As already said earlier in Advent, this time of year is good for noticing the restlessness of the human heart and the different ways it seeks to satisfy itself. Like other energies, desire passes through the mind-body, frequently in short bursts and is not permanent. Desire is to be understood and we come to see that we can let go of it.
But most hearts say, I want, I want,
I want, I want. My heart
is more duplicitous,
though no twin as I once thought.
It says, I want, I don’t want, I
want, and then a pause.
It forces me to listen,
and at night it is the infra-red
third eye that remains open
while the other two are sleeping
but refuses to say what it has seen.
It is a constant pestering
in my ears, a caught moth, limping drum,
a child’s fist beating
itself against the bedsprings:
I want, I don’t want.
How can one live with such a heart?
Long ago I gave up singing
to it, it will never be satisfied or lulled.
One night I will say to it:
Heart, be still,
and it will.
Margaret Atwood, The Woman Who Could Not Live With Her Faulty Heart
The present moment is never unbearable if you live in it fully.
What is unbearable is to have your body here at 10 A.M. and your mind at 6 P.M.
your body in Bombay and your mind in San Francisco.
Anthony de Mello, sj, The Heart of the Enlightened
Are we intimate with the whole physical movement of fear? Or do we just label it “fear”, say, “I don’t want to feel this way,” and then try everything possible to get away from it, not to experience it? When fear and anxiety actually come into awareness, there is a precious opportunity to experience the whole thing, to go through it completely from beginning to end without any need for escape.
At the first sign of scary, disagreeable physical thoughts and feelings, why not stop and attend? It’s not impossible! “What is going on right now?” Awareness happens for everyone when there is the interest and readiness to be in touch directly, immediately, without description or explanation or diagnosis. When there is intimate touch with what is happening right here, this moment, without any separation…
Separation is this thinking: “I can’t bear it. It’s too much for me. Too dangerous.” Once this physical-mental resistance is directly discovered, it does not continue. Awareness takes its place. It’s like an exchange of energy…
The significant thing is not what it is that is touched and discovered but that there is no separation in being. Then whatever is touched changes. Whatever is there is not the same anymore when it is unconditionally allowed to be there in the fullness of awareness…
Toni Parker, The Light of Discovery
Most of us are not open most of the time, we pretend that we are open, but mostly you’re running your own dramatic event of which you are the hero or the heroine. Usually that’s what we are doing most of the time.
The youth stops being so important, you’re too tired to maintain the hero that you think you are or the failure that you think you are, whatever the version of yourself that you bought into is — “I’m this failure, I’m not enough, or I’m this” … I’m more than anybody understands.
Those versions of yourself are not very useful.
Leonard Cohen, on what he learnt in his time in a Zen Monastery
Many native cultures believe that the heart is the bridge between Father Sky and Mother Earth. For these traditions, the ‘four-chambered heart,’ the source for sustaining emotional and spiritual health, is described as being full, open, clear, and strong. These traditions feel that it is important to check the condition of the four-chambered heart daily, asking: ‘Am I full-hearted, open-hearted, clear-hearted, and strong-hearted?’
Angeles Arrien 1940 – 2014, Cultural anthropologist.
The black birds feeding in the garden yesterday morning stood out clear against the snow, and they brought to mind this poem.
The snow went on to melt quickly. More lessons from life’s weathers. Transition and change are inevitable parts of the human experience. This time of year, as the days shorten, and the themes of Advent remind us that we are always between here and there, we work at re-imagining and making space, at being at ease in a moment that is always both an ending and a beginning.
Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again
on an open sky.
has to be
so you can find
the one line
Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out
someone has written
in the ashes of your life.
You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.
David Whyte, The Journey