All posts by james revels

TENDING THE GARDEN: Five Inner Arts or Practices (Part II)

III- Art of Dialogue

A third way to tend the garden of your soul is to learn the art of dialogue – there is not a more precious art. Dialogue not only makes the world a safer place through clearer and better communication; it also becomes the door that opens love within us, sharing soul to soul, presence to presence — not only romantic love, but compassionate love, caring love, love that serves, love that creates, love that leaves the world a better place. Dialogue opens the door to communion with all of existence.

Dialogue is learning to open your presence, your being, your soul to the presence of another. According to Martin Buber, the German/Jewish philosopher who was so significant in developing the theme of dialogue, the other may be in nature, may be an animal, may be human, and may be God, spiritual and sacred. It is truly a gift to note that as you take your mindfulness to dialogue an incredible presence arises just from the power of the meeting, just from the grace of meeting the other.

One of the keys in the art of dialogue is to develop a deep listening or receptive presence. When you open to another, be it a person or a forest, become a receptive presence in your listening. Invite the soul of the other into your openness and allow them all the room they need to fully share. As well, when it is your time to share, ensure that you have the safety and the uninterrupted space to share your authenticity and deep honesty so that you can learn to share from your deepest presence. In this wonderful exchange grows a possibility of compassionate presence, loving presence, healing presence.

IV- Process of Inquiry

A wonderful practice and a powerful tool for tending the inner garden is inquiry. Anyone who tends a garden needs to discover what will help the garden to flourish and what will inhibit the natural growth.

Inquiry is looking at what is growing that might need weeding, that might need extraction because it is preventing presence. As well, inquiry is very curious about that which supports the growth. There has been a certain growth going already from our development, from our family, from our culture, from our personality, from the tendencies that we have that prevent our presence from arising fully and powerfully. Some developments hopefully have been healthy and supportive.

Inquiry is powerful when used in the present moment, when you inquire with a sense of present moment experience; when you enter with a courageous spirit and an open mind, not really knowing what will be revealed. Instead of getting lost in old dramas, you maintain yourself in a mindful way within this present-moment experience. What is impacting you in this very moment? What are you experiencing right now? How are you experiencing this in your body, your mind, your heart? Inquiry is oftentimes simply opening ourselves to the pain we carry, not running from it but acknowledging it, breathing it and allowing it to tell its story or creating room for change.

Something from the past may well be impacting you in this present moment. Obviously some of these issues are best tended to with a professional. Psychotherapy is a form of inquiry, and a therapist who is mindfulness and presence-based can be very helpful – especially when they include a somatic/body orientation.

As you are inquiring and looking, you will also note not just the bad growths, but you will note what is essential, what is rich and powerful and part of the wonderful sense of presence growing within you. You go to the source so that you slowly, again, begin to settle into the truest identity that you can establish within. Your inquiry grows into a knowing presence. This is part of your foundation for this incredible, wonderful rich being that is growing in presence inside.

V- Creativity

And the last practice that we explore in this book is utilizing your sense of mindfulness and presence through your very creativity. Creativity goes all through life — creation, work, play. Your being is creative in its very nature.

But I also encourage you to identify a passion in your life that you can return to again and again, day after day– a talent, a gift, an area that you really love, that creates passion in you, something that you can cultivate, that will be natural for you to come back to. Playing music, whatever is your joy, gardening, working on your cars, woodworking, building things, inventing them, drawing, something that you can hold near and dear to you and develop. I invite everyone to find something that you can pour your heart into without necessarily having to think about performing or meeting standards (at least at the beginning). And as you develop this passion you bring the quality of mindfulness and presence to it.

The act of creation, the practice of bringing something into creation, invites a dynamic element of your presence, a vital, generative aspect of your life force. This is finding your heart’s love and finding a way to express that in some form, providing you with a growing sense of a creative presence that will accompany you through your life. It is cultivating a craft, a skill, an art that you truly love, a life work that completely engages your soul.

 

Each of these five practices is instrumental in developing a powerful sense of presence in your life, a presence that is grounded in mindfulness and awareness yet is available for action and engagement.

These practices are available throughout your whole life, not only through all areas of your life, but throughout the duration of your life. Things will change. Your types of meditation may change, maybe even the activity of your creativity may change, but your witnessing presence and creative presence growing within you will stay with you throughout the course of your life.

Mindfulness is the attention. Presence is the full, rich inner garden available to you at each and every moment that you call upon it. When you call with your full mindfulness, that which you have access to at that moment is there, is present, is presence.

TENDING THE GARDEN: Five Inner Arts or Practices (Part I)

 Mindfulness is tending the garden of your soul.  It is tending the garden through your attention, through your awareness, the efforts of your intention, the persistence, the remembrance, the vigilance, the care. Daily, like a gardener, you return to the garden. 

