November 23, 2015 | 2 Comments »
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March 10, 2015 | No Comments »
The soil never lies, just like our bodies never lie. Nature offers an intricate natural feedback system to keep life in balance and thrive, but we often fail to listen to the outer or inner landscape. Through conventional farming and unconscious land use/urban design, we have learned the hard way that when we impose our will on nature without “giving back to the soil,” we are left with soil depletion, desertification, and land degradation. Topsoil – the magical layer of earth appropriate for growing our food and medicine – is not a resource to take casually. It takes 600 to 700 years to fully grow back topsoil.
How we do anything is how we do everything. In the same way that we impose our will on the natural world, egocentricity or separate self imposes its will on us. The part of us that is attached to agenda and is too often focused on product over process, is more than willing to use our physical bodies and life force in ways that diminishes and deplete our vitality and well-being. We have been conditioned to compromise authenticity and truth in order to meet goals, standards, and produce.
To honor and respect nature – inside and out – means to work with, rather than against nature in all matters. It means to see every endeavor as opportunity to bring a compassionate and wise process to life rather than focusing on the product. One becomes a steward of the land by practicing deep listening, appropriate response, and working with rather than against nature. This is how one cultivates healthy soil that can grow vibrant nourishing food and medicine sustainably for years to come. An earth steward commits to a framework and practice that “give back to the soil.”
Meditation practice teaches us how to instill this framework and practice in ourselves. We learn, through meditation, that when we are willing to focus on process and put compassionate awareness in charge of our lives, rather than default to the product-focused conditioning that pervades our society, we can cultivate the soil within for sustained well-being and compassion to thrive. Meditation practice teaches us how to commit to personal sustainability and how to continually give back to the soil that is who we are.
The soil within is the ground of our well-being. It is the ground from which all that we do grows from and from which our deepest intentions are expressed. In the garden, we take care of the soil by paying attention. That is the primary job of the gardener or earth steward and it is also the primary job of the meditation practitioner, to be a steward of well-being. When we pay attention, moment by moment, to the subtle feedback of our emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual experience, we learn how to respond to life appropriately and work with, rather than against nature, at the most subtle level. Meditation teaches us that awareness is the most subtle form of love… And when we pay attention, moment by moment and maintain awareness, we feel loved. We feel cared for. We feel seen, heard, and met when we receive the gift of our own attention, moment by moment.
Consider, what are some ways that you give back to the soil that is who you are? In what ways do you have an adversarial nature with yourself and avoid or diminish the messages from your natural system? In what ways to you work against, rather than with, your nature? What is one way today in which you can “give back to the soil?”
This blog is written in honor of the summer retreat, Giving Back to the Earth: A Pilgrimage and Wilderness retreat in the Smokey Mountains, July 27-August 5, to be led by Deborah Eden Tull and Lama Justin Wall. This retreat will be an integration of meditation practice and sustainability, an opportunity to heal our relationship with the planet and with all beings, while backpacking along a beautiful mountain trail in the deep stillness of the wilderness.
For more information, please click here.
December 14, 2014 | No Comments »
We all want intimacy… deep, honest, juicy, grounded, courageous connection with another human being. Perhaps we crave intimacy so deeply because it’s actually the most natural state for us to be in… safe, connected, unguarded, and fully alive. When we meditate, we remember that intimacy is what’s here when we STOP doing everything else. It’s not that it takes great effort. But most of us spend so much time distracted from real intimacy by our busy minds – filled with story, drama, projection, expectation, self-consciousness, and reference to future/past – that we are not available for real connection. In fact, for most of us, our primary relationship is actually with the conditioned mind, and that relationship is a full-time job.
What if intimacy was as simple as seeing through some of the ways we get caught in the conditioned mind when it comes to relating – and learning to get out of our own way?
1. Fearless Love Begins With Loving Ourselves Fearlessly…The Pretty and The Not-So-Pretty
To love fearlessly is a revolutionary act. It requires us to relax into self-acceptance over constant self-improvement. We spend so much time seeing ourselves through eyes of judgment, looking at what could be fixed or improved, afraid we might not measure up. We reward ourselves when we “make the grade” and berate ourselves when we don’t. All this needless activity keeps us busy and feeds the underlying myth that love is conditional… that parts of us are lovable and parts are not. Intimacy begins with our willingness to erase this myth and see through the eyes of love. We have to learn how to ‘be with” the pretty and not-so-pretty parts of ourselves without needing to do, fix, or change anything. Fearless love asks us to stop striving, let down our guard, and find out what is possible between two human beings. This begins by seeing ourselves through eyes of love.
