Inspirer of my mind, consoler of my heart, healer of my spirit,
Thy presence lifteth me from earth to heaven
Thy words flow as the sacred river
Thy thought riseth as a divine spring
Thy tender feelings waken sympathy in my heart.
Beloved Teacher, thy very being is forgiveness.
The clouds of doubt and fear are scattered by thy piercing glance.
All ignorance vanishes in thy illuminating presence;
A new hope is born in my heart by breathing thy peaceful atmosphere.
O inspiring Guide through life’s puzzling ways, in Thee I feel abundance of blessing.
On the occasion of his Urs, the anniversary of his return to the Beloved, I weep for my spiritual father and dance with joy in the downpour from the planes of light where he lives now.
I notice that these days, not so many people understand the “guru trip” as we termed it in our times. That may just be a phenomenon here where I live, or it may be a more universal one. These days, people don’t want to be initiated. They don’t want to join anything. They’re afraid they can’t trust, and so they don’t want to “surrender” to the guru, as we did (and learned that, painful thought it could be, surrender is the quickest path to freedom). They want to read books, see films and discuss them with other people. They’re like bees, sipping honey wherever they find it. Honey is delicious, but as Mevlana said, “the surrender to God is so hard the disciple sheds tears of blood” and the guru shows the way. I chose blood, and will never stop being thankful for that.
This is just how it seems to me, it may well not seem that way to others. And I have a long way to go, so don’t listen to me!
May all people be free.
The above sung by my dear friend Shams in the words of Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan
Everything is Going to be All Right
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart;
the sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
Earth, isn’t this what you want? To arise in us, invisible?
Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly
there’s nothing left outside us to see?
What, if not transformation,
is your deepest purpose? Earth, my love,
I want it too. Believe me,
no more of your springtimes are needed
to win me over—even one flower
is more than enough. Before I was named
I belonged to you. I see no other law
but yours, and know I can trust
the death you will bring.
See, I live. On what?
Childhood and future are equally present.
Sheer abundance of being
floods my heart.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Ninth Duino Elegy, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
Such prescience from those who have paid attention is benefitting us now…or at least comforting us. Just this one is enough.
I said I will find what is lowly
and put the roots of my identity
each day I’ll wake up
and find the lowly nearby,
a handy focus and reminder,
a ready measure of my significance,
the voice by which I would be heard,
the wills, the kinds of selfishness
freely adopt as my own:
but though I have looked everywhere,
I can find nothing
to give myself to:
magnificent with existence, is in
surfeit of glory:
nothing is diminished,
nothing has been diminished for me:
I said what is more lowly than the grass:
a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat: but
nestling in I
below the brown exterior
green mechanisms beyond the intellect
awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up
and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:
I found a beggar:
he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying
him any attention: everybody went on by:
I nestled in and found his life:
there, love shook his body like a devastation:
though I have looked everywhere
I can find nothing lowly
in the universe:
I whirled through transfigurations up and down,
transfigurations of size and shape and place:
at one sudden point came still,
stood in wonder:
moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent
– A.R. Ammons
We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.Joseph Campbell
I thought I’d make a confession today. Confessions are good for the soul, right? You can be my confessor. Here goes:
Over the years, I have neglected my blog for months at a time (maybe even years) because I felt that whatever I might write would not be perfect enough, profound enough, astounding enough…to put a dent in the universe. Yes, I am a serial perfectionist. I seem to remember writing about this before, but that was years back, and I realized, recently, that I still hadn’t fixed this little problem, and it struck me how selfish it is to allow myself to wallow in my need to be perfect. As the world apparently continues to fall apart, I ask myself–again–“how can I serve?” I notice that just about everyone around me is fairly miserable, because while we had a certain amount of enthusiasm for living through this pandemic, and helping others to live through it, the whole thing is getting kind of…old.
In addition, I happen to be sick myself, as I have mentioned. It has taken me three days to write this, in fact. Please understand, I have this CV-19 very lightly, it would seem, so I am not dying, or in any event, do not plan to. I continue to ask myself how I can serve, and I continue to feel that all I can really do at this time is to reach out, imperfections and all. Horrors! But it will do my good, even if it bores you.
Here I am. I am aware that it is increasingly hard for most of us to maintain hope, and so again, I try to remember that the divine, the overwhelming magnificence of the universe is still in operation. The universe is till evolving, and a lot of that evolution looks imperfect. But a most wonder person, Jeff Kober (remember Dodger in China Beach?) tells us:
The Veda tells us that change is constant, that the nature of the relative world is continual change, always. Like the weather in Montana: if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes, it will change.But the Veda also tells us that the changing nature of the universe is always progressive. Evolution is the only thing that’s ever happening here. Always. Like rivers always flowing downstream: regardless of how many curves and meanderings they may take, they always reach the ocean. Downstream flow is the nature of water. And evolution is the nature of consciousness. Consciousness cannot help but evolve. It cannot help but expand, widen, deepen, grow. This is its very nature. Though we may resist it or ignore it, pretend it isn’t so, in fact it is so. It always has been, it always will be. (www.jeff.kober.com)
Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always. – Mahatma Gandhi
As far as this universe we inhabit, it would seem that the it doesn’t worry too much about being perfect: it just wobbles along. And that is what all of us can do. Let us be of good cheer.
Views from the Borderland Year 9
Issue III (April,2020)
I started to feel worse over the weekend, and then worse… Having not been tested for the Coronavirus, I wasn’t for sure I’d actually had it, but if I had, I was pretty sure I’d been blessed by having it lightly…until I wasn’t so sure. So today we fashioned masks for ourselves and drove to Chapel Hill for a “drive-up” COVID-19 test and, for me, an exam, since I’d been wheezing more and more, as well as coughing.
An eerie experience it was, too, driving through deserted city streets, occasionally seeing kids out playing on their bikes (where were their parents?), and stopping at Whole Foods and Weaver Street for a few things, watching the “socially distanced” folks file in and out. Everyone, employees and customers alike, were masked, and shopping carts of “to be delivered” stuff were being wheeled out into the parking lot.
I was scheduled for a “drive up test,” and an exam, as well, and we wove our way through an intricate pattern of parking areas to get to where we were going. Hospital staff were all over the place, masked and suited up, directing us to where we needed to be, and I was duly screened by the folks doing the screening, and then by a young doctor who I would guess was probably a resident, who literally examined me in my car and said I’m fine as far as oxygen goes and prescribed an inhaler for temporary use. I won’t know for a day or two if I actually have “it” or not, but I’ve definitely got something, and it would be just fine with me if it wasn’t “it.” Stay tuned.
Here’s the thing: every single person we met today was kind and helpful and gracious to us. I would have thought that hospital personnel at this time would have been a bit cranky with all that’s going down, but they weren’t: they couldn’t have been more helpful, and may I just say: it was HOT, and they were all bundled up in hospital gowns, rubber gloves, masks, the works.
