Archive for the ‘spiral’ Tag

“Those I Am With …”   Leave a comment

“are my greatest teachers.”

dalailama

Dalai Lama as sage

pema-chod

Pema Chodron as sage

Bear with me here. I’m doing some out-loud thinking again, to solidify it enough that I can see it and assess what’s rattling around in my head. The title quotation comes from a seminar I attended last fall. You may well have heard a version of this yourself. You’ll see I’m still mulling it over, trying to squeeze all the juice from it I can.

OK. Hmm. When something like this grabs me, I start trying it out, trying it on for size. What does my spiritual path do with it? Does it stir me, even — or especially — if I resist it? (I’ve found that’s one good test for the value of my path, too.) Do I want its insight with me over the next meters and miles, minutes — or months? Is there a place for it in my backpack or tool-kit? If so, what? If not, why not? Maybe it’s too much. Or it comes dragging cultural weight that obscures its value to me right now. Or …

If it sounds “off,” if it just doesn’t click with where I’m at, is there an equivalent truth that can reach me, has already reached in terms that work for me? Can I translate truths here, rather than just reject one because I don’t like the particular flavor or color or cut that it comes in? Why has it arrived on my doorstep at all? Has it come to me now, or in this particular form, because I’ve already rejected it at least once?! Will I at least remember to write it down in my journal, so when it knocks me upside the head again, sometime in the future, a review of what I write today will help the lesson sink deeper, enough that next time at least I’m able to act?

Most people can name at least a couple of publicly-acknowledged wise ones like the Dalai Lama or Pema Chödrön (I’m facing Buddhist here — insert your own favorite icon of sageness).

Boar is one of my teachers

Boar is one of my animal teachers

I’m a Druid so also I count the non-human world among my teachers.  That doesn’t mean I have to stay in class, or stick with the same teacher. It means, if I need to, that I can learn and move on. It means — thank the gods! — I have many teachers. It may well mean, if I really need to learn something, that the classwork I don’t finish here may reappear somewhere else, in another class, on another arm of the spiral. But it also means I can call on teachers I adore and who support me to help me with teachers who challenge me, rub me the wrong way — teachers who don’t make it easy, who can even just turn every class with them into a perfect, custom-made hell.

Sometimes it seems I specialize in hell. And if you’ve been around a while, you probably do too. The pesky habit that sabotages you again and again. The job or relationship that’s sunk its teeth into your jugular and just hangs there feeding happily. The spiritual cul-de-sac that’s all circle, no spiral growth, no way out or onward. The emotional desert that dries you crisp and crunchy as fried chicken or diner bacon and leaves your bleached bones as a warning for future travelers. (To paraphrase a Christian scripture too many Christians conveniently forget, though I make my bed in hell, the gods are there, too, with me*. No ending, only stations on the way.)

“Those I am with are my greatest teachers.” Sometimes I need to stay. Sometimes I need to walk (run!) away. How to know the difference is something I also have a teacher for. I just have to ask and do the work. If I do, nothing may happen for a while. But if I don’t, nothing keeps happening a whole lot longer.

A college teacher I deeply respected told me his greatest goal in life: “the avoidance of pain.” I gasped. I got depressed. I laughed. Not all at the same time. Not to his face or in his presence. But in varying sequences. Each response fits. But these three are a bad triad. They’re not enough. If all the growth is in the hassle and I’ve constantly avoided the hassle …

I get that his life may have had reserves of suffering I knew nothing about. I’m not judging, but his path wasn’t — no surprise — a good fit for mine. Now, some three decades later, I have something to say in response to him. He’s passed on to the Shining World to continue his own growth. But I’m checking in with him as an honored ancestor of spirit.

“Lessons are blessings with rocks attached.” (Same talk, a little later.)

steppingstoneHow many times have I dodged the rock — and missed the blessing? Can I dodge but be blessed too? Is the rock the blessing? My Druidry asks me, “How can you learn from the rock?” Rocks can be teachers too. Really?! says my inner imp. Let’s run with that …

Ah, and what can I offer the rock in return? Some stone wisdom coming up in the next post.

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*Psalm 139:8

IMAGES: Dalai Lama; Pema Chodron; wild boarstepping stone;

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Crossing on a Word   Leave a comment

Perform a Rite of Chocolate: only you and your Guides know how much is too much. (If you need an actual god of chocolate, the Mayan deity Ek Chuah, “Black Star,” patron of merchants and cacao, may serve your purposes; this site includes an image and some ritual details to build on.)

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northalafields

A 21st century mound — Northala Fields, London

Robert Frost makes do for my divination today — words from his too-famous “The Road Not Taken” bumping into each other in my head this morning after a walk: “I saved it for another day, but knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.”

