Monday, March 28, 2016
I was at my cabin in the hammock, which hangs suspended between two giant trees. Looking straight up, I had a sense of being held in the loving embrace of their boughs. Gradually, my breathing fell into a rhythm that, at least in my imagination, mirrored the breathing of the trees. As they exhaled oxygen, I breathed it in. In turn I exhaled carbon dioxide as they inhaled. We were bound to each other in a symbiotic dance of life, each giving and receiving in perfect harmony.
All life breathes. It isn’t just an activity we all share, like a team sport. It is something that links us one to the other like a net. Breathing manifests a mutual dependence, as we exchange the vital essence that we all require. Not only do we exchange it; we create it. Lying in the hammock, I was actually creating the carbon dioxide that the trees needed to survive. They created the oxygen that filled my lungs and kept me alive.
We think ourselves so separate, so individual. Where did that idea come from? How can we act so selfishly without recognizing that we are, in the most profound and fundamental way, truly all in this together? A Course in Miracles teaches that there is no individual salvation. We all awaken together. Like good Marines, we leave no one behind.
The Avatamsaka Sutra describes the “jeweled net of Indra” to represent the interconnectedness of the universe. This net stretches to infinity in all directions. A jewel is placed at each intersection, likewise infinite in number. In each facet of each jewel is reflected all the other jewels in the net. And within each reflection is reflected all the other jewels and all the other reflections, thus creating a dynamic phenomenon of infinite reflection.
The net’s beauty comes from the interplay of all the reflecting jewels, and its strength comes from the actual connection of all the intersections. Each jewel is supported by the lines intersecting in all directions. If just one line is broken, if just one jewel drops, the net is weakened and the beauty is marred.
All life is reflected in me, and I am reflected in all life. I breathe all life and all life breathes me. The both are infinite.
Understanding the ancient origin is Tao’s eternal thread. ~Tao Te Ching
Note: The Chinese character for thread in the end quote is 纪 which is made up of the left side of the character meaning silk thread, and the right side of the character which means self.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Every hero’s journey returns him home. ~A Course of Love
We are so fond of seeking. “I’m a seeker,” someone says at a spiritual retreat. “It’s all about the journey,” someone else says. We struggle to be content with chronic longing because we get so tired of looking for that special place, that place we think is somewhere “out there.” We pray and meditate and chant and read books and listen to teachers and practice, practice, practice. If we try hard enough, if we are good enough, if we do enough, if we just are enough, then....
Sometimes it seems like we are almost there, and other times we slump in fatigue as we watch our imagined paradise fade into the distant mist. We tell ourselves that we value the never-getting-there by focusing on the journey, on the seeking. The destination becomes irrelevant.
I don’t think so. Why would our spirits yearn for something so deeply if it had no value? The problem isn’t that we are looking for the wrong thing. It’s not that we are looking for it in the wrong place. It’s that we are looking for it at all.
Our seeking assumes that there is something we don’t have, someplace we are not. And that we have to do something to have it or get there. This very assumption is what keeps us from our soul’s deepest desire.
We already have what we most want. We already are where we most want to be. As the saying goes, we are like fish in the ocean trying to find the water. In the movie Finding Nemo, my favorite character was Dory, the fish with the short term memory problems. We are like Dory. We don’t need to do anything or go anywhere. We just need to remember.
Think of all the fish, with their eyes popped open and their mouths forming little “O”s. Remembering again and again with every breath that they are in the ocean.
We can do the same. Release all thoughts of seeking and allow awareness to reveal our surroundings. Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can’t go home again. But you can. Indeed, it is the only place we can go because, when we get there, we realize that we never left. We wake up and see that all our wanderings were but a dream.
Like Dorothy, we can click our heels together and repeat, “There’s no place like home.” Then add, “And I’m already here.”
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
We ride the breath into form
And then forget who we are
Believing that we are form
Dreaming the illusion
As we search everywhere
Wondering what it is
that we forgot
Seeking it where it is not
and never will be
Until at last
We hear breath's call
And ride it home again
Monday, March 7, 2016
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with adhesive mixed with gold. Rather than trying to hide the damage, the breakage becomes part of the acknowledged history of the piece. The golden seams highlight the repair, creating their own design and contributing to the beauty of the original.
I had never heard of this practice until yesterday, when a devastated friend who lost her two dogs in a tragic accident told me about it, questioning the “added value of mended brokenness.” She wondered whether she could ever “get there.”
If we live long enough, we will have our hearts broken, and perhaps have our lives shattered. We talk in terms of healing and becoming whole again. But after we put the pieces back together, what becomes of the scars that are a part of our history? Are we embarrassed by them? Do we try to hide them? Do we forget them and pretend the hurt never happened? Do we strive to present to the world, and to ourselves, an image of original perfection, unblemished by the wear and tear of life?
I can certainly look at my own life and identify things I wish weren’t there–wounds that still hurt, actions I’m ashamed of, failures that still sting, losses that haunt. In my own mind, my history is rewritten to minimize or even erase things that do not fit the story I prefer to tell. My life is full of “inconvenient truth.”
But yesterday I spent hours reading about the history and philosophy of this remarkable Japanese art. I looked at hundreds of images of bowls, plates, cups, and vases, once broken but now beautifully repaired with seams of gold crisscrossing the original design. Here is unapologetic brokenness, openly acknowledged, and sealed with something precious.
I began to think of my life this way. All those cracks. Could I see them without judgment and instead acknowledge them with compassion? Could I seal them not with rejection but with golden love? Could they become a beautiful part of who I am?
Like my friend, I wonder if I can ever get there. Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Perhaps it is also the place where the light shines forth, if we let it.
Note: You can read about this statue and see more photos here.