A BRAVE AND STARTLING TRUTH
We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth
And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms
When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil
When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze
When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse
When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets
Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world
When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe
We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines
When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.
by Marie Howe
(after Stephen Hawking)
Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?
so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money --
nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone
pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.
For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you. Remember?
There was no Nature. No
them. No tests
to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf or if
the coral reef feels pain. Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;
would that we could wake up to what we were
— when we were ocean and before that
to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not
at all — nothing
before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.
Can molecules recall it?
what once was? before anything happened?
No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with
is is is is is
All everything home
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”
― Herman Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte
What if religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If prayer was our words?
What if the temple was the Earth?
If forests were our church?
If holy water -- the rivers, lakes, and oceans?
What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was life?
If wisdom was self-knowledge?
If love was the center of our being?
~ Ganga White - Founder of the White Lotus Foundation.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. - Rumi
My thoughts are on my mother and grandmother at the moment... the loss of them and the process of recovering from that loss... or rather, the current moment and it's appearance due to that loss.
"The psyche knows how to heal, but it hurts. Sometimes the healing hurts more than the initial injury, but if you can survive it, you'll be stronger, because you've found a larger base. Every commitment is a narrowing and when that commitment fails, you have to get back to a larger base and have the strength to hold to it."
I read that yesterday and it made me think of all that has happened since losing the two women who played the largest roles in my life. It made me wonder about this "larger base". What does "larger base" mean? Can it be a place? Does tragedy result in strength? Is it possible that all is going to be okay?
I sat with those thoughts a bit.... contemplating whether Cusco was supposed to be a part of that "larger base" or not. Contemplating whether or not I am doing the right thing... settling here, breathing normally again, pausing my adventures around the world.
Joseph Campbell once wrote:
"Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called "the love of your fate." Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, "this is what I need." It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment - not discouragement - you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.
Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You'll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes."
This day, four years ago, was the day my mother was in a car accident that eventually took her life and soul out of this world. She took her final breath, on her own, in literally about 10 more minutes, 3:31 pm, four years ago. It feels so crazy to write that. And it feels even crazier that I am able to breathe right now. For so many years this day has come around and I have found myself unable to breathe, unable to sit still, unable to look at anything beautiful without crying, unable to feel loved.
But, this year is different. I am still sad. I still have this tension in my chest, like tears welling up that need to seep from my eyes eventually, but it's not so painful. What I find the most amazing is the journey to this point. The tears shed, the adventures, the letting go, emotionally, physically, etc. The base finally forming like strong steady stone beneath my feet instead of like an ocean of tears.
The yogi principle of non-attachment has been my mantra for as long as I can remember. This concept that everything is temporary. Nothing lasts. Death is inevitable. However, of course, when something or someone is snatched from you, as a human, it is a natural reaction to grasp at it a little tighter and to crave its presence. It's that craving though that causes the suffering. It's the suffering that causes the numbness that sometimes cynically follows. And yet, somehow, there's supposedly a balance that can evolve from the tragedies. One can find gratitude in all the temporary.
I think I've finally reached that point where I am able to feel gratitude for the tragedies, and love for the experiences, for the results.
Because my mother lost her life like she did, when she did... because my 8 year relationship ended suddenly and without warning a couple months later, because I lost all the family I felt I really had since most had been non-participatory in my life... because of the depression and sadness... I was able to leave the country and end up here.
I am now here. Present. Awake. Open-Hearted.
And to be honest, there's nowhere else I'd rather be. I feel very lucky. I feel very blessed. I feel very strong. I feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair and I simply desire nothing more than another June 25th. Another memory. Another breath. Another day.
The dark night of the soul
comes just before revelation.
When everything is lost,
and all seems darkness,
then comes the new life
and all that is needed.
A spirit that lives in this world
and does not wear the shirt of love,
such an existence is a deep disgrace.
Be foolishly in love,
because love is all there is.
There is no way into presence
except through a love exchange.
If someone asks, But what is love?
answer, Dissolving the will.
True freedom comes to those
who have escaped the questions
of freewill and fate.
Love is an emperor.
The two worlds play across him.
He barely notices their tumbling game.
Love and lover live in eternity.
Other desires are substitutes
for that way of being.
How long do you lay embracing a corpse?
Love rather the soul, which cannot be held.
Anything born in spring dies in the fall,
but love is not seasonal.
With wine pressed from grapes,
expect a hangover.
But this love path has no expectations.
You are uneasy riding the body?
Dismount. Travel lighter.
Wings will be given.
Be clear like a mirror
Be clean of pictures and the worry
that comes with images.
Gaze into what is not ashamed
or afraid of any truth.
Contain all human faces in your own
without any judgement of them.
Be pure emptiness.
What is inside that? you ask.
Silence is all I can say.
Lovers have some secrets
that they keep.
“Isn’t it time
to turn your heart
into a temple of fire?”
There is an aloneness that is not loneliness, and not despair, and western medicine hasn’t got a clue. It is something like a profound closeness with your own being, an intimacy with the quiet passing of things, friendship with the broken and the transient within and without. While you quietly grieve over yesterday’s dreams of tomorrows that never came, you hold today so close in your arms. You are the mother of today.
There is a fragility that is not weakness. An exquisite sensitivity to the sad majesty of this ordinary world, a vulnerable openness that has nothing to do with how much money you have made, how you have succeeded or failed in your quest for perfection, or how beautiful or immune to infection your body is, but something to do with the tenderness with which you are willing to touch the broken parts of the world, the depths of aloneness to which you are willing to plunge.
There is an exquisite melancholy that is not depression, contains no pathology, for it contains no self at all. It is as if the heart is broken open and cannot be closed again, ever. Like everything is made of the finest crystal and could shatter at any moment. The sun could burn up without warning, the breath could seize up, a loved one could pass away quietly in your arms. That tiny bird on the tree over there is made of finely woven thread. The neglected pool of water by the supermarket door has infinite depths but no surface, no surface. The moon takes on the quality of a reflection of a reflection in a dream, and everything is so close. You can touch the horizon, whisper to galaxies.
This melancholy, sometimes it arrives unexpectedly in the middle of the night, when you cannot sleep and the moonlight is casting tender shadows on your forearm, or it comes sometimes as you walk through the forest with your dog (you love how he waddles now that he’s getting old, your little companion) and you remember what it is like to be free, or at least alive; or it comes unexpectedly at the dinner table with friends, with delight at … the salt, yes, delight that the salt could exist at all, that there is a world with salt and food and friends, and the possibility of meeting.
Do not medicate away this melancholy. Go deeper into it. It contains information, important information, and longs to release its healing energies. No, they won’t understand you, they will call you depressed, self-indulgent, mad, but you will smile, for you are like the daffodil, and you never wanted to be understood. Your being is too vast to be understood. You will take this imperfect life over no life at all, you will take this broken world blasted through with gratitude over a perfect world half-touched or half-remembered, and the judgements of others will be a small price to pay for never being able to turn away.
Running naked through the streets, throwing off the last of your clothes, you will laugh as they come to lock you up. You are free! You are free! And this beautiful melancholy will keep you from ever closing your heart!
- Jeff Foster
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with it's yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could." ~ Louise Erdrich
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley
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