mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: faith

spirit stuff . . .

 

DSC_0003As usual in the wintertime, I’ve been pulling out my books on Taoism, Buddhism and Zen to thumb through as the snow keeps falling and falling. The book, I-Ching, stays out for me so that I may ask the Cosmos questions when I am stumped or looking for reinforcement.

Recently, I decided to read over my father’s translation of the Tao te Ching, an endeavor that took his attention for the last four or so years of his life. He died in 2008 and was well known for his research in the field of astrogeology but it was a spiritual quest that included meditation and his work on the 81 verses of the Tao te Ching that consumed him at the end of his life. He was quite deliberate about it because he felt that Western translators who were not native Chinese and unable to read the ancient texts themselves were usurpers or worse. “Interpretations,” not even translations like Stephen Mitchell’s widely acclaimed version of the “Tao te Ching” just drove him crazy.

One of his footnotes to the first page noted his disdain for Ursula Le Guin and others who had used the word “power” as a translation for the word “te” (Tao te Ching) rather than  the word/concept of “virtue.” In hindsight, it almost seems comical that someone could be that furious about something like this, but hey–isn’t that what academia is all about? They love to argue about these kinds of things all the time.

I tend to enjoy translations and writing by a writer who calls himself “Red Pine” (aka Bill Porter.) That’s because he took seriously the idea of Taoist hermits and went searching for them in the wilds of the Sian mountains and wrote a book about it. One of my favorite parts is when he writes that these hermits are not invisible nor necessarily to be found in remote shacks in the wilds but are hiding in plain sight. In other words, there are tons of such Taoist hermits but you just don’t know by looking at them straight on that that’s who they are. I love that.

The reason I wanted to read my Dad’s version of the Tao te Ching is that I wanted to see what he was about in doing this work. Some of his wording belies his training as a research scientist in that he seems to feel compelled to explain everything about everything so thoroughly that you can’t miss it. Of course, if you’ve ever read any of this stuff, it’s almost just the opposite. In fact, in reading articles in a journal called “Buddhadharma” and looking at Zen Monastery websites, I’m at a moment close to shouting that “the Emperor’s Has No Clothes On” because honestly, (and I went to college!), it seems, sounds like and looks to me to be gobbledygook most of the time.

Zen enclaves offer retreats, courses and ask for donations all the time. They are marketing their wares just as much as say, MacDonalds is hawking hamburgers. Buddhist and Zen Priests, Roshis and hangers on congregate, fall in love with each other, have affairs with others (some of the Senseis are notoriously more famous for that than their spiritual leadership.) Deepak Chopra is a rich man. They are not ego-less, that’s for sure, because they’re writing books, making audio CDs, getting published and they care very much about their reputations and how they appear to the world. What’s wrong with this picture, I wonder?

In any case, I trust the I-Ching and its wisdom helps me out all the time as long as I don’t read into it what I think I want to hear. Which brings me back to what all this Tao stuff is all about. Simply put, I believe that the Tao is the Cosmos or the Universe. It is a belief in something greater than ourselves. And to me, it has been beneficent and guiding, not harsh and punishing like some religions that inculcate the young they will go to hell if they eat pretzels during Lent or something. Or that adultery can be worked off by saying X number of “Hail Mary’s” or lighting candles at Mass, for example.

My life has been an exemplar of a greater good guiding, rescuing and helping me every time I’ve been in a difficult life situation. There have been many, and I’m not exaggerating either. I have been helped when it seemed it was fruitless to hope for a positive outcome. I remember when I gave in or up to this higher power when I realized I could not “fix” things just by myself. The rest is history, as they say.

So, whether one wants to read about Spirit in a religious context, in a philosophical context or whatever, it’s really about faith and belief. I’m not sure if that huge Cosmic force works for someone if they don’t believe in it first. I just know that its presence in my life has been constant and has had a huge influence on how my life has turned out. I don’t pray to it per se. But I do ask for guidance and for help. I believe that Helpers are available just waiting to be asked. There’s some level of activity involved in engaging with this Tao–you just can’t rely on things happening without some belief or some giving energy going back and forth. Gratitude is a big component of this spiritual engagement. Asking for help and thanking the Helpers when it arrives serves to activate the belief that one’s life has more to it than just what I can do by myself by sheer will and effort alone.

So, my father’s writing is very verbose, at least in the translation version that I have. It’s a little less so in the draft that my sister has in her possession. And it’s nothing at all like the rather sparsely poetic translations that Red Pine and Stephen Mitchell have published.

As for reading about Zen and the Buddha dharma, it’s a true mystery to me and I’m no longer interested in looking for hidden meaning when I can’t even fathom what the unhidden words are saying outright. As for meditation, my physician said to me that it’s a lot more helpful to practice it than to read about it. Point taken.