2. Not Turning Away
It sounds easy enough, but if you’ve ever been in a relationship (or if you’ve ever just sat down on a meditation cushion) you know that when the messy stuff arises, a part of us wants to scream “Never mind, I’m out of here!” Most of us have habitual escape routes in place in our lives so that we can take the exit door whenever ego feels threatened. Fearless love requires a commitment to fearing less. It asks us to stay with both the expansions and contractions of love. This is how we learn to see fear for what it is and access authentic courage. Intimacy is not just about physical and emotional attraction. It is an opportunity to co-create a powerful container for shadows and past traumas to arise, to be healed. If we are willing to have the kind of relationship where we don’t have the back door open, where we can see the desire to escape as resistance to growth, we are well-positioned for success. We’re not just talking about healing here…We’re talking about letting our separate self dissolve to become participants in something much bigger and more magical… the shared field and mystery of love between two human beings. Isn’t this what we are made for?
3. Deep Listening Means Listening With Our Whole Body
We spend a LOT of time listening to our conditioned mind…me and my needs, my limiting stories, my little bubble….and may only come out from this bubble from time to time for real connection. There is nothing wrong with this, but it limits our capacity for authentic connection. The practice of deep listening is a beautiful and fierce way to dissolve this bubble. The listener has no agenda other than receptive listening… not trying to fix or change anything or even “help” the other, but allowing our beloved to feel seen and heard. Deep listening invites us to listen with every cell in our body. For the record, it doesn’t work if we are always the listener or always the one who listens. We have to be willing to take turns being open, vulnerable, seen, and supported… and being the non-judgmental witness. Deep listening teaches us how to create a solid container for intimacy – with our lover and with ourselves.
4. Risking It
Transparency is the art of belonging… to ourselves, to each other, to our world….right here, right now, exactly as we are. Reclaiming intimacy has everything to do with the willingness to be transparent with one another…to share ourselves with one another as we are, no more, no less, no shield needed, nowhere to hide. Consider that the mind of separation continually finds ways to makes us feel self-conscious, isolated, and other than. We live in a world with so many messages about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Every time we allow ourselves to be authentic and vulnerable with one another, the illusion of separation burns away. Transparency asks us to stop role playing (the good girlfriend, the hot lover, the strong man) and risk being ourselves.
Fearless love is about allowing our shadows to be illuminated and trusting the healing process… but it’s vital that we don’t become process zombies. We’ve got to nourish ourselves with plenty of play, lightness, laughter, touch, passion, and adventure. It is always to approach a spiritual journey with great sincerity over seriousness. If we can see the whole intimacy experience as a process of discovery, we can stay connected with the innocent, curious, child-like, explorer in us rather than the agenda-filled, serious adult, to get in the way.
A Personal story…
I first went out with my beloved after attending his conscious dance class, not as a date but as a “getting to know you.” He began telling me how unsatisfying the dating world had been. “I wish I could go on a first date,” he said, “and just name all of my faults, shortcomings, and limitations up front, so it was all out there and there was no fear.” I caught the cue and asked, “And what would you list? I’d like to hear.” And as he openly listed his self-perceived shortcomings and quirks, I softened, relaxed, and thought, “Wow, here’s a man who knows what real power is… vulnerability. Here’s a man who is not afraid to be honest. Here’s a man I could really love and bare myself with.” My heart melted, one thing led to the next,….and a soft, deep, sweet, passionate, radically honest partnership began.
As you digest this blog post, I encourage you to consider the ways you are living your life in the spirit of fearless loving… and the ways you get pulled away from intimacy by your conditioned mind. How might you support yourself in getting out of the way of intimacy?
Offered in Lovingkindness,
Deborah Eden Tull
April 12, 2014 | 2 Comments »
When I first arrived to the city of Los Angeles in 2007, after 7 years as a celibate Zen monk in a silent monastery, I did not foresee myself leading retreats and workshops about the dharma and sexuality. I suspect I was subtly under the spell of some of the same illusions that pervade our society, the notion that sexuality is somehow separate from other aspects of spiritual practice or human endeavor. This could not be further from the truth, yet it is my experience that many meditation and mindfulness circles do not address this topic fully.
The point of spiritual practice is to illuminate every corner and aspect of our lives with compassionate awareness… to acknowledge that there is no aspect of ourselves that is meant to be left out of the circle of wholeness and authenticity; yet in so many circles, and certainly Buddhist circles, there is a sex-spirit divide… a belief that sexuality is somehow so highly charged, dangerous, complex, and dramatic that it is possibly an impediment to real practice. As a result of this subtle message in so many of our spiritual traditions, sexuality and spirituality are often left separated.