A Thanksgiving Meditation

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Dropping into my heart space today. And with that, the affirmation that I live in gratitude.

Every day that I awaken and breathe, I am thankful.

Every day that I think a thought, and feel my heart’s stirring, I am thankful.

Every day that I am upright and whole, I am thankful.

Every day that a creative and productive idea becomes solid matter, I am thankful.

Every day that I face that thing of which I am most afraid, I am thankful.

Every day that I am given awareness of the smallest of beauties, the most unsung of treasures, I am thankful.

Every day that I am enlightened, given insight, have an epiphany, I am thankful.

Every day that I exercise compassion, understanding, patience, empathy, I am thankful.

Every day that I encounter another living creature and engage, I am thankful.

Every day that I can have some time to myself, for quiet and reflection, I am thankful.

Every day that I am hugged, kissed, loved, I am thankful.

Every day that I laugh, or make someone else laugh, I am thankful.

Every day that the people I love are healthy and happy, I am thankful.

Every day that my friends do well in the world, I am thankful.

Every day that I change someone’s life, or someone changes mine, I am thankful.

Every day that love is evident in my life, I am thankful.

Every day that I act out of anger, impatience, frustration, a broken heart, I am thankful. For each affliction offers an opportunity to learn about myself, and my fellow seeker.

Every day that brings me a challenge that tests my spirit, I am thankful.

Every day that I am humbled by a mistake of my own doing, I am thankful. Why else do our mistakes exist?

Every day that I am faced with seemingly unbearable odds, unrelenting trials, I am thankful. For the lessons learned, and the spirit strengthened by them, are more valuable to me than if I were living an effortless life.

Every day that I try, I am thankful.

Every day that I try again, I am thankful.

And when they ask me what’s new? I will answer, every single day.  Because every single day that arrives brings a sun, a moon, a breath, a surprise, a blessing, a song, whether sung or heard, and the spiritual ear to hear it, a world of love at my fingertips, a capacity for hope, a reason to smile, an opportunity to repair, restore, renew, and a heart full of gratitude.

And may my most powerful prayer from this day forward be … NOT … “Dear God, please give me …” But two words, and two words only:   THANK YOU.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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In This Room

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That I am the one

alone with my father at

his moment is purely chance.

 

It is 4:14 am, and the house is quiet. Though we’re all

here, this moment leaves me alone with my father, who

will die tonight; it’s just a matter of when. I have had

some developing anxiety lately. I’ve often felt that it’s

 

as embarrassingly elementary as: We get what we

deserve. Period. And after a lifetime of missteps and

regret I feel fairly certain that I am destined to die in a

heinous car crash for all my sins. As a result, I’ve lately

 

been fearful of cars. Getting behind the wheel of them.

Being a passenger in them. Encountering them and their

owners on the most manic freeways in the world (yes, you,

Los Angeles). So I almost didn’t make it. I paused as I got

 

the call from home that my father was beginning his

transition.   I was sixty miles away.   My heart raced; I

should be there and nowhere else. But I paused. I paused

again when the second phone call from my brother revealed

 

that he was only minutes away from arriving at Dad’s.

So, there’s just me, then? Who won’t be there when Dad

passes, out of this life? Only me? While everyone else

rallies, because rally is what you do. I guess that was

 

the one that unpaused me.   I strapped on guile — an

ill-fitting dress — and got on those deathtrap freeways.

The way I came to see it, as I drove, with extreme

paranoia about every auto that seemed to be inching

 

into me, was that if it’s my time to go, in the most fiery,

bloody way one can imagine, that would still be better

than living the remainder of my life in the self-hatred that

I would choose cowardice and PTSD-level anxiety over the

 

privilege of holding my father’s hand as he completes his

extraordinary task on this earth.   So here I am, at 4:14 a.m.,

and our entire life together as father and firstborn floods

the corners of my eyes. We’re all here, floating in and out

 

of his room over the course of several hours, several days,

holding vigil, being here as much for each other as for him.

My stepmother, especially, has been the most solid rock I’ve

ever witnessed. She’s not indulging her irrational fears.

 

That I am the one

alone with my father at

his moment is purely chance.

Except what if it isn’t?

 

What if, of all his children to see him over the threshold

(there are five of us), he chooses the one most fragile?