So, that’s all the mystery I can think about writing in this post today. Either you believe because you have experienced it or you don’t. Either you have faith in a beneficent Universe that looks over your life or you don’t. It doesn’t really matter to anyone else. It can be a big influence on your life or absent altogether. We’re all different, right?

unseen hand of the universe . . .

Olive 1jpgAfter an intense holiday week preceded by months of preparation, gift-buying, gift-exchanging, wrapping, decorating, shopping for food and cooking immense meals, it’s all over now. Whew!

What, I wondered to myself, will I do now to simplify my life, renew a sense of purpose and find fulfilling things to do?

Well, I needn’t have wondered. The Universe has provided the following ideas and symbolism:

1. For my birthday a couple of days ago, my daughter, C. gave me a framed picture of Mary Oliver’s poem, “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” superimposed over an upright PIANO and beautifully framed in cherry wood!!  (You might have noticed it’s also the poem/theme of my blog.) Okay, I get that one–which is not to shortchange my enjoyment of playing the piano and listening to music. I made a shortlist of composers I’d like to play: Alkan, Bach, Scarlatti, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin.

2. The mail on New Year’s Eve delivered the White Flower Farm Catalog filled with unusual annuals and perennials. Ever since my ankle injury and recuperation, I’ve been thinking that working in the garden would be good therapy for me AND would also benefit the benignly neglected growth in our garden filled with climbing roses, wisteria, peonies, iris, montauk daisies and other perennials.

Last Fall, I met a wonderful Chinese family who sold incredible dahlias at the local farmers market and also met the zen-like bearded father of the clan. He and I good-naturedly kidded each other about who was older (I said I could tell my kids were older than his were; he claimed he got a late start, etc.) Anyhow, I wrote to them volunteering to help out when the weather gets better and received a warm reply back. It might have been because I also promised not to speak unless spoken to. Fiveforks Farm is the name of their gorgeous FLOWER CSA, a unique concept rather than a CSA for farmers market vegetables!

3. Yesterday, I realigned my Facebook page and was inspired to reconnect with people I’d lost touch with long ago, all of whom responded to my “friend” requests with alacrity and interesting news (thank God.)

One guy that I contacted was someone I’d known since high school, lived in the same town while our children were growing up and whom I rediscovered when HIS DAUGHTER “liked” one of my Facebook photos. Turns out she and my daughter C., were “friends” and classmates in high school. Long story short, we emailed each other last night and he said that only yesterday, he had mentioned me to his grandchildren while they were learning how to use chopsticks, relating an anecdote when he had used chopsticks for the first time at my house when we were in high school. We’ve been out of touch for years so I’m thinking this particular coincidence illustrates that there is indeed something in the ether surrounding this reconnection somehow.

4. Last but not least, I received an email from MeetUp that the New Earth Book Club with 94 members would be closed down unless a new organizer (willing to pay dues) showed up. This is a group I joined just when I broke my ankle and had not managed to attend any of the meetings nor had I met the previous Organizer. I was impressed that over time, there were almost a hundred people interested in reading about how to live with more meaning, to read spiritual and other interesting books and to discuss them together.

It was as though the Universe said, “here you go,” when I wondered how I might meet some new people nearby with similar interests. So, I paid $19.95 to keep the group alive until February 3rd. I sent a message out suggesting a group (re-grouping) meeting in January sometime before the February deadline to see how many, if any, were interested in getting together to re-invent, re-name, re-organize, organize or give it all up, but only after we’d had a chance to decide for ourselves what the future might bring.

This morning, I received an enthusiastic response from a group member who not only reinforced a desire to continue the book group, but offered HER RESTAURANT as a potential meeting place! I’m excited about the possibility that the book group might be reborn. If it is, maybe people will be drawn to books by some of my favorite writers: John Tarrant, Red Pine, Paul Coelho, Gary Zukav and that crazy Zen guy, Alan Watts.

So, to say that a lot has happened in a couple of days would be an understatement. But there’s a little more.

Yesterday in the post office, after I filled out a customs label to Canada for a pair of earrings I was returning, a woman in front of me in line jumped back from me, exclaiming, “WOW, your aura is so STRONG!” I got a kick out of that and asked her what color my aura was. Then, a woman in front of her asked what color her aura was too! It was kind of a hilarious scene in that crowded post office!

In fact, the plain hoop earrings that were too small for me were being exchanged for another pair in the shape and design of an Ouroboros–the serpent eating its own tail, symbolizing the constant recreation of oneself and one’s life. Haha.

Oh, and while I was driving to the dry cleaners yesterday, a great blue heron flew right over my car overhead as it headed for a nearby lake.

I guess the Universe has made its point, wouldn’t you say? It’s definitely in charge, not me, so straighten up, follow its lead and stop questioning what you can’t know until it appears.

