one day you finally knew

When tempted to deviate from one’s own authenticity, to parrot the songs of other souls – however exalted, to stay over-long attempting to fix heal or recover that which no longer serves the fledgling understanding of inter being, to succumb (yet again) to the programmed imperative to “be good”, it’s helpful to revisit Mary Oliver’s poem The Journey. Let it reorient the inner compass to heart-point central, where the myth of separation finds no foothold. Let it whisper a reminder that we have a unique voice – however timid and hidden away it may be – and that allowing it to sing out will not only save our own life, but also the life of the world. For truly, there is no separation. Let us do this for each other. Please.

– – –

Still from Steven Spielberg's film: The Color Purple


One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver


Image:  Movie still from the Steven Spielberg classic – The Color Purple

another one bites the dust

It’s taken some getting used to – for a silver-haired ex educator for whom utterances of the public variety used to be carefully crafted and justifiable – not to mention purposeful – but I can now happily admit that I haven’t a clue why words get posted when they do, or why they wish to be expressed.  I have learned to live with helpless hopeless unknowingness and what’s more, to trust it totally.  So when I wrote about compassion and big sticks I was curious to know what that was all about.

Compassion.  The concept can be, like love, a loaded gun smoking with fluffy, sentimental do-good notions.  That’s why Buddhists spend a great deal of time clarifying its ruthless qualities.  I’m not a Buddhist (or anything else) but I do appreciate that the most compassionate action is probably that which helps to unstitch non-negotiable stories that are unhelpful and cause suffering for sentient beings.  This was the context in which HH the Dalai Lama spoke of the big stick at Krishnamurti’s memorial service, for K could be very uncompromising when it came to outing our largely unconscious and heavily guarded conditioning.

I confess to a kind of exhilaration these days when Life shines its Light straight into a dusty corner of the archive and reveals a well-wrapped story that hasn’t been opened up for scrutiny.  The stick needs to be at-hand, for I know that unpicking the threads will be no facile matter – one is, after all, unpicking the fabric of the wee-me.  I also know it will be the most compassionate thing that I can do for myself – and most importantly, I know that I’m not doing a darned thing.  Life ITself is meeting and welcoming ITs own creations in mind, and airing out the cupboard, so to speak.

I wonder if you have ever had the experience of enduring a long-standing health problem, perhaps involving much discomfort and pain, and in spite of it all, resisting a form of treatment because of a negative story being held in the mind – and usually affirmed by one’s N&D?  Have you stubbornly stuck to notions that you ought to be able to heal yourself ‘naturally’ (as if anything in Creation could ultimately be un-natural), that if you just buy more remedies, change your diet and lifestyle you’ll get the better of it?  I wonder if you’ve lived with the subtle guilt that comes from long-term ill health and the feeling that your friends wish you’d get over it?  I wonder if you’ve had a story running that if you could just change your story the problem would vanish?  Any, maybe all, of these approaches can provide effective relief with time.  But the big stick of compassion doesn’t tolerate time.

Compassion wants to act in the instant, when your symptoms are so unbearable that you don’t even want to know about tomorrow.  Compassion is ultimate loving kindness towards beloved Life in this moment without regard for consequence.  Compassion is Life saving ITself in the only moment it knows.  The Present.

The big stick stirred up a story here this last week.  Poked its eyes out.  Returned it to Emptiness.

The details are irrelevant; the dynamics are universal.  Person ails but resists the remedy.  Person has story running about the nasty remedy.  Person’s condition worsens.  Person won’t take the medicine.  Person’s condition becomes critical, unbearable.  Person is on knees begging for help.  Compassion hands out the medicine.  Person grabs it, takes it.  Lives.  Heals.  Person is grateful beyond expression.  Compassion smiles that smile, the one where you know you are Loved beyond measure.  Person suddenly notices the label on the little pill:  Beloved.

– miriam louisa