Sitting cross-legged by the burning wood stove

Mesmerizing flames...

As many of you know or don’t know, I spend lots of time meditating here in the woods.

Meditation started seriously for this one in 2003.

Since no formal teacher materialized to teach me, I started sitting cross-legged on the couch by the burning wood stove in our walk-out basement  (OK, only by the wood stove  nine months of the year) back in the early part of this century and concentrated on the breath.

You breathe in, you breathe out.

You breathe in, you breathe out.

Your thoughts begin to think this is the silliest thing in the entire universe and rebel.  They stage terrorist acts and take attention hostage.  They plan dinner.  They debate religion or politics.  They plan next week’s schedule. You snarl (or, if you’re advanced, you sometimes patiently smile) and regain attention on the breath.  Breathe in, breathe out.

That’s it.

Buddha magic

You finish your five or twenty or thirty minutes sometimes disgruntled and thought-crazed, sometimes peaceful, sometimes downright angry, sometimes miraculously expansive and quiet.

People meditate for all sorts of reasons.  Some people meditate for health.  Breathing calmly and slowly, concentrating the mind, often lowers blood pressure and cures some stress-related illnesses.  Some folks meditate to find happiness.  People who meditate are sometimes calmer, more peaceful.  There are as many reasons for meditating as there are meditators.

Before unfolding

Others meditate to penetrate the crux of humanity:  Who are we really?

They meditate in an effort to wake up from the trance of thoughts and beliefs which keep us believing we are only a limited self, a single individual separate from everything we perceive.

When you start to look very closely at your self you will begin to re-assess your deepest beliefs and ideas.  You will begin to perceive that you are not really your body–even though you are 100% sure that you are your body, and no one will ever ever convince you otherwise.

You will begin to perceive that you are not your thoughts–even though the thoughts are 100% convinced that they are the Masters and you will follow them onto your deathbed.

You will begin to see that you are not your personality–even though your personality will not let go of you no matter how hard you shake it, and will utilize a cunning and practical device called an ego to keep you thoroughly attached to its patterns.

After unfolding

If you ask “What am I?” or “Who am I really?” for five or ten or one hundred years, you begin to see that you are nothing.  (Do not believe me.  Please do not believe me.  Try for yourself if you’re so inclined. Or smile in amusement or frown in disinterest if you’re not.)

Sometimes you will glimpse that you are nothing.  Other times you will realize that you are everything.

But you will, if you’re anything like many meditators, go back to following your mechanical personality around the eternal wheel of your days.  You’ll begin to see that you’re really nothing (really no-thing) and yet not be able to fully integrate that into your life.

So you keep breathing.  Or repeating your koan (such as “What am I?”)  Or you sit quietly in the larger awareness that you are.

You might even write a blog in between meditation sessions, letting your personality play.

Or take photographs.

Even though you realize that you are nothing–it is very interesting to watch the personalities called Kathy or Michael or Donna type blogs in which they repeatedly announce that they are something or someone.  (Sometimes meditators do this more fervently than the general non-meditating public.  They have glimpsed that they are nothing and their personalities revolt.  We’ll show you, the personalities clamor, we’ll show you that we exist and we’re in charge!)

Girl and Butterfly

I am spending this week-in-between Christmas and New Years meditating, and then running errands, and meditating, and then going out to work at the school, and meditating.

The personality suggested a couple of really funny blogs to write–but I decided to share what is really happening in my life.  What is the passion that drives me, more than anything else.

Snow falls lightly outside the window.  Green spruce point fingers at the end of sweeping branches toward a hidden moon.  The wood stove hums.

Ask yourself:  Who hears the wood stove?

When we penetrate to the core of that mystery, when the wood stove and you are one, when you and I arise as one unfolding, then let’s bake some cookies and have a cup of tea.

OK, OK, let’s not wait until then.  What kind of tea would you like?

Do you have a spiritual practice which guides you through the bright or foggy days of your life, helping you steer your boat to safe harbor or adventuresome seas?

Thank you for listening to my heart.

