I have written about this many times, but it is a story that is important for me to tell from time to time, maybe for myself, but also because I want to share this beautiful teaching with others. It is the central purpose of my life and my deepest spiritual path. It is the practice of maitri.
I took the name Maitri legally in 2005 after my divorce was final. It was a time of deep change and transformation after a 6 year separation, and having lived alone since the marriage ended I had been through very dark places and had been working very hard to deal with them and discover what my life would be in this whole new phase, a woman in her early fifties I knew I wanted to live a life of service, rooted in love, compassion, and kindness. I chose the name after the Buddhist teaching of maitri, which is about the importance of having compassion and loving-kindness for those around you, but most important, the central part of the teaching was that you must first have it for yourself before you have it to give to another. I knew this was key because in my own life I was always tripped up with this. I believe I have grown into a very gentle woman, I approach others with kindness, I always feel deep compassion and empathy for them, but then I have fallen back into very dark places in my own life, and still, in trying to care for others I became over-tired, overwhelmed, and in tears. I was trying to give from an empty cup. This will never work.
On July 8, 2005 I walked out of the courthouse with my official legal papers in my hand. I took the last name Libellule because it means dragonfly in French, and the dragonfly is my totem animal. The dragonfly leads us out of the darkness and into the light. Also, my biological grandmother, also French, had the beautiful last name Papillon, butterfly. And living in a house full of birds I tell people that I come from a long line of wing-ed beings.
For me, I wanted my name to be a guiding star, a constant reminder of what I wanted my life to be. When I speak it, write it, or see it in print everything that it means, the importance of staying true to my path, comes back to me again and again and again. My name is my North Star. It reminds me to first of all take care of myself so that I will have a cup full to brimming over, with a steady stream of love ever flowing. My practices to achieve this are firmly in place. At least 2 and often 3 times a day I chant my mantra for 30 to 45 minutes and then move into meditation. It is the foundation of my life and what keeps me centered and solid when everything else feels as though it is coming apart. My mantra is always in my head and I sing and pray and chant it as I move through my day or walk outside with the dogs.
The mantra is one I learned from the beautiful Indian spiritual teacher, Amma, which means mother, and she is indeed a mother to the world. All of her work is funded in deep love and she travels the world, embracing others, hugging and holding them in her arms. People of all faiths follow Amma’s gentle, beautiful teachings, and I am learning more every day. Finding the mantra was like being given a gift and is a very deep universal prayer with such resonance you vibrate out the top of your head as you repeat it. You feel your heart opening wider and wider with so much love. I am opening my arms and my heart to the world.
My own community, because of my circumstances, will be online, but centered here at Dragonfly Cottage and I have such dreams. I want to reach and touch people around the world. For me, mindfulness is a teaching that brings us closer to the kind of love for ourselves that nothing else ever has for me. And my Wabi Sabi Mindfulness (Wabi Sabi is about the imperfect perfect.) is about wrapping ourselves in the practice in a gentle way that feels warm, and nurturing, with never any judgment about how we do it, if we fall away, it is a non-traditional approach that I think of as “Mindfulness For The Rest Of Us,” which is the name of the book I am working on coming out of this series of “365 Days of Mindfulness.” It will be published in 2015. I want people of all faiths, religions, spiritual paths, and even those who don’t consider themselves spiritual at all, to know that they are loved and lovable simply because they are who they are, and I want to help people come back, every day, to their soft, tender, human hearts with compassion and loving-kindness. You are always perfect, in the imperfect-perfect way that we all are, in this moment, right here, right now. Come and sit with me. Let us extend our hands and our hearts to each other as we stand in the ever flowing river of love that we are all always a part of. Come, stand in the river with me.
I found myself needing to take care of myself yesterday. We had a beautiful Christmas but the day after is always a kind of folding in on myself. As I wrote about on Christmas Eve I love Christmas but being bi polar anything that takes me out of my daily round of tasks, practices, and what constitutes my “normal” everyday life is hard for me, and when we come through the holidays when there have been weeks and weeks of all kinds of goings on in the world around us and in our own homes preparing for the holidays, well, it is as though I am a tapestry unraveling in every direction. Yesterday was a very low point for me. I was not unhappy, I was full of love for my family with whom I had shared a beautiful Christmas but it is that thing where you keep it together to get through what needs to be done all these weeks and then it is over and one just collapses in a heap. Or, rather, I do. And when I got up yesterday morning and was going around doing the early morning feeding and care of the animals I slipped and fell down some stairs. I could have been hurt badly but God and the Angels must have caught me because while I twisted my back which is scary for me — I was in a head-on collision years back and by back was badly hurt and has been something that needs gentle care and attention and if I hurt my back it can take some time to get right again, so it frightens me to hurt myself like this. — it wasn’t bad. I spent the day on a heating pad just resting, getting up to walk and stretch regularly with the dogs, but I was sound asleep at 9:30 last night which is highly unusual for me. My whole system just kind of collapsed.
I mention this because it was a day that I had to miss writing my post for this series and I was upset by it but finally had to let it go. I knew I would do it today but yesterday I had to just be very quiet, take care of my back, and try to weave my bi polar bits gently back together. I lit a candle, I chanted, I meditated, prayed, read, and worked quietly. By 9 I was falling asleep in my chair, the pugs were snoring all around me, and I thought, no, the post can wait until tomorrow. I will not push. And so I went to bed and slept for 12 hours which is unheard of for me. If we honor the body it knows what it needs. When we practice mindfulness we listen to our body, we have compassion for it, we take care of it tenderly. If I had not I would not be here today.
And so I am moving a little easier today, if achey, and I will slowly and quietly move through this day. It is good. I am looking out of my studio windows at a beautiful blue sky, at so many birds at my feeders I cannot even count them — oh what a great joy they are to me. The pugs are playing and moseying about having had their breakfast, and the birds are chattering away, their bright happy songs make me smile and I can feel my heart lift. Every day I am so filled with gratitude. I thank God for everything in my life. I thank my angels who are always around me. I send love out to everyone in the world and pray for every single soul, that at least in some way they might find a moment of happiness, of peace, and I count my blessings, too numerous, really, to count, and I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and with thank you on my lips, I pray.
You’ve no idea how often I think of you dearest. If you are reading this piece right now I am with you in spirit and you are in my heart and prayers. We come together in amazing ways, mostly we will never know the ones whose spirits brush lightly against ours, hundreds of times each day we touch one another without knowing it. I truly believe with my whole heart that we are all one, that we are connected, and so everything we do, gently and with love, can have a far reaching effect. I try to remember this, I forget and I come back to it, I lose the thread and I pick it up, and I keep coming back to the mindful path. In this way I know that I am walking on the one road that will take me where I need to go, and I will never be lost.
I am sending you so much love, truly, deeply, and sincerely, and I wish you beautiful days as we end this year and move into the next. But there is still time. Though close we should not rush it. Live this day, this moment, as if it were the only one in the world, for it is, and always shall be.
Take care of yourself dearest. Be tender with your fragile heart.
Namaste, I bow to the Divine in you…