly, with dignity and an open heart.  Listen to the sound of the rain outside, or to the hum of the fan. Feel the temperature of the air. Experience the sensation of your own breathing. Welcome each sensation, each thought, each breath, each moment, on its terms. Notice the insubstantial nature of the assessment that the air is too warm or cold, and return to welcoming, gently, moment after moment.

In bliss, boredom, or broken-heartedness, there is no escapism here. Rather, it is the experience of being fully awake and alive, just as you are. It’s not exotic or un-reachable. It’s your birthright.


Photo copyright ZenDoe

It’s the Little Things

At some point in my life, I became a champion of little things.  I don’t remember when this happened, which isn’t unusual because I have such a quirky memory.  What I do know is that I’ve always been fascinated by the tiny.

Miniscule beads, insects, seeds, just about anything mini is interesting in some way to me.  This has been quite a challenge, I might add, because my eyesight is and always has been dreadful.

When I finally decided to buy a really good camera, the first extra I had to have was a macro lens.  I’ve photographed countless insects, hummingbird feathers, droplets of water and the like.  It’s always a bit of a shock when I look at these pictures on a large computer screen.  More than once, I’ve actually squealed with delight to see into their complex and usually invisible worlds.

Wee Yellow Fly 40

But, it’s more, much more, than scientific or aesthetic appreciation to me.  There’s something about tiny creatures that moves me to want to protect them, to honor them, to defend them.  Yeah, I know, they’re just bugs.

I have a bit of a reputation as a defender of creepy-crawlies.  My colleagues don’t hesitate to voice their disgust when I pick up wilted earthworms that have had the misfortune to find themselves drowning in a puddle or tediously creeping across a scorching black top.  I have to smile though, when these same women pop into my office and ask me sweetly to remove the spider from the bathroom.

There’s something deeply healing for me in each of these gestures of kindness, each rescue of a small creature that otherwise has no advocate.  Insects aren’t nearly as galvanizing as whales or elephants.

When I was small, I’m sure that my parents kept me from dangers.  It’s what all parents do.  But what of the times when it was the parents themselves who presented the danger?  To whom could I turn?

Each time I carry a spider outside, a little something in the world is healed.  That’s important.  And it isn’t a contrived activity, it’s simply how I like to live.  It feels right.  The balm for the soul is just a bonus.

It happens that I live in the center of the universe for “Brood II Magicicadas”.  Cicadas, if you’re not familiar with them, are very large and very loud flying insects with vivid green eyes.  A summer night isn’t complete without their raucous, deafening trilling in the trees.  They live underground until it’s time for them to shed their old skins, grow wings and fly off into the night to mate.  It happens every summer.  Children love finding their abandoned brown skin husks attached to tree trunks.

But, the “Magicicadas” are special.  The entire brood lives underground for a remarkable seventeen years of root-eating creepy-crawling until the seventeen year cycle is up, then they boil up out of the ground by the tens of thousands, climb trees, molt, and fly away after their wings have hardened.  These periodical cicadas are smaller than their perennial cousins and are orange-red as opposed to green.

007 szd

Their emergence this week has been something to see unless you’re squeamish about bugs.  They cover fence posts, drip from your flowers and dangle from the leaves of trees, all in various stages of crawling, molting, emerging, and drying.

After supper last night, just before sunset, I went outside to wish the horses a good evening.  They often line up at the fence when they see me coming. Might have something to do with the carrots.  I stayed with them a little while, stroking their soft coats and talking with them.  It was a quiet, beautiful time of day. The last rays of the sun were breaking through the clouds that had brought heavy rain earlier.

The grass was cool and wet, and the 21 ancient oak trees in my yard stood silently, enjoying the golden warmth of the sun.  For a few moments, I remembered to appreciate these old souls and the whisperings of their leaves.  I walked gently to one of them, to place a hand on the lichen-covered bark.

There, on the tree trunk, were hundreds of newly emerged cicadas. But, every one of them was deformed.  Their wings were missing, or shriveled.  They clung to the tree, or marched slowly up the trunk, as is their nature.  But, not one of them would ever be able to fly away.

The horizontal rays of orange sun illuminated something on the ground, and I squatted down to be able to see what it was.  Hundreds of glistening inch-long wings, delicate and as transparent as spun glass lay in a pile on the moss between the tree’s roots, sparking in the light.  As I looked, several more wings fluttered to the ground from high in the branches.  It was incredibly beautiful, and I found myself squatting there like a child, feeling simultaneously enchanted and very sad that so many of the cicadas were damaged.

