A Small World It Is

Wondering 0614Having “virtual” access to one another–day and night–leaves little doubt how small the world really is. We are ever connected.

That may have always been an issue as even the 19th century romantic Wordsworth observed, the “world is too much with us late and soon.”

For all of our existence, thoughtful connection has been a human issue. We have always told stories to understand our relationship to life and our reverence for it but now, our stories seem out of sync with both.

Every minute of every hour we show each other who we are, and now that we have revealed ourselves to one another, thoughtful connection is even more of an issue.

Internet or no, to connect is to send and receive thoughtful messages, most often with language but sometimes with symbols or images that reveal more than words. Connecting is the light dawning, a window opening, an idea born.

In the 21st century, a virtual message is sent at speeds faster than we are able to think, making it not only easier to be thoughtless but at a speed beyond what we are able to physically experience.

This is a new wrinkle in our history and it is yet to be shown whether or not we will smooth it out. In the ancient traditions, the thoughtful life is living in the moment that one has rather than wandering to moments already lived or imagining days that do not yet show a sunrise.

A thoughtful connection is not without its weight or burden for a thoughtful connection is considerate, perhaps even painful but not unkind. It is the compassionate connection that allows us to know pain without being consumed by it.

We know what to say, because we have experienced closing down,

shutting off, being angry, hurt, rebellious, and so forth,

and have made a relationship with those things in ourselves. 

(Pema Chodron)

In the Beginning 0614

We have to heal the relationship we have with ourselves if the world that we are so passionate about in our rhetoric has any chance. Relationship on our planet is at a tipping point as thousands of species become extinct or face extinction.

We are the one species that can make a thoughtful difference. Indeed, we are the one species that has had more impact on this planet than any other.

`There are people who are past being hurt, beyond being hurt. You should know this is true. You should try to become one of those people, to make an understanding with yourself that you are not your body, you are something bigger. That is your work on this earth, do you see? Every experience here is to teach you to do that. Living, dying, every experience.’

 (Volya Rinpoche to Otto Ringling, Breakfast with the Buddha P. 275)

As humans, we have to get beyond our reactions. If it seems impossible to be kind, it does not follow that the only response is to return hurt. Silence is ever a thoughtful connection for it reveals a reverence for life, for getting beyond hurt. It reveals that we are something bigger.

 

(Note: Regular posts will resume August 3, 2014.)

 

 

On Not Becoming a Buddha

Above all, don’t wish to become a future Buddha;

Your only concern should be,

As thought follows thought,

To avoid clinging to any of them.

~Dogen~

Hawk looking down 0614I do not think I have ever wanted to be a Buddha. I do not remember that thought at all. I do focus on trying not to cling to my thoughts but my lifelong practice of hairsplitting has been a sanctuary as well as a war.

My fondness for making excessive distinctions in reasoning allows me to dress up old behavior as new. I may not have expressed a wish to become a Buddha, but I have desired acquiring inner peace for the rest of my life.

Quite often it feels as if I am stomping through myriad thoughts, trying to shake off first one and then the other. I am amazed at the substance I give to a thought–I walk around in it–giving it a life it does not have.

Usually, it is a thought I know well but until I have examined it thoroughly, I am not able to let it go. I like to think that hairsplitting serves me here, much like Ajahn Chah’s distinction between holding and clinging:

We pick up [a flashlight], look at it and see, `Oh, it’s a flashlight,’ then we put it down. This is called holding but not clinging, we let go. We know and then we let go. To put it simply we say just this, `Know, then let go.’

~Ajahn Chah~

For me, knowing to let go requires trust, and when I do, the named thought floats by, a mere reminder of what is. However, knowing an object, a thing, is easier than meeting a familiar emotion.  Yet, the practice is the same.Hawk looking up 0614

In fact, the practice of looking and letting go is what the mind learns to trust; Chah says that in “constancy of mind, wisdom arises.”

That constancy of mind is what I need most when emotion pulls at me, when I face patterns of a lifetime. Hairsplitting allows me to breathe between thoughts but it also makes for interesting detours.

