Once upon a time there was a beggar. He sat at a street corner, pleading for scraps. Anything – pennies, food, clothing. For thirty years, he had lived in dire poverty. One day a young man came along and asked him, “What is it that you sit on?”
“It’s an old wooden box.” mumbled the beggar.
‘Shall we have a look inside it?’
“It’s not worth looking at. I found it in a rubbish heap years ago.”
‘Ever looked inside?’
“No. What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.”
‘I can help you dust it down if you like.’
“Can you spare some change for me please?”
‘Yes. After we’ve looked at the box you sit on.’
“If you insist…”
They took the rotten old blanket off the wooden box and managed to pry it open. With utter disbelief, astonishment and elation they saw a heap of glittering gold-coins within.
While we look for scraps of pleasure, fulfillment, validation and security outside of us, the true wealth of deep unshakable peace and the radiant joy of Being lies within us. Inspired by “The Power of Now”, a book by Eckhart Tolle, I’ve been practicing making this moment the focus of my attention, surrendering to what is and saying ‘yes’ to life, noticing the direct relationship between inner resistance and pain, observing the subtle life-force that flows through my body, witnessing my emotions arise and cease as sensations in my chest and tummy. I have learnt to trust myself. I have found glimpses of freedom from my mind and felt my presence as one with the Universe. Who would’ve thought this possible?
Earlier this week I had the honour of sharing some of the theory, practice and research on this subject through an on-line presentation entitled “Making Friends with Now”. Many thanks to The Compassionate Friends for making this teaching accessible to many.
Over and over I asked myself – Now what? Now what? What happens after a severance such as this? How long do one’s bones bleed? Do the tears ever finish? What does ‘recovery’ look like? Is it even possible? How does one keep placing one foot in front of the other? Where is the road? Where does it come from? Where does it go? How long and meandering is it? When does the screaming in my head stop? How long can I keep up the facade? Pretend to be sane? Is this what a new diagnosis of a terminal illness feels like? Is forgiveness possible? Self-forgiveness? Acceptance? Surrender? All these big words! Surrender what? To whom? Who am I now? What do I do?
No answers. Silence. The tilted earth keeps spinning around its imaginary axis. It keeps cradling me. The sun stays at the center of its orbit. My son stays at the center of my being. My breath keeps coming and going. I grow new eyes. My bones carry my weight even though they bleed. The road appears under my feet. It reveals itself one step at a time. Rumi and Khalil Gibran come and hold my hand. The screaming softens. The wall of bricks that was my body, loosens. I come to know the terror and the joy of being insane, catch glimpses of being free. Respect for those who went before and sadly others, who follow. I stop fighting with the big words and keep it simple. Watch. Observe. See. Open. Let the gash in my heart, allow the light in.
The custom of placing flowers on an alter is an ancient one. In the sixth century, Ikebana was founded in Kyoto as an offering to the Goddess of Mercy. Flower arranging contests were held at the imperial court where aristocrats and monks competed with each other at festivals.
In the early 16th century people tried to give a deeper meaning to the thoughts accompanying flower arranging. They wished to arrange rather than casually placing them in a vase. An earlier attitude of passive appreciation developed into a more deeply considered approach.
Rikka is the oldest style of Ikebana. Trees symbolise mountains while grasses and flowers suggest water. A natural landscape is expressed in a single vase. Indeed, all things in nature are reflected. In Rikka it is important to know the laws of nature through harmony of trees and plants.
It is my good fortune that I have the opportunity to be very intimate with Mother Nature in this concrete jungle of London. I have a teacher who is dedicated to passing this ancient tradition on to future generations. Her school has generated a number of teachers who inspire many people like me. Arranging flowers is like meditation in motion. The right brain can express itself to the fullest. The intuitive decision making, the textures, smells and colours of materials, the elegant shapes, the spatial organisation and the movement within bring peace and satisfaction. It is creative within a set of rules. It is aesthetically appealing to the subtle sensibilities. It is a gentle experience of being one with nature.
Today is Nowruz, Iranian New year.
For hundreds of years it has been celebrated on the Spring equinox to signify new beginnings, seeds and paths.
The earth tips over to allow illumination of the northern hemisphere, a sublime reminder that light always returns. This time when day and night are equal represents our need for balance between male and female energies, between yin and yang.
A time for renewal, growth and glorious blooming of the spirit.
An upward movement of energy, helping us look into the future with hope and positivity.
Meditation on the Equinox
Over our heads, the great wheel of stars shifts,
the autumnal (or spring) equinox manifests itself,
and for one precious instant darkness and light
exist in balanced proportion to one another.
Within our minds the great web of neurons shifts,
new consciousness arises,
and for one precious instant experience and meaning
exist together as revelation and epiphany.
Within our hearts the great rhythm of our lives shifts
a new way of being reveals itself,
and for one precious instant
the nexus of the body and the seat of the soul
truly exist as one.
Let us give thanks for those times in our lives
when all seems in balance.
For those times are rare and precious.
The equinox shall pass, the revelation may be forgotten,
and our actions will not always reflect our true selves.
But through our gratitude
we may remember who we are,
reflect on who we may become,
and restore the balance which brings equanimity to our lives.
Let us be quiet for a moment, together.
One of the core principles of Buddhism is the ‘Ten world Principle’. It outlines the continuous changes in our inner lives. It classifies the subconscious human experience of various states of being, thus graded from lowest to highest:
Most of us have a fundamental tendency to occupy one or two of these worlds. Despite many self-improvement endeavors, we find it nearly impossible to change our default worlds.
For majority of the human race, the six lower worlds (1-6) apply. The problem with these states is that they do not last. They are completely reactive, at the mercy of our environment, bouncing back and forth depending on external circumstances resulting in a roller-coaster existence. True happiness cannot be rooted in this shifting quicksand.
The higher worlds (6-10) are known as the ‘four noble worlds’. Learning, realization and compassion are proactive, not reactive states. They are the basis on which a state of absolute happiness can be created.
The tenth and highest world is difficult to describe as we often don’t experience it. It is determined by the degree to which we establish a solid self, a true self that exists in harmony with the universe. For me, brief glimpses of this world are achievable through meditation. It is deeply restful.
Attaining Buddhahood is a process of discovering what currently lies dormant within our hearts, of discovering our true universal self.
‘Hell is to drift, heaven is to steer.’
– George Bernard Shaw.
I am the breath of eternal presence
I am the resonance of the heart
The sounding of the creation and beyond
The sounding of eternity and infinity
The divine vibration that brought all into being
Not too loud not too silent
Not too light not too dark
Not too hard not too soft
Neither too aggressive nor the abused
I am the balanced inner strength of equanimity
Creation is only a blink of the ‘I’ of eternity
Eternity is only a blink of the ‘I’ of creation
Words carry a vibration of consciousness
I am the spiritual intensity of words
I am the sound of one hand clapping
I am the sound of one whole remembered
I am the heart’s mantra of transformation
I am the sound of virtues nurtured or not
I am the sound of choices made
Eternally and infinitely vibrant
I am also silence resounding
And none of the above
The only one I can change is myself
I am neither the changer nor the change
I am destruction as I withdraw energy and change focus
I am creation as I give energy to the new focus
As I am destruction so I am creation inseparably
I am the ebb and flow of life itself.
Going with the flow is not an aimless drifting downstream
It is a purposeful working with what is
I am the sound of humility and renunciation
The emptiness of the divine
I am the sound of gratitude and fullness
I am all concepts and none
All beings and none
All form and none
All consciousness and unconsciousness
I am everything and nothing
I am and am not.