Your sky, your boat, your lake. That's all.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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43 Responses to Sitting cross-legged by the burning wood stove

  1. Dear Kathy. Yes, I have a spiritual practice. But it is very undisciplined at the moment. I meditate sporadically for usually only a few minutes at a time and the urgent thoughts rebel terribly. I seek to practice compassion, some seconds of tonglen here and there. As I read blogs and articles I get glimpses of freedom and beauty and truth. In my relationship I learn so very much and become more and more myself.

    The main thing I want to say though is how beautiful you are in your practice. In your meditating and not-meditating, blogging and not-blogging, attached to yourself and attached to your not-self and unattached to everything and part of everything. The way you bring us all along on your journey and let us see what it is like to be you.

    Snow is at last falling here in Hamilton, not just on my computer screen as I watch your blog but real flakes coming down and making the ground white… the birds come to the bird feeders hungrily now to devour every bit and Robert keeps going out to replenish their supplies… It is so very quiet, Kathy. Do you hear it? I think you do, that deep, deep quiet that pervades the fabric of the multi-verse and always is there, even though I hear the sound of the tapping of the keys on my computer as I write these words and the songs on the radio in the background. The silence enfolds me in its loving arms and holds me, so close, so tenderly. I am grateful.

  2. Sybil says:

    I have a very noisy brain.
    It never shuts up.
    Chatter, chatter, chatter.
    I need to meditate.
    Chatter, chatter, chatter.
    I am most peaceful when I am walking with the dogs.
    But still, I need to meditate.
    Chatter, chatter, chatter.

    At the Unitarian Church I used to go to in Peterborough, we sang a lovely, calming song…

    When I breathe in, I breathe in peace.
    When I breathe out, I breath out love.

    Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out … breathe …

    • Kathy says:

      I know that noisy brain, indeed. never shuts up, indeed. To be able to watch it without falling into it is a treat indeed. What a lovely song, Sybil.

  3. That’s lovely, Sybil. There is a Unitarian church here in Hamilton, just down the road from my Kumon math and reading centre. I keep meaning to pop in some time… I know that they have some lovely concerts there. Perhaps I will have a chance to go sometime in the New Year.


  4. john says:

    My sky, my trees, my house, my lake. That’s all.

  5. It’s always wonderful to listen to your heart, Kathy, and you express your heart-song so well. Lately it’s been Earl Grey tea for me…

    My spiritual practice is to avoid dogma and doctrine like the plague, and to allow mystical experiences in. Listening to music, a grounding walk in the woods or along the seashore, reading Emily Dickinson or Ralph Waldo Emerson – all these things make me feel connected, safe, and ecstatically one with the universe, the divine.

  6. Susan Derozier says:

    Kathy – This is so very beautiful! Your pictures are amazing and reader’s comments so lovely. I wish to say nothing and just take you all in. Thank you for taking me into peace.

  7. “Sometimes you will glimpse that you are nothing. Other times you will realize that you are everything.”

    Zing! This strikes a resonant chord — I especially loved this thought.

  8. lisaspiral says:

    This is one of the most honest descriptions of meditation I think I’ve ever read. There is the acknowledgement of both the difficulty and also the value. I am not generally keen to quiet the mind and meditate, although I do appreciate a good guided meditation occasionally. With the holiday bustle I’m also kicking around the idea of making a space in my day for meditation. The simplicity of your experience is, for me, the Universe giving me a nudge in that direction. Thank you.

  9. Good God, this writing is stunning, Kathy. Hope you realize that–really stunning. I would push the “like” button but that would do this post a disservice. I need a “LOVE” button, my friend!

  10. Dana says:

    Dear Kathy,

    To say that this post was *exactly* what I needed to read today would be a gross understatement. In fact, after cherishing every word that this post contained, I headed upstairs into my own meditation corner and sat in peace for a good hour before coming back down to comment. Aaaaaaahhhhhh! (A sigh of relief, not a shriek.)

