The “10, 000 things” is a shorthand way of talking about all the experiences – good and bad – which arise and pass away in our lifetime, continually in movement, with ebbs and flows. Eastern wisdom considered that they contain the right mix of experiences for our growth.
When the 10,000 things become one,
then we return to the center,
where we have always been.
Chuang-Tse, Chinese philosopher, 4th century BC
Another Saturday, another Mary Oliver poem:
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.
Wild Geese, (extract)
Just flip the pages of anyone’s life book; get beneath the story line, and what do you notice? Changeability, the unpredictable, the unforeseen (good and bad): to recall that, brings forth faith – be open and alert. A human life is also marked by an ongoing quest to find fulfilment – which hasn’t quite arrived (and maybe isn’t even near). Seeing that brings attention back to the present: what do you really want, and where will that be found? It’s never in that ongoing flow of continuity that the Buddha called ‘becoming’ (bhava). What about if the mind stepped out of that, into the immediate openness of an awareness that isn’t craving or dreading becoming anything? When you even review that tide of “now I’m this and I should be that, and I might get there” you realize that this goes on irrespective of circumstance and identity. So there’s nothing intrinsically personal about this life book, and you don’t have to throw it away and get a better one. The advice is to study it from a different viewpoint: it’s written in personal handwriting, but bear in mind and take it to heart, that the marks of change/risk/unpredictability (anicca), of incompleteness and the unresolved (dukkha), and of impersonality (anatta) are universal marks. Through bearing these in mind, there can be a breakthrough to the unconditioned, the secure, the sorrowless, the place of peace. One can step out of the book.
Ajahn Sucitto, Lockdown Means Opening Up
The only true place of calm in a storm is the very center.
So the only thing to do, once in the storm, is to make our way to the center of it, hard as that may seem.
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
and we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
The classic sign of our acceptance of God’s mystery is welcoming and making room for the stranger, the other, the surprising, the unlooked for and unwanted.
It means learning to read the world better, that we may better know our place in it
Kathleen Norris, Dakota, A Spiritual Geography