Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Robert Pinsky, “Buddha-goo,” and meditation ~

…One hates the sanctimonious Buddha-goo
But loves to meditate. To think one word
And the breath balanced on its floor of muscle

… Falling and rising like years. The brain-roof chatter
Settling among the eaves. …  ~ Robert Pinsky

Sometimes, poetry works so well it’s hard to catch my breath. I have to stop, look out the window. Remember that it’s only words, after all.

This is for my friends (and family) who see Buddhism as touchy-feely. Liberal BS, as I read somewhere today. Instead of “the breath balanced on its floor of muscle….brain-roof chatter settling…”

Me? I think Robert Pinsky is the man. No gooey-ness for him, this poet who held his own suitcase in his lap when I picked him up for a gig at the university. I drove him 90 of the pleasantest miles I’ve spent w/ a stranger. Another word-gamer. The kind of kindred spirit who spent hours, he said, looking for the terms used to describe the pieces of a shirt. For a poem, where he used only one.

That’s the beginner’s heart in him. A kind of joyous obsession with something small, something critically important and yet totally not…Just words… Just breathing… But necessary.

go home!

There’s an article on the Tricycle website about ‘original nature,’ and the Buddhist saying ‘return to your original state.’ I like to think the admonition is more like ‘Go home!’

Because that’s what it is, our original nature — whatever that means. It’s where it all began, where it all ends. It’s the home stretch, home base, going home.

The word comes from the Old Norse, among other origins, where one version means ‘world’ as well as well as home residence. And that, to me, is perfect Buddhism & beginner’s heart.

Yesterday a student in my class said he has little patience w/ national identities and cultures. We should be more concerned with being humans together, he said. The world is our home, he argued. Not a single country. Not any more.

And while I understand what he’s saying, I love my home. I love the Abraham Darby roses coming back from the horrific summer (the hottest in American weather records, anywhere). I love the bees that buzz the bird bath as I fill it, waiting for me to finish so they can drink. I love the honeyed afternoon light that spills through the window beside my desk as I write.

But I also love each of the many places I’ve lived around the world: a villa on a street in a former French colony; a tiny 3rd floor walk-up in a hotel in Algiers; a small house on a small lot in a city built by oil, in Saudi Arabia. And of course my grandmother’s one-bedroom house with sleeping porch, with the mimosa hanging over the front curb. Not only is each a part of me, but something of me remains in each of them, walks the rooms still.

That’s how I interpret the ‘Go home!’ command. The world is my home — perhaps because I’ve been an expatriate for much of my life. I’ve made gardens in deserts, in the tropics, outside rentals in bad neighbourhoods, in my dreams and even my nightmares.

The article in Tricycle says that original nature is like a gong, like the one my father brought back from Africa. From the bottom, a gong looks like a bell. But from the top it’s obviously a gong. Although it rings, like a bell… So home is then and now, gong and bell, with that lovely metal music each one sings.

Beginner’s heart is going home — back to that first look we give the world that will be the home where we live, at birth. We open our eyes, as my newly born sons did in my exhausted arms, and here we are. Home.

So that’s what I’m trying to do. Get back home. Nice thought, isn’t it?

 

 

‘doubts and loves’ ~

I ran into an old poem-friend today — Yehudi Amichai’s “The Place of Right & Wrong.” I’m thinking about the images — how ‘the place where are right/ is hard and trampled/ like a yard.’ But doubts? ‘doubts and loves/ dig up the world.’

Right is a kind of scorched-earth policy, if you think about it. I’m trying (hard, as usual :)) to be less opinionated. Given that I spent class today discussing why white people need to be allies — re: pro-active — against racism, ethnocentrism and prejudice, it may not even be possible for me to separate ‘opinions’ from ‘beliefs.’

I still think it’s possible for folks to get along. But increasingly, as religions require ‘stands against,’ I find myself up against folks’ religious beliefs. Which I don’t believe I have the right to try to undo. In fact, I don’t believe anyone has the right to try to convert someone. If you’re living an exemplary life, full of joy and love and compassion, folks probably will want what you have :).

On the other hand, if your ‘religion’ calls for beating up gays, disrupting funerals, bombing clinics or banks, then probably folks won’t want what you have.

So I’m going to try to cultivate more ‘doubts & loves.’ Doubt is a good navigator — you may not know where you’re going, but chances are you’ll enjoy the journey more. Especially if there’s love in the pilot’s seat…

poetry, memory & 9/11 ~

Sometimes only poetry suffices… When my mind refuses to comprehend hatred, murder, war and profound grief, poetry is a map to somewhere out of fire and ash. A map through the darkness to a light that may still be a long way off. Even now ~

Here are other, better words remembering the ongoing tragedy which began for so many people that fateful September 11th, 2001. Thank you, Philip Metres and the Poetry Foundation — one of my favourite organisations — for reminding me that poetry is more than words. It can also be music that begins healing, records injustice. It can be a voice for those who are silent.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/242580

 

 

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