So where are all the jerks these days? Any guesses?
May all people know love.
I have an album called just that: “These Times We’re Living In.” It’s on Red House Records, and lovers of folk music of the “Prairie Home Companion” variety will love it. But the title strikes me many times a day lately.
I have actually had it: COVID-19–but I had it lightly, and I assume it is resolving itself, so I feel very fortunate. I spend a lot of time wondering what this particular “plague” means for humanity. In this country, particularly, it would be easy to take a very dark view of things, and I have to fight doing that: decency and civility seem to have deserted us, and evil and narcissism rule. People are dying, many for no good reason. We seem to live in a police state, and we don’t know when the present circumstances will end.
But there’s the other side to all this: people are finding wellsprings of kindness and unselfishness they might have forgotten. There is a unity among the “little people” of this world now. Decency and civility have NOT deserted all of us. On a personal level, I fight despair daily, but I believe the battle will be won.
Today, in meditation, I found again the landscapes I came through to get here. I found the purpose that is unfolding, the worlds that are eternal behind the false ones, the very planes of light….and knowing that these are more real than anything that seems to be happening here–despite appearances!–I can choose where to live.
May all people be well
May all people find peace
May all people be happy.
I admit it, I’m hooked on Facebook. Once upon a time, it worried me, that addiction, but now it’s been long enough that it’s not an addiction. Hey, I could quit anytime!! Facebook is a way to keep in touch with friends all over the world. It’s also an excellent venue for reading between the lines and sharpening my perception of what’s really going on with old friends. But again, I digress.
This morning, I slept in, and my lovely husband brought me a cup of tea when I woke up, and I said “So what’s new?”
“The grass is growing, the birds are chirping, the Westies are rolling around and playing and having a wonderful time. Let’s not read the news today. Let’s just enjoy our own reality.”
And it’s true, of course, there is so much more going on that what we read in the media, and none of it is considered newsworthy. But we can live in a world where the horror of dishonesty and lies mounts daily, and worry about what is going to happen to this country, and we really should, at least sometimes, at least long enough to write our letters and make our donations…but we should also look up into the trees, look down to see the tulips coming up, accept the enthusiastic kisses that come our way (our Westie Ollie is a champion at this), and feel the joy in the Spring Air. God is right here, as near as our jugular vein.
In the midst of all this, I did habitually tune into Facebook, and one of my personal heros, Dad Rather, was right with us synchronistically:
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil. – Robert Frost
Even as we speak, the bees hum, the flowers bloom, and the birds take flight. Our precious world is fragile, however, and I hope we learn a lesson from this horrific virus that we must take science more seriously.
The same voices that called the coronavirus a hoax and told us we had nothing to worry about say the same thing about our climate crisis. But we know better, and we need to do everything we can to protect our Earth, the only home we have, so that future generations can marvel in the bounty and beauty of spring.
I know these are dark days. I feel the tragedy heavy on the heart. But let us also find the light and peace that can come with hope. Courage. I’ll see you again soon. – Dan Rather
My beloved teacher Pir Vilayat used to say that we ought to work to perceive that which transpires behind that which appears. That which transpires is all aound us. Let’s go with that. I thank God for those who undertake to uplift us, to hold us in hope and reality. I love you.
In a position of utter desolation, when [wo]man cannot express her/himself in positive action, when one’s only achievement may consist in enduring one’s sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position [wo]man can, through loving contemplation of the image s/he carries of the beloved, achieve fulfillment. – Viktor E. Frankl (edited for gender inclusiveness)
Most of us are sitting around at home, trying to figure out how not to kill our partners (and, I’m sure, alternately enjoying them), and I am no different. In fact, I am going through a major adjustment, because my husband lost his job prior to our own state “lockdown,” and while it’s certainly an adjustment having him home all the time, I am so thankful, ugly as the situation was. My husband was working as a hospice chaplain and traveling across ten counties, going into homes and nursing homes where people are ill, and he would have had to continue doing that, but now he doesn’t have to. At his age, we are considering moving toward early retirement, and we think we can pull it off, although that may be wishful thinking. But I digress.
How may I serve? Awhile back, I wrote a little piece on the topic of exactly that, for an Indian e-zine, focusing on the difference between action and contemplation. It must be around here somewhere, if I find it, I’ll post it on the “Papers” page. I well remember sitting in front of my dearest father, friend and life’s teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, and hearing him speak of, for instance, rishis in the Himalayas, who spend their lives in solitude and meditation, and who have a huge impact on the affairs of the world, serving as few of us are able to serve in our active lives. I have found myself in a position to emulate them to some degree, although even when one is ill and living a fairly solitary life, there is always something to draw one into one’s very own self-constructed rat race…and so it goes.
Still. How I think I can serve is in focusing on my daily meditations, being quiet and praying. I find that there are many who attend my meditations, and I am well aware of them arriving right on time every day (even when I am not), although I mostly can’t see them. This is spoken of by the contemplatives of all mystical traditions: we don’t know how many souls we are upholding by the power of our meditation, and we need to remember that. Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan says that the reason for trying to meditate at the same time every day is because then the souls who want to be there will know to be there at that time. I wish I could reference these thoughts, but they are, by now, such a part of me that they are mine, treasures given me long ago.
So at this time, this is how I serve. I don’t get to see a published survey showing whether it works or not, but I can only assume that, given the condition of my own soul, which is linked inextricably with all souls, that it is a good thing to do.
Join me. I love you.
This morning, my beloved younger daughter, who is an academic librarian in Connecticut–right next door to one of the worst sections of the country for COVID-19–said that she had had a dream that her father had died and she was driving South to be with me. She seemed pretty upset about the dream, and of course we all worry about each other, but I was reminded of some studies I’d read about earlier in my life, studies about the kinds of dreams pregnant women have, terrible dreams of having a baby that is disfigured or terribly ill…and in fact, these studies showed that women who had those dreams (are there any of us who haven’t?) tended to have shorter labors and easier birthing experiences. It seems that these horrific dreams help us to cope with our fears, in some way. So I told my daughter about that, and I think it helped some…
It often seems to me that the happiest people have the greatest fears. My daughter is among these, because she is in love, looking forward to marriage, and she loves her job and her family. She is afraid of losing it all! Life can certainly be horrifying, but what can we do but live it and hope for the best?
I have noticed, over many years, that somehow things do tend to work out, but I also notice that they certainly don’t seem to for everyone…or do they? It is all in the perspective, perhaps. What can we learn from this? The conservatives among us would say that if our lives are not optimum–if we are poor or otherwise lacking–it is because we deserve what we get. They, of course, deserve all their money and good fortune, because they are, in some way, among the righteous. To my way of thinking, this is leftover dreck from the Judeo-Christian era that is connected with those religions in their organized forms. In fact, it seems to me that it is very possibly quite the opposite. We are all getting our share of the “universal thump,” that term coined by Herman Melville, and it is, perhaps, our belief, our perception of it that is really important.
