Shared Unity

Jack Kornfield is a Buddhist teacher who knows all about bringing people together.  The unity he fosters is not about folks crossing the gap from one separate being to another.  It’s not about being a good listener or being compassionate to someone outside of yourself.  The communion instead is people being immersed in the same reality, feeling as if they’re one body, pouring love to the fingertips and toes … and far beyond.

Another thing that’s really made a difference, for me and so many people who have undertaken a path of practice, is to have a place to practice and to have friends (sangha, community) because when we lose it someone else reminds us.   I’ve been reminded as much by all the people who come on retreats.  And the level of courage and the beauty of people’s devotion to awakening or genuineness, I see over and over again.  

I’m thinking of myself being up there on retreat.  There was a woman in the community whose teenaged daughter had died and she was on the retreat a year afterward over the anniversary of her daughter’s death.  So it was really a tough, grief-filled time.  And the day came and I talked with her.  I said “Why don’t you do a little ritual?  This morning while we’re sitting quietly, why don’t you go out at the time you know that your daughter died, and ring the bell 108 times – the great big bell that’s up there?  It’s a traditional way of paying respects or honor.  108 is a kind of mystical or sacred number in India.  It means everything included.  Ring the bell 108 times in her honor.”

We’re all sitting in there meditating, and all of a sudden I hear her ringing this bell right outside the meditation hall.  People have been quiet for a long, long time.  She was really hitting that bell, as if the sound of it could somehow reach her daughter.  

Usually we have the bells to begin or end sittings or call people together, so people were kind of wondering “What’s happening?”  In the middle of the sitting, I said “The bell you’re hearing is because someone’s child has died a year ago today, and she wants to honor her.” 

I heard this woman ring the bell, and everybody else was sitting there listening, with tears streaming down their cheeks, as if she was somehow needing to talk to her daughter’s spirit.  Then she came back and sat with us.

Be Here Now

If you can drive safely while kissing someone
you’re simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves

Albert Einstein

I think Albert was on to something here, whether it’s about romance or doing your taxes.  We tend not to go all out, not to throw ourselves into an act with the total oomph it deserves.  But what does it mean to give 100% in the moment, rather than the tepid 50% we often manage to express?

I’m partial to kissing.  Let’s go there:

1.  Harder … More pressure:  I don’t think so.  The vacuum action doesn’t bring forth intimacy

2.  Faster:  No, it’s not a race to the finish line

3.  Wetter:  Sounds good but it ain’t necessarily so.  Slobberiness can get in the way of the connection

4.  Longer:  Now this is promising.  I wrote a few days ago about a couple’s wondrously extended kiss in an airport

We’re in the wrong territory here.  It’s not about technique, physical stamina, or the drive to make love.  Those are fine but actually the eyes know what real kissing is.  It’s the communion that lives when two people enter the same sacred reality.  The 50% approach won’t do – a brush of the lips on the way out the door, a peck on the cheek while you check your texts.  No.  Going into each other’s eyes please, and all the way through to where the loved one’s essence lies.  That’ll do nicely.

When we drive, our hands are on the wheel
When we kiss, our hearts are in each other’s hands

Plumage

There are countless female goldfinches who show up at my sunflower and nyjer seed feeders.  Right now, I’m looking out my living room window and one lass is poking her head in to dig out the good stuff.  I’m thrilled to have so many birdies come by to say hello.  I’ve been to some areas of the world where birds seem to to be downright rare.  So I am blessed.

Female goldfinches keep their glory muted, with brownish feathers.  I don’t love them any less for their inconspicuous nature.  But every once in awhile a guy swoops down for goodies.  And he wears his heart on his luminous sleeves.  My heart soars even higher to see the shocking yellow.  We humans seem enthralled with brightness, even if many of us don’t clothe ourselves in that way.

 

 

Lest you think that vibrancy lives only in the male realm (and I doubt that you’re thinking that!), consider Senegal.  My visits there have been about wild splotches of colour dotting the brownish land.  I was surprised to see how many men dress “Western” – t-shirts and shorts.  When they pull out their cell phones, I feel right at home.  But hold on.  The women festoon themselves with wild bandanas and long flowing dresses.  The 80-something lady you see here is the real deal – red, mauve, brown and pink, along with sparkling earrings and bracelet.  Plus her speech was animated with sounds I didn’t know.

 

 

Guess it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl
You can fly through life wearing the palette of the heavens …
if you want to

Full Speed Ahead

I just wrote an entire post … and it disappeared! (Sigh) I’ll go for recreating it, but I’m sad

***

A few nights ago, I watched the film Enola Holmes on Netflix. The description sounded good: the younger sister of the master detective Sherlock Holmes has some sleuthing smarts of her own, and she outfoxes her bro as they both chase a case. Then I noticed that Millie Bobby Brown was Enola. I’ve enjoyed her acting in the TV series Stranger Things.

