Thursday, September 06, 2012

Wake Up Time!


© Nicole Raisin Stern
1996. Black & white line drawing.
Fountain pen on hemp & cereal straw paper.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Teapot no. 69 (569) ~ pouring tea in the red rocks

"I'll flow to you as a river * I'll curl around your shore * I'll pour myself out to you * We'll become an Ocean Door"
The Hebrew Psalm and the psalm translation(119:34) is one I found while counting the Omer this Omer-counting season. It is from Rabbi Yael Levy's "Way In" Omer emails that I received.
and here's an extract of the poem by Antonio Machado:
Extracto de Proverbios y cantares (XXIX)
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Very Short Sutra on the Meeting of the Buddha and the Goddess

Thus I have made up:
Once the Buddha was walking along the 
forest path in the Oak Grove at Ojai, walking without 
arriving anywhere
or having any thought of arriving or not arriving
and lotuses shining with morning dew
miraculously appeared under every step
soft as silk beneath the toes of the Buddha
When suddenly, out of the turquoise sky,
dancing in front of his half-shut inward-looking 
eyes, shimmering like a rainbow
or a spider's web
transparent as the dew on a lotus flower,
--the Goddess appeared quivering
like a hummingbird in the air before him
She, for she was surely a she
as the Buddha could clearly see
with his eye of discriminating awareness wisdom,
was mostly red in color
though when the light shifted
she flashed like a rainbow.
She was naked except 
for the usual flower ornaments
Goddesses wear
Her long hair
was deep blue, her two eyes fathomless pits of space
and her third eye a bloodshot
ring of fire
The Buddha folded his hands together
and greeted the Goddess thus:
"O Goddess, why are you blocking my path.
Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere.
Now I'm not sure where to go."
"You can go around me,"
said the Goddess, twirling on her heels like a bird
darting away,
but just a little way away,
"or you can come after me.
This is my forest too,
you can't pretend I'm not here."
With that the Buddha sat
supple as a snake
solid as a rock
beneath a Bo tree
that sprang full-leaved
to shade him.
"Perhaps we should have a chat,"
he said.
"After years of arduous practice
at the time of the morning star
I penetrated reality, and now..."
"Not so fast, Buddha.
I am reality.
The Earth stood still,
the oceans paused,
the wind itself listened
--a thousand arhats, bodhisattvas, and dakinis
magically appeared to hear
what would happen in the conversation.
"I know I take my life in my hands."
said the Buddha.
"But I am known as the Fearless One
--so here goes."
And he and the Goddess
without further words
exchanged glances.
Light rays like sunbeams
shot forth
so bright that even
Sariputra, the All-Seeing One,
had to turn away.
And then they exchanged thoughts
and the illumination was as bright as a diamond candle.
And then they exchanged mind
And there was a great silence as vast as the universe
that contains everything
And then they exchanged bodies
And clothes
And the Buddha arose
as the Goddess
and the Goddess
arose as the Buddha
and so on back and forth
for a thousand hundred thousand kalpas.
If you meet the Buddha
you meet the Goddess.
If you meet the Goddess
you meet the Buddha.
Not only that. This:
The Buddha is the Goddess,
the Goddess is the Buddha.
And not only that. This:
The Buddha is emptiness
the Goddess is bliss,
the Goddess is emptiness
the Buddha is bliss.
And that is what
and what-not you are
It's true.
So here comes the mantra of the Goddess and the Buddha, the unsurpassed dual-mantra. Just to say this mantra, just to hear this mantra once, just to hear one word of this mantra once makes everything the way it truly is: OK.
So here it is:
Hey, silent one, Hey, great talker
Not two/Not one
Not separate/Not apart
This is the heart
Bliss is emptiness
Emptiness is bliss
Be your breath, Ah
Smile, Hey
And relax, Ho
And remember this: You can't miss.

~Rick Fields, printed in Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of E
ssays in Buddhism & Ecology, pp. 3-7.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Elohai Neshama
© Nicole Raisin Stern
Colored pencil and fountain pen on paper.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Adon Olam ~ Teapot no. 61 (561)

Adon Olam ~ Teapot no. 61 (561) ~ Tea with the Buddha babies

...Wondrous messengers that they are... 

Thank you, Yuki, thank you, Jesse, thank you, Bodhi,

 for coming through today; it's been a while.

