Friday, December 27, 2019

George Pays It Forward

In a recent post, I described my grandson’s loving acceptance of George the lemur who lost his tail. This morning, George was found with his hand resting on Chao Chao in what appears to be a gesture of kindness. (Everyone denies staging this scenario, so think what you will about how this came about.)

Chao Chao recently joined the family, brought home by my daughter (my grandson’s aunt) from her visit to China over Thanksgiving. He is a rat, symbolizing 2020, the year of the rat in Chinese astrology.

Perhaps George is inviting us to make 2020 the year of kindness and compassion, to encourage others rather than criticize, to accept rather than judge, to reach out rather than reject, to forgive rather than hate, to love rather than fear.

The Dalai Lama says that his religion is kindness. The Chinese goddess Guan Yin pours the nectar of compassion over the world. Jesus cautioned us to judge not, and commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Buddha taught that hatred ceases not by hatred but only by love.

All these great wisdom teachings have been modeled for me in the last few days by my grandson and his stuffed animal. “And a little child shall lead them,” says the Bible. Perhaps one of my last lessons this year is humility.

In a few days I will head up to my forest cabin for my year end retreat. On New Year’s Eve, I will sit in front of the fire. First I will write a letter to the year ending, thanking it for its lessons and blessings. Then I will write a letter to the new year, welcoming it with hospitality and openness. Finally I will burn both letters, offering all my gratitude and anticipation to the heavens and the earth.

We each choose what to pay forward in the next year. May we choose well.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Light in the Darkness

Darkness darkness, be my pillow 
Take my head and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow
In the silence of your dream

Darkness darkness, hide my yearning
For the things that cannot be
Keep my mind from constant turning 
Towards the things I cannot see
     ~Stephen Stills

Today is the first day of winter, the season we associate with darkness. The song lyrics encourage us to rest, to cease our struggle, to accept what is, to enter the mystery.

In the Tao Te Ching, darkness is the metaphor for mystery, the essence of the Way. It is the origin of all creation. The Bible tells us that in the beginning, “the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” From this darkness, God brought forth the manifested universe, beginning with light.

It is within the darkness of this deep mystery that the light begins to return. After today’s winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, the light stays just a minute longer. And then another. We hardly notice its gradual approach as we wake in the darkness, shivering in the cold.

Then one day we notice the early morning sun sparkling on the frost. The light calls creation to awaken once again and we know that spring will come.

But for now, we prepare for the time of quiet, the time of unknowing, the season of stillness. The darkness is the gate to mystery. And it stands open, inviting us in, allowing us to sink deep inside ourselves, to listen...and wait...and watch. Within the darkness, if we are patient, we will see the light of truth, first as a tiny glimmer, then growing into a blazing light, consuming all illusion and doubt.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait.... So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. ~T.S. Eliot

Monday, December 16, 2019

George Is Fine the Way He Is

My grandson came home from a shopping trip with his mom, eager to show me his great find from Goodwill. He called it a monkey, but we soon established that it is a lemur. He named it George.

Further inquiry led to internet searches and an entertaining and informative documentary about lemurs, who only live in Madagascar. Watching the beautifully filmed documentary, I noticed that all the lemurs had something that George does not – a tail. I examined George and discovered a little ripped place on his backside where at one time a tail was undoubtedly attached.

Instead of pointing this out, I went to the store the next day and bought what I would need to create a new tail for George. I thought my grandson would be pleased when I observed that George had lost his tail and that I could make him a new one. However, after considering this for a nanosecond, my grandson hugged George close and said, “That’s okay, Nana. George is fine the way he is.”

Whoa. I took a minute to let that sink in.

And away went George the tail-less lemur, bouncing happily in my grandson’s arms as they ran off to play.

