If there be righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there be beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there be harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there be order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
~Confucius, “The Great Learning”
Well, I’ve officially discovered hell.
Trapped in my own home, city, body, mind, old habits, ways of being. Trapped in a holding pattern. Trapped in it, alive, in the world, in the now.
Well, the good news, I don’t have that to fear after death. That’s not necessarily true, but what is true is I see clearly with my own eyes how we Christians have misunderstood death, misinterpreted hell.
The sounds, the pounds, in my head and all around.
Welcome new world. Welcome.
I’m not sure if it is just me awakening to the complexities of the world, or if there really is something going on in the sky. This morning between the hours of 4:15 and 9:15a.m. PST (peaking at 6:15a.m.), the Penumbra Lunar Eclipse brushed the sky with an orange glow. Watch an amateur’s video of this eclipse here. The Lunar Eclipse occurs when the Earth is aligned between the sun and moon. The moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, causing a darkening effect, not a total black out. The Umbra causes a total black out and Antumbra has the outer ring effect.
I’d like to take things to a more personal level. This morning I awoke around 9:00a.m. and felt as though I was awakening from the deepest of slumbers. There was no connection to ‘myself,’ my body or mind. I felt a spacious distance that was uncomfortable and tried to shake out of it, as I prepared to drive my partner to work…9:15a.m. “What did I eat last night?,” I questioned, and blamed it on the 11p.m. yogurt snack from the night before. After dropping him off, I laid in bed for an hour, but the distance remained.
When I finally emerged from bed, I glanced at the calendar and thank you to Alex Grey who attends to these things, saw the eclipse event marked in my calendar…9:15a.m. Things made just a bit more sense and I felt a bit more clarity on how to work with these energies to not be bedridden for the rest of the day.
Although I know this type of inquiry is not accepted by mainstream culture, even I was offended by this Huffington Post article claiming that, “Despite popular myths, there’s not much evidence to back up the idea that the moon (or any other astronomical body) has much of an effect on human or animal behavior.” Ask any person working with developmentally disabled adults and they’ll tell you differently. A few months ago my bank teller stated, “I never believed in that full moon stuff until working at the bank. Some crazy things happen!” I’ve often heard this phrase repeated among non-believers, surprised that even they (accepting of dominant culture, not questioning the status quo) observed correlations between the full moon and erratic behavior.
Although, I’ve got to hand it to Huffington Post for phrasing their disregard as, “not much evidence,”… an ambiguous phrase, indeed, I’d like to take the opposing side for the remainder of this post: We’re made up of the same stuff as the moon and earth, of course we are affected by these forces! Evolutionary Cosmologist Brian Swimme states, “The awareness that bubbles up each moment that we identify as ourselves is rooted in the originating activity of the universe.” (The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, 1996) Even human consciousness is rooted in the original flaring forth 13 billion years ago. Where else do we think thought comes from? How selfish to think it is ‘ours.’ I love science and technology, but I also love my self, and cannot disregard that which arises in my world. “Things are real because we experience them,” states spiritual leader and yogic practitioner, Mariana Caplan. I have to believe this. Not doing so would be like turning my back on that awe-inspiring blood orange glow in the sky this morning at 9:15a.m., measured and accepted by mainstream science, human experience, and rooted in cosmological law.
Looking back on my trip to India, a mere four years ago, I am taken aback, embarrassed even. I can’t believe the person in those photos shares the same body as me, some of her structural make up. That thing that wandered the streets taking photos of lepars, beggars and thinking she was doing something (which to some extent she was, considering that a part of India runs on its tourism industry) was asleep. She was alseep, even though at the time she/I would argue she/I was not. That person, her face fatter, her soul thinner, even though at the time she/I would argue it was not.
This thing inside has shattered that thing in that photo. I can no longer look at those photos and say I didn’t know, even though I now know that I didn’t know.
What did they think of me—my white skin and smiling face, expecting a chai every time I stepped foot into that ashram? I couldn’t do it now, and to be honest with myself, couldn’t do it then. I know that. I remember those voices inside. I felt I had to prove something to someone, but who, I’m still not sure. And what was the cost? I will never know, and how settling is that?
‘Lily of the Mohawks,’ or Kateri Tekakwitha will become the first Native American saint venerated by the Catholic Church. This woman was born in 1656 and lived to be 24 years old. She will be canonized on Sunday after a young boy was miraculously cured of a flesh-eating disease through prayer and placing a relic of Kateri on his leg in 2006. MSNBC article here.
What I find most interesting about this article is how it brings to light the complexities of relationships between indigenous peoples and the Catholic Church. The article states that Kateri was, “ostracized and persecuted by other natives for her faith,” as she was baptized Catholic by Jesuit missionaries. On the other hand, currently, “There’s been a growing sense of a return to Native American spirituality on reservations, which are good things, but at the same time along with that has been some criticism that native people should let go of Christianity because that was brought by the ‘white man’ and should go back to their own native culture entirely.”