As the plot began unfolding, I started staring at Millie, with my mouth gaped open. She’s a pretty 16-year-old girl, but that wasn’t it. There are lots of pretty girls and women. This was far beyond physical appearance, age or most anything else you can think of. Millie’s face was bursting! Vibrating. Some faces stay put. Some recede. And some blast out into anyone who’s passing by. Such is Millie … and Michelle Obama … and South Africa’s Desmond Tutu. Each of these folks connect with us … effortlessly.

As one reviewer said:

The real attraction here is Brown’s turn as Enola. The character’s insistent lightheartedness might seem easy to pull off, but it’s not: With her constant addresses to the camera – from an underwater wink while a baddie tries to drown her, to a cheekily grandiloquent reveal of her identity to us while she attempts to go undercover as a widow – Enola could get real annoying real quick … But Brown is wonderful, selling the film’s girl-power ethos with just the right amount of playfulness, while retaining something sweet and sincere at the character’s heart. She conveys the energy of a kid discovering the wide world; her Enola moves with seeming confidence but has the darting eyes of a child.

Such aliveness resides not only on the silver screen, or within the halls of political power, or spoken from the pulpit. This exuberance shows up here – in all the “here’s” where we live. It shows up in that kid on the playground, that old codger at the coffee shop, that dancer on the sidewalk. Quite likely, it also shows up in …

YOU


What Happened?

A long time ago, when I was just a pup, I came upon a black-and-white poster that nailed my shoes to the floor.  The top half showed a young boy, giggling away.  On the bottom was a 60ish fellow, wearing an impeccable suit and a crushed face.  The caption?  What happened?

I spent half-an-hour this morning trying to find that poster on Google.  No luck.  Another search brought me these two photos, which filled the bill nicely.

What do we do to ourselves as adulthood emerges and lengthens?  What do we learn under our parents’ roof and in the schoolyard and on the job about who we are?  Is it society’s fault that we numb ourselves so that the joys of life slip away?  Where does the need to be more, better and different come from?  What happened?

All is not lost.  There are vibrant human beings walking down Main Street if we have eyes to see them.  Some have secret smiles but others hit you between the eyes with their joy.  Shall we join these bright spirits?  Shall we contemplate a new question: What will happen?  If you’re 20, what will you bring forth when you’re 30?  40 … 50?  60 … 70?  It really is up to us, not to a painful childhood, financial disasters, or the loss of loved ones.

When I meet you on Main Street, please show me your future photo.  We’ll celebrate together.

I Wish My Teacher Knew

I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids  (Kyle Schwartz)

I wish my teacher knew that I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework

I wish my teacher knew that my mom doesn’t sign my reading log because she can’t read

I wish my teacher knew that after my mom got diagnosed with cancer I’ve been without a home three different times this year

I wish my teacher knew that my dad works two jobs and I don’t see him hardly at all

I wish my teacher knew that my little brother gets scared and I get worried when he wakes me every night

I wish my teacher knew that I love animals and would do anything for my animals.  I would love to work at the SPCA so I could help animals get adopted

I wish my teacher knew that I’m smarter than she thinks

***

Responses to other teachers:

Most of the time when I’m kind of talkative, something has happened and I want to either push it away or find out more

I really don’t like reading in public because I’m still learning English and I always mispronounce words

I really get nervous during tests

I sometimes don’t answer questions because I’m afraid I’ll get the answer wrong and embarrass myself

I’m a Boy Scout

I don’t like writing but I love to learn and solve puzzles

I have Tourette Syndrome

I have Asperger’s

Sometimes I give up

I love to help out

I seem happy but really I put on a fake face and I’m sad.  I cry all the time

Sometimes my homework isn’t turned in the best because I do it with my four siblings yelling in the background

I have a brother who would have been 14 if he were alive.  I miss him

I have trouble paying attention.  I don’t sleep very well and I get scared when I talk in front of everyone

I have Asperger Syndrome.  My brain goes tick while others go tock.  I’m different and I wish my teachers knew.  I want to meet someone like me.  I would love it

I don’t have a friend to play with me

 

What We See

Walking down Main Street. What do you see? Is it each individual separate from everyone else – whether that person is strolling alone, holding hands with a loved one, or in a group that takes over the sidewalk? Maybe you like some of them, don’t like others, and don’t even notice the rest. Maybe you evaluate: too young, too old, too fat, too sloppy, weird clothes, stupid expression on their face. Or compare: better than me, worse than me, equal to me. Perhaps you want them all to go away, so you don’t have to talk to anyone. Dogs are better.

Of course, this isn’t the only way to see. Luminous vision is available.