It could be argued that a younger brother who wrestles

with a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis is the fragile one.

 

At least, in that invincible, God-complex universe that is

my brother’s, he is absolutely certain of his power and

worth. Of course, only in my own troubled universe can

there even be an “at least” regarding a brother’s diagnosis.

 

I am bitterly aware. But what if my father is saying to

me, at 4:14 a.m., through his shroud of unconsciousness,

his sheer drape between this life and another: “Darling

daughter, the rest of my children are good in the world.

 

They know their worth. You have been struggling for

fifteen years. Ever since the estrangement with your

mother at the time of her death. You have self-flagellated

in the most dramatic ways, because she died alone and

 

you hold yourself responsible for every bit of it. Darling

girl, see me out. Hold my hand, and sing to me. Though

my eyes are closed, and my breath is thready, I am listening

and holding your hand too. You. See me out.  So that you

 

can be atoned. So that you can cancel out regret.  So that,

against your fears, too closely linked to annihilation, you

can stop looking, almost begging, to meet the eyes of

road-ragers and challenge them to take you out.”

 

My goodness, what if?

 

The throng has been his vigil all night. Yet at 4:15 a.m. on

a Thursday, the dark hours of morning, a daughter alone,

holding her father’s hand, he takes his last breath. I watch

for his chest to rise one more time. An almost violent stare.

 

It never does.  My father’s youngest walks in the room, takes

our father’s hand, and confirms the death that I have been

staring at these vast seconds.  We hold each other at

his bedside, as the rest of my family enters and gathers.

 

And we feel the enormous heft of siblinghood, marriage,

fatherhood, all bound together in this room by my

father’s very sinews. It is the most precious moment

I can imagine.  We all feel this. We are in sync.  A family.

 

As for our moment, father and daughter alone, it will

be forever mine that until, and perhaps even inside

of, his very last breath, my father was still taking

care of his child.  Offering her peace.

 

Should she choose to accept it.

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is a published author, a recipient of the Heritage Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums as a singer/songwriter, and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on INSTAGRAM & YOUTUBE.

 

The Beauty of Flux

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The dark obscuring the light

Then passing through

Not staying

Not lingering

Not indulgent nor milking its poetry

But offering a moment’s space for reflection

An opportunity to shift

An opportunity that waits for no one who pauses

Pause and it’s gone

The kind but firm nudge to leap

A reassurance that we are in control of nothing

 

The power of a thing is in its vanishing

Behold

 

It is the beautiful slap

in the face of the Great Lie we’ve been sold

That we can have the world for the asking

That we can buy our security for a few

cosmic shekels

As I gaze through my 7-Eleven-purchased eclipse glasses

I am reminded that

the world is insecure and unpredictable

Presently in the midst of both a great enlightenment

and a mad fall simultaneously

A breathtaking flux

Which force will ultimately tip the scales?

As the moon passes across her sun

and darkness falls for an instant

so does any semblance of security

Don’t be disappointed

This is the good news

As the earthquakes become more and more

prevalent around the world

so does the quaking of all our ideologies

What’s in store for us?

And are we ready?

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is a published author, a recipient of the Heritage Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums as a singer/songwriter, and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on INSTAGRAM & YOUTUBE.

#bindigirlchronicles #justathought #alwayswriting

Inventory

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I recently took inventory of all my spiritual “stuff.”  The list is quite impressive.

Mantra flash cards (I’ve collected lots of melodic, mineral rich Sanskrit chants from my time with a Kirtan ensemble and other spiritual pursuits).
Beautifully upholstered zafu & matching zabuton sets.
Mala prayer beads (including a set given to me by the Dalai Lama).
Incense.
Candles.
Crystals, healing stones, and heart rocks.
Essential oils.
Mandalas.
Tibetan singing bowls.
Trickling Zen fountains.
Bundles of roped sage for smudging and cleansing.
Mesmerizing music and recorded “om”s.
Stone works and wood carvings and figurines of the Buddha, Ganesha, Kwan Yin,
St. Francis, and my beloved om (I even have an om tattoo).
And finally, dog-eared stacks of all the most penetrating writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, and Pema Chodron, and Eckhardt Tolle, et al.