Meanwhile, the Ouroborous continues in its eternal circle, eating its own tail endlessly….
Let us side with the angels. They too have their flaws, but we have much to learn from them.
Is the Spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?” . . .
“It is the sun shining on the rain, and the rain falling on the sunshine” . . .
–Frances Hodgson Burnett
Every day, I ask the God of my understanding, “how can I serve?” We are all isolated from each other at this point, and I am in a high-risk category for the Coronavirus, being both “of a certain age” and immune-compromised already, so here I am, me and my Mac, and it occurs to me that I can at least start paying attentinon to my blog, which despite my neglect of the last year or so, means a lot to me. How may I serve, I ask myself, and it seems that at this time, just to reach out is the best way to serve. Generally, I have no idea who reads my blog–well, I have some idea, but not much–but once a teacher of mine said to me “Amidha, you see things that few people ever see in their lifetime, and someday some lonely soul will read your words and feel that somehow, they have been understood, and they will not be so lonely.” I’m lonely too, of course; I think loneliness is what allows us to see, and further, I think loneliness is the inevitable condition of those who take “the road less traveled,” and the price that is paid for one’s sight…
I got up early this morning and walked out on my back porch. My Westies were already out, playing, rolling in the grass, experiencing the joy that is available to all of us when we can get past our fear…and they galloped up onto the porch, barking joyously, and made a fuss over me (how can anyone be lonely with a well-loved dog at their side?) and the air smelt sweet and the grass needs mowed, and tulips are starting to pop up, and all this proves that despite everything, life goes on. I look back at history, and think of World War II, as a for instance: people not knowing, when they went to bed, whether they would wake up the next morning. And it has always been thus. I think that in the US, we are rather spoiled, and these last years have given us the chance to find out where we really stand, and at the same time, to not have a leg to stand on. A devastating oxymoron! But we can make whatever we choose of it all: we can let it break us, or we can let it make us great. And after all, what is life as we know it? A dream in the mind of the Beloved.
I have a vague understanding of a quantum reality that encompasses many worlds existing simultaneously, worlds in which we have multiple existences…and then beyond all that, the worlds through which we came in order to reach this existence on the earth plane, which some believe is the farthest reach of incarnation. I am not of a scientific mind, so that is the best way I can evoke these memories I carry.
Where shall we live today? There must be somewhere we’re not all running scared from some plague. Or even better, there must be somewhere fear has been overcome in the face of inevitable joy.
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Teach me to go to this country beyond words and beyond names. Teach me not to pray on this side of the frontier, here where the woods are.
I need to be led by you. I need my heart to be moved by you. I need my soul to be made clean by your prayer. I need my will to be made strong by you. I need the world to be saved and changed by you. I need you for all those who suffer, who are in prison, in danger, in sorrow. I need you for all the crazy people. I need your healing hands to work always in my life. I need you to take me, as your Son a healer, a comforter, a savior. I need you to name the dead. I need you to help the dying cross their particular river. I need you for myself whether I live or die. I need to be your monk and your son. It is necessary. Amen.” – Thomas Merton
Places, words, poems, books, films, paintings, all evoke memories of the worlds through which the soul passes on its way to incarnation. They become my best friends and I never become tired of them. Sometimes when I begin an entry here, I have to do a search to find out whether I will repeat myself if I share a quote like the one above, and I am indeed repeating myself, in this case. Yet: “It bears repeating,” as the saying goes, and it speaks to our current miseries. Have you ever noticed how some writers write for the ages, not just the times they live in? They may not realize it at the time, but I suppose we always hope that if we are feeling ignored and discounted in the present, somewhere, somehow, someone in the future will see what we have been or said–in one way or another–and be healed by it.
So here we stand, with the opportunity to be united in our misery. Have you seen the video of Italians singing together, standing on their balconies? What a way to keep that social distance we keep hearing about! And what an example to set. (https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/16/kind-triumph-spirit-locked-down-italians-singing-balconies-inspire-hope-across-world)
Here in the States, we hoard toilet paper and queue up to buy whatever we can lay our hands on, rather than considering that someone else might need it. At the same time, we worry about our loved ones, and try to think about our neighbors who might need us to do whatever we can do for them. What does this Pandemic mean? It is nothing new, although we Americans seem to think that it is, and that we don’t deserve it, but history belies this attitude, and we must try to learn from it.
Meanwhile, we have put a mentally ill, angry toddler in the White House (or SOMEONE did!) and we are trying to bear up under that terrible mistake. What does this mean?
The above miseries, of course, are just the tip of the iceberg: climate change, wars, much more is happening, regardless of what is transpiring behind it. Lewellyn Vaughn-Lee speaks eloquently–if sometimes darkly–of this: we are caught at the end of one era and the beginning of another, as he speaks of in his book Darkening of the Light: Witnessing the End of an Era.
But in this moment of darkness, in this winter solstice, when it seems we have missed every opportunity, life is recreating itself anew.We are a part of life, part of this recreation, this realignment, even if our attention is completely distracted, even if our way of life is an agent of terrible destruction and desecration, exterminating species as it pollutes the inner and outer worlds.We are both spirit and matter, and along with all of creation we are being reborn.Distracted by the images on our televisions, computer screens and now smart phones, we might not know this for generations.We are so busy, we do not have time to witness what is really happening.There is so little light left it is hard to see, the noise of our daily life is so loud it is difficult to hear.But the cycles of life and the cosmos, the seasons of the soul and the world soul, continue.And the ancient promises are always kept, the promises between heaven and Earth, the promises that give us real hope and meaning, the promises that our souls can hear, even if our senses and our minds cannot. – Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee
I look outside my window and see our beloved friends, the cardinals, gratefully enjoying each other and the food that we leave for them. The White Crabapple is blooming, and my Japanese Cherry is blossoming amazingly as it grows out of its babyhood…and it IS growing. It IS becoming. Again and again it returns. My protective army of Ents sways in the breeze, shoulder to shoulder, knowing exactly where it stands. My Westies frolic in the sunshine. My belongings WILL become dusty within moments are they are dusted, and what shows the continuance of time better than this?
Endings, beginnings, they never cease.
This is what I know: there is something, someOne I am in love with. I don’t know where It is, I don’t know what It looks like. I have gone beyond the images of my spiritual infancy, and I only know that I will gladly live or die for what I can’t see…but am more in love with as the world soul evolves…for it is evolving.
