Body and the landscape…

  The Old Mendicant

Being rock, being gas, being Mind,
being the mesons traveling among the galaxies
at the speed of light,
you have come here, my beloved.
And your blue eyes shine, so beautiful, so deep.
You have taken the path traced for you
from the non-beginning and the never-ending.
You say that on your way here
you have gone through many millions of births and deaths.
Innumerable times you have been transformed
into fire storms in outer space.
You have used your own body
to measure the age of the mountains and rivers.
You have manifested yourself
as trees, grass, butterflies, single celled beings,
and as chrysanthemums.
But the eyes with which you look at me this morning
tell me that you have never died.
Your smile invites me into the game whose beginning no one knows,
the game of hide-and-seek.

O green caterpillar, you are solemnly using your body 
to measure the length of the rose branch that grew 
last Summer.
Everyone says that you, my beloved, were just born 
this Spring.
Tell me, how long have you been around?
Why wait until this moment to reveal yourself to me,
carrying with you that smile which is so silent and
so deep?
O caterpillar, suns, moons, and stars flow out
each time I exhale.
Who knows that the infinitely large must be felt in your
tiny body?
Upon each point on your body,
thousands of Buddha fields have been established.
With each stretch of your body, you measure time
from the non-beginning to the never-ending.
The great mendicant of old is still there on Vulture Peak,
contemplating the ever-splendid sunset.

Guatama, how strange!
Who said that the Udumbra flower blooms
only once every 3,000 years?

The sound of the rising tide - you cannot help hearing it
if you have an attentive ear.


Thich Nhat Hanh
(In Love Letter to the Earth, Parallax Press, 2013).

~~~~~
Breathing in I contemplate this poem and all it contains

Breathing out I am grateful for our dear Teacher
~~~~~

“Suns, moons, and stars flow out each time I exhale”!!! 

“Carrying with you that smile which is so silent and so deep”

“Innumerable times you have been transformedinto fire storms in outer space.”

As I enjoy this wonderful poem, I am humbled by the power of language as a tool to support the making of meaning, and our understanding of it.


This week in my life, I have had the great fortune to be part of an immersive dance-theatre practice-strengthening retreat on the theme ‘body and the landscape’.

Within this, we have practised mindful walking; enjoyed wonderful poetry and the discussion of philosophical concepts around our body and the land, and the ‘I’ in art-making and the role of staying open to the present moment in allowing art to happen through us. 

We have given great attention to the depth possible of really truly acknowledging country, feeling into the reverence for the land we are on and embodying respect for all the ancestors and knowledge-holders who have come before us, and the caretakers emerging and yet to come.


In this, I have been nourished by the knowledge that nobody here has been able to take this week out of our lives because we happened to have a whole week free, just sitting there, available, empty. 

Each of us has worked in countless ways to make this appointment with our creative, spiritual selves, and each other, to honour the human necessity to bask in contemplation, exploration, play.  


The theme of ‘body and the landscape’ ties in so beautifully with Thay’s teachings in Love Letter to The Earth that I have been studying recently, I am touched by the overlap between my spiritual and creative practices, and am feeling humbly excited by the synthesis that is being allowed time and space to become illuminated and articulated.


In this, all of the other busy things that usually fill my hours, the things that invite me, sometimes insistently, to forget about the peace of choosing not to hurry, have receded.  And I find myself wondering how different our world could be if all of us had more time to remember that “in the ultimate I dwell”.  


Could Thay have written this deeply rich poem within this wonderfully practical and clear book (one of so many!), had he not chosen monastic life?


As we are called by our planet to firmly shift our relationship to the mindless consumption that props up over-production of disposable, low quality, planet-harming objects that have been produced under the energies of distress and exploitation, can we all possibly be moving ever so slightly towards a more mindful existence?


Can less time in shops and more time in nature bring us closer to having more space to be open to the eloquence available to us that our dear Teacher demonstrates with such gracious poise? 
I invite you to take the space to enjoy this poem again:

 

Being rock, being gas, being Mind,
being the mesons traveling among the galaxies
at the speed of light,
you have come here, my beloved.
And your blue eyes shine, so beautiful, so deep.
You have taken the path traced for you
from the non-beginning and the never-ending.
You say that on your way here
you have gone through many millions of births and deaths.
Innumerable times you have been transformed
into fire storms in outer space.
You have used your own body
to measure the age of the mountains and rivers.
You have manifested yourself
as trees, grass, butterflies, single celled beings,
and as chrysanthemums.
But the eyes with which you look at me this morning
tell me that you have never died.
Your smile invites me into the game whose beginning no one knows,
the game of hide-and-seek.