© Nicole Raisin Stern

Colored pencil and black fountain pen ink on paper 


Adon Olam: Hymn or Responsive Chant (by Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi)

You were cosmic LORD, YAH Malakh, before there even was a world
Then Your will all things did make, YAH Melekh we call You now.
Once when all things will cease to be YAH Yimlokh still true will be
You were, You are, eternally resplendent to infinity.
You alone, there are not two to join as friends, as lovers do.
Beginningless and without end You keep all one by plan and strength.
You are my GOD, REDEEMER, Life Protecting me in war, in strife.
My holy haven and my flag, my cup of health for what I lack.
Into Your hand I trust my breath, You breathe in me by night by day.
My body is Your tool, Your gift. With You as mine I'm not afraid.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

mystical tea

Teapot no. 60 (560) ~ mystical tea 
© Nicole Raisin Stern
Black fountain pen ink and colored pencil on paper

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Teapot no. 558 ~ tea with plum blossoms

© Nicole Raisin Stern

Teapot no. 58 (558) of my 6th Set of 100 Teapots
Watercolor and fountain pen ink on paper.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Living Waters Hamsa

Mayim Chayyim
"Living Waters"
מים חיים

Watercolor and fountain pen ink on paper.
by Neshama נשמה
Nicole Raisin Stern

Monday, February 27, 2012

V'achalta - Grateful Satedness

 Teapot no. 557 ~ Grateful satedness

 V’achalta, v’sa-va ta oo’vay-rach-ta

A Blessing After the Meal 
by Hannah Tiferet

"We ate when we were hungry and now we're satisfied.
We thank the Source of Blessing for all that S/He provides.
V'achalta v'sa-va-ta oo-vay-rach ta....

Hunger is a yearning in body and soul.
Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit make us whole.
V'achalta v'sa-va-ta oo-vay-rach ta....

Giving and receiving we open up our hands.
From Seedtime through Harvest we're partners with the land.
V'achalta v'sa-va-ta oo-vay-rach ta....

We share in a vision of wholeness and release
Where every child is nourished and we all live in peace.
V'achalta v'sa-va-ta oo-vay-rach ta.... "

* * *
A joyous way of acknowledging the food that we eat by saying Birkat HaMazon, the Blessing After Meals.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Bodhisattva Path

May I be the doctor and the medicine,
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.

May a rain of food and drink descend
To clear away the pain of thirst and hunger,
And during the eon of famine
May I myself change into food and drink.

May I become an inexhaustible treasure
For those who are poor and destitute.
May I turn into all things they could need,
And may these be placed close beside them.

Without any sense of loss or attachment,
I shall give up my body and enjoyments
As well as all my virtues of the three times
For the sake of benefiting all.

By giving up all, sorrow is transcended,
And my mind will realize the sorrowless state.
It is best that I now give everything to all beings
In the same way as I shall at death.

May I be a protector for those without one,
A guide for all travelers on the way.
May I be a bridge, a boat, a ship
For all who wish to cross the water.

May I be an island for those who seek refuge
And a lamp for those desiring light.
May I be a bed for all who wish to rest
And a slave for all who want a slave.

May I be a wishing jewel, a magic vase,
Powerful mantras and great medicine.
May I become a wish-fulfilling tree
And a cow of plenty for the world.

Just like space
And the great elements such as earth,
May I always support life
Of all the boundless creatures.

And until they pass away from pain,
May I always be the source of life
For all the realms of varied beings
That reach unto the ends of space.

~ Shantideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life 

The Invitation

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,

Thursday, February 09, 2012

My favorite day

“What day is it,?" asked Pooh.
"It's today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favorite day," said Pooh.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Thank you, Shirley...

 Seal heads are dark corks
dozens bobbing above the golden mirror
of the sea, reflecting me too
in their calm unworried eyes

As sky deepens to indigo, then purple,
bodies and drift wood merge into black silhouettes.
Star-silvered waves leave their footprints
and talk to me in quiet hisses
i listen. i listen.
"We are sisters of the sea" they say

~ Shirley Tudor

*  *  *
[written sometime in 2003]

Monday, January 09, 2012

Listening to the letters

We need space, they say.
That's why we do not touch.


We need to be close enough --
To whisper in your heart

All day.

As you breathe, we breathe
in the white spaces
Where all color forms.

~ Nicole Raisin Stern

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Seven of Pentacles

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.
Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.
Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.
Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.
~ Marge Piercy ~

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

from the Universe this morning

"The top 10 things dead people want to tell 
living people, Nicole, are:

1. They're not dead.
2. They're sorry for any pain they caused.
3. There's no such thing as a devil or hell.
4. They were ready to go when they went.
5. You're not ready.
6. They finally understand what they were missing.
7. Nothing can prepare you for the beauty of the moment you arrive.
8. Don't try to understand this now, but life is exceedingly fair.
9. Your pets are as crazy, brilliant and loving, here, as they were there.
10. Life really is all about love, but not just loving those who love you...