We watched one of our favorite films tonight, John Sayles’ Matewan (1987). I happen to have been raised in a coal mining town in West Virginia not far from there, and I listened to my Dad tell stories about his days in the coal mines during the depression, when he road a bike from Wisconsin to West Virginia looking for work. Those were the days when the unions were starting to get hold in that impoverished world–impoverished because of those very same wealthy old white men who have turned the state into Trump country today. We still have some of my dad’s old pay slips from pre-and-post John L. Lewis when his pay almost doubled from a few bucks a week to a few more, and the coal company store took it all back.
Coal isn’t king anymore. Why does Trump want to put the workers back into the mines where so many have and will die of black lung disease? Why are they so determined to take the tops off those beautiful mountains? I grew up in Little Switzerland.
Anyway, if you can get hold of the film, you should see it.
I don’t know why I was born
with this belief in something
deeper and larger than we can
see. But it’s always called. Even as
a boy, I knew that trees and light
and sky all point to some timeless
center out of view. I have spent my
life listening to that center and filtering
it through my heart. This listening
and filtering is the music of my soul,
of all souls. After sixty years, I’ve run
out of ways to name this. Even now,
my heart won’t stand still. In a moment
of seeing, it takes the shape of
my eye. In a moment of speaking, the
shape of my tongue. In a moment of
silence, it slips back into the lake of
center. When you kiss me, it takes
the shape of your lip. When our dog
sleeps with us, it takes the shape of
her curl. When the hummingbird
feeds her baby, it takes the shape
of her beak carefully dropping
food into our throats.
From Parabola Volume 36, No. 4 “Many Paths, One Truth” Winter 2011-2012.
There is so much bad poetry out there. In my opinion, good poetry makes the universe split open and causes me to realize that I am known, and to remember myself. When I started doing this blog, which seems like eons ago, I wanted to create a space to keep things I didn’t want to lose and, even more importantly, to share them. I am very neglectful (maybe) and I don’t pay attention to my stats, but I’m relatively certain that not many people notice it. However, the ones that do are people I’d want to share these things with.
Speaking of bad poetry, there is one entry in this blog that is very bad poetry, but gets more attention than anything else here. I refer, here, to the poem from “Smoke Signals,” about fathers. I think there are a lot of people carrying that particular pain, and I am one of them. But it’s a bad poem. I thought it was important to post it, but I feel guilty that someone else’s bad work carries my blog.
My husband and I have gradually been thinking about what we will do when he retires. Our ultimate fantasy, oddly, would be to live in the Shetland Islands, or perhaps even the Aran, the accent isn’t important… But we have another fantasy, and that would be to return to what seems like home to me, the mountains of North Carolina (we live in the Piedmont now, where it is hot and humid and largely Trump Country, although Chapel Hill is next door, which is a comfort) and after all, our forefathers and foremothers emigrated here and became the Highlanders we are descended from.
Anyway, last weekend we decided to leave the damned lawn unmowed and the last of the house-work to do (we have been renovating) and get in the car and go to the mountains and start looking around, with an eye to eventually selling this barn of a log house of ours (which we dearly love) and finding a smaller one in the mountains somewhere in the Asheville area. We decided we would base ourselves at Lake Lure, and we had such a good time we forgot to take any decent pictures, so here is a stolen one.
–Getting used to endless curving roads going up and down eternally. I had forgotten what it was like getting to school (I went to UNC-A) on a snowy day in the mountains.
–Our one foray into Chimney Rock, that tacky little tourist village, where we found a rather charming cafe to sit outside with the dogs, who were given their own menu, and chose to be served marrow bones, which they proceeded to get filthy, but thoroughly enjoyed. Then they had the great good fortune to meet Oliver, a Westie from Germany who had a charming accent. Oliver and Olivia. What fun. Fergus wasn’t sure what to think, but he wagged his tail and chose not to bark threateningly at that other male.
–The fresh realization that people in the Asheville area are friendly and love to chitchat, which is not so true in these parts, with the possible exception of Carrboro, which is SUCH a comfort, being next door to Chapel Hill, but far more “aging hippie.” Everyone we met this weekend wanted to tell us about their lives and hear about ours. It reminded me of Alaska, where people are generally starved for conversation, and with good reason, too.
–And here’s the real highlight: dinner with our dear friends Peter and An, and An’s daughters, who have only recently arrived from Vietnam, where they grew up in Hanoi. These lovely girls, who speak better English than most of us, having studied it from the age of five, seem to be becoming acclimated, although I suspect that since Peter and An live way out in the country and up the mountain, they are rather bored and are champing at the bit to get out and discover the real world. I delivered a rather stern lecture about this to the guys, who hadn’t thought to, perhaps, take them to the library or into Asheville, although the older one has taken all her college entrance exams and passed them all with flying colors, and the younger one will begin attendance at a “high school to college” program in the Fall. Then they will learn to be American teenagers, God help them!
I wanted to ask these ladies “what is it like to not only come to an entirely new country, but to find your father married to another man?” But of course, I couldn’t, and really, everyone seems to be quite happy with each other; there was a remarkable lack of tension of any kind, which I attribute to the soul-power of my dear friend Peter, who tragically lost his life-partner Rocco a few years back (https://towardtheone.org/2014/09/05/angels-among-us/), and the sweetness of An, who seems to be coming into his own, after a lifetime of pretending to be a straight married man. Everyone seems to be adjusting with great ease, and we all laughed and hugged and ate and drank a great deal. The girls were thrilled with the ice cream we brought, as Peter doesn’t seem to produce much junk food for them. Thank God for Ben and Jerry!
As for us, we tend to go to the beach when we can get away, and had forgotten our love for the Blue Ridge and Appalachians, and we do not intend to forget again. I just have a feeling there is a cottage out there for us, somewhere off the beaten path.
May all Beings have happiness, and the causes of happiness.
May all Beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all Beings never be without the Supreme Bliss which is free from all suffering.
May all Beings live in the Great Equanimity, free from all attachment and aversion.
And may I celebrate this aging,
Love my death more and more,
Have a wonderful vacation by the eternal Sea,
Go on to become a Boddhisattva,
Or die in this Music.
It is up to you, love.
April 3, 1853 in Thoreau’s Journal:
The last two Tribunes I have not looked at- I have no time to read newspapers- If you chance to live & move and have your being in that thin stratum-in which the events which make the news transpire––thinner than the paper on which it is printed––then these things will fill the world for you–but if you soar above or dive below that plain—you cannot remember nor be reminded of them.
You have made me fall in love with you,
At my request,
And now my days and nights are spent starving, bleeding, weeping for you,
Hollow, emptied out with longing, flesh clinging to disintegrating bone,
While I resist giving in to the terms I think you offer and that I am mistaken about.
You have given me this silence, this blessed emptiness going right up to the roof,
This crowded silence,
Thick with the souls of the waiting,
Longing for my surrender to what they don’t yet know.