As I began my regimen of healthy eating, meditation and yoga, I defined and redefined my practice of each as well as the union and intersection of all three. That is neither bad nor good but my initial focus was on results and now, it is to live.

In the beginning we practise with some desire in mind; we practise on and on, but we don’t attain our desire. So we practise until we reach a point where we’re practising for no return, we’re practising in order to let go.”

~Ajahn Chah~

“Practicing for no return” would not have been what I needed to know as I began my practice. I would not have trusted it. My wishing to become a Buddha was disguised as various emotional and physical health goals. In order to change my physical and emotional being, I had to let go of trying to become a future Buddha.

There’s Still Time to Make Art

natural art 0514Perhaps each life is a painting, an infinitesimal rectangle or even the equanimity of a square. Beginning with a blank canvas, an entire life swirls with the colors of choice, shifting scenes until ultimately blending into the tapestry of existence.

Existence is endless art, it seems, as delicate and precise as a sand painting—a mandala—once a life is complete, the sand shifts and returns to its state before shape. Always, there is another shape to come.

There is an art to life, I suspect, no matter how minute one’s tile in the mosaic of existence may seem. It is not the size or shape of a life that looms but rather the choice of options from the palette provided.

The colors of choice vary as does the brushstroke that reveals them. Some moments the stroke is as subtle as moonlight and just as changing. During the dense, life-changing events–dark moments that mark a life for its duration–the swath of the brush is broad and opaque.

Yet each life has an array of choices—a palette of options—to absorb change as it colors a life, ultimately illuminating, much like light of the moon.

At night, I open the window

and asked the moon to come

and press its face against mine.

Breathe into me.

Close the language-door

and open the love-window.

The moon won’t use the door,

only the window.

~Rumi~*

We might want to look to the moon when facing the doors it ignores. Sometimes, the broad brushstroke Art 0514wrinkles the canvas in a determined color of choice. Other times, the subtle stroke turns opacity into transparency, rather like darkness leaving for light.

The tapestry of existence is in constant flux, swirling with infinite possibilities as we work through daily decisions, choosing our colors. Some are doors and some are windows but both eventually open, either by the light of the moon or by the love of life.

Our living canvas is not yet a still life nor is our sand mandala complete. There is still time to make art.

*This lovely Rumi quote comes from a favorite blog of mine, ZenFlash.  Thank you.

 

The Light in Our Stars

Single movin' 0614It is the second day of summer in the northern hemisphere, June 22nd, the first day when the amount of sunlight no longer increases for the longest day of 2014, the summer solstice, has passed.   

In what will seem no time at all—just a jumble of days and nights—it will be the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, followed by December 22, the first day the amount of daylight no longer decreases.

The seasons cycle as does all life on the physical plane. Some pass away and others remain longer. It is love that sustains the coming and going of life.   

I made the above notes in my journal while I was at Waverly the afternoon of June 22nd. This is the first summer my dear friend, Maurya, is not here, having died this past winter. It is a lifelong habit, this marking of seasons and remembering love given and received.

It is my way of accepting that all pass away, as will I someday, and remembering that love is beyond time, form, or condition. One need only look to the light in the stars or to the shimmering light of the sun on a pond to see love expressed over and over as life.

And on this June 22nd there was something else occurring, a gathering of cyclists and walkers at 2 p.m. on the Charles River in Massachusetts. The event was Movin’ for Maurya, another celebration of her life and a fundraiser for endometrial cancer research.

Those unable to be in Massachusetts went to places they walked or cycled with Maurya or to places she knew only through pictures or conversation. Wherever we gathered, the memories of Maurya were many and rich in the equanimity and compassion that flowed so gently, so easily from her.

Goslings 0614

Each friendship was unique to her, treasured and nurtured. To have known such love in a lifetime is to feel invincible, awash in waves of unconditional love. On many occasions it has nearly brought me to my knees for the sheer wonder of it.

And for me, not surprisingly, it is at Waverly that Maurya seems so near, although she knew Waverly only through the pictures and posts on this blog. But then, Waverly is like stepping out of time and into the endless energy of existence.