Jack Kornfield writes: Thomas Merton, the Christian mystic, was walking down the street in Louisville, Kentucky – at Fourth Street and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district. Right now, there’s a monument there. It’s the only monument I know that the government has put up to a mystical experience.

Thomas Merton reflects: I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, and that they were mine and I theirs, and we could not be alien to one another. It was like waking from a dream of separateness. It was monastic holiness. The sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such relief and joy that I laughed out loud. I saw the secret beauty of everyone that was passing, and the only problem was that I wanted to fall down and worship each one as they went by. No more need for war, cruelty or greed when we could see each other in this way. This is really the miracle – that each person who passed me is walking around shining like the sun.

What if Merton’s way of seeing could become normal?

The Parting Glass

Of all the money that e’er I had
I have spent it in good company
Oh and all the harm I’ve ever done
Alas, it was to none but me

And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be to you all

So fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate’er befalls
Then gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all

Of all the comrades that e’er I had
They’re sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They would wish me one more day to stay

But since it fell into my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all

So fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate’er befalls
Then gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all
Good night and joy be to you all

Let’s die … shall we?  Whether tomorrow or decades from now, the moment will come.  And before it does, let’s have a beer together.  You celebrate your life and I’ll celebrate mine.  Then we’ll switch.

So many people have come and gone.  Some have stayed.  Each has brought a flavour to our tummies: Butterscotch Ripple, Rocky Road.  Even Vanilla has swirled on our tongue.  And we are the better for it.  A goodbye will come … to everyone and everything.  Let us smile at the leaving.  Let us sing together, raising our voices to the rafters and sky.It’s a good gig.  May it stretch deliciously into a far off future.

Smash The Ball!

Bookends, it seems.  Two days ago I wrote “Fill The Room!”  This morning, my love of tennis took over.  I feel this surge of energy coming out .. blasting out!  And tennis analogies speak loud.

I’ve never really blasted.  Mostly I’ve embraced, which is lovely.  I’ve marvelled at the players who can build a point, and finish it off with a medium speed ball that’s just beyond the fully stretched opponent.  The sweetness of artistry, not the crudeness of blunt force.  

I love watching a player caress a “slice backhand”, hitting with a long left-to-right stroke so the ball skips sideways when it reaches the opponent.  It’s so hard to return.  Again, tennis as an art form.  Or consider the “drop shot”.  The other person is way at the back of the court and you cozy a soft shot that barely gets over the net.  The element of surprise is a formidable weapon.  Or … when the opponent rushes to the net, hit a long, looping ball over their head – a “lob”.  Properly applied, the ball lands just inside the baseline – virtually a sure winner.

Ahh … Picasso. 

But today I’m not in the mood for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  I want Lebron James dunking the basketball over a member of the other team, slamming it down with his teeth gleaming.  I want the speed, the passion, the fierceness.

So today I smash the tennis ball!  Delicacy be damned.  “Hit the ball hard, Bruce!  Pick an empty corner of the court and give ‘er.  You can even yell if you want.”  

My home is sturdy, and verges on soundproof.  I now have two choices for raising the decibels.  Or I can do them both till the cows come home.  “Grrr!” some more.

What Do We Want?

I could have a mansion
That is higher than the trees
I could have all the gifts I want
And never ask please
I could fly to Paris
It’s at my beck and call
Why do I go through life
With nothing at all?

But when I dream
I dream of you
Maybe someday
You will come true

I can be the singer
Or the clown in every room
I can even call someone
To take me to the moon
I can put my makeup on
And drive the men insane
I can go to bed alone
And never know his name

But when I dream
I dream of you
Maybe someday
You will come true

Sandy Mason Theoret

***

At Gate C22 in the Portland Airport, a man in a broadband leather hat kissed a woman arriving from Orange County.  They kissed and kissed and kissed.  Long after the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons and wheeled briskly toward the short-term parking, the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other like she’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island.  Like she’d been released from the ICU, snapped out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.  

Neither of them were young.  His beard was grey.  She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine her saying she had to lose.  But they kissed lavish kisses, like the ocean in the early morning – the way it gathers and swells, sucking each rock under, swallowing it again and again. 

We were all watching.  Passengers waiting for the delayed flight to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots, the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling sunglasses.  We couldn’t look away.  We could taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face.  When he drew back and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost as though he were a mother still open from giving birth.  As your mother must have looked at you no matter what happened after – if she beat you or left you or you’re lonely now.  You once lay there, the vernix not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you as if you were the first sunrise seen from Earth.

The whole wing of the airport hushed, all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middleaged body, her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses, little gold hoop earrings – tilting our heads up.

Ellen Bass

***

It’s simple really.  We want the kiss … and the eyes full of love