Tag Archives: mindfulness


don’t wander down the dim halls of memory
lost in a musty maze of dead

don’t launch out into the future
on the treacherous sea of pulp

trust this pulsing moment
tawdry, tattered, or bright
let things come to you

in the marriage
of your yes
and the outstretched hand of now

sit down at the feast
of what is so
savor swallow

eat it all









it is in the being of the days a thing makes sense
the clear, confusing, giddy, dull, and tearful passing of the time



Poets, Prayer, and Paradigms


I lived with two poets all summer. They accompanied  me to both coasts, places in between,  and came along on a silent retreat.  Amy Fleury and Brian Doyle are both accomplished and acclaimed writers. I met them first through Fleury’s Sympathetic Magic and Doyle’s How the Light Gets In and Other Headlong Epiphanies.

sympathetic-magicThe corners of both books are bent down, exclamation points and asterisks dance in the margins. When I finished each book, I promptly started over at the beginning again.

Fleury and Doyle’s  poems sound truth in me like a struck gong. They take me into still places, new insights, and sheer delight at their artistry.

Eventually the books will find a home on my bedroom shelf of books-to-be-buried-with. These are the sort of books I want to take with me to the grave,  in case I wake up in the shadowy corridors of the Bardos, a dank, musty Sheol, or at Purgatory’s laundramat, waiting for a load of my dirty laundry. The poets carry me out of this world like a sturdy rope hanging over a wide river. If you get a good running start and grab hold tightly, you just might swing yourself right over into the generous faith of their imaginations.

I do not know if these two poets know each other.  If they do not, I hope they meet sometime for coffee. And invite me.

There is a gladness in the green-gold tides
of wheat, in the openhandedness of oaks,
and in the river’s verdegris creep over
moss-sueded stones, and fishes beneath.
                               – Amy Fleury, Green Temple


Amy, a consummate artist,  dazzles me with images and words strung on a page like bright jewels. Brian ambles into the room, leans amiably against the door jamb and begins to tell me a story of what happened on his way home, or when he was teaching a class of high school kids, or talking to his father. Then turning, tosses over his shoulder the punch line with such effortless grace and spot on truth, I grin for the rest of the day.

. . . Why do
We ever bother to argue about religion? All religions are the same glorious
Wine, susceptible to going bad but capable of quiet joyous gentle elevation.
. . . Yet here I am, on Sunday morning, in the wedding reception tent, agog;
Not so much at the earnest idiot of a minister, but at everyone, sweetly, else.
– Brian Doyle, Poem After Sunday Morning Church Service in a Tent



Are you looking for a group to practice and learn more about contemplation?
I am offering a four week class on contemplation and mindfulness practices here in Topeka, Ks on each of the Friday mornings in October from 7:30-8:30 am. Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28. Space is limited. We only have room for two more people. Please register at the link below or contact me by commenting here, or through my website, www.fromholyground.org

More Info and Register Here


What is called for is a paradigm shift, a new wineskin, a new mental construct to hold one’s life, and relationships with God, self, and neighbor. A shift in a way of understanding or a world view occurs when the current world view has reached too many anomalies or inconsistences. I can no longer cram myself, my understanding of God and others into a belief system that cannot accommodate some previously unnoticed or known, but now undeniable, realities in my own experience.

The Summer issue of Holy Ground takes a look at how we get stuck in a mental construct or paradigm which we may have outgrown. God is always calling us beyond ourselves and our current conceptions and attitudes.

Is your God too small? Mine was.

READ MORE holy-ground-summer-2016





How To Eat A Piece Of Chocolate

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

Wake up. Pay Attention.

It matters little to the soul in what manner
it is obliged to abandon itself,
and what the present moment contains;
all that is absolutely necessary
is that it should abandon itself unreservedly.
Jean Pierre de Caussade

Don’t gobble it.
Don’t do anything else while you are eating it.

Do not read email.
Do not watch TV.
Do not adjust your makeup.
Do not drive the car.
Do not talk to someone.
Do not try to write about eating chocolate.

Sit down. (This is going to take a while.)

See the wrapper.

Examine it, noting the color, graphics, ingredients, and company information.

See the lineage of your chocolate.

A small tree is tucked under the upper canopy of the rainforest, probably in West Africa. Anchored in rich soil, bathed in high humidity and tropical heat, the cacao tree sways in the breeze. A tiny midge, bred in the tree’s decaying leaves on the forest floor, begins its journey upward to crawl within the five petals of the white, dime-sized flowers blooming directly from the trunk. After the flower fades, a pod develops, stuffed with seeds, which are picked, fermented, dried, and ground to make your chocolate.

English: Cacao (Theobroma cacao) Español: Plan...

See the farmer who planted and cared for the cacao tree.

See the workers harvesting the beans, hauling the harvest, inventing, and operating machines. See the long train of people who have brought this chocolate to your hands and at what price? How many were children? Who suffered? Who gained? What has it taken to bring this smoky rich flavor to your mouth? How many miles has it traveled on someone’s back, by cart, conveyor belt, crate, ship, plane, or truck? How many hands has it passed through – plantation owner, shipper, factory worker, buyer, grocery stocker, check out clerk – to bring it to your hand?

Say thanks.

Relax. There is no rush here. Not now.
You hold eternity in your palm.

