Sometimes, I find that signs are visual, like a white bird that appeared three weeks ago, flying along the highway next to my car, then fluttering right in front of my windshield before flying off. It seemed like some kind of sign, but different from all the red cardinals which have swooped in front of me and which augured blessings or good fortune, like a pat on the shoulder from the Cosmos that I had encountered before.
Signs also appear in conversation when I find myself recounting something from the past, as I did with my daughters while looking at their aquarium, about how things were so hard twenty years ago and remembering someone who had appeared to help me and who had also given me a book on the I-Ching, my introduction to this Sage which has guided me to where I find myself now. I had searched for that person a few times over that twenty year span with no luck. This time, I came up with information of her married name, which I had forgotten. And for $1.98, I was able to obtain a phone number and three email addresses. When the voicemail message came on the cellphone, I recognized J.’s voice. It was she.
Days later, I had not received a response and wondered if she wanted to be found. That morning, on Saturday, I happened by a store selling futons, used books and clothing in town. On top of a small stack of books was one called, “A Flock of Fools” by Kazuaka Tanahashi. The name was familiar because I had taken a zen calligraphy class of sorts years ago at the Zen Monastery in Tremper, New York. Truth be told, I was turned off by the egotistical attitude of some of the monks during the sesshin sittings and wondered if this was really Zen. Or Zen-like. I realized later they were just being human. Meanwhile, I read Zen writers like Alan Watts, Suzuki, John Tarrant and the Taoist hermit seeker, Red Pine (Bill Porter). My father, before he died, wrote his own translation of the Tao Te Ching which he took from old Chinese texts.
Anyhow, so I chance upon this book which is signed, no less, and carry it home. When I arrive, there is a voicemail from J. saying she had been on a retreat and would love to be back in touch. Our first conversation revealed that she lived in a remote area of redrock country and will be ordained a Zen monk in December. I kid you not. She told me that she had worn a jade pendant that I had given her a long time ago that she hadn’t worn in years, around the same time that I began looking for her again.
Yesterday, someone suggested to me that I think about becoming a mediator. When I heard that, it was a bell-like sign that resonated with me. Back home, I found quite a number of options for mediator training and wrote to J. about it because they conflicted with a visit and a sesshin that I had thought about coming out for a visit at the end of September. Turns out her Zen practice includes mediation and facilitation as core training and that her sensei had also been a Director of Conflict Resolution for the Judiciary system in Utah. And as J. so succinctly notes, conventional mediation is “great for a transactional universe, but leaves a lot on the table in the transformational domain…Training in mediation and facilitation is a part of our formal (and formational) path — required of all the monks. Welcome to the new Shaolin Temple. Our action logic is no-shadows; no-conflict. An interesting evolution in the form of warrior energy.”
So after a long period of stagnation in my life filled with pessimism, exhaustion and oppressiveness, the appearance of the white bird has opened doors to somewhere new. The pace is accelerating as well. My faith in the Cosmos is renewed. Or perhaps its faith in me is refreshed. Either way, I am grateful.