Monday, January 18, 2010
Lord, who can be trusted with power,
and who may act in your place?
Those with a passion for justice,
who speak the truth from their hearts;
who have let go of selfish interests
and grown beyond their own lives;
who see the wretched as their family
and the poor as their flesh and blood.
They alone are impartial
and worthy of the people's trust.
Their compassion lights up the whole earth,
and their kindness endures forever.
-- A Book of Psalms, translations by Stephen Mitchell www.panhala.net/Archive/In_Memory_of
Friday, January 15, 2010
Max Ehrmann lived September 26, 1872 - September 9, 1945. He was an American spiritual writer and attorney, having studied philosophy and law at Harvard. I know the name because of his prose poem DESIDERATA (Latin: "things desired"), which I have posted on my bedroom door. It begins --
"Go placidly amid the noise and the haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself to others you may become vair and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself." It ends, "With all its shams, drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy." And it is a philosophy of life that I deeply subscribe to.
So you can imagine my joy when I saw his name ascribed to this morning's Panhala offering. Each and every phrase of A PRAYER speaks deeply to me and sets the stage for my meditation practice this morning and then for facing this day with contentment.
It's a miracle how what I need is so bountifully offered to me when my heart is open. The Buddha says, " If we could see the miracle of a single flower, our whole life would change."
Let me do my work each day;
and if the darkened hours
of despair overcome me, may I
not forget the strength
that comforted me in the
desolation of other times.
May I still remember the bright
hours that found me walking
over the silent hills of my
childhood, or dreaming on the
margin of a quiet river,
when a light glowed within me,
and I promised my early God
to have courage amid the
tempests of the changing years.
Spare me from bitterness
and from the sharp passions of
unguarded moments. May
I not forget that poverty and
riches are of the spirit.
Though the world knows me not,
may my thoughts and actions
be such as shall keep me friendly
Lift up my eyes
from the earth, and let me not
forget the uses of the stars.
Forbid that I should judge others
lest I condemn myself.
Let me not follow the clamor of
the world, but walk calmly
in my path.
Give me a few friends
who will love me for what
I am; and keep ever burning
before my vagrant steps
the kindly light of hope.
And though age and infirmity
overtake me, and I come not within
sight of the castle of my dreams,
teach me still to be thankful
for life, and for time's olden
memories that are good and
sweet; and may the evening's
twilight find me gentle still.
-- Max Ehrmann , The Desiderata of Happiness
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Though I've moved significantly away from a possession-laden life over the last 20 years, while making other life-changing decisions as well, I find that *things* continue to torment me and keep me prisoner. To be honest, the battle with *things* actually affects every part of my life, including my quest to be in harmony with my body.
I'm reading an amazing memoir right now, _A Thousand Days in Tuscany_ by Marlena deBlasi. Here's the end of the chapter, "Perhaps, as a Genus, Olives Know Too Much:"
"When you were a little girl didn't you ever want to be a rock star or a ballerina or at least Catherine of Siena? Didn't you ever want to be rich?
"I always thought I *was* rich. And when I was older, I knew it was true. But most of all, I wanted to matter. You know, really *matter* to someone. Once. Just once. But still I feel sad that most of us will never, not even for one of the suppers of our lives, dine as Mathilde and Gerard did, feel the nourishment of their food and their wine and their love as they did.
"Do you know why that's true, why most people will never have that?
"Probably because simplicity is the last thing a person considers as he's madly searching for the secret to life. Mathilde and Gerard had so much because they had so little."
Loss of discrimination is the greatest source of danger.
-- Sanskrit proverb
The greatest source of danger to a human being is loss of discrimination, and this is the main malady in our modern civilization, where we have lost our capacity to differentiate between what is necessary and useful, and what is unnecessary and harmful.
How often do we stop and ask, "What is really important? What matters most to me?"
If every one of us starts asking this simple question, it will transform our daily lives and even the world in which we live. After all, we need clean air and water more than we need microwave ovens. Doing work that is meaningful and of service to others is more important than owning luxury cars. We need loving human relationships more than we need home entertainment systems.
Many modern conveniences make life more pleasant and can save time. We needn't live without them, but when we begin to think such things are not merely useful but prized possessions, we may gradually lose our discrimination.
In order to understand what is important in life, what our real priorities are, discrimination is essential.
-- Eknath Easwaran
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
This hit me hard even though I've heard it over and over again. Sri Easwaran's explanation of that cryptic statement of the Buddha really says it all...and it's about EVERY part of my life, every high and low place, every crevice, every hidden part.
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
-- The Buddha
Our destiny is in our own hands. Since we are formed by our thoughts, it follows that what we become tomorrow is shaped by what we think today.
Happily, we can choose the way we think. We can choose our feelings, aspirations, desires, and the way we view our world and ourselves. Mastery of the mind opens avenues of hope. We can begin to reshape our life and character, rebuild relationships, thrive in the stress of daily living-- we can become the kind of person we want to be.
-- Eknath Easwaran
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I have a problem with faith...with trust. I always have. The concrete reality before my eyes is easy. The unseen isn't so easy. As a spiritual being occupying a body (yeah, I've managed to get that integrated), I am aware that growth, greater consciousness, at times requires a leap of faith. And that's where I've often faltered...and failed to accomplish what I've set out to -- whether it be wellness goals or other life goals.
Don't get me wrong. I've managed to do many things over the journey of this topsy-turvy life of mine. It's just that I intuit that if I could learn the "desperate faith of sleep-walkers who rise out of their calm beds and walk through the skin of another life" THEN I would have extra-sensory experience of drinking "the stupefying cup of darkness" and waking up to myself, "nourished and surprised."
The surprise. That's it. I'm missing the surprise of deep, abiding faith (shraddha). Thank you Edward Hirsch for saying what my soul has been whispering for eons.
FOR THE SLEEPWALKERS
Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible
arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.
I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,
palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.
And always they wake up as themselves again.
That's why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.
Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music
of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests.
We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds
and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.
-- Edward Hirsch
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