We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.
~Thich Nhat Hanh~

The oneness of existence is beyond this body, this I that experiences life on the physical plane, one of seamless sensations, boundless as the breeze upon my face. On this physical plane love announces itself as sight and sound, as touch and taste, a heady aroma this experience of existence.

movin' for Maurya blog 0614

It is just after 2 p.m. when the goslings and their parents slip into the waters of Waverly as I look to the northeast and to the Charles River. Endless existence washes over me in waves of gratitude that is no less than the light in the stars.

On some nights, it seems the stars wink in recognition. Perhaps they do for one day I, too, will be among the energy of existence as are those who I loved and who loved me during our shared experience on the physical plane.

Occasionally, I have thought our time together too brief but then I remember that I am not separate but one with existence beyond form, dimension or condition. I look to the light in the stars and sometimes, I wink back.

The First Peace in Relationship is Life Anew

This past Monday, feline EmmaRose and I experienced the imperative inherent in impermanence. One being can never know another completely, which is as it should be. The richness of relationship, its mystery, keeps us curious and often, in awe.

In her sun 0413As a cat, EmmaRose is ever present. Routine is her preference for that means food and shelter—her sense of security—is not threatened.  For the three and a half years she has lived with me not even the furniture has been rearranged. It seems she appreciated this more than I knew.

We spend most of our time in the bedroom, which doubles as my work area. I work from an adjustable Tempurpedic bed complete with laptop and bed table. EmmaRose is quite partial to sleeping on the Internet router, especially in winter, or near/on my lap while I write.

Our living room has never had much furniture. There is still a lovely antique, wooden rocker with a padded seat. It is more comfortable than it looks. Also, there is a large, rust-colored ottoman suitable for human and feline window gazing.

There WAS a twin bed box springs and mattress that I tried to disguise as a sofa-daybed. For me it was ugly, uncomfortable, an unpleasant reminder of another time. From time to time, however, I would find EmmaRose curled up and asleep on it.

That I regularly removed accumulated cat hair from its quilt cover should have told me that this was a nocturnal sleeping place. Did we not once watch a possum in moonlight from the sofa-daybed?

Staying with Familiar 0614

In hindsight, it is obvious that a good deal on a used loveseat and recliner changed our relationship. In fact, EmmaRose seemed to sense imminent change the moment we heard the knock on our front door.

She did not watch the daybed leave the apartment, preferring the familiarity of the bedroom to wait for the moving in and moving out to cease. Only then did she return to the living room.

Although she is only five and a half pounds, she has an immense presence, especially when she communicates. We don’t focus on the actual meow or word. Rather, we pay attention to tone, and her feelings regarding the loveseat and recliner were quite clear.

Here we were in the reality of impermanence. The known furniture was gone and the unknown leather furniture was here. Accepting loss precedes learning to live with what is. Becoming once again secure in one’s world is unique to each being–there is no set amount of time.

KMHuberImage; Meditation Cat;

We can immerse ourselves into the newness of our world or we can skirt the change for awhile. Regardless, it is up to us to seek that first peace so integral to relationship, which is precisely what EmmaRose did three days and four nights later.

It was during the opalescent hours, as one day becomes another, that EmmaRose beckoned me to the loveseat for window gazing. In the light of the waning crescent moon, I glimpsed an occasional firefly but soon the purr of EmmaRose brought me, too, to sleep.

 

The Universal Stuff of Us

From earliest times we have wondered about our existence and our connection to the stars. Many myths and stories reveal our longing to return to the skies, as if we are trying to remember how to fly home. We wonder about the return trip after this adventure, our life, is over.

We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from.

We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.  

~ Carl Sagan ~

This “star stuff” is the stuff of our minds as well as of the natural world. In our art and our philosophy we explore the questions of who we are and from whence we came. This spiritual universe is more personal yet eternal, emotional rather than rational. It is the light in our stars, this comfort from the cosmos when we look to home.