 Any word that works for you, that awakens a watchfulness inside you can be used as your reminder. Instead of mindfulness, you can use awareness, you can use witnessing, being attentive, awakening, a quality inside that by virtue of your remembrance again becomes active and lights up. It’s almost as if you are a guard at the watchtower and you remember to wake up and do your work. And the mindfulness is a total, complete attention. It is not simply a faculty of the mind and thinking. It is a deep witnessing presence – a global attention from and to deeper and deeper places within you.

 The source of our attention is a wonderful thing to track inside and it ultimately leads us to a mystery. It leads us to inner doors. And presence — the way I am using presence — is the natural growth and availability of the garden. Just as you are in this very moment, there’s a certain amount of presence within you, available to you. You’ve cleared so much of the garden and you can rest within that circumference. That is the presence that is now available to you. It is available to you at any moment in your life when you remember to turn it on, to light it up with attention and mindfulness.

 Please remember these words are just signposts to lead us inside. The experience is what matters. The reality inside is the important matter. Presence indicates, for me, the garden of your inner being, the garden of your soul, now in this moment, accessible and available to you. It is common and natural that there are certain obstructions and barriers to the expanse of your being and this may take some work, some tending. You may have to roll your sleeves up and do a bit of clearing so that your available presence grows and becomes more expansive. Like a garden our inner nature grows naturally when provided a healthy ground and soil and does not flourish when crowded out of its natural habitat or deprived of necessary nutrients.

 The way this teaching assists and helps in growing your conscious presence of this wonderful ground of being is through engaging you in five inner arts or practices. Each of these arts helps establish a deep sense of presence throughout the expanse of your life, thereby allowing you to naturally grow in your own authentic and essential potentiality.

 

 I- Art of Meditation

 Through the art of meditation you learn to focus and center yourself inwards, beginning to quiet the mind and settle into the deeper regions of your awareness, ultimately settling more into your essential authentic self. You cultivate time in your life to turn your attention, your mindfulness, upon various inner experiences such as your breath, your body sensations, thoughts, moods and eventually the very source of your attention.

 An inner sense of awareness begins to grow that becomes the core of your presence. Your meditation begins to reveal the source of the being that is within you that is always here, always available. This anchoring of your attention in your inner being provides a sort of pilot light of presence ready to integrate into your everyday life.

 As you explore meditation you will discover there are many methods and many approaches. The central method in this work is directing your mindfulness, your full and complete attention, to various inner experiences beginning with the body. Spend some time simply being mindful of the body – the sensations, the breath, the sounds, all aspects of your physical experience. Simply be attentive – tend to the body with your attention.

 Next, direct your mindfulness towards watching the mind, watching the thoughts, watching the activity inside the mind and the brain. You are not changing anything. You are just being mindful of mental activity, just witnessing, paying attention to every thought, to every movement, to every distraction, to every leaving each moment that you leave and every return as you come back. So as a tender, a gardener, be patient with yourself and with the power of your mindfulness bring yourself back.

 Next, for a while guide your mindfulness towards your emotional self, noticing any feelings, any moods, not changing them, but watching. You are simply allowing whatever the inner weather is like to be observed and held by your mindfulness.

 And then with your mindfulness you go to the depths, to the sources, to the very ground of your being, which meets exactly at the place that is the ground of your attention, the ground of your mindfulness. You are establishing your witnessing presence. Allow your presence to sink inside the soil, to go deep within your being. Rest and replenish yourself in your own rich sources and witness as your soul begins to effortlessly flower some of its essence.

 

 II- Daily Mindfulness

 Another practice we call daily mindfulness. I also call it the daily practice of presence. It is going through your everyday normal world with a commitment to be mindful as much through the day as you can remember, knowing that your attention will leave, will get caught up into events. But as you remember throughout your day, let that pilot light of your presence be there to support the action, providing an engaged presence. This is not going to take away from the work that you need to produce. Actually, this is going to enable you to be more present as you are carrying those actions out, as you are living through all the minutes of your day. You will be practicing the beloved and challenging art of not abandoning yourself while engaged in daily living.

 This in no way means that to be mindful you have to go through the day looking like the meditator, somber and detached from all of life, lost in the gaze of your own navel. Your vital core of life force comes with you and you have the opportunity to engage life with your complete totality, with your full potential. Presence can be salty, spontaneous, irreverent, sensual, and full of humor as well as sacred, peaceful, creative and service-oriented. Folks, presence can be juicy and fun! It needs no masks, no faces. You simply maintain awareness. You simply remain true to your authentic presence.

