“The Perfect Morning”

time lapse photography of multi-step waterfalls

Wake up

Meditate and pray

Read sacred scriptures

Tend to the garden

Hike through the forest

Swim in a mountain creek

Write some poetry

Eat breakfast mindfully

Give thanks to the One

To be alive another morning.

“What was Your Original Face?”

white clouds during daytime

One variation of a Zen koan asks: “What was your original face before you were born?” Today, I have the audacity to try(key word) and answer this question!

What face?

Emptiness.

No form.

A dog chasing its tail?

Sublime perfection.

Too many words?

The blind leading the blind!

The bardos between birth.

Your Buddha Nature.

Something not quite human but the essence of it.

Beyond space and time.

The past, present and future merging.

Fingers pointing at the moon.

Pure awareness.

Oneness.

Too clever?

Meditate more.

Think less!

Mindful Musings: May 10

By: Forrest Rivers

“Prayer to a Guru”

green tree under blue sky during daytime

Great Tree:

Each day

I come to you

To revel in your wisdom

And to receive your blessings

Channeled through time….

So sacred are your teachings

Filled with the boundless grace

Befitting of a guru

As cherished and divine as you….

I bow my head in reverence.

Mindful Musings: Apr 12

“True Faith Again”

silhouette of mountains and body of water during sunset

In the dark night of the soul

When your faith begins to break

It is a good time to meditate

Upon the nature of suffering….

For as certain as the sun rises each day

Your pain will dissolve

And new beginnings will shine through

With gentle ease

To guide you through the rough seas

Of your soul’s awakening.

Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon HERE

Mindful Musings: Mar 4

“The Power of Loving Kindness”

By: Forrest Rivers

05 Loving Kindness Meditation - Soundwork | Personal Growth - Podcast.co

Two of the primary purposes of meditation is to learn to let go and to recognize one’s interconnection to all things. During this difficult period for many people, Metta is a profound meditation technique that at once achieves both goals. Metta roughly translates to “benevolence” or “loving Kindness” in Pali, and comes to us from the Buddhist tradition. The purpose of this exercise is to focus on cultivating and sending feelings of goodwill to all beings. I was first introduced to it at my first group meditation I ever attended. The session was led by an inspiring dharma teacher named Dave Smith. Smith, who has made it his life’s work to aid in the recovery of those with substance abuse issues, led us through a 20-minute Metta practice. In that first sitting, we were asked to imagine sending rays of love to all sentient beings. This guided meditation so moved my spirit and opened my heart that I began attending Dave’s Sunday evening session each week.

 Looking back now on that fateful day in early 2013, I am amazed at how completely this simple yet meaningful practice touched my soul. After seven years of reflection on the power of Metta practice, I have come to realize why it is so impactful: loving kindness meditations simultaneously quiet our restless minds and open up our wayward hearts. In these times of fear and uncertainty, what could be more inspiring than sending our deepest wishes of love and goodwill to the planet when we wake up in the morning or go to bed at night?

Through the ages, it has been said by more than a few sages that meditation is the highest form of prayer because it breaks down the separation between the external world and our own soul’s inner yearning for peace and oneness. If it feels right for you, you might find the following COVID-19 adapted Metta practice helpful:

“Find a comfortable position either sitting cross-legged or on the floor or seated up right on a chair of your choosing. Then, slowly close your eyes and bring your awareness to the center of your heart as you begin to inhale and exhale long deep breaths. As you deeply breathe in and out, imagine filling your heart with pink or green light(colors of love) on the in breath and then imagine sending that same light out to the world from your heart on the out breath as you repeat these words to yourself: may all beings be free, may all beings find peace and may all beings be blessed with good health as this pandemic passes like the seasons.” Try this practice for 15-20 minutes. But by all means, feel free to do it for shorter or longer intervals than what I suggest if it feels more comfortable for you”.

Metta meditation has the power to heal our minds and hearts. Remarkably, too, it could also heal the whole world in a time when we are in desperate need of healing. Two studies on the power of loving kindness were conducted in Jerusalem and in Lebanon in the 1980s. In both studies, Scientific researchers found overwhelming evidence of a powerful link between the practice of mass metta(loving kindness) meditation circles and lower incidences of war. As originally reported and published in the academic journal of Conflict Resolution (1988), during days of high attendance at a peace meditation held in Jerusalem, war deaths in neighboring Lebanon decreased by 76 percent. On those days of intention filled Metta Practice, crime and traffic tickets in the near vicinity went down as well. Incredibly, the exact same study was replicated again (with even stricter controls) and produced the same results as reported in the academic journal of Social Behavior and Personality (2005).