O green caterpillar, you are solemnly using your body 
to measure the length of the rose branch that grew 
last Summer.
Everyone says that you, my beloved, were just born 
this Spring.
Tell me, how long have you been around?
Why wait until this moment to reveal yourself to me,
carrying with you that smile which is so silent and
so deep?
O caterpillar, suns, moons, and stars flow out
each time I exhale.
Who knows that the infinitely large must be felt in your
tiny body?
Upon each point on your body,
thousands of Buddha fields have been established.
With each stretch of your body, you measure time
from the non-beginning to the never-ending.
The great mendicant of old is still there on Vulture Peak,
contemplating the ever-splendid sunset.

Guatama, how strange!
Who said that the Udumbra flower blooms
only once every 3,000 years?

The sound of the rising tide - you cannot help hearing it
if you have an attentive ear.


Citizens of the Earth

I would like to offer more from Love Letter to the Earth (2018, Parallax Press) this week.
 Citizens of the Earth

We tend to think of human beings as falling into two groups:  those who are similar to us, and those who are different.  We allow political boundaries to obscure our interconnectedness.  What we often refer to as patriotism is actually a barrier that prevents us from seeing that we’re all children of the same mother.  Every calls its nation a motherland or a fatherland.  Every country tries to show how it loves its mother.  But in doing so, each country is contributing to the destruction of our larger mother, our collective mother, the Earth.  In focusing on our human-made boundaries, we forget that we are co-responsible for the whole planet.
When we see that we are all children of the same mother, we will naturally want to cultivate and strengthen our sense of being part of one large family.  When we speak of protecting our planet, we often speak of finding new technologies.  But without real community, technology may be even more destructive than constructive.  Real community, built with our practice of mindfulness, enables us to act together.  When we can communicate with ourselves and the Earth, we can communicate with ourselves more easily.”
A pause for breath here, and contemplation on how we strengthen our own practice of communicating with ourselves and the Earth, and how valuable it is to water the seeds of this practice as often as we can.
A moment too, to make acknowledgement in the season of NAIDOC celebrations here in Australia, of the wisdom in Aboriginal culture of deep respect for the Earth that was practised throughout this land for many thousands of years.  
Thay continues:  “Every one of us, regardless of nationality or religious faith, can experience a feeling of admiration and love when we see the beauty of the Earth and the beauty of the cosmos.  This feeling of love and admiration has the power to unite the citizens of the Earth and remove all separation and discrimination.  Caring about the environment is not an obligation, but a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival.  We will survive and thrive together with our Mother Earth, or we will not survive at all.”  (pp 81-83).
I find it so helpful, in diluting the despair that is surrounding our collective thinking about the climate crisis, to touch deeply the word of Thay here, about how our courage and strength in staying with the practice of feeling love and admiration for the beauty of the Earth and cosmos can contribute to our survival and thriving.  
Staying in gratitude, when we notice the wonders of our precious planet, and making our daily choices based on what is best for our Mother Earth are powerful things that we can all do in our daily lives that make important contributions towards our happiness and wellbeing as one big human family.
A bow in gratitude to you for all that you do to preserve peace and love,


Mindful Walking

“I know the Earth is my mother; a great living being.  I vow to protect the Earth, and the Earth protects me.”
This invitation by Thay to infuse our walking with loving mindfulness is perfect as the weeks of rain clear and we may be walking more than we have recently.  As we walk and remember our interbeing with all that we see, and notice the changes since our last walk, we can feel deep gratitude for the protection our great Mother Earth offers us, and strengthen our resolve to do what we can to preserve this precious planet.  
Thay also invites us to walk with full awareness of our love for the Earth:
 