In their own words,
    The Universe

 They also wanted you to know that they really do show up as orbs in some of your photos, Nicole, but so does water. Quite a talkative bunch."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Lotus for You, Sea Turtle

Thank you, Shirley, for teaching me this song and for singing it with me. What a precious gift to have sung it with you.

Whenever I wake up
I feel happy,
aware of my eyes
I feel happy,
aware of my health
I feel happy,
because I have learned to look deeply.

whenever I walk 
I feel happy
whenever I sit
I feel happy,
whenever I rest 

I feel happy,
because I have learned to look deeply.

~words by Thich Nhat Hanh

from ~ A basket full of plums: Songs for the practice of mindfulness

 Shirley finishing up one of her sketches at Morgan's where we stopped to have tea and hot cocoa during our "Sketch Crawl" day in Monterey, December, 2005.
From my flickr journal, January, 2006: "My friend, Shirley, and I went to Pho King in Seaside last night for dinner. While we were waiting for our pho to arrive, I took out my ball point pen and began doing a contour drawing on the white paper placemat. I see white paper, I draw. At home, I colored it in with my colored pencils. The arc marks on her face are from my pho bowl."

 Shirley on the steps of the Osio Theatre on Alvarado St. in Monterey showing off our 2nd sketches of the day of a "Sketch Crawl", December 2005.
 Shirley, the ever-curious nature lover, botanist, with a fallen giant saguaro at Saguaro National Monument in Tucson on her trip to visit us (me, dog Yuki and cat Jesse) in Tucson, December, 2002.
L-R: Anna, Nicole, and Shirley in front of the President's Office at Monterey Institute of International Studies. Spring, 2005


Shirley and I met at a six-day Thich Nhat Hanh Meditation retreat in August of 2002. We were roommates at the retreat, and dharma sisters.

Shirley Tudor
September 1, 1962 ~ December 10, 2011

Hey there!

Teapot no. 56 (556) of my 6th Set of "100 Teapots"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beautiful soft rainy day today

We have thousands of opportunities every day to be grateful: for having good weather, to have slept well last night, to be able to get up, to be healthy, to have enough to eat. ... There's opportunity upon opportunity to be grateful; that's what life is. 
Brother David Steindl-Rast
(from today's Word for the Day, December 12, 2011:
* * * 

And as Thầy (Thich Nhat Hanh) always reminds us, let's be grateful for our non-toothache.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Contemplating Community

Building Your Bond Community

From Lynn McTaggart 

A task of the week to rebuild your own community

Group goals

  • Begin with a model of community unity—a society in which all members are working toward collective and unified good. Once you truly understand that you are all one, the decisions you have to make must always be for the good of all, and not simply for the people in charge, or those you like, or even those who think the way that you do.
  • Try to frame every decision in terms of its impact on your community and environment as a whole. If someone wishes to clean up something in the community, will it beautify the community as a whole? Does your work enhance or detract from your community? Are you educating your children to ‘give back’ or just ‘take’?
  • Create a list of each your group’s ‘Resources’ and ‘Needs.’  What talents, supplies or general resources do each of you have available to the community?  What specific needs do you believe your neighborhood or the community has? Can you see which talents and resources could prove most useful?
  • Invite different groups — doctors, members of your local police force, educators — to visit your group. Explore with them ideas of reinforcing the Bond.
  • Apportion a certain number of hours per week with your group toward working on improving your community. Volunteer to work in your local school, or visit other companies based in your community, exploring these ideas and how organizations can adopt them.
  • Study yourself and your true needs and invite your group members to do the same. How much do you really need? How many new gadgets, how many new cars? What else can you do with your money?
  • Vow as a group to avoid individual ostentation.  Take a leaf from the success of Roseto, which had one of the lowest heart attack rates in America.  Such was the sense of solidarity that ostentation was strictly discouraged and jealousy consequently minimized. Although rich and poor lived together, side by side, the rich did not flaunt it.  Roseto was flushed with a clear sense of common purpose.
  • Also vow to avoid competition with people in your community (unless on the sports field or bowling alley). Does it really matter if someone makes more money than you do? Chances are, they still face similar challenges to you. Also refuse to engage in schadenfreude—taking delight in someone else’s misfortune—and replace it with the Buddhist idea of mudita, or happiness in someone’s good fortune.