To be fully seen by somebody and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous. ~Elizabeth Gilbert

Friday, December 13, 2019

Let It Go

Let it go


Let it go

I love it

You love an illusion -- let it go

I will ... tomorrow

There is no tomorrow -- let it go now

If I let it go I will have nothing

You will have everything -- let it go

I am afraid

Yes, I know -- let the fear go too

Let it all go

You will see

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 65

Like other chapters which address principles of governance, this chapter applies just as well, and perhaps with more relevance, to how we govern ourselves.

In ancient times rulers who followed Tao
Did not teach people to be clever
But rather encouraged people to follow their true nature
Governing by manipulation brought ruin
But governing in alignment with Tao brought good fortune

I have taken great liberty with the translation here because the use of certain characters in this particular chapter seems atypical in the context of the Tao Te Ching. I hope I have captured the essential meaning. I think the point, expressing a theme throughout the text, is that nature has its own wisdom that we cannot improve on. And when we try, our interference causes chaos and suffering.

To know the difference between these two (the natural way vs interference)
Is called mysterious Virtue (Te)
Mysterious Virtue reaches deep and far
Linking all things to the Source
In perfect harmony

As I’ve noted before, the “Te” of the Tao Te Ching is often translated as “Virtue.” However, this does not mean virtue in any moralistic sense, but rather means the expression of Tao in the manifested universe. I think it is comparable to the fruits of the spirit in Christianity, which are not moral rules but rather the natural expression of being filled with the holy spirit.

Maybe I’m just getting too tired as I get older to expend a lot of energy trying to force things to be a certain way. I find more and more that when I allow things to run their natural course, everything turns out all right. In hindsight I see the wisdom of how things unfold, even if at an earlier stage it seemed that everything was going the wrong way. “Wrong,” of course, according to me and my limited vision and anxiety at the time. I’m learning to suspend judgment and take the approach voiced by a friend. “Let’s just see what happens.”

When I’m able to do that, all the moving pieces do indeed seem to settle into harmonious resonance. And it is perfect.

Trust the process. ~Kyle Cline

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Labyrinth of Life

I love maps. I love maps I can hold in my hand and unfold on a table. I love Rand McNally atlases. I love globes. I love the placemat maps I got for my grandson, so that we can move his plate aside and find where we live and explore the country or the world. I love maps in malls and hotels that say “you are here.” When I lived in Paris years ago, I didn’t go anywhere without my paperback street guide which included maps of the Metro and bus routes. I always knew where I was, where I was going, and how to get there.

I’ve had many occasions in recent years to ride in the car while one of my daughters is driving. When they get in the car, they automatically program the GPS for their destination, and follow the moving arrow along with the spoken directions. The directions lead them one step at a time, guiding them just as far as the next turn. Even when it is somewhere that, at least in my opinion, they should know how to get to, they turn over the directions to the GPS and trust that it will get them there. They are content to know only their immediate instruction and seem unperturbed that the rest of the route is a mystery, revealed only as needed. It is, I’ve come to appreciate, a lesson in faith.

Like walking a labyrinth. There is a lovely labyrinth not far from me, nestled among trees and bushes in a beautiful garden adjoining a monastery. It is open to the public and I have walked it many times in all seasons. A labyrinth, unlike a maze, has only one route to the center. You cannot make a wrong turn. However, it is impossible to stand at the entrance and see how you are going to get from point A to point B. The path turns and winds in such a way that you can only see the segment immediately in front of you.

Walking a labyrinth is a meditation in being present, trusting that no matter how many twists and turns you take, you are being led without mistake on the path to God (or the center, or your true being, or enlightenment, or whatever term you want to use). And once you reach the center, after resting in the power of its energy, you turn and walk back out, again trusting the path to lead you, this time back into the world, carrying the experience of truth with you.

So I’m not going to scoff at my daughters anymore for their reliance on and trust in that GPS. It might not be as infallible as the labyrinth, but perhaps it is their version of a practice in being present and trusting in the goodness of the universe.

I can appreciate that...and still like maps.

If we learn to love the earth, we will find labyrinths, gardens, fountains, and precious jewels! A whole new world will open itself to us. We will discover what it means to be truly alive. ~Teresa of Avila