Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

boxes & wet ink ~

Sometimes, when things really cut deep, I try to compartmentalise. I want to be the oyster: coat pain and irritation w/ something soothing, wall it off. I wish the boxes produced pearls…

Other times, everything bleeds together. A bit like writing w/ ink on damp paper…You know: you put the pen on the page and the ink begins to bleed into the water that sits like a slick on the paper. Or maybe, if you’re very lucky, the paper is porous, and only soaks both ink & water into it, leaving a blurred outline of what you intended…

That’s kind of where I am lately. There’s a palimpsest of intention beneath my actions. I’m thinking ~ listen mindfully. Try to understand. Honour different perspectives. And what is written is like blurred ink on wet paper, barely legible…And not at all where I began.

The boxes are easier — at least things stay put. And it’s not so messy. But I’m not sure the wet ink isn’t, ultimately, more realistic. Because what my practice has taught me, over the years, is that everything really is connected.

Right now, the ‘everything’ is mortality. My own, the lives (and deaths) of those around me. Not to mention I’m still the goofy hippie chick who was worried about Biafra. Only now? It’s Syria, the Sudan, famine in Somalia… And it seems to me it’s all connected.

I wish I could put the loss of loved ones into a box — one for each: my mother, my father, my old ladies. The dear friend facing death now. The partner of another dear friend. All the people I know who are losing the day-to-day miracle that being with someone you love offers. I wish I could inter their grief and my own along with the ashes of the dead — so that only the happiest memories remained.

But even as I write, I take it back. I wouldn’t trade what I learned about now for selective amnesia, the ability to put away into a drawer my keening grief when my mother died. Or even the day-to-day knowledge that a friend slips away by the moment. It really is all connected, and I try to remember this (hence the ‘good intentions’ beginning).

What we love will not last. Sunlight today becomes this evening’s rain. The rude good health of my 20s evolved into my right foot in a boot for a year. It’s all connected :). But if I remember this — if I can keep it in my mind — then I can enjoy the brightness as it comes, and relax, knowing that the darkness is transient, and will pass. Just like the bright Oklahoma light.

It’s a hard thing to remember. And it doesn’t help with the grief at all, I confess. But somehow, it helps with everything else…

giving up disbelief ~

I usually try to keep Lent in some fashion. It’s a wonderful practice, to offer up a piece of your everyday life for good. To think of your everyday life as a kind of, well, prayer.

As a Buddhist, I don’t know that I ‘pray,’ in the Christian definition of prayer. I don’t believe in a personal deity who pays attention to my individual pleas, although I certainly make them :). (The old pagan in me, however, does believe that there are spirits who can be…propitiated :))

What I do believe is what the Quakers say: I will hold you in the light. It’s a lovely thought: that when you need my prayers, my strength, I have two strategies I can offer: tonglen – where I use my own pain to help assuage yours, and healing light. No definition of divinity, or the who/what/where of that light — just its warmth and healing. Very Quaker — like silence that wraps us and helps us hear that inner voice…

A friend does a prison ministry in Oklahoma. She’s an amazing person, about as big as a minute, unless you look at her heart, which may well be bigger than Texas… So when Charissa sent out a request for people to pray for prisoners during Lent, because I love Charissa, I asked if non-Christians could do this. If there were non-Christians who might even be glad to have a non-Christian ally. She sent me a dozen names — all women. And acted glad I’d offered.

Oklahoma has the highest per capita incarceration of women in the world. Yup — the WORLD. The US, w/ 743 PEOPLE per 100,000, (male & female, ranked tops (bottom?) internationally in 2009. Oklahoma’s female incarceration rate went up 832% between 1997 & 2007, compared to half that rate of ‘growth’ for male prisoners. There’s obviously something very wrong in Oklahoma.

I mention these stats to point out that holding that many women in the light is no small thing. And Charissa’s project is badly needed. I don’t know if prayer — or the Buddhist & Quaker equivalent — works. But for this next month, I’m giving up disbelief. I’m going to do all I can to hold these 12 women in love & light. I’m going to try to hold their children and families in the light. I am going to s-t-r-e-t-c-h my belief and my heart and fill it w/ 12 names and light.

And I’m going to pray like hell one person can make a difference.

‘why can’t we be friends?’ (a beginner’s heart take on partisan politics ~)

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I wish I could persuade politicians to adopt this song as the campaign year’s anthem… I’m not holding my breath.

Here’s the deal: I have friends with whom I argue constantly. And a cousin whose political and spiritual beliefs are pretty much 180˚ from mine. But notice the operative word: friend. We try hard to be polite, although sometimes we get pretty passionate. And we discuss everything from education to the environment, from politics to prenatal care. Birth control, gun control, women’s rights, religious fights. We have as many differences as the two major parties, believe me.

The other day one of my friends — someone who doesn’t share many of my beliefs — made my heart glad. He said that I used evidence, not simply name calling. And I was willing to give him links to my information, not just say ‘research shows…’ (N.B.: I sooo hate it when people don’t have evidentiary support!)

When we argue, these other passionate teachers, family members, and friends, I try hard to remember my beginner’s place. I’m trying to learn. Mostly to love, even when my passionate political big mouth gets in the way :). I wish it was a national movement, but believe me ~ I KNOW how difficult it is!

So here’s my goal of the day: to try to listen more mindfully. And luckily, since I’m having lunch w/ a passionately logical nephew, that should be easy!

Happy Tibetan New Year!

It’s a very lucky year — fire softened to steamy gentility by water, dragon fluid instead of flaming. And it’s a cycle, for me ~ a time to revisit goals, map possible futures. It’s also another iteration of Buddhist New Year (you can read more about Buddhist New Year here, here, and here).

This year, I wish for each of us peace. Internal — peace of mind, contentment with what is. And external — peace to all life. But especially watery dragons ~

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