It’s a complex issue with complex implications for the future of religion.
What is also interesting to me about this article is the relevance of time. Kateri’s posthumous sainthood is indeed a statement of the rippling effect of our lives–although something may not be realized, actualized, or manifested during one’s own 100-year life span (in her case, 24 years), we each do indeed affect the whole.
In “How to Live a Life of Peace,” Sakyong Miphan Rinpoche writes:
“The world is becoming ever more crowded, speedy, anxious, and intense. Under such conditions, our tendency is to become less compassionate, more aggressive, and more prideful. I feel that cultivating peace is the only way that the human race is going to survive.”
“How do we live a life of peace? By first discovering our peaceful nature. In ‘peacefully abiding,’ or shamatha meditation, we train in continually bringing our focus back to an object such as the breath…
Peaceful abiding meditation is not escapism; it is realism. Only the foolish think that they can find salvation outside themselves. When beings don’t trust their own nature, they become agitated. That turns into blaming others, which becomes vengeance and destruction. Even if we destroy something, in the end we are just left with our own mind. The path of peace is one of exertion and diligence in working with the mind.”
In the past I was a nomad. I was young, unsupported, and immature on the spiritual path–I had not yet gained the tools to face and work with my own mind. Yet I was sensitive. I’ve always been sensitive and attuned to my own rich inner life and its connection with the outer world. In my nomadic life, I lived alone and traveled from city to city, moving when my outer life became too challenging. My inner life projected outwards, manifesting thoughts and creating my reality as, “I don’t like these people. This city is too crowded. This city doesn’t have enough trees. This city has too many trees. That person looked at me funny. I think that person wants to hurt me,” coming full circle to, “I don’t like these people.” Where I then moved.
Some of those thoughts might be true, some of them not.
In his book, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, shaman-in-training (if I can boldly say) Carlos Castaneda describes the first lesson from his teacher, don juan. It was a simple lesson–that Castaneda discover his seat on the floor. There was only one spot that was unique, one where he could be at his very best and it was his task to ‘feel’ his way to the right one. Castaneda spent an entire evening of trial and error until he finally exhausted himself to sleep.
When he awoke, don juan congratulated him–
“[O]nly a fool could fail to see the difference.”
The connecting point between Sakyong Rinpoche, myself, and Castenada lies in the shared word, “fool.” As I mature, develop my practice, and discipline my mind, I realize the subtleties and complexities of the modern, individualist mind. As an American who grew up hearing, deeply believing, and eventually living by the clichéd phrases, “follow your dreams,” and “you can do anything you set your mind to,” I understand the importance of don juan’s message.
Sometimes the discursive thoughts one experiences during meditation are there for a reason. Meditation is a very personal practice and it is up to us individually to discern the difference between the mind’s innate wisdom and discursive thoughts. For me, I’m experiencing a stuckness between two worlds. When I meditate, the thought patterns, images, and feeling tones of my job and my experience of it tearing me apart are the discursive thoughts that I am repeatedly forced to recognize, and let pass by. But they continue to arise–these same exact thought patterns and cycles. The more they arise, the greater the charge resonates in my body. They are arising now not only as thought patterns, but as thought patterns manifesting a negative bodily charge.
So, I am in a pickle.
The easy answer is, “quit your job.” I’ve tried. But I am in a sticky financial situation and in the middle of meeting with my boss to put in my two weeks I shut down, told some strange, incomprehensible story making the situation worse. The other easy answer is, “stop meditating,” but deep down I know that is not an option.
Taking lessons from Castaneda as he discovered his spot on the floor, I know I should trust my ‘feelings’ at work–the uncomfortable contractions and negative self images that arise both while I’m there and while I’m away thinking about being there. But it’s not that easy. Like a trickster figure, they change! At work, one moment I’ll be experiencing a crushing pressure and dark figures and colors and then within an instant, these feeling tones and images are released! For an instant I experience peace, a peace that is addicting. My mind is a nasty good player. Wait, is this addictive peace that which Buddhists describe as ‘attachment?’ Is it these that keep us (me) on the cycle of samsara or am I just talking b.s.?
It’s embarrassing to play the fool, but more embarrassing not to be able to support oneself financially. And why am I so terrified to find a different job? Writing is keeping my mind off of ‘discursive’ thoughts for the time being (are they discursive?), and I am appreciative of that.
So I thank you for listening to this chatter.
Wishing you a peacefully abiding mind and being.
“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign languague. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. and the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually without even noticing it , live your way into the answer.”
~Rainier Maria Rilke