You play your music for me,
And I feel my way from note to note,
Striving to find the silence within each
Where you conceal yourself, waiting for me while you play.
Day by day, I wait,
Irresolute with longing,
Thinking there is something I must do to be worthy,
Bleeding from these open wounds that do not heal. – Amidha Porter
(I used to have a friend named Charlie Hopkins, who made it clear that no poem of his was ever finished. I think he was probably right.)
I think some angels are sad
Because they make it their business
to hold the tears God weeps
when He fears that He has gone too far
but knows no way back.
of having created that Vow
in Pre-eternity. . .
What if . . .
What if, what if, what if
Even He doesn’t know,
And She can’t contain . . .
Has the River Styx become too wide?
Are its banks overflowing and washing away the Innocents on either side?
Or will the Vow hold true?
Will all come right, at least until the next time?
Does Heaven know?
– Amidha Porter
Even a rabbit knows to take refuge in the Buddha. Perhaps all is not lost.
My Lord, you have heard the cry of my heart, because it was You Who cried out within my heart. – Thomas Merton
“It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die. If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.” – Wilson, Bill. Alcoholics Anonymous
Recently I have noticed that I have been putting my holy books aside and entertaining myself with the trivial. I have kept my music with me, but I have not listened to the sublime, but only the heartfelt. I have seldom taken time for the silence of union, despite the fact that all my joy and health are in THIS.
In other words, I have been letting myself go increasingly unconscious. I have marveled that I am feeling “okay,” and have not been willing to notice the pain that becomes physical as the deep emotional body is ignored.
In other words, I have been “okay.”
Addiction has been a major theme of my life. Bill says it above: “to drink is to die.” May I just say, here, that drinking is not the issue in my life, but it doesn’t matter, for it might as well be: I am an addict, and this mechanism of shutting oneself off from one’s true being by the use of whatever substance–or emotion–or behavior–whatever–is to die of a longing that can never be fulfilled. I wonder if I am addicted to resentment. I have been feeling a lot of resentment recently: “they done me wrong!” “Oh, it really doesn’t matter.” But it does.
I have been pushing this resentment aside, because I am too “mature,” too “wise” to need to pay attention to the way I am letting toxic emotion eat away at the edges of my life. Me? Surely not: I am past that kind of thing.
And so I again flop about on the shores of the abode of my God, gasping like a dying fish, too proud to make my way back into that Ocean and Live.
THIS WILL NOT DO. Why should I die? It is certainly not time.
God weeps from these depths, sobbing in sorrow for this one who chooses starvation over feasting.
Piously we produce our images of you
till they stand around you like a thousand walls.
And when our hearts would simply open,
our fervent hands hide you.
Barrows, Anita. Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God.
In blind determination, I make my way back down the shoreline and into the waves. I will not let him do this to me.
I just had to share this: in these times that seem so dark, in the midst of the birth pangs of a new age, a little joy:
He still looks like a choirboy!
When I first entered the monastery, the monks gave me a small book called “The Essential Discipline for Daily Use,” written by the Buddhist monk Doc The from Bao Son pagoda, and they told me to memorize it. It was a thin book. It couldn’t have been more than 40 pages, but it contained all the thoughts Doc The used to awaken his mind while doing any task. When he woke up in the morning, his first thought was, “Just awakened, I hope that every person will attain great awareness and see in complete clarity.” When he washed his hands, he used this thought to place himself in mindfulness: “Washing my hands, I hope that every person will have pure hands to receive reality.” The book is comprised entirely of such sentences. Their goal was to help the beginning practitioner take hold of his own consciousness.Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness
The teachings are all around me, and so often, after a few years I forget and go on blundering through my life thoughtlessly, wondering why I don’t seem to know how to live in remembrance. “Help me, help me, help me!” I nag God. Here is a better way.
Today I start again: Rising, I press my hands together over my heart and think “May all beings arise rested, to build a new and beautiful world.”
Walking through my house, I feel the cool boards beneath my bare feet and think “may all beings know shelter.”
On my back porch, rocking back and forth, I think to myself, “Feeling the fresh breeze of Spring, I wish this peace for all beings.”
May all know the peace of rocking back and forth slowly, in tune with the motion of the planets.”
Savoring my hot tea, I think “Sipping the first cup of tea today, I hope that all beings may have clean hands and a full cup.”
Leaning on the fence, looking over the fields, I think “may all beings know greeness.”
I feel little, light paws leaning on my knees. May all beings know unconditional love.
I plug in my earbuds and close my eyes. May all beings come home with me.
Well, you get the idea. I don’t have a very exciting life here in my little hermitage, but if I pay attention to everything I do in the course of a day and offer my hopes to the world, then I may just get organized!
You will bless me, and I will bless you back. . .
You will do it perfectly,
And I will do it badly.
And yet your reception will be of such gladness
that I will continue to feel embarrassed,
yet unable to resist your heavenly deliciousness.
Why this one?
Surely you should be more discerning!
But I will take what is in your hand,
Regardless of what seems to me your odd sense of judgment.
I steal into your chambers, and you do not refuse me.
Thank you for this loneliness.
— Amidha Porter
I like to put things where I won’t lose them.
GAYAN 009 – ALAPA-09 – If the Almighty God chooseth, He hath power sufficient to turn thy shield into a poisoned sword, and even thine own hand into the hand of thine adversary.
There is generally a tendency seen in those treading the spiritual path to feel discouraged at having bad impressions upon their heart of their own faults and shortcomings. And they begin to feel that they are too unworthy to have anything to do with things of a sacred nature. But it is a great error, in spite of all the virtue humility has in it. When one acknowledges something wrong in oneself one gives that wrong a soul out of one’s own spirit, and by withdrawing from all that is good and beautiful, spiritual and sacred, instead of developing the spirit of rejecting all errors, in time one becomes a receptacle of what is wrong. He goes on disapproving and yet collecting errors, so producing within himself a perpetual conflict that never ends. When man becomes helpless before his infirmities he becomes a slave to his errors, he feels within himself an obedient servant to his adversary.
The greater the purity developed in the heart the greater becomes the power of man. As great the power of man within himself so great becomes his power on others. A hair’s breadth can divide power from weakness, which appear to have as wide a gulf between them as between land and sky. – Inayat Khan
Gatha III – Everyday Life – Reject the Impression of Errors and Shortcomings
This could become a yearly tradition!
David and I went to Massachusetts to visit our daughter, and on the way back enjoyed a “found” day in Harrisburg, PA. That afternoon, we went downtown–where both of us worked at one point years ago–to wander around, have lunch, take photos, and let Fergus make friends with every homeless person he encountered. There were a lot of them, too, just as there were in the cities we explored in Massachusetts.
