Friday, 22 September 2017

waiting with the pain, finding the insights

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.
                             Danna Faulds 
I know that sometimes things are so bad that no matter what practices we do or what medications we take, we can't seem to generate even that small amount of faith we need for inspiration to keep going. Then, if we can stand inside our pain awhile and wait, over time we may come to also see it as a way into the deepest parts of ourselves and then back out into the world, a vehicle for new insight into who we are and how much we need to care for ourselves and one another. If there is nothing we can do right now but wait then, as TS Eliot wrote, "the faith is in the waiting." If we can but wait, we may yet emerge from despair with the same understanding that Zen master Suzuki Roshi expressed: "Sometimes, just to be alive is enough."
                                                          Sharon Salzburg, "Faith."
Well I don't think the first passage is great poetry, and the second might not strike one as elegant prose - but enough already with the lit crit. I hope you agree that these are tough and valuable insights. Distracting ourselves from painful feelings short-circuits any authentic acceptance of who we are and where we are. Accepting the reality of painful feelings, and the limitations of what we can really do about them, isn't the same thing as giving up, giving in to things we should resist.
And we can also take the pain-killers if we need to.

Happy feet, sunlight and shadows

A post-meditation discussion on the dancing patterns made by sunlight, wind and birch leaves - the wondrous complexity of all the natural forces and transactions that made these transient patterns. But then we are in and of transient patterns - it's just good to recognise that in something serendipitously beautiful. And it seems to have made someone's feet happy, too!


Monday, 4 September 2017

What does the water say, then?

Nothing, of course - says rational thought. Water has no speech organs, no human agency, and therefore since speech is a human phenomenon, then...(yawn...excuse me while I switch him off.)

But Mr Logical Bore is actually, in his own terms, correct.

To pretend the water says anything to me (or anyone) is, I guess, one of those rhetorical tricks we use to try to express the inexpressible - a state of mind, a state of being.

When I refer to what the water says, I'm trying to note down the effect water, in a few of its multudinous states, has on me and I'm sure on millions of us. I'm not seeking to project onto the water something of me. The traffic is the other way. Whether it's the churning wake of a cross-channel ferry:

the power of a breaking wave:

 or the unexpected peace of an inland waterway amid the noise, the crowds and excitement of a large music festival:

 water will always work, if I can let it.

Much of us is water. It runs through us. Many (most?) people like to sit and gaze out over the sea, or a lake, or just a river or a pond.  There's surely something going on at a profound level. After all, we may love the view out across green fields, but it doesn't have the same pull, does it? Herman Melville writes that if it was sand pouring over Niagra Falls, we wouldn't flock there. (A disturbingly strange thought!)

Here's a bit from the start of "Moby Dick."
"Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries- stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. . . Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever."

Everyone may know it, but I hadn't consciously realised it, until it grew on me, slowly and fruitfully. I now know that provided I don't try too hard - or preferably, not at all - and let my awareness rest with the water, its movement, its stillness, whatever changing form it takes in front of me, I am rewarded by some moments of being in the present. A sense of unity and universal presence. 

That is what the water says.

Archhippy/folkies The Incredible String Band had a Water Song:

Water water see the water flow
Glancing dancing see the water flow
Oh wizard of changes water water water
Dark or silvery mother of life
Water water holy mystery heavens daughter
God made a song when the world was new
Waters laughter sings it is true
Oh, wizard of changes, teach me the lesson of flowing
     (secularists may prefer to take God and holy as metaphors, if it helps.)

We change, all the time, as everything does. Nothing is constant. It's change that enables us to be. Perhaps the water holds me because from it I absorb the lesson of flowing, the lesson of being here and now changing in the non-existent present moment.