The Spiral we all walk leads me away and away, until I forget I ever meant to come back at all. Then when I do, I run smack into what I’d “saved for another day.” Now the day’s here. Nothing lost. That inexplicable half-recognition at the arrival of things that we can’t possibly know, that kiss of the strange-familiar we all face once in a while — or many times — washes over me, gift of the Spiral. But oh how the hide-and-seek of it all can last lifetimes. What else did I save long ago “for another day”? No way to know, till it happens again.

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The last few days I’ve been awkwardly mindless.  Today, a little more joyously mindless. Oh, I still think, or maybe more accurately, what passes for thought comes flitting by and makes do, till my brain finds its way home again.

Fortunately this masquerade of consciousness seems to convince everybody else around me right now. I got through a short-term job interview yesterday that seemed to go well enough, I balanced my checkbook, I wrote a note to an old friend.

“Your brain could fit in the navel of a gnat and still rattle around like a BB in a corn-flakes box.” The old high-school insult, embroidered and endlessly recycled, just about sums me up right now. Except it’s insult no longer, just blunt fact.

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Men an Tol

Without warning I feel the power gather on the other side of the Gate. (What Gate? How should I know? But there’s a Gate right now, and power on the other side of it. Ya gotta roll with these things, I tell myself. Mindlessness helps.) A sound, a word, it’s the name of an ancestor who wants to reach me, whose wisdom I need right now, name which is also a pass-key to a world opening like an eye onto a twilight landscape.

I know this word, I say it to open wider, but it’s nothing I can write down, nothing to save for another visit, nothing with a human shape, though I keep saying it. But even as I think this, the inner reassurance comes that when I need to visit again, I’ll be able to. Then the whole thing is gone as quickly as it came. I stand on an endless beach, watching the tide go out all at once. At least that’s how it feels.

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Images: Northala Fields, London; Men an Tol, Cornwall — from a wonderful site of Moon Gates.

Spiral   Leave a comment

A spiral differs from a circle.  There’s motion in it, and change.  The track or trail of movement is itself motionless. (Well, comparatively:  the boat’s wake dissolves in ripples, the jet trail fades, but some time after, at least; the jet’s long gone.)  It records the journey.  But journey in a spiral is not repetition.  It’s recognition, re-encounter from a fresh perspective.  History, planetary or personal, doesn’t repeat itself, but it does often spiral.

[Originally when I took the photo I was simply looking for a background that would contrast with the bowl.  Only later after I’d uploaded the photo did I realize that the grain of the wood holds at least as much interest as the spiral design of the bowl.  Talk about not seeing the obvious.]

You may remember the chorus in Joni Mitchell’s lovely song “The Circle Game”:

And the seasons they go round and round
and the painted ponies goes up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
from where we came
and go round and round and round
in the circle game.

Joni, it’s lovely, and it’s easy to be seduced by the beauty of your song, but you’re wrong.  Or at least, you’re right only about one choice among many.  It’s a game, and therefore we’re no more captive than any player is who agrees to the rules in order to play at all.

We can choose to play the game this way and be participants in time.  That’s the only way to live in a material world anyway, from what I’ve seen:  in time.  Once we release the drive to “get ahead” or “win the race,” we can begin to jump through time, from moment to moment, recognizing “infinity in a grain of sand, and eternity in an hour,” as William Blake has it.  Time is illusion, yes — but in the sense of play (Latin ludere, lusus, illusio = in+ lusio — “in the game”):  a set of rules to make sense or pattern out of the flow of experience, which is e-lusive. We need “before” and “after” in order to begin (or return) to experience “now.”  The moment of illusion, of play, then broadens and deepens.

“Time is the stream I go fishing in,” says Thoreau.  I use this as a mantra when I get stressed about deadlines, minutes ticking, the illusion gaining hold in a way that’s no longer a game, no longer pleasant to be playing. There’s nothing wrong or cruel about time, once we let go the fear that comes with clinging to any particular moment — of resisting the play because life is supposedly such a serious thing.  “Eternity is in love with the productions of time,” Blake says in another poem.

These “long lessons” are ones I keep learning.  Most of us do — most of us are slow learners — earth’s a place for those with “special needs.”

To live any other way is to suffer needlessly — never my favorite thing to do, anyway — and to be trapped in regret and loss.  We’ll all have a taste of these if we live long enough, as part of the balance that comes with fullness of life — why seek out more, and worse, elevate them to a kind of icon of authenticity?  “I’m not human unless I make a fetish of my suffering,” some people seem to say.  “I AM my suffering,” say others.

The Circle Game goes best when we treat it as a game, as a shape of experience.  But it’s not the ONLY one.  We hear of people being “lost in the past.” How about seeing what it’s like to lose yourself in the present?   Nowhere is now here, to make a linguistic jest with wisdom at its core.

Robert Frost was on to it in “Birches.”

I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return.  Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

If I don’t experience it on this curve of the spiral, it won’t be there for me the next time to “come to and begin over” in that “can-be-delightful” encounter of the “familiar-new” that often flavors our experiences. I cheat myself of so much joy, thinking there’s someplace “where it’s likely to go better.” Now, here, is when and where it’s at.

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