To pay attention and be fully present in each moment is to meet eternity. For each moment offers in its endless treasures all you will ever need for that moment. Some call this the sacrament of the present moment, or being present. Others call it mindfulness. Jesus called this quality of trust-filled awareness the kingdom of God.

Remove the wrapper.

Feel the weight, see the color and shape of the chocolate. Lift it to your nose and sniff its fragrance. Do you catch the whiff of forest nights, heavy with insect song and stars?

Run your finger over the chocolate. Is it smooth like satin, rough, or molded in some way?

Break off a piece. See it separate and reveal its interior.

Now bring it to your mouth.
Wait. You are getting ahead of yourself.

Slow down.

Do not eat it before you eat it.
First, bring it to your mouth to bring it to your mouth.

Pay attention to the impulse to lift your hand and the complex brain chemistry and mechanics of respiration, circulation, nerve, muscle, tendon, and bone, which perform this feat at your merest whim.

Feel the chocolate touch your lips. Run your tongue over the surface.
your teeth into it until the chocolate gives itself to you
and splits in two.

Hold the forest, the flower, the midge, the wind, the suffering,
the unappeasable appetite of commerce, a thousand sweaty hands,
and a thousand sultry nights
in your mouth.

Feel them soften and release their sweet, spreading river of bitter, buttery cacao.


Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves. It is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each moment of life. Thich Naht Hahn

The present is ever filled with infinite treasure, it contains more than you have capacity to hold. . . .The divine will is a deep abyss of which the present moment is the entrance. If you plunge into this abyss you will find it infinitely more vast than your desires. Jean Pierre de Caussade

Writing Exercise
Eat something mindfully, awake and aware in the present moment, and write about your experience. How did you feel when you began this exercise? How did you feel when you completed it? What did you notice, experience, or learn?

Chocolate tasting selection

Friends, I will be away from writing and reading for the next two weeks . I will spend ten days in silence and meditation, practicing mindfulness, as I walk, breathe, wash my face, and eat a little chocolate.

Perhaps we will meet in the spaces of eternity in each new moment.
Until then, pay attention!


The Miracle of Gratitude

woman praying 002Feeling discouraged? Despair breathing down your neck? Are you trapped in a painful situation with no way out?

Count your blessings. I know. It sounds lame. You need a whole life makeover. You need to win the lottery, find a new job, or discover the cure for cancer. Humor me. Do it anyway. Hold up your ten fingers, or however many you have. Count out loud one blessing for each finger.

Now that you are warmed up, take out a piece of paper and get to work filling it up with things you are grateful for. Just put down whatever pops in your head. Keep at it. Include the most specific details – water actually flowed from my faucet at the flick of my wrist when I was thirsty this morning; I can see the mourning dove pecking corn outside my window; my cup of coffee tastes delicious – dark, aromatic, and hot.

A sure way to find hope in a dark time is to count one’s blessings. This simple spiritual practice focuses our attention not on what has happened or what might happen, but on what we can discover to be thankful for in this moment. Gratitude awakens mindfulness, which calms and focuses us on simple pleasures and the miracle of life itself.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.  Melodie Beattie

I can recall some pretty anguished nights in my life. I flailed about rehearsing imagined scenarios, practicing speeches to give to various people, and writing scary science fiction. To what end? Nothing productive. I only became more and more entangled in my own hysterical drama. Some of us come to a point where we are being eaten up by worry and fear. This can be the key to a wonderful discovery. Right about when we say, I can’t live like this anymore, we discover we do not have to. Peace is a choice. We have the freedom through an act of our wills to choose peace of mind.

So much about the spiritual life and happiness in general depends upon where we put our focus. We get to choose what thoughts we entertain and which ones we sweep out the door. At the same time there is tremendous competition among multiple influences to occupy the center stage of our minds. Consider for a moment who or what influences are in charge of your mind? The mantras of our consumer culture? Some nasty critical, negative inner voice? A whiny, fearful, abandoned child? A tangled root of bitterness?

The psalmist puts it succinctly, “Do not fret – it only leads to evil.” Psalm 37: 8. Spiritual teachers of many traditions teach the practice of gratitude. Jesuit priest Jeanne Pierre de Caussade, who died in 1751, advises: The great principle of the interior life lies in peace of the heart: it must be preserved with such care that the moment it is in danger everything else should be abandoned for its re-establishment, just as when a house is on fire, one leaves everything to extinguish it.. . .  And the reason of this is that great peace and tranquility of spirit alone give the soul great strength to achieve all that God wills while trouble and disquiet turn the soul into a languishing invalid. 

De Caussade’s image of the languishing invalid cracks me up. That is exactly what I become as I succumb to fear and anxiety:  infected with negativity, unable to make clear decisions, confined to a bed of worry.

If the only prayer you ever pray is thank you, that would suffice, wrote Meister Eckhart. It seemed to work for Jesus. Remember that embarrassing moment when there were only two fish and five loaves and a huge hungry crowd to feed? The disciples quickly turned into languishing invalids. Jesus takes what he has, lifts his eyes to heaven, and gives thanks. After everyone had enough, they filled twelve baskets with leftovers.

That was Jesus’ miracle. Why don’t you go work a few of your own today?

 Praying hands



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Contact Loretta at
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

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