If Metta meditation practice can bring peace to a war-torn people imagine what it could accomplish in terms of alleviating all suffering related to COVID-19! When love meets prayer full intentions the possibilities for the evolution of human consciousness are endless. However, one question does arise: how can one go about starting a meditation or prayer circle during a time that requires social distancing? Max Reif, an inspiring writer for the conscious writing collective, the Mindfulword,org, may have the answer. In one of his many thoughtful articles written for this online publication, Reif relates how he has learned to tap into virtual online spiritual communities through Zoom (the interactive web interface program that has soared in popularity during the crisis) to cultivate the feelings of loving kindness:

In Reif’s Words:

“I rise, as often as possible, at 5 a.m. At 6:30, I attend “Virtual Morning Arti,” an international Zoom gathering of Meher Baba devotees. We recite prayers, sing two spiritual anthems and then spend an hour sharing whatever songs, poems, messages or anecdotes people are inspired to contribute. This event often leads me to great heights of joy! While the external world continues its hard slog, my internal world is brought to a point of shining—more than before the pandemic, I think.”

Maybe, we can all follow Reif’s example. Is it really a stretch for our imaginations to envision meditation circles popping up all over the world through virtual connections? I don’t think so. Besides spreading some much needed peace and love right now, the emergence of such gatherings (even if they are only virtual) will also inspire hope…. the true motor of the human experience.

Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon HERE.

Mindful Musings: Mar 1

gold and brown building ceiling

Awaken”

Still mind

Calm breath

Buddha is realized

Open heart

Pure soul

Brahman is attained

Simple life

Quiet home

The Self will be recognized

Humble speech

Illumined eyes

Peace will be achieved.

Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon HERE

Mindful Musings: Feb 22

“What Matters”

By: Forrest Rivers

selective focus photography of green succulent plant

If the world suddenly came crashing down

If the sun burned out tomorrow

And if all hell broke loose….

Nothing would matter

So long as I could break bread

Prepared by the Divine Hand

With a dear friend

Once more….

Death, then,

Would become a meditation

Upon the mystical impermanence

Of forms passing

Into the great Cosmic Stillness—-

Where space transcends time.

Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon HERE.

Mindful Musings: Feb 12

“Flow”

By: Forrest Rivers

selective focus grayscale photography of owl

All is born

And all falls away

In time

All emotions

Are like waves

Cresting upon

The ocean of life

All thoughts

Are just forms

Receding into

The stillness of night

Be like an owl:

Watch

Observe

And take notice

But don’t grasp too tight….

For the flow

Of this moment

Stops for no one

Let go,

Let the love of God

Guide us.

Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon HERE.

Mindful Musings: Feb 3

“The Final Test: A short Story”

By: Forrest Rivers

topless man wearing black beaded necklace and blue denim shorts standing on rocky shore during daytime

A celebrated master of a spiritual community deep in the Southern Appalachian Mountains was nearing his death and had a vision that he would drop his body in one month’s time. In the weeks leading up to his passing, Master Changing Winds, as he was affectionally known by all in the community, chose three of his wisest and most beloved disciples (out of a pool of ninety-four) to put through a battery of tests to determine who would succeed him. Following the tradition of his ancestors, he would then select one among the three based on the qualities of courage, devotion, discipline, and humility.  Over the course of three and a half weeks, the three disciples were put through a series of tests that included some of the following: martial arts, a six-day fast, ten days of solitude meditating in the high mountains, three days of intensive volunteer work in the community and the recitation of one-hundred and two sacred mantras. All three seekers performed at the very highest level of a bodhisattva, or an enlightened and compassionate soul. After so many tests and still no clear successor, Master Changing Winds was not the least bit concerned.

On the day before Master Changing Winds was to die, the venerated sage lined up his three devotees, looked them each in the eyes and prepared to put them through their final test. He then called each one forward and asked them one question to which they had to offer an immediate reply. He addressed his first devotee, Timeless Seasons, and asked:

“Death has arrived, now what shall we do?”