So I was hanging with Fergus while David went to get us some coffee, and we moseyed down toward the river. David took forever to get back to us, and when I asked him where he’d been, said he’d been talking to a seemingly homeless guy who was “meeting someone” who would give him $12 to keep his electricity on. So maybe he wasn’t homeless. I asked Dave if he’d given him some cash, and he said he didn’t have much. I didn’t have a cent (maybe we all use plastic these days?), but I laid a guilt trip on Dave and made him turn out his pockets and head back to the guy to give him what he had, which turned out to be $12.The man was delighted and thanked him and prayed for us. On the way back to me, David looked down and saw one of my gold earrings on the sidewalk–rather valuable, I don’t have many–which had evidently fallen off my ear.
I thought the whole thing was a pretty good deal. We came out the winners, with prayers said (I’ll take all I can get) and my gold earring restored to me.
It doesn’t take much to make me happy.
Take thought tonight. Take thought tonight when it is dark, when it is raining. Take thought of the game you have forgotten. You are the child of a great and peaceful race, an unutterable fable. You were discovered on a mild mountain. You have come up out of the godlike ocean. You are holy, disarmed, signed with a chaste emblem. You are also marked with forgetfulness. Deep inside your breast you wear the number of loss. Take thought tonight. Do this. Do this. Recover your original name. – Merton
Merton, Thomas. A Book of Hours (p. 88). Ave Maria Press.
I am a recovering person in two different 12-Step communities, both outgrowths of the original Alcoholics Anonymous. I have loved that path for many years, worked with it professionally and personally, and considered it an important adjunct to my own Sufi path. I remember years ago when my life’s teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, was introduced to this work, and said “Why it’s so much like Sufism it might as well be Sufism!” Indeed, because this healing path is derivative of all the great esoteric systems of the world’s religions and is an inspired gift to those suffering from addictions and the effects of addictions in their families. It is a simple path, simply followed. One of its two founders, Bill W., said this is all it takes:
Burn the idea into the consciousness of every [wo]man that s/he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that s/he trust in God and clean house.” (Alcoholics Anonymous)
Perhaps you are old enough to be familiar with my all-time favorite television series, China Beach. It’s about the Vietnam war (during which I grew up), and in our family we pull the discs out and watch them every few years, because we find the series to be profoundly moving, a meditation itself. One of the main actors in it is Jeff Kober, who played Dodger. He’s a well-known actor and has been in many other things, but he also–interestingly–teaches Vedic meditation. I’m a committed meditator of many years, and I love the daily newsletter I get from his organization. In yesterday’s newsletter, he speaks of the interconnectedness of all being, and points out our constant opportunity to act from the standpoint of who we really are, or from our “mistaken” identities. He cites Alcoholics Anonymous as a good example of this (yes, he is a recovering alcohlic and addict). He says:
“There is a beautiful example of this in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. The power of this twelve-step program is based in the singleness of purpose of the members of the program. All that matters is that everyone is trying to stay sober today. There is an acceptance of anyone and everyone, so long as they are willing at least to lend lip service to this common goal. The result is that a field of unconditional love is formed, in spite of the broken nature of the personalities involved, and all things that may work against this field of unconditional love are at least momentarily set aside. It is this field of unconditional love that lends alcoholics the ability to not drink, something that on their own was not possible. This is the ‘power greater than oneself’ that is necessary to overcome the power of the substance of alcohol.
This singleness of purpose is such a precious (as well as life or death) commodity that discussions of religion and politics, those subjects that can be most fraught with the danger of separation via difference of opinion, are by general consensus commonly avoided. People of wildly disparate political and/or religious views behave as brothers and sisters without ever a thought as to their differences. Of course judgment of others abounds, as it does in any gathering of humans, but it is not lent any credence. It is, in effect and in actuality, trumped every time by the common intention of everyone involved, and so the opportunity to heal remains available to anyone and everyone who chooses to seek it out.” (Jeff Kober, http://jeffkobermeditation.com)
It occurs to me that our common pain and bewilderment at the shock of this horrific earth plane of ours carries the opportunity to reach out to other parts of ourselves, simply because we eventually realize that all people are really just like us, struggling and weeping with the pain and injustice of living, doing their best to grow back into themselves. I have often said to newcomers in the other 12-Step fellowship I belong to “Yes, we’re all crazy here, don’t worry, no one will judge you.” And by and large, it’s true. Jeff points out that in “the rooms,” as they are often called, judgment is inevitable, but “not lent credence.” (Kober) In other words, gradually each of us learns to see ourselves in the Other, to mind our own side of the street while sharing compassion and solidarity. Kober goes on to say,
“We, too, always have this as an option. At any time we have the power to set aside our individuality and embrace our unity. This field of unconditional love and the possibility of miracles always is awaiting us. It is in fact what we are in our deepest self. We simply must be willing to let go of the ideas of separation that stand in the way of our experience of it.” (Jeff Kober)
As someone who grew up with the “all is one” New Age rhetoric of what I sometimes humorously call the “Baba Ram Das Era,” it strikes me that in our common suffering, we are united in doing globally important work. Just think: this is exactly what our search for wholeness means, because we can only find ourselves in other ourselves.
In this sense, our work affects all beings. Who knew?
All day I have been waiting for You with my faculties bleeding the poison of unsuppressed activity. I have waited for Your silence and Your peace to stanch and cleanse them, O my Lord. You will heal my soul when it pleases You, because I have trusted in You. I will no longer wound myself with the thoughts and questions that have surrounded me like thorns: that is a penance You do not ask of me. You have made my soul for Your peace and Your silence, but it is lacerated by the noise of my activity and my desires. My mind is crucified all day by its own hunger for experience, for ideas, for satisfaction. And I do not possess my house in silence. But I was created for Your peace and You will not despise my longing for the holiness of Your deep silence. O my Lord, You will not leave me forever in this sorrow, because I have trusted in You and I will wait upon Your good pleasure in peace and without complaining any more. This, for Your glory.
Merton, Thomas (2007-03-01). A Book of Hours (pp. 146-147). Ave Maria Press.
Woman, whom destiny has made to be man’s superior, by trying to become his equal, falls beneath his estimation. – Inayat Khan
I have been reading Stephanie Saldaña’s new book, having loved her first, Bread of Angels, and finding this one to be wonderfully meaningful and heartening. It is the continuation of Bread, her first years of marriage to the French monk she married after she lived in Syria for a year on a Fulbright scholarship to learn Arabic in order to study the teachings of Jesus in Islam, and both books have been lovely and poignant instructions on how to live in a war zone and still find beauty and life. I was amazed to think that she would, after her first book, return not to Syria–we know what tragedy is transforming that ancient culture beyond belief–but to Jerusalem, with her husband. When I read that she would, I thought, well, we will hear that she is living in some middle-class suburb and teaching or something, but not so: she and her husband found an amazing house in the heart of life in that ancient, now-partitioned city, moving daily from one sector through checkpoints to the other, from that house that was part of a convent and an adjunct to a neighborhood that was still holding on in the midst of of the terror breaking out all around it, and eventually in it. We Americans would find such a life far too difficult, but she and her husband plunged right into a world where a local man sold sesame bread right on her doorstep and gave it to her family, refusing payment, where the entire neighborhood became family, Muslims, Sufis, Christians, Jews. And they did indeed have their first child there, in the midst of violence and poverty and war and inconveniences that would send most of us fleeing. And they found and became a part of Life. This story is largely about the birth of her first child, one of the eventual three, and although they have had to leave their huge house, they still live in Jerusalem in a smaller one. Perhaps they have chosen Life over Convenience, the great god of this culture.
