In her book, Awakening Loving-Kindness, Pema Chodron offers us a wonderful story about the illusions of heaven and hell:
“There’s another story that you may have read that has to do with what we call heaven and hell, life and death, good and bad. It’s a story about how those things don’t really exist except as a creation of our own minds. It goes like this: A big burly samurai comes to the wise man and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” And the roshi looks him in the face and says: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?”
The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won’t stop, he keeps saying, “A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?” Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he’s just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, “That’s hell.”
The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, “That’s heaven.” “
We create our own reality moment by moment.
When people question what my religion is, I want to say that I believe in Taoism mixed with a large serving of gnostic Christianity and a side of Tibetan Buddhism thrown in for meditative measure. Or perhaps I could offer a brief lecture on the common threads in all religions….
Maybe it’s more honest to just say that nature is my true religion. And share this beautiful poem by J.L. Stanley as a way of explaining:
Catechism for a Witch’s Child
When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird’s wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open spilling
streams of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drink
a holy wine of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother who never taught you
death was life’s reward
but who believed in the earth
and the sun
and a million, million light years
“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees. ”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Can we live joyfully in harmony with nature?
Most modern city dwellers are completely out of touch with the cycles of nature. And we have created such a long path between natural cause and effect, that it is difficult to see what we are doing to ourselves. It is far from obvious to a suburban family that the water coming from their tap started out as rain or snowmelt flowing into a nearby reservoir. The water flowing from their tap seems endless no matter what the weather does.
Most of us have no idea where the wheat was grown that made our morning bagel, much less if it was a good year or bad for the wheat crop. Did river water diverted to a low reservoir near Denver hurt the wheat crop in Garden City? The trail from cause to effect is so long that the average person has no idea what effect their actions have on the natural environment. And this disconnect is at the root of many modern problems.
We have become blind, deaf and dumb to our role in the natural world.
No matter how much we try to tame and “civilize” this world with all of our technical wizardry – and no matter how smart we think we have become – we are still animals governed by the laws of nature. And I wonder what is truly civilized about dishonoring and destroying the planet that feeds us?
Insulating and removing mankind from nature is not the answer; it is the problem! From disastrous weather changes like the recent floods and typhoons to radioactive pollution so toxic it will haunt our grandchildren for generations, we end up hurting ourselves every single time we choose to ignore the laws of nature.
The answer is to reconnect with the natural world.
The answer is to shut up and listen to Mother Nature.
I want to embrace and understand my natural connections. And I want to honor the beautiful and gracious mother that provides for me; I want to pause and be grateful for the snowfall that becomes the water I drink. I want to spy the first shoots of pale green prairie grass pushing up out of the spring earth, and remember that the cattle herd on the hill will consume them and turn them into food for me. And I want to take the time to honor the trees that stand silent in the meadow and offer the oxygen I breathe.
I want to pause each day to acknowledge the many gifts Mother Nature provides for me.
Thank you, Mother
My Druid ancestors tried to live by 3 rules:
1. Honor the Gods
2. Do no evil
3. Live courageously.
Courage = from the heart
Works for me 🙂
We all want perfect health, don’t we? No more physical ailments, no more pain. We each crave a perfectly shaped body that silently and efficiently does whatever we demand of it. But is that even possible?
Human life is about finding a balance point between opposing forces; to be healthy, we must strike a balance between motion and stillness, between liquid fluidity and grounded earthy stability, between shadow and light, between creative and destructive forces. So, our miraculous bodies cannot stay stable and static for long. Our body processes also shift in response to changes in our environment. The world is constantly shifting and changing around us; temperatures rise and fall, one day it rains, the next is sunny. Human bodies are designed to constantly shift and change as well.
This idea of health being a dynamic balancing act becomes so clear when we look at natural environments. Balanced nature is never static; healthy ecosystems are diverse and contain many elements that constantly interact with each other. And the entire natural system finds balance through an ongoing dance between the elements; water wears down stone and sweetens the dirt with minerals that the trees use to grow. And the trees on the riverbank also draw river water up into their bodies and in doing so, slow down and calm the river’s wild currents. The trout rest in the shade of the trees, waiting for bugs to get blown into the current by the wind and become dinner. True balance lies in the web of interactions between bug and wind, fish and tree, stone and water flow.
There is no perfect physical state that we can attain and be ‘finished’ or ‘complete’. Look again at nature – Nothing is perfect in nature; tree trunks are crooked spirals, flowers are not symmetrical, and each animal has little quirks and imperfections in its shape; eyes are slightly different sizes, ears are uneven, spots are imperfect or missing. Perfection is a human delusion, it does not exist in nature. (despite what dog show judges hope and look for!)
Healthy balance is a wobbly, imperfect and dynamic process; much like riding a bicycle requires continuous tweaks and changes to stay upright, so do our lives and our bodies cycle through continuous shifts and changes in order to stay in healthy balance. And it is a waste of time and energy to strive for perfect health. Perfect for what moment, what situation? Our bodies and minds are designed to shift and adapt to each place, to each situation we find ourselves in; it is our strength as humans to be adaptable if only we will allow ourselves!
Allowance of our own imperfections and life’s many wobbles and imperfections is actually a key part of getting healthy. We do ourselves and our bodies a huge disservice when we reject and judge and try to annihilate our issues and imperfections. This is why yogis and sage healers throughout history keep telling us to relax and breathe; to smile at ourselves and our foibles!
Balance and healing will elude us until we can surrender to imperfection and constant change. True healing is about allowing ourselves to be complete just as we are in this moment, warts, bad hair, temper tantrums and all. In the end, healing is not a fix yourself project. And it’s not about finding someone to help you change and improve either. True healing is about learning to wholeheartedly love and embrace the wonderfully quirky, imperfect, amazing and unique creatures we already are.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.
When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
Joy can seem as elusive and slippery as a soap bubble.
Yet once, years ago in meditation, I realized that joy and misery lie just a hair’s width apart within my mind. The image of joy and misery just micrometers apart within me, was so clear that I startled and came out of my reverie giggling. I remember that moment in vivid detail even now years later. And I know that I choose whether I will feel joy or misery or something in between in this moment. And the next. And the next.
It only takes a tiny shift in the mind to move from misery into joy; a micron of a shift; just a slightly altered point of view.
Breathe. And breathe again. Deep, slow breaths that fill your lungs. And feel whatever body sensations are present now; feel the sensations that joy is hiding behind. Breathe and feel your body. Then allow joy to step out of the shadows and be here now.
Can it really be that simple? Yes. Yes!
“A human being is only breath and shadow.”