I gathered the wings, picking each one up as carefully as I could so that they wouldn’t tear, and after a last look at the broken cicadas, I slipped quietly into the house and up to my room.

I spread the wings in an arc on the old sewing machine table that is my makeshift altar, and lit a small tea candle.  They sparkled like gold leaf.

Whispered to the cicadas:  I saw you.  I couldn’t save you, but I know that you existed, if only for the briefest moment.  I won’t forget.  This is the best I can do.  Sometimes we’re helpless.



All photographs copyright ZenDoe, 2013

*Note:  Just as I finished writing this, the news of the tornado and its devastation in Moore, Oklahoma began to pour in.  I thought for a moment of pulling this post, but somehow it seemed right to go ahead and publish it.  Sometimes we’re helpless…

This is a stunning time-lapse video of the life cycle of the cicadas.


Being Human Doings

As I was mucking stalls last night, sweating and heaving soggy, stinking wads of bedding into the wheelbarrow, I caught myself feeling guilty, almost panicked, that I wasn’t getting enough work done.  The anxiety swelled, and somewhere between shovel-fulls I actually heard myself say, “I don’t have time for this!  I have work to do!”  Oh, dear.

I haven’t written in weeks, there are four massive projects on my desk at home and ten times that on my desk at the office.  The house is filthy.  I need groceries.  I’d like to ride.  I need to find a moment to meditate…  I could get up earlier!  Maybe I could adjust to getting up at 5:00 instead of 5:30?  No.

That panic, as foolish as it was, was a serious wake-up call.  Once again, I had become little more than a work machine – a “human doing”.   Even the things that I love to do, photography, riding, meditating, writing, even these things had become tightly scheduled and monitored, lest they take too much time from the work that needed doing.

One of my favorite lines from Sogyal Rinpoche is this:

Western laziness consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so there is no time at all to confront the real issues.

How true.  And how sad.  In my own case, I know precisely the cause of my obsession with doing, and I was delighted to find a very clear article about the nature of this phenomenon.  You can read it here if you like.

I googled human being vs human doing, and found dozens of articles and blog posts which provided readers with any number of trite aphorisms and affirmations.  I didn’t find any of them potentially life-changing.

This morning, it’s raining.  Now, in my book, there’s not much that’s better than a rainy weekend.  It’s as though the powers that be have declared a moratorium on yard work and major projects.  So, I left a few emails unanswered, picked up my camera, and made my way slowly to the barn to simply sit with the horses for a while.

Although they’re at liberty to go where they like, all three horses were there, just standing.  If you haven’t been around horses much, you may not know that they can stand together, simply being, for hours at a time.  I turned over a bucket and sat down in the main aisle where they’d gathered.

Gradually, the racing of my thoughts quieted until they were little more than a whisper in the background, like the sound of the slow drizzle on the tin barn roof.  The lazy swish of a tail, brushing away a fly, stirred the fragrances of rain, hay, manure, and damp horse.  The sound of chewing.  Captain turned slowly and walked the few steps to where I sat. He frisked me for cookies with his soft nose.  Sitting still, simply breathing with him, I inhaled and exhaled every nuance of his movements.

I sat while the horses stood.  Nothing to do, no deadlines, no pressure.  Horses have no need whatsoever for distraction.  Just being is enough.  What wonderful teachers they are.

It has been a long time since I’ve had a community of people to practice meditation with.  That’s alright.  For the now, I know where to go when I need to remind myself that just to be is enough.

Walking back to the house, the rain was cool on my face. It decorated every leaf and flower with diamond droplets.


Photograph copyright ZenDoe, 2013

Morning’s Quiet Green

Alarm shatters sleep long before dawn
helter skelter fumbling for shower and what to wear
pulling on a sock and email between sips of coffee
cat food dog food fish food horse food me food
almost done check the dog water, refill
oh, forgot dog pills get cheese
need milk, need cat food…

Grab keys, turn off lights
pat dogs, pat cat, say good-bye
out the back door down steps to walkway


Spring’s silent voice whispers in hues of green.  The sun hasn’t risen above last night’s clouds yet, quiet green, still green, lush and damp.  Every blade of grass, every pine needle, each new leaf holds droplets of rain in perfect poise between heaven and earth.  Even the birds are silent in the softness of the slow-motion cool.

At the fence, three horses, breathing the subtle music of morning, unhurried.  The languid swoosh of a tail, a brush-stroke calligraphy of movement.

Stay one more moment, disappearing into the fragrance of earth heaving forth life.  Let it go.  Car keys jingle.

Refraction pine needle szd - Copy

Raindrop on Pine Needle ~ Photo ©ZenDoe