    I have been feeling disjointed and out of sorts lately, but this post helped to put everything back in perspective. I truly thank you for this. It was your perfect gift to me today. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Dana, I am so glad that meditation gifted itself to you today, and offered delightful peace to salve any broken or bruised parts of your spirit. Much love…

  11. I am definitely beginning to see that meditation is necessary to keep some form of sanity. Everyone has to find their own way to meditate, but silence is definitely a must. Some people like to sit still, some like to close their eyes… me – I prefer to meditate while walking the trails with my camera. I almost always go alone, I never speak out loud, I don’t think in words – just feel. It has to feel right in order to work. I definitely feel refreshed and I have a clearer head when I return home!

    • Kathy says:

      To feel the way–that is indeed the gift of meditation, whether it comes in walking or sitting. The more I meditate the more I realize that it is sanity itself.

  12. If I can sit for a minute to find that inner peace – it can change my focus for the whole day.

  13. Marianne says:

    Wonderful post, Kathy. I usually practice being aware of my thoughts and attitudes as I go about my day. Most days I read spiritual writings and spend time in contemplation and meditation. Health issues of 2011 have changed my perspective on many things. Things that were important before seem unimportant now. For now, I’m going with the flow.

    Happy New Year and all the very best in 2012!

    • Kathy says:

      I love the practice of being aware throughout the day. It sounds like you found a gift wrapped in the challenging package of your health troubles. Blessed be the flow!

  14. bearyweather says:

    I built a fire last night, too. Having a fire in the fireplace changes the whole atmosphere of my house … looking into those flames … is a great way to relax and meditate.

  15. Marcie says:

    You’ve so perfectly described this process of meditation..the journey..the thoughts..what it’s about for me. Love this wonderful post! Wishing you a happy and creative new year!!!

  16. From Moments to Memories says:

    LOVE your photos and blog. I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Thanks for sharing your stories and pictures!

    • Kathy says:

      You are the biggest of sweethearts. I thank you from the bottom of this versatile heart. It is so thrilling to see you so excited about blogging! Thank you.

  17. Martha Bergin says:

    So simply put! I loved your meditation on meditation! And on asking what you(we) are. And the pictures are so perfect with your thoughts. I’m so glad that you and I are both whatever we are together on the planet at the same time with all the other whatevers. Oh love! Oh joy! Let us only dance and dance! (Happy dance.) Some will need to be comforted. Some will need to be loved into the capacity for happy dance. …

    • Kathy says:

      What beautiful thoughts, dear fellow-planet-dweller. Some will dance and dance, others will need to be comforted and others will need to be loved into that capacity. Oh joy indeed!

  18. Brenda Hardie says:

    Beautifully expressed Kathy! Meditation for me is like prayer….or rather prayer becomes my meditation. It is what grounds me, centers me and calms me. Walking used to do the same for me, like Holly. But my knees don’t allow for long, quiet walks on the trails of the Nature Center anymore. Have had some difficulty accepting this and finding another way to connect with the beautiful outdoors.
    I do think this post will remain in my bookmarks so I can return time and again for inspiration…thank you Kathy ♥

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, I think meditation and prayer has informed you so very deeply. The grounding, centering, calming is so sacred. I am glad you return to meditate, and happy some of these words resonated with you.

  19. Robin says:

    “Sometimes you will glimpse that you are nothing. Other times you will realize that you are everything.”

    Yep. 🙂

    You express all this so beautifully, in words and photos. Thank you. ♥

  20. I enjoyed your writing about meditation, and the beautiful photographs you chose to accompany it. I took a mindfulness meditation course a few years ago and have been practicing since then. I know it’s a common phrase, but it really was like “coming home” for me. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    This time of year, we are never far from our wood stove either!

    • Kathy says:

      I honor you for practicing, for coming home to yourself. Glad to hear you’re snuggled up beside the wood stove, too! (I don’t meet too many others using wood heat. We’re kindred spirits.)

  21. Rose says:

    I so struggle with focus that I can’t bring myself to deal with that lack of focus in meditation again, my thoughts planning dinner and debating religion as you say. Thanks for validating that very difficulty with meditation! Lovely.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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