Monday, August 25, 2008

Family Tree

Today I was listening to a dharma talk on the Prajna Paramita, which encompassed a number of interesting things. One of them was the first explanation of 'emptiness' that I have heard that made sense- emptiness is another word for the lack of intrinsic stability in the world of form, or more simply, everything changes so don't get too stuck on it.

The other lesson was this- we are all aggregate manifestations of every circumstance and situation that came before us, or we are completely a product of everything that has ever happened in the universe.

I have no issue with either teaching. They both make complete sense to me, and in a way, are the wording for things I have thought without words for years. What has come from those thoughts is interesting.

When I look at myself, I have tremendous gratitude for all the factors that brought me into this world. While I have made a large effort to study Buddhism, lately, I do not find myself to drawn to the teachings of suffering. There have been difficult times and situations in my life, but I do not feel that I have lived a life of suffering. However, in feeling the gratitude for my life, I started to think about some of the circumstances of the world that allowed me to be born- some of them take some effort to be grateful for.

War- My family is predominantly English, and what isn't English is from some other part of Brittan. My family, on both sides has been profoundly affected by The Battle of Culloden, The Tudor wars, the Boer War, WW1, WW2, and many, many dozens of others. So my gratitude has to go out to not only those who died, but those who killed. My gratitude must extend to not only those who died in the camps, but those who ran them, right up to Hitler himself. I must be thankful for the French sinking English ships, the Russians for killing the Czar, the Vietnamese for ousting the French, the colonists for tossing the tea. I have to thank the Cesears for all they did, and all those that opposed them.

Religion- Romans and Pagans, I must give my thanks to. Pontius Pilot must have equal ranking with Jesus. The Crusader's make the list as does Mohammed. Buddha walks hand in hand with Jim Jones in the ranks. The Pope (s) and Martin Luther..... even King Henry the Eighth (which of his wives could be left out of the story and still have 'me' be here?)

Conquest- All of them can line up, I owe them my life. From Alexander and Genghis Khan, to Teddy Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. All of them beat and stole and murdered their way to me. Would I be here if Cortez had not sought his fortune?

There are so many 'aggregate circumstances', that make up who I am, and I can't just put in the ones I like. General Custer is as much my ancestor as Crazy Horse, as are all that died that day, and all who lived to tell the tale.

How do I look at history again? Everything I have ever learned, every person I have ever read about it, is my ancestor. Everyone, everything they did is responsible for my life. And yours.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Am the Ocean

I am not the boat,
tossed on the ocean.
I am not the bird,
resting in it's waves.
I am the waves,
the movement of the ocean.
I am the ocean.
Let the boat and bird
rest in me.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Bells of Joy

I am on a total sonic high! Tonight was the Grace After Hours event where the Cathedral stays open for people to come and walk the labyrinth. The entire Cathedral is lit with candles and, tonight had a wonderful woman who sang and played flute. When she played her Indian flute, it echoed so beautifully from all directions of the Cathedral. As I walked I could smell the candles burning and the music wafted around. There were many participants, all regular walkers, so the flow between people passing one another was lovely.

Tonight's walk, for me, was only about getting back to myself, which has, recently, been more challenging than usual. The weather has been horrid- grey, dark, cold, windy- and I have been very affected by it (unusual for me). Many people use visualization in their meditation practices, I use the sense of a window in my chest that I can breath through, to keep my heart open. I found that I had kept this window quite tightly closed, recently, without paying attention. When I went to 'open' that space, I found it quite uncomfortable, with a dull pain in my sternum. Funny how that works. I found it preoccupied me, so when the walk was over, I felt as if I had missed something.

Just after leaving the labyrinth, the hosts of the walk started placing brass hand bells around the walk. They were for the end of evening 'Harmony Walk'. I had never done this before, so I was intrigued. There were several bells, all tuned to one another to create amazing chords no matter which are rung or in what order. Walkers can ring their bells whenever they like, they can put them down for someone else to use, or walk with no bell at all should they choose.

Walking with 20 others, bells ringing, candles glowing... it was pure, simple, bliss. The chords the bells created actually vibrated in my head and hands and feet and off the walls... I walked in utter amazement and joy. I was so happy with the walking and the sound it made other people laugh when they passed me. Every now and then, a particularly lovely chord would spontaneously sound and make me just stop in my tracks and smile with my toes.

What an awe inspiring event. I can't believe how fortunate I am to have been able to participate in it.