It all serves something for me.  Much of it helps me open a door that might’ve been otherwise stuck.  My visceral reaction to a certain symbol or image can powerfully operate as just the conduit needed.  What all of it legitimately does is generate an energy and environment of serenity, and a constant reminder of my path. And I’m grateful enough for that.

However, if I’m not careful, these props (the only word I can think of to call them) can also act as a crutch.  And this is where I find it’s time to take serious stock and inventory.

I have been a meditator for years now. And most recently a Kirtan chanter with a lovely group.  There is nothing more meaningful to me than participating in meditational rituals, such as the winter solstice labyrinth I walked this past winter with a group of like-minded seekers at the spiritual center I call home.   And the props can often be an integral part of ritual (chanting 108 repetitions of a mantra with the use of mala beads, or clanging 3 dings of the singing bowls in order to sign in and out of a practice.)

But I look at all the stuff, and I wonder if they aren’t merely being collected to cocoon me from the world, the harsh elements, the stings of life.

My stone Buddha that I bought at a statuary in Glendale two decades ago is so pretty.  So is the one I keep beneath my father’s easel. And the laughing one that sits on my bookshelf surrounded by Jack Kornfield books.  And the one I painted a flower on at Color Me Mine.  And the one that’s holding his hands in gyan mudra.  A couple of them were gifts from people who know my penchant, and I treasure them.  They exist in such quantity all around my modest apartment that they’ve sort of formed a club: Angela’s Guards at the Gate.

And my collection of mala prayer beads is quite something.  But how many of them do I actually use to meditate with?  My meditations are usually silent ones, so my beads really just lie around my apartment, beautifully draped on this or that, in order to create the funky, Zen, hippie-girl-flower-child ambience that is the reputation I most embrace.

And the heart rocks.  I’m always looking for them whenever I walk my nature trail.  I’ve amassed a little bit of a collection, along with every different shape and kind of crystal, and the garnet nugget (my birthstone) that I found encased but subtly peering out from sediment.  These beauties give me comfort.  And the illusion of safety.

I wear my brass Ganesha figurine in a medicine pouch (a beautiful velvet beaded one, of course) around my neck or in a pocket, because Ganesha is the remover of obstacles according to the Hindu religion.  He has never directly removed any of my obstacles, nor do I actually think there is wisdom in believing that all obstacles can be removed.  There is a divine design in obstacles.  Some are meant for us to clear, some not.  All are meant to provide a lesson, if we’re willing and open.  Nevertheless, I keep my sweet Ganesha close to my heart because he comforts.  The illusion of safety.

I imbue meaning on every prop, every trinket, because managing and navigating my life without that armor is maybe just a little too much to consider.

If I were to truly strip down my spiritual journey to its most basic element, I would have to say it’s about management. The buzz word in my spiritual community these days is mindfulness.  But mindfulness isn’t, as is often misunderstood, a state of perfect reaction. We’ll never be perfect reactors.  We’ll have our moments of groundedness interspersed with those other moments of knee-jerk responses, defensiveness, anger, even deceit. And we’ll consider the time when those start to be outweighed by Right Speech and Right Behavior as success! We’re practicing mindfulness!  When the truth is, we’ll always experience both, in probably fairly equal amounts, all throughout our lives. Mindfulness isn’t a banishment of those unskillful moments. Mindfulness is paying attention to all of it. Learning to identify the source of the less benevolent traits, and to offer them as much of our understanding, patience and goodwill as when we get it right.

I recently said to a friend, a fellow meditator, that I had all but abandoned my meditation practice because of some family stresses that were rather consuming, and that I hadn’t been able to get in gear with it. And I was saying it to him as a kind of self-indictment confession. His response to me was, “well, sure, cuz shit comes up. And when life is already feeling very full of it, sometimes the idea of more is too much.  That’s okay.”

And that’s the thing. Meditation isn’t meant to be a cushion (though it sometimes serves exactly that).  It is meant to strip down, to uncover, and to lay bare.  And all it takes is an agenda of NOTHING, and some silence.  That can be hard to do, but is just that simple.  So, all the trinkets, the doo-dads, the Buddhas, the beads, the oils, the crystals, ad infinitum …. perhaps as a way to that place of commitment?

Just be mindful of when practices of cocooning are present. No judgments. Just notice. Carry on.  

