Mohini was a regal white tiger who lived for many years at the Washington, D.C. National Zoo. For most of those years, her home was in the old lion house – a typical twelve-by-twelve-foot cage with iron bars and a cement floor. Mohini spent her days pacing restlessly back and forth in her cramped quarters. Eventually, biologists and staff worked together to create a natural habitat for her. Covering several acres, it had hills, trees, a pond and a variety of vegetation. With excitement and anticipation, they released Mohini into her new and expansive environment. But it was too late. The tiger immediately sought refuge in a corner of the compound, where she lived for the remainder of her life. Mohini paced and paced in that corner until an area twelve-by-twelve feet was worn bare of grass.
Aren’t we all regal? But usually we don’t see the truth about ourselves and others. We see but a tiny part of the whole being – the surface part. Too often we believe that our environment – all that is outside of our skin – causes who we are. There seems to be a 12 x 12 cage hemming us in. For me, in my worst moments, it’s more like a full length cardboard box has been dropped over my head. I can’t move. I certainly can’t dance. And the fiction I create is that someone else, or something else, has covered me. Truthfully, I am the dropper. And so I pace.
When someone like the Dalai Lama, or Gina Sharpe, or Jiddu Krishnamurti, points to a vastness beyond my past experience, I’ve opened my eyes only a bit. A glimpse here and there of something big, and then I fall back into my old ways. But life seems to be a spiral, and the opportunity for future opening comes around again and again. And so I emerge.
What are the moments that have drawn me to the hills and forests of life?
1. Letting myself wander into Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver after witnessing an evening performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in an old stone church. Sitting under a tree, rocking back and forth for an hour or more, singing the title song
2. Sitting at the back of the meditation hall, listening to Gina Sharpe speak, and feeling her love fill the room
3. On an outdoor education trip in the Alberta wilderness, warming up a member of our small group, helping her back from the edge of hypothermia
4. Singing “For You” to my lovely wife Jodiette, and playing my guitar, as she lies in bed
5. Sitting with a Grade 6 girl on the school playground, holding my hand over a deep cut on her calf, waiting for medical help to arrive
6. Holding a young man as an epileptic seizure rocks through him, making sure he doesn’t hit his head
7. Dressing up as Santa Claus for the kids at the hospital, ho-ho-hoing as countless young humans take turns sitting on my lap
8. Standing at the prow of the M.V. Lady Rose on the way from Port Alberni, BC, out to Bamfield on the Pacific shore, letting the waves crash over me
9. Touching my rock in Barre, Massachusetts, feeling the pain of All Beings Everywhere and giving them my love
Hello, Mohini. Please come with me. The big wide world beckons us both