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Forget about Enlightenment.

Occasionally, I read articles about mindfulness in the workplace. I am OK with the good practice, but I find that it is not about letting go of old habits. Instead, it is often about gaining some advantage over others.

I find, perhaps as a product of getting older, the harder I chase something the harder it is to find it. When I sit and wait and do not chase, what I need most comes to me. It finds me when I let go of the idealized past and fantastic future. Rather than something I turn on and off at will, mindfulness letting go and appreciating who I am and what I have.

John Welwood counsels us to listen to the wind singing in our veins and the longing in our bones as we open our hearts to who we are in each moment. Certainly, the ensuing conversation and questions we ask in are a monumental task, but the love and patience we show ourselves makes us whole and holy.

Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now,
Not who you would like to be,
Not the saint you are striving to become,
But the being right here before you, inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You are already more and less
Than whatever you can know.
Breathe out,
Touch in,
Let go.

This Being Human

Rumi and his poetry speak across the centuries and across culture. When we awake in the morning, we enter the world along with our emotions. We serve them as a host and they live within us as if our body were a guest house.

When we are mindful of how we experience emotions, we learn they unexpectedly move, replaced by another we attend to, as well. In this way, we invite them in and entertain them as grateful hosts, even when they catch us off guard. We receive each emotion honorably as we experience it and attend to it each moment as fully as humanly possible.

When we understand that emotions come and go and serve as guides in living, being human is a gift that we receive with gratitude and joy. We greet them at the door with a hearty laugh and question what meaning they bring to us in that moment.

This being human is like a quest house.

Every morning, a new arrival,

A joy, a depression, meanness . . .

Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all,

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows

Who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.

Still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door, laughing; and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

 

When the Mind Is at Peace

When we experience the world, we often do so through the traditions that have been passed down to us. Those traditions colour the world in a particular way that is hard to shake. Culture and its traditions are not easily overcome without questioning how we perceive the world.

Marcel Proust suggested to overcome the cultural biases we each have was to see the world through new eyes rather to seek new landscapes. This idea is shared by others in various ways. Shunryu Suzuki described the beginner’s mind, which involves an attitude of openness. As we study a subect, we seek to explore it as child might rather than limiting ourselves to a single “expert” view of the subject.

Layman P’ang’s proposes peace in the world is a result of having peace of mind. In this way, we are ordinary people exploring the world not through pre-conceived ways of knowing, but always emerging and fresh understandings. We remain open and question what we think is real.

When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy nor wise, just
an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

From the Rivers to the Sea

Sarah Tremlett provides a meditative quality in this poem. When I read the poem, it reminded me of Lao Tzu‘s quote that “all rivers flow to the sea, because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power.”

Poetry calls us to meditate, but not to know a single meaning. Instead, it calls us to explore transforming meaning, accepting humility and understanding that we cannot know something completely.

When rivers reach the sea, it adds depth to them and room to explore them more fully. Seas do not have fixed and rigid boundaries. The boundaries remain fluid and permeable. What can humans learn from this? Perhaps, it is that we are all one and the boundaries we think exist are fluid, allowing us to move more easily in the world with each other.

Time reveals that to

execute means to begin

and to terminate

So all the rivers

in each and every country

flow into one sea

 

Be Still in Haste

When I read poetry, it gives me opportunities to consider the rich paradox that living brings with it. Wendell Berry proposes that in the title. How do I experience being still in haste?

David Bohm who was a theoretical physicist suggested that paradox dissolve unlike problems. Problems wait to be solved, but what if there are multiple ways to understand and solve the problem?

Bohm used the example of war and argued that people from all sides justified war citing problems with their enemies. Instead of asking about war, what if we asked about killing innocent children? Bohm suggested, for the most part, humans agreed that killing innocents was wrong. In that case, war is paradoxical and, when we begin with something we agree upon, we begin to dissolve the issue and see it through new eyes.

Time is similarly paradoxical. We act and speak as though we control, quantify, save, and manage it, but this moment is the only time we experience this moment. Time is fleeting and has qualities that resist us, dissolving in its fluidity becoming paradoxical. Time calls us to be present and mindful of the moment we live in, as it dissolves into the next never to be re-experienced.

How quietly I
begin again

from this moment
looking at the
clock, I start over

so much time has
passed, and is equaled
by whatever
split-second is present

from this
moment this moment
is the first.

Still Point

Max Reif describes the rush of life and the calling of nature somehow overriding that rush. The poem reminded me of biblical passage from Matthew 6:28 describing lilies as just being.

What is my hurry? What roots me in this place and time? I overlook the depth of those questions. I enjoy reading Wendell Berry‘s essays about farming. He reminds me that farming is a love of place and time. The small farm is home for people and nature. There is no separation.

My mother said farmers do not need Daily Savings Time. Depending on the time of the year, they understand their work based on the time and space they are in at that moment. When I think of the world as unpatterned, I sense its majestic wholeness and not compartments, rendering them virtual.

Leaving home
for work
each day

I hear the trees
say “What’s your hurry?”

Rooted, they
don’t understand

how in my world
we have to rush
to keep in step.

I haven’t even time
to stop and tell them
how on weekends, too,
schedules wait
like nets.

It’s only on a sick day
when I have to venture out
to pick up medicine

that I understand the trees,
there in all their fullness
in a world unpatterned

full of moments,
full of spaces,
every space
a choice.

This day
has not
been turned yet
on the lathe

this day
lies open, light
and shadow. Breath
fills the body easily.
I step

into a world
waiting like
a quiet lover.

One Hundred and Eighty Degrees

As I read the opening lines to this poem, I realized I often hold on to thoughts as if they are real. They give me a false sense of certainty that the world and others are  controllable and manageable. I wed myself to my thoughts. They become lonely and serve as my reality.

What if I turned 180 degrees and understood what I believe is not right? In that sense, I become another person who, if he continues to turn, experiences the world differently and anew at each turn.

Frederico Moramarco challenges me to think in different terms and treat thoughts as phantoms that drift in and out of my mind. They are not real and really there as they float away like wisps of smoke on a breeze.

When I am mindful and attentive to the world and others, I take steps and my thoughts do not control me, my words, and actions. I become comfortable with the uncertainty and unpredictability always surrounding me.

Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?
If you’ve done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.
If you’ve not done this, you probably don’t understand this poem,
or think it’s not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day’s time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.
But if you’ve arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you’re open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.
How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.

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