(Part II will cover three inner arts: Dialogue, Inquiry and Creativity)

A RETURN HOME

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Establish this inner home as the place where you reside

 One of the first steps in understanding presence is the theme of returning to the self, a return home. Now, what does that mean – returning to the self? It means gathering your attention, beginning to be aware and present to all aspects of the self. Presence is learning to abide in any given situation with an inner sense of awareness in this moment. To do so there has to be a beginning step of returning some of your attention back to your source – a focusing and centering of attention back to your home. We call this conscious use of attention mindfulness.

What we are going to call the home is nothing more than the sense of being within you. The capacity to be is the home. With mindfulness you return your attention, settling back in as close to the source of your being as possible, thus beginning to grow the presence of being. This is also the beginning of our first practice – meditation; establishing this inner home as the place where you reside as you live life.

Inasmuch as that is not happening means that your attention, your focus, your investment of energy has abandoned the home. It is as if you have a beautiful estate home that has several rooms that are all a part of your joy of living. You have a music room with a beautiful mahogany piano; you have a study filled with your favorite books and a place to study and write; you have an open kitchen filled with wonderful foods; a gathering room for family and community; a sun and garden room to enjoy light and flowers. You have this wonderful estate home and yet you stay away from it. You live your life away from the home.

The inner world of our being is a beautiful estate home. And many of us only live on the porch, when we actually make it there! To actually come in, to enter, and to begin to live inside this home of being is an art. This art can be learned and it is a learning that never ends. The art can be mastered to a degree, yet as long as you are living, this art has ever opening and deepening possibilities. There is no end to this creation.

This abandonment from our home represents a schism, a split of attention that relinquishes our inner world for the demands and dynamics of the outer world. This schism, or split, appears to be a necessary step in the human evolutionary story as it looks like it happens to all. In order to survive the environments we find ourselves, it looks as though we are frightened out of the presence of being. We become separated from our source, or at least it appears so since we are no longer attentive or aware of our source.

The being is the estate home of the soul. Getting settled back into the home, returning and ending this abandonment of the self allows us to begin to rediscover the richness of our inner world. We realize that the source has never left us and is always awaiting our return and recognition.

Presence is residing within our inner home and yet being able and available to fully live this moment in the world. We have wonderful inner resources within as we face the challenges of life. We find courage to face fears, resolve to endure hardship, and strength to make needed changes. We may find a new access to creativity, authenticity, contentment and peace. And we find the source of dialogue, community and communion, and simply the joy of moving through life with a strong and centered sense of presence.

 

THE WISDOM WITHIN YOU

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The silence of a Himalayan winter


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is wisdom in this world and to receive it you only have to seek with an open mind, heart and soul. You have to draw from the longing within the heart for the teaching or possibly a teacher or you draw from the wellspring of wisdom within your own heart, which is ultimately the same source.

A wonderful and powerful teaching is one that may first be heard, read, or seen but then moves deeper into your soul, settling near your heart. Once there it begins to spread like a flame through the whole of you. It becomes blood, breathing, pulsing, it becomes energy and movement. It enters and informs your thoughts, emotions and your subtle energies. It sits within you and grows as benediction and blessing. Slowly and patiently over time it heals you and prepares you for action, service and giving.

Real learning is a complete feedback loop.

This work, this teaching, is a distillation of the teachings that have settled near my heart. For me, mindfulness and presence comprises two sides of the same master key. Mindfulness provides the attention to the core of being; presence is the acceptance of the natural being that is here and available now. My goal is to present five simple practices that can be learned and internalized as inner arts that will support you in your personal growth and transformation throughout your precious life. These five practices are meditation, dialogue, inquiry, daily mindfulness and creativity.

Once these practices are learned and anchored inside, they become catalysts that move deep inside you as you remember the key – mindfulness and presence. Actually you are moving deeper inside yourself and taking up residence in your real authentic self as you live life. You are not renouncing life, abandoning life, nor barricading yourself from life. Rather you are learning to fully engage life from your truest, most authentic self.

The feedback loop from these practices spreads into the whole of your life – your alone time, relationships, leisure, daily routines, work, art and creativity, and in your research and explorations. The very practices themselves go through a transformation from being practices to an inner art, an inner knack, a key.

Within you is a precious gift that wishes to be uncovered and in time shared. A voice arises that becomes your own service that you freely wish to give. Like a rose, you need not be shy about your buds and blossoms, for this inner gift is by no means a self-serving and narcissistic urge to be special.  It is an inner gift that you share in your own time – as you heal, ripen and mature.

As healing happens and the heart grows whole and happy, of course the heart wants to sing its song, share its love and wisdom, and ultimately help create a sense of communion between souls.

Learn to master these beautiful practices. That is, give your soul completely to them. Give them time, quality time. Just like a master gardener, give them your love and attention. This is the master teaching, which is to open your doors to the wisdom within you. Let your practice and discipline be a labor of love. And slowly, the keys to unlock the treasures of your soul will be given to you.