That’s the voice that speaks to me every time I feel the need to bring something new and shiny and pretty into my home “for meditation.”

Because truth time?   All the stuff is perfectly fine.  I love collecting beautiful and meaning things.  But naked.  Empty room.  Hard floor.  Stink from the nearby sewer system.  Noise from the neighbors.   No serene music.  No mesmerizing candlelight.  No cloak of protection.  Nothing.  Just breath.  And meditation is still possible.  Being present is still possible.  Living by spiritual principles is still possible.

Sit.

Be still.

Close my eyes.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Notice everything.

Accept every notice without judgment.

When judgment comes – and it will – notice that too.

Repeat.

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is a published author, a recipient of the Heritage Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums as a singer/songwriter, and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on INSTAGRAM & YOUTUBE.

The Sanctuary Project

“Every little thing is gonna be alright.” – Bob Marley

 

I recently spent several months with my iPhone camera amassing footage of my posing a simple question to people I encountered.  Some friends, some strangers.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I would find on this little journey, but I knew it could only be inspiring.  The desire to do this came upon me long before situations in my personal life became unexpectedly dire, and suddenly the project went from being fun to urgent.  Add to that a concerning world landscape presently in our midst, and there blossomed this resonant anchor to the question of where we go for our sense of sanctuary.

Take a look at some of the answers I was blessed to witness, and then take a moment, or several, to think about your own.  Never has there been a more crucial time to turn inward and build practices or rituals that help to assuage suffering.

Featuring a beautiful musical underscoring by my dear friend & composer Chris Hardin, and a diverse group of individuals (from a prison inmate to a Buddhist monk) bravely willing to open their hearts and share.  I invite you to enjoy The Sanctuary Project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is a published author, a recipient of the Heritage Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums as a singer/songwriter, and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on INSTAGRAM & YOUTUBE.

 

Oh, the Places An Orchestra Can Go!

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Just who IS this Elvis Schoenberg? . . . you may be asking yourself.  Well, recently, members of his acclaimed orchestra spoke freely and frankly for the camera, in an effort to uncover the mystery of Elvis, and the perplexing phenomenon that is The Orchestre Surreal.

Jonathann Launer filmed this footage, a teaser of sorts for the new Orchestre Surreal movie that is in the works.  And I had the honor to edit, from mountains and hours of footage, this little mini-docu that hearkens to a little Christopher Guest, a pinch of “The Office” and a dash of “This Is Spinal Tap.”

 

Proceed with caution!

Oh, the Places An Orchestra Can Go!

(Documentary Short)
Shot by Jonathann Launer
Edited by Angela Carole Brown
Music by The Orchestre Surreal
Conducted by Elvis Schoenberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is a published author, a recipient of the Heritage Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums as a singer/songwriter, and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on INSTAGRAM & YOUTUBE.

An Old Black Man Someday (A Call For Peace)

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There is so much to say.  And I have been largely silent on the subject, in this social media playground.  Because others are more articulate.  The world is full of articulate polemics on the subject.  An entire movement – Black Lives Matter – has been necessitated.  This strange epidemic.   It is.  An epidemic.  And for much of the world, it is somewhat of an abstract.  But think of someone’s son.  Someone’s father.  Someone’s brother.  Think of them as children growing up.   Think of where (and why) we have turned a very wrong corner, after ALL of the vital work of the civil rights movement, of history! and the enlightenment of men that has continually tried to be fostered and fought for.

I added the following stanza to a song I wrote 15 years ago, because there is a new dynamic now:

In matters global to familial, my solemn heart doth daily pray;
Let not endangered be the old black man someday.

Endangered.  Think of that word.   That threat.   That awesome haunt of prophecy.

In the wake of this epidemic that seems to be our nation’s startling reality, my 15-year-old song rings now with a sobering irony.  It was originally written about my brother Mike, spun from, and into, a pastoral, nostalgic, childhood idyllic.

Today it chills.

I feel so strange about this offering, because as artists we always want to reflect the times, but what this reflects hurts me to my core.  I have three brothers in total, all young men still.  I just want them to live to be old men someday.  That they happen to be black . . .

 
 

An Old Black Man Someday

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Angela Carole Brown is a published author, a recipient of the Heritage Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums as a singer/songwriter, and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on INSTAGRAM & YOUTUBE.