As disquieting as this chain of events might appear, I find it oddly and incredibly comforting somehow, don’t you?

sunset on my birthday after Christmas in Dennisport. . .

sunset on my birthday after Christmas in Dennisport. . .

 

 

 

 

 

magical thinking . . .

DSC_5591_2Magical thinking may lead people to believe that their thoughts by themselves can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it.[1] It is a type of causal reasoning or causal fallacy that looks for meaningful relationships of grouped phenomena (coincidence) between acts and events.

I don’t know about you but magical thinking permeates my life, at least lately. So many coincidental things have happened. It reminds me again of what people call “New Age” frame of mind: that there are Helpers in the Universe and all you have to do is to acknowledge you need help, ask for it even if it’s not out loud so anyone can hear you doing it, and somehow, help arrives in unseen ways.

From last Sunday to today, serendipitous things have happened too numerous to count: a repair was done on my laptop under a warranty I didn’t know I had; something of value that was thought to be lost suddenly reappeared. And greatly needed help surfaced in a situation that was permeated with bad energy and felt like a dead end.

I don’t know what magical thinking may have had to do with all of these situations, but it feels to me like there is a script somewhere that we can’t read ahead of time. In our American culture, it’s easy to think that if only we (fill in the blanks) that things will change for the better in time. Sometimes it takes a very long time. And sometimes, something happens that decimates all the things that you think you can’t solve or change.

That’s what has happened with my ankle injury in February. Suddenly, my priorities were a) how to get a good night’s sleep with a heavy cast on my leg; b)getting to the bathroom when I needed it; and c)making sure that I did everything for my ankle to heal, noticing how touching the caring ministrations of my husband, daughters and friends have been through it all.

Gratitude has a lot to do with the amount of magical dust that sprinkles itself into one’s life I think. Hardship is another factor too. I believe (and maybe this is my own brand of magical thinking,) that no matter how dark it appears to be before the dawn, that it’s important to apply oneself, to be honest with oneself and to do one’s best to get through hard times no matter how bad, sad or bereft one becomes at the seeming hopelessness of it all. Is that what is known as faith?

Help sometimes arrives years later than we wished for it. Timing is not up to us, God knows. In hindsight when looking back on my own life, events took their time coming together before the jigsaw puzzle pieces fell in place and then readjusted themselves.

Being in the moment is all we have. Most of what we berate ourselves about is small stuff in the grand scheme of things. If it has taken weeks of being bedridden to learn this lesson, it has certainly been worth it.

Thanks to all my helpers, seen and unseen!

 

trust . . .


Lately, I’ve been thinking that trust, or lack of trust, is one of the main ingredients to our recipe for life. Especially in times like this when the world outside is full of bully politics and internecine battles about what we should believe and what we should do. The American Dream is definitely gone, having disappeared “in sixty seconds.”

What’s left? Belief and trust in our marriages? In our family relationships? I tend to go overboard in being generous towards those I care about. And then withdraw when I feel it may have given the wrong impression. There is not one of us who doesn’t have some kind of personality quirk (or disorder as some are prone to believe,) learning disability (dyslexia or more) or other qualities that might be captured as “narcissistic” or self-involved. In fact, it seems to me that the constant exposure and reiteration of personality descriptions has rendered us all into pie charts of inadequate behavior in one form or other.

Which then lends us to have trouble trusting others. After all, if we’re all so needy in character or integrity ourselves, how can we then trust others not to be the same way? Maybe trust is not where it’s at, after all. Maybe it’s faith. A kind of loyalty that transcends what our rational mind tells us. Yes, maybe that’s it: faith in ourselves and in others.

fear. . .

blocked by fear


I’ve always had a sense of fear.. . ever since I was young and set in a place where I was alone, not knowing the language of this new land; set apart from the rest of my family once my siblings were born, one after another. It wasn’t just because I was alone a lot of the time. But because it seemed there was no one who understood that I might be afraid, nor asked me anything about it. At the time, I don’t remember thinking or feeling that I was fearful. That recognition didn’t come along until a long time afterwards.

Later in life, I was faced with so much to handle that I knew I had to give it up to a higher power and ask for help (see “eggs in one basket.”) After my divorce and jobless, living in a town where I hardly knew anyone, my Read the rest of this entry »

one wish. . .


I was in Porter Square yesterday for a late lunch and saw something that caught my eye in a shop specializing in Japanese pottery and decorative things. They were papier mache dolls of Daruma, used in a practice to focus one’s intention on a wish, place it into the Universe and follow it to completion.

Since Monday is the Chinese New Year, the year of the Dragon, I bought two of these dolls, one for me and one for George–and have been thinking about what my wish would be. Apparently, you’re supposed to make the wish and fill in one eye on the doll (see Wiki Daruma doll photo above.) Each time you look at it, you Read the rest of this entry »