I wrote a brief review of this book on Amazon, where I purchased my copy, and said that Stephanie (I can’t call her by her last name, it doesn’t seem right) is the girl I always wished lived next door. By this, I mean that we as women have become so caught up in becoming equal as to often lose the uniqueness of womanhood, which is to be tender and tough at the same time, knowing innately what is most important, in a world of far too many women who have perverted their true natures beyond belief, all in the cause of equality. [Redaction: my millennial daughter who often edits for me points out that most of the women she knows are not working for equality, but equity. A most compelling thought! And when I wrote that, I have to admit I was thinking of the Kellyanne Conways of this world, not the countless women who struggle in a man’s world just to survive and become themselves.) Her lyrical and poignant writing bespeaks her values: she places her children above any other accomplishments she could have, and her love for her husband is perhaps most important of all. Yet that is always a conundrum when we become mothers, isn’t it? We thought falling in love with our soulmate was all-important, and then we fall in love with our children and are lost forever. She writes of making a home and giving birth in the midst of danger and violence and the common family passages that take place in all families, as her father dies of cancer back in the States. Her story is a common story set in a place we think to be uncommon, but that is an internal space in all of us, one that is becoming projected on our own landscape in the West, more and more. I love most about her writing that she is a woman who is more soul than body, more being than striving, more watching than doing. She is, perhaps, what “traditional” women are currently fleeing in the cause of becoming equal to men, in the mistaken belief that becoming like them is then the answer, instead of being what she already is: better, innately. It is understandable, I think, because of the world we live in, but here is someone who intuitively found a better way of carrying forward the divine heritage of womankind.
I hope you will read this wonderful book, which has made me think again about the confusion and despair of suddenly living in the age of Trump here in the States. I think we Americans became complacent: believing our own rhetoric, we fell asleep at the wheel, thinking we were safe, and all the while the projection of our collective shadow was growing and growing, ready to pounce, all the while complacently dreaming of our first woman president, of the fated progress of humanity, and we became derailed when our shadow overcame us. Reading Stephanie’s book shook me out of the fog of malaise and despair most of us are experiencing increasingly after his “election,” and I realized–had been trying to articulate inwardly all along–that this is Life. We Americans know so little of what our neighbors have been enduring for thousands of years, and we are soft and all too trusting. Our ideals may stab us in the back yet.
Here is what I think: a while back, I wrote about a piece by Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee that is about the cyclical nature of the universe. He stated that we are nearing the end of one cycle, and the beginning of the next, and that such a time is always a time of darkness, of confusion, of….waiting, as in the Christian concept of the “In-Between Times”, the time between the Resurrection and the Second Coming. I didn’t want to accept that, I wanted to continue in my New Age-y beliefs of love and light and imminent joy, and I know that there is a place where Joy waits, but for now…he was right. We wait. Trump and his ilk, Brexit, the tragedy of the Middle East and all countries where darkness battles with light, seemingly with imminent victory, are all symbols of that change. Those who think they can make time hold still, who think they can return our country, at least, to the 1950s and its complacency and acquiescence to the Man, may think for a time that they can make that happen, but they are as nothing next to that power that is both might and tenderness that is moving over and closer to the world with every heartbeat. And Stephanie, I have slept better because you did your part to show us where and how to go. We await the Kairos.
Be of good cheer.
“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always.” – Gandhi
I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.
I have no shelter;
I am as the wandering waters.
I have no sanctuary, like the dark gods;
Nor am I in the shadow of deep temples.
I have no sacred books;
Nor am I well-seasoned in tradition.
I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars,
Nor in the pomp of ceremonies.
I am neither in the graven image,
Nor in the rich chant of a melodious voice.
I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies,
Nor held in the power of their sects.
I am neither low nor high,
I am the worshipper and the worshipped.
I am free.
My song is the song of the river
Calling for the open seas,
I am Life.
I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains. – Krishnamurti
You just never know what God will produce next.
There is a true poetry and there is a false poetry just as there is a true music and a false music. A person knowing many words many syllables, can fit them together and arrange something mechanically, but that is not poetry. Whether it be poetry, art, or music; it must suggest life, and it can only suggest life if it comes from the deepest impulse of the soul. – Inayat Khan
Al-Batin is the most hidden treasure, the secret of secrets. The essence of God is utterly hidden, but it is not hidden inside of something else. There is nothing for it to be hidden within. — Meyer, Wali Ali; Hyde, Bilal (2012-07-15). Physicians of the Heart: A Sufi View of the Ninety-Nine Names of Allah. Sufi Ruhaniat International.
The hidden One
waits in sacred longing and anticipation
in the place that can be found with close attention
Often found in the empty space within a sound or a note,
there It is:
Yes! I knew it all along.
Why, it’s perfectly natural.
Then the rest falls away.
It never mattered in the first place,
nor did it exist to begin with.
A great relief.
Sometimes there is nothing left but Rilke:
I love you, gentlest of Ways,
who ripened us as we wrestled with you.
You, the great homesickness we could never shake off,
you, the forest that always surrounded us,
you, the song we sang in every silence,
you dark net threading through us,
You began yourself so greatly
on that day when you began us—
and we have so ripened in your sunlight,
spreading far and firmly planted—
that now in all people, angels, madonnas, you can decide:
the work is done.
Let your hand rest on the rim of Heaven now
and mutely bear
the darkness we bring over you.
Barrows, Anita (2005-11-01). Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God (Kindle Locations 823-830). Penguin Group US.
And that is enough.
Evil people do not further
The perseverance of the superior man.
The great departs; the small approaches.
On Election Night 2016, as we all began to see what was happening, I went to throw an iChing, which often comforts me in times of horror. The hexagrams that came up for “Present” and “Future” were both “Stagnation” or “Standstill”
In a state of standstill or decline, confusion and disorder come along. Inferior forces are on the rise, when the powers of clarity and creativity are on the decline. In such times, the wise take shelter in their own integrity and quietly remain faithful to their principles. Retreat from public activities and common exchanges until the times favor direct action.