Timeless Seasons summoned all the courage within him and then replied:

“Death has arrived so now let us dance, play and sing!”

Master Changing Winds smiled warmly at Timeless Seasons and then called upon his second devotee, Flowing River, and asked her the same question:

“Death has arrived, now what shall we do?”

Flowing River quickly collected her thoughts and replied:

“Death has arrived, now lets us pray together for favorable births in our next lives so that we may serve all sentient beings!”

Once more, Master Changing Winds smiled warmly at his devotee and motioned for his third and final disciple to come forward. He asked the same question again:

Death has arrived, now what shall we do?”

Like Timeless Seasons and Flowing River had done before him, Silent Mountain bowed to his master and began to speak:

“Master, has Death arrived? If so, where did it ever go? Has death not always been present among us like the changing winds, the timeless seasons, the flowing rivers and the silent mountains?”

The old master beamed with delight and exchanged bows with Silent Mountain. Then, very suddenly, his body began convulsing and he fell to the floor and died. Timeless Seasons and Flowing River ran immediately over to Master Changing Winds and began sobbing:

“Master, please don’t leave us! How can we go on without you!”

As Timeless Seasons and Flowing River struggled to process the passing of their beloved teacher and sage, Silent Mountain stood in stoic silence. He then knelt to the ground, wiped a few tears from his eyes and quietly recited a prayer that his now late master had once taught him:

“As we all grow old, the ocean tides they come and go. Life is an eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. May the heavens always guide our souls through the darkness of night only to awake again in light.”

To the complete astonishment of all three disciples, Master Changing Winds opened his eyes at the exact moment Silent Mountain stopped speaking. Standing in disbelief, Flowing River stammered:

“But how can this be? Your breathing ceased before us! Let us all behold this miracle!”

Master Changing Winds got to his feet and spoke in a calm and gentle tone:

“What you just witnessed was an ancient practice to curtail one’s own breath. The monks of old practiced this technique for the purpose of mastering their own minds. The faking of my death and your reactions to it was your final test. I wanted to see which one of you would display the greatest degree of acceptance and equanimity in the face of our greatest existential fear. “

The old sage paused again and then turned and bowed to each of the devoted seekers. He then continued to speak:

“You have each made me proud and honored to be your teacher. I regard each of you as a holy being. Tomorrow, I will depart this world and go beyond the Void once more to commune with the spirits of our ancestors. And according to tradition, I must choose a successor to carry on the sacred teachings. I have made my decision who that person will be. Silent Mountain, please come kneel before me. In the face of my dying, you perfectly demonstrated both the acceptance and equanimity of a fully realized being. Tomorrow, I will hold a farewell gathering with the entire community present as is also custom for the passing of a spiritual leader. Tomorrow, I will also introduce you, Silent Mountain, as the next leader of our community. May peace and goodwill be your candle and flame as you humbly guide your devotees to enlightenment. “

Silent Mountain bowed to Changing Winds, Timeless Seasons and Flowing River and all four wept out of joy, hope, sorrow and relief to know the ancient teachings would continue on.

The following morning, the whole community gathered in a beautiful lush green valley cradled by majestic blue mountains. They were there to celebrate the life and imminent passing of their beloved teacher through song, dance, and storytelling. As Master Changing Wind’s final moments drew near, the entire community formed a large circle around him and then began chanting and tossing flower petals upon him. The old holy man sat cross legged in the middle of the circle smiling radiantly at all of his disciples. Keeping with tradition, he then motioned for his successor, Silent Mountain, to sit down beside him as he removed his white robe and swapped it for his successor’s red one. The two then put on their new robes and bowed to one another as Master Changing Winds returned to Lotus position, closed his eyes, took three deep breaths and passed away. Within moments after his death, Silent Mountain then turned to his community and back again to his beloved teacher and solemnly read aloud the same prayer he had recited to himself only the day before when he thought his master had died:

            “As we all grow old, the ocean tides they come and go. Life is an eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. May the heavens always guide our souls through the darkness of night only to awake again in light.”

Just as the bridge of life connects the mysterious cycle of birth and death, so too, did master and disciple come to share the thread of cosmic awareness.

Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon Here