“Each step can express your love for the Earth.  As you walk, you can say 
‘I love the Earth.  I am in love with the Earth.’”
“With both body and mind present as we take each step, when we are fully present, every step, placed gently, and mindfully on Mother Earth can bring us a lot of healing and happiness…
…We’re not stepping on something inanimate… in every speck of dust or grain of sand there are countless bodhisattvas… …we can be in contact through our feet with the Great Bodhisattva Mother Earth.  
     ‘With each step, I come home to the Earth.
With each step, I return to my source.
With each step, I take refuge in Mother Earth.’ “
This morning, I held 2 gazaneas, 3 buttercups, my child’s hat, her umbrella that she has become accustomed to bringing, the dog lead, and a small Koala.  I was so grateful that she had decided against also bringing her A2 sized laminated alphabet chart in the walk as she’d contemplated, as I did what I could to incorporate the essence of this beautiful practice into my daily life.  
 How do you enjoy the kissing our Mother Earth with imprints of reverence  and gratitude as you walk?
These quotations are from “Love Letter to The Earth” but I can’t check the date of publication as darling Miss Two is ‘reading’ it right now in this wonderful moment.

The illness and some cures

I’m sick of people referring to their kids as little terrors or monsters. Of expecting their 6 month old babies to self soothe. Of asking for advice on how to be able to get their kids used to less human connection.

I’m sick of seeing babies in prams with screens in front of them. I’m sick of hearing parents use power-over and fear tactics with their children. I’m sick of crappy gender stereotyping through clothes and toys.

I’m sick of parents asking on parenting groups about what “stuff” to buy for their kids.

I’m sick of the chilling impact on the early years of human life that capitalism and ecological terrorism is having. I’m sick of the pressure that keeping on top of basic living costs is putting on parents.

I want to see a world where parenting is regarded as THE most important job. Where the people doing it are supported financially and by community to do it to their best ability. Where everything we know about secure attachment, neuropsychology, and our deepest needs for love and belonging, informs the core motivation of how we raise our children.

I want to see extreme overhauls of our education systems so that teachers are upheld to support the biologically wired, natural and beautiful blossoming of innately intelligent, good, active humans.

I want to see a medical system that supports families to have great nutrition, sleep, and spiritual support before labels and prescriptions.

I want to see a world where we understand the value of unstructured time together. The value of parents having time to breathe, alone with themselves. The value of free play.

I want to live in a world where we know that we’re all in this together.

Not a big ask. And I know I’m not alone in this wish.

New tricks

Things feel pretty glum.

My old dog is getting wobbly in the hips, but today was another new day for him.

He showed the same optimism for a morning walk that he does every day, intuiting before any of us could tell, that the rainy grey morning was but a light cleanse of yesterday’s dusts before the blood-warming heat crept in.

He sniffed and pissed his way along the High St as if it was any other day; particularly pernickety about some zones in a way that we could never sense the importance of.

He patiently let the toddler proffer a freshly picked dandelion intrusively close to his veteran snout, and behaved with grace when a neighbourhood cat came slinking out onto the path for the “dendle” petting she knows is guaranteed when our trio passes by.

Glad, with so many birthdays behind him, for a short walk; home once more, he allowed his muscles a break from holding him in shape , as he sighed his large nobility into a pile on his indoor bed, trusting that things were in order, and a feed would come soon.

Despite more than twelve years passing since his rescue, his breakfast meets his gut like iron filings to a magnet, over almost as it began. But these are sweet days, and the toddlers rejected egg scraps will likely follow soon as seconds.

They do. Today is good.

Watching him, he spends his day in a similar way to how my grandfather used to self-admonishingly describe his own idle days on the other side of ninety. And I am glad for him, that he can feel the changes in the breeze, hear the conferences of the magpies, sense the light shifting as clouds move across his patch of vast sky.

Witnessing with calm the bubbling babbling bauble of golden curls and rapid synapses; an anchor of cool self-authority, the dog just is.

All day.

As he was yesterday.

Accepting.

Present.

Inhaling.

Exhaling.

How many pats today? A lovely brushing in the sun? The child incorporating his water bowl into her play? What is his agency in any of this? Could I manage life with the same serene dignity as he does, with so much beyond my control?

Do I?

If only.

Instead, I am stirred up, fragile in my tiredness, and vulnerable in the wake of decades of perceived misuse. Crashing after building hope that intelligent change was within reach. Needing just that little bit more resource to be able to stay in the lane of everything actually being ok. Perhaps even frightened, for what it represents, that the majority of our population have used our chance to choose, to hand the power to racist river-killing bigots.

I’m glad the dog doesn’t know. He feels my sad. And he soothes me in it by showing me that today is another day.

And tomorrow will be too.

Onward dear heart.