During periods of stagnation, inferior elements in society come to the forefront. When the inmates are overrunning the asylum, summon up your fortitude, hide your worth and withdraw. Concentrate on your personal affairs with a quiet dignity, even if that means forfeiting short-term rewards.
Desiring to change a situation too quickly often creates extra conflict. By accepting hardship, while striving to maintain integrity, you are preparing for future growth. “A seed of prosperity is often hidden inside the husk of misfortune.”
Draw your own conclusions.
Voldemort has returned, and Snape is dead. It’s up to us. And all the unseen Beings.
I lost my way, I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place.
Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller’s heart for his turning. – Leonard Cohen
The doors keep opening and closing… Beauty and ugliness. When will we learn?
When a country obtains great power,
it becomes like the sea: all streams run downward into it.
The more powerful it grows,
the greater the need for humility.
Humility means trusting the Tao,
thus never needing to be defensive.
A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.
If a nation is centered in the Tao,
if it nourishes its own people
and doesn’t meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world.
Tao Te Ching 61
I have been thinking, in this election season, about the art of critical thinking. There’s not a lot of it around at the moment. I know this, because I used to teach it to undergrads, and I always pointed out that if they would learn this skill, no one could ever make a fool of them. Yet fools abound.
Here’s a definition of critical thinking from a pretty neat page I found:
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. (http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/our-concept-of-critical-thinking/411)
There are a lot of lies being told just now, many of them masquerading under the guise of “fact” taken out of context, misread, misinterpreted, falsified, etc., etc. . . . If we are willing to believe whatever comes before us instead of using our powers of reasoning, of careful reading, checking of sources, and questioning motivations and agendas including our own, perhaps we need to ask ourselves what our own motivations and agendas are.
And THAT is the last thing I will say about this particular election, except that I am embarrassed to be an American just now.
When the stream of love flows in its full strength it purifies all that stands in its course, as the Ganges in the teachings of the ancients purifies all who plunge into its sacred waters.
There are two people in my life who have taught me lessons about forgiveness. I find that to forgive someone takes deep love and even deeper commitment. There are, in fact, many people in my life that I have not felt the need to forgive or to be forgiven by, but that is because I was never able to love them. I hope someday I will, although I also believe that in some cases, forgiveness is not necessary, although only in the case of forgetfulness.
The first lesson I learned about forgiveness was from a teacher of mine, the one who took me where I wanted to go with all my heart. It was hard for me when I later had to admit that he had some moral failings that I happened to find particularly unacceptable and painful to contemplate. I was, in fact, angry at him for several years, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. Yet gradually, I found that when I contemplated what he had given me and where he had taken me, when I considered what had come through him and how perfect it was, the enormity of his gift purified me and I realized that I could forgive him for being a human being and making mistakes. It was a beautiful, clean moment when I realized that I didn’t even have to think of issues such as forgiveness where he was concerned and further, that whatever others felt and thought did not have to be my concern.
Thus, one of the final lessons he taught me was how to forgive, and all without saying one word on the topic.
The quality of forgiveness that burns up all things except beauty is the quality of love. – Inayat Khan
I was given a further lesson just this morning, and I suppose that is a good sign, but I feel eviscerated and wounded, and perhaps those feelings are a good sign as well, because they take place in the heart and not the ego, if that is what one focuses on. What happened, you might possibly ask. Well, I live in a culture that is currently quite polarized as our leaders take us through a process that very probably involves their shadow-projections making us all too aware of our own. One of them, as you may know, is putting this country through a rather horrifying time, as he is completely unfit to be a leader and seems determined to be exactly that. We Americans are, I suspect, frightened at this time, and our fear reflects the overall, historic success of our way of government, because however imperfect it is, it has kept us relatively safe for a long, long time; yet now we are given to realize how fragile and easily broken our way is, that we are not immune to the horrors other countries have known throughout history. It is easy to judge someone like this person I refer to, and the media fully cooperates in the process of manipulating peoples’ fears and emotions. It is a time of grave dishonesty, a time when people’s fearful minds are being manipulated at the hand–ultimately–of this person who is at a level of evolution such that this is all he can do. How does this idea of forgiveness operate in cases like this? Inayat Khan offers one solution: he points out that we ought not to judge the person, but that we can certainly judge his actions:
For instance, take a person who is ill, and creating disturbance in his atmosphere by crying, weeping, shouting. It disturbs us. We say, “How bad, how annoying! What a bad nature!” It is not bad nature, it is the illness behind it. It is that reason which will make us tolerant. When we see no reason, we are blind to that Light of God, blind to that forgiveness which is the only essence of God which can be found in the human heart. – Inayat Khan
That kind of forgiveness is a tall order, but think of the power in its sincere application. Yet a global, distant forgiveness of this kind is far easier than forgiving someone who has the power not just to make us angry, but to break our hearts. To forgive at a distance is a powerful thing, far more profound in its effect than the worst judgment or punishment.
When a friend or family member hurts us, what then? Once upon a time, long, long ago, Murshid (I mean, here, Hazrat Inayat Khan, my life’s teacher) came to me in a dream. I am not old enough to have ever met this great soul, although I have been taught by his friends and relatives, so to meet him in this way was very precious to me. At the time, I was going through the breakup of a marriage, and I was certainly a spiritual infant at that time… and when Murshid came to me, he offered me the premier definition of indifference: Indifference, he said, means to be so completely in love with the person who causes pain that one doesn’t even see the need for forgiveness, doesn’t even see the wrongdoing, but only sees love in the other.
Another tall order. In my case, that one took a long time to work, but I know it is the ultimate definition of forgiveness.
And now a friend has hurt me. We are told that when we find another’s behavior intolerable, we need to look at ourselves first, and I realize that I invited what happened, and that although I would like to think that I handled my end of it intelligently and kindly, it doesn’t matter, because the other person didn’t think so, and lashed out at me. And so I have given us both the opportunity to learn to forgive.
My thoughtful self,
Bear all and do nothing,
Hear all and say nothing,
Give all and take nothing,
Serve all and be nothing.
While I was roaming through the forest, a thorn pricked my bare foot and cried, “Ah, you have crushed me.” I felt sorry and I asked its forgiveness.
A wasp flying in the air stung my arm and cried, “Ah, you have caught me in your sleeve.” I felt sorry and I asked its forgiveness.
My foot slipped and I fell in a pool of muddy water. The water cried, “Ah, you have disturbed me.” I felt sorry and I asked its forgiveness.
I absently happened to touch a burning fire, and the fire cried, “Ah, you have extinguished me.” I felt sorry and I asked its forgiveness.
I asked my gentle self, “Have you received any harm?” “Be thankful,” said she, “that is was not worse.” – Inayat Khan
“I look to thee, o Lord, when I try to do right and it turns to wrong.” (Inayat Khan)
It occurs to me that the present time offers, most of all, the opportunity to learn forgiveness.