Not written in stone

When we practice meditation …. we are instructed to look at ourselves as directly as possible.  My own experience tells me that when I look into my mirror, into my biography, the set of stories that I tell myself to explain who I am to myself, I can find all kinds of terrible things:  some of them done to me, some done by me. I can use these elements to judge myself and others  harshly.  On the other side, I tend to ignore all the evidence from my memories of my past when I behaved or was treated in a loving and helpful way.  


But whether we call the remembered events that constitute our personal biography horrible or wonderful, the incessant judgment of the self is a habit that leads nowhere.  Instead, the instruction, again and again, is to see through the self as some kind of permanent object, something to be judged or loved, and to see how the elements of the self are actually constructions.  True freedom, alignment with reality, comes from seeing through the self-construction, not abandoning it, but not treating it like something inscribed in stone either.   

Melissa Myozen Blacker, from her blog firefly hall

Like a mighty river

And that’s how we measure out our real respect for people – by the degree of feeling they can register, the voltage of life they can carry and tolerate – and enjoy. End of sermon. As Buddha says: live like a mighty river. And as the old Greeks said: live as though all your ancestors were living again through you.

Ted Hughes, 1930 – 1998, English Poet

No complaints

The weather is unusually disturbed and cold for this time of year, hailstones and frost….

As soon as the snow melts the grass begins to grow.

Even though the daytime high is barely above freezing, even
though May is very like November, marsh marigolds bloom
in the swamp and the popple trees produce a faint green
that hangs under the low clouds like a haze over the valley.

This is the way the saints live, no complaints, no suspicion,
no surprise.

If it rains, carry an umbrella, if it’s cold, wear
a jacket.

Louis Jenkins, American poet, 1942 -2019, Saints

How is your heart doing?

A bit of a repost, but expanded in the prism of the pandemic and the type of disconnect it has caused in life.

We have had so many new technological innovations that we thought would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago. For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

Omid Safi, The Disease of Being Busy

Slow day

Slow time does not mean doing things more slowly. People suffering from burnout and depression have slowed down considerably and not been restored. Slow time is entering into a living relationship with the present. . . . Slow looking and slow listening nourishes and revitalizes us.

Sue Stuart-Smith, The Well Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World