The physical universe is one of rational laws, measurable and impersonal. Essentially, these laws are true throughout the physical universe until proven otherwise. Continual discovery and exploration of the cosmos seems to be what makes or breaks such laws yet in the physical universe constant inquiry is essential for law.

There is room for both a spiritual universe and a physical universe,

just as there is room for both religion and science.

Each universe has its own power.

Each has its own beauty and mystery.

~ Alan Lightman ~

Wave upon the water 0514

To recognize and appreciate the uniqueness of the physical as well as the spiritual universe is to observe life with a sense of wonder. In wonder, the physical and the spiritual do not contradict but co-exist so we are able to observe both.

In the observer effect, the act of observing influences what is being observed. One of the many marvels of science is that attributes and behaviors invisible to the naked eye are still observable.

We cannot see the law of gravity or the Higgs boson. We are left observing that what goes up comes down, although the law of gravity is much more than that. The Higgs boson may be observed after protons collide about a trillion times but even after all that, its existence lasts less than a billionth of  a trillionth of a second. Even so, the boson is observed only because of what it becomes.

Life begins 0514

In the more personal spiritual universe, belief systems underlie our reactions. Do we observe every event or experience with our complete attention or are we more concerned with how to respond?

My sense is that our observation is obscured. If an event is familiar, we search for a previous and similar response; if an experience is unknown, we search for some kind of  familiarity so we can respond. We are not observing fully so our influence is incomplete as well.

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.

We listen to reply.*

We may be missing the wonder of being alive, of being part of this adventure that is both spiritual and physical, each universe complete in its beauty and mystery. We are star dust, this universal stuff of us. Ours is a guaranteed round-trip. Why not observe this life with wonder?

******

*This quote seems not to have an attributable source.

Reading Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew is like having your own personal guide to the cosmos. In my post “No Separation of Time and Space Here,” Kay mentioned this Lightman work as well as his novel, Einstein’s Dreams.  I enjoyed both immensely. Thank you!

A recent post from Tiramit mentions the observer effect in his thoughtful post, “Responsibility & Mindfulness.” Thank you!

A Little Night-Morning Musing on Magic

Magic has properties, rules that govern it, but with magic, just when we believe what we are seeing, something else is revealed. It is as if the more aware we are, the more the magic reveals.

Murky Shell 0514That seems a bit murky yet that is precisely as it should be. Magic is elusive, restless even, for it is and it is not. What is tangible in magic regardless of ritual, symbol, or illusion is technique.

Technique is the mechanism of the magician, the means to an end, for there is always an end. The grand illusion that is life is a mixture of individual experience and human nature, the unknown shrouded in the mist of the known.

The realm of magic is murky by design so that it is able to remain on the cusp of believable.

Often, I visit magic in the hours when a day ends and begins. These hours when night and morning are dark seem suited to illusion.

This time of in-between, as night becomes morning, are restless hours for one is not yet another. I, too, am murky in my mind, dull with the day that has ended, not yet open to the day that has begun.

By the light of my laptop screen, I sometimes surf the Internet, not for substance for I do not wish to engage but rather, I am content to float in and out of websites. On some nights, I visit  an online solitaire game that offers magic.

At first glance, it is traditional solitaire: seven piles of cards, some face up and some not, red on black, black Perfect Shell 0514on red, and four aces at the top. Then, the illusion begins. Magic is given freely and at regular intervals; neither purchase nor friend invitations are required.

Win or lose, you may play forever. Winning means advancing and receiving more magic; losing means just playing another game. There is an intricate scoring mechanism that makes the play of every card worthy of consideration.

How and where a card is played determines the number of points. Not all plays are equal—some may be undone—using magic produces a card to keep the game going but more magic may be required to win.

Ultimately, the player decides whether a game is worth continuing, whether winning is worth using magic. Life seems much the same in that regard, whether to be or to seek what may be.

Ah, once again I am far afield in my musing. Restless magic is fitting for those dark hours of night-morning yet in the light of day, it is less so.

(In a comment on a long ago post, “Do You Believe In Magic,” J.B. Whitmore offered the idea of the word magic as restless. Thank you for that. )