Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

‘meet and talk and listen’ ~ His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is a funny guy. He can even find humour in his unpopularity w/ the Chinese (“I give them a little bit of trouble… People who create trouble for you… give you opportunity to practice tolerance,” he said w/ a big a grin).

He’s also a polite panelist, making sure today, in Fayetteville, that he understood and responded to his co-panelists (Sister Helen Prejean, of Dead Man Walking fame, and Dr. Vincent Harding, civil rights icon). The topic of the morning’s panel was ‘Nonviolence in the New Century.’

Each of the three discussants has seen (or been the victim of) concerted violence. But what I came away with wasn’t a sense of their past griefs, or the horrors to which they have each born witness. What I scribbled furiously in my journal was hope. These three wonderful people — who have fought against genocide, racism and death — are hopeful. And they are full of compassion.

Towards the end of this amazing conversation, His Holiness was asked to comment on ‘the efficacy of violence’ as a means of addressing conflict(s). What he said resonated, at least for me (and the many people who clapped :)).

He said ‘Violence is unpredictable.’ Instead, he urged, ‘we need to meet. And talk. And listen.’ He added that we must learn to distinguish the actor from actions. Stopping wrongdoing helps not only the victims, but also the wrongdoer. So that true compassion stops harmful actions as much for the actor as the actions. Perhaps referring to bin Laden (who was mentioned in the framing question), His Holiness said that you stop him, but then you talk to him.

‘You stop him and then you ask: What is making you so crazy?‘ the Dalai Lama said w/ a smile.

So now I’m wondering why we can’t all just sit down and talk. And listen. To what is making us all soooo crazy…Maybe over tea?

cat & dolphins ~ role models?

So here’s something that’s just fun. But it’s also kind of lovely… Think about it: a cat playing w/ wet dolphins… I want to be that trusting…

indigo buntings and multiple truths ~

Warning: if birds don’t make you think of infinity, then you may not want to read further…

This week I saw an indigo bunting feeding at the bird feeder. Nothing fancy in the feeder — just the usual small seed mix. But the bird? Wow. Brilliant blue — electric blue. Darker than this picture looks. The colour of blueberries on hallucinogens :). The colour of something important that you should remember always…

I saw it twice — it may even be resident in the neighborhood, as I think I saw the female (nowhere near as colourful). And it reminded me of why I sit outside… Because the world happens.

I know — the world happens anyway :). But not with the same magic. Not w/ the precision of a mockingbird pecking the seed block for the berries within. Not with the determination of the ladderback woodpecker hammering away at the suet cake within its copper basket. And not, for me at least, w/ the same sense of infinity.

Birds are old creatures, it seems. Even older than I thought as a child, now that we know they link back to dinosaurs. My childhood belief that pterodactyls were birds was based in the real, although it’s also what a friend calls a ‘multiple truth.’

Multiple truths are when there are different ways of looking at (or thinking about) the same even. If I believe in evolution, but you don’t, it’s hard for us to communicate. Birds, for you, won’t link waaaay back, the way they do for me. But if you and I talk for a moment, perhaps you’ll be able to live with the idea that I don’t find a creator impossible to reconcile w/ evolution. Sure, it could have been a big chemical accident. Or it could have been intentional. I really don’t know.

I do believe, however, that birds go back farther than 8,000 years, which makes me a bit heretical by some Christian standards. Still, time is fluid, and perhaps, if we talk, you can live with my truth (that I just don’t know how things started, and it may well have been divine providence) and I can live with yours.

The problem is when we don’t talk, and get defensive. There’s nothing wrong w/ either of us — or what we call ‘truth.’ There just may be more than one version…:)

bees and the Buddhist work ethic ~

My husband says bees have a Buddhist work ethic. I was prattling on about bees (not uncommon around our house), and I said that bees should be in this blog banner. Because, I said, bees are such a great metaphor (besides being decidedly cool on their own).

They make honey from hard work, I said, and they work together for the good of the community. They’re selfless, really, and yet they dance. To communicate, they dance. I absolutely love that… And he nodded sagely (he does this a lot when I’m prattling — sooo much nicer than the noncommittal ‘mmhmm’ common to most males of the species).

“Bees have a Buddhist work ethic,” he said w/ amusement (at me? at his own wit? I’d like to think the former, but I suspect it’s the latter…)

I empathise w/ my students, who are, many of them, devout Christians. So much of each day is infused w/ their belief system. And that can be lovely. For me, Buddhism is (quite literally, in many ways) the breath I breathe. Actually I’m a pretty lackadaisical Buddhist — I don’t belong to a sangha anymore, although I’ve tried twice — and I don’t even meditate daily. Again, it waxes and wanes as an activity for me, something I probably shouldn’t admit :).

But I do find that Buddhism inflects my life like a French accent always betrays its Gallic roots. I begin a dissertation on poetry, and end up talking about the breath, and Buddhism. I start an article on pedagogy and it turns into a definition of Buddhist pedagogy, something I may have made up…

So it’s probably not a surprise that I see the sangha in the hive. There’s a quote from Einstein, of all people, that says it better than I can, although it’s a bit long:

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” (”The Enlightened Mind,’ ed. Stephen Mitchell; New York: Harper Collins, 1991.)

I’ve always thought of the universe as a kind of web – strands of connection linking each of us to the other. But these days it feels like an unimaginably large hive, where everything we do impacts everyone else, and many things even outside the ken of the hive. Think of pollination, for instance: bees don’t care about pollination. The entire magic of lavender, roses, forests and prairies and woodlands and all that depends on apidae – one of the genera of bees, including honey bees, bumble bees and carpenter bees – is incidental. But bees only care about honey.

We’re a bit like that, I think. Except that instead of honey, we ARE about the pollination, the work. But we can